Does Ecosia really have the 'impeccable ecological credentials' that it claims to have?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ecosia_the_green_searchOften the claim is being made that the search engine “Ecosia” has impeccable ecological credentials and then someone may add that it, however, may not always be as effective.

So, does Ecosia really have those claimed “impeccable ecological credentials”? In short, the answer has to be, probably not.

Fact is that “Ecosia” is basically just Bing (Microsoft's search engine, which is simply not as good, as search engines go, as Google). In other words, it is a partnership with Bing whereby Ecosia get a very vague “very high percentage” of ad revenue generated, the rest going to Bing, that is to say to Microsoft.

All the money going to “good causes” comes from people clicking on ads – which people like me, who have sensibly installed adblock software – often don't even see.

They give 80% of their proceeds (i.e. the commission they make from the ads, after paying a cut to Bing, i.e. Microsoft) to WWF rainforest protection efforts which is all good and fine when one does not consider how those large NGOs, such as WWF, with their corporate-style managements, function. In addition to that there is the issue of the WWF's concerns about protecting their intellectual property that has held back the spread of the wonderful One Planet Living concept.

Just using Ecosia does not help direct money to WWF in any way. Only clicking on ads does – and they explicitly state that you should not just do searches and click ads for the sake of it as these are just filtered out and not counted.

So, the truth of the matter is that using Ecosia does not mean that every time that you use it a tree is being planted, regardless of the claims that seem to be circulating.

The small part of the energy involved in your search that Ecosia use to serve the results pages is brought from the German co-operative company Greenpeace Energy (who are a bit like Ecotricity in that they both buy and build renewables, but are also a co-operative which is nice). Its good that they buy their energy from such a supplier.

However, most of the energy is still used by the Bing servers powering the search and we cannot tell how much energy these use because Microsoft refuses to tell us. Ecosia estimate that its probably about the same as a Google search (which we do know, because Google measure such stuff – and help others to do so). But its likely to be more, because Google's data centers apparently use about half of similar facilities.

Anyway, Ecosia assume it is about the same as Google and then “offset” this amount with Pure. Pure are quite good as far as “offset” people go – at least they are a charity not obviously just trying to cash in. They also cancel their carbon credits instead of selling them, another plus.

But Pure also use language that we should find rather troubling: “In simple terms, a business or individual pays to have the same amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere as they have generated. This in effect cancels out the CO2 produced from an activity or lifestyle choice.” That is pure (pardon intended) and simply not true. It is just not possible to “cancel out” CO2 already emitted by offsetting. It is already out there and the geenie cannot be put back into the bottle.

Google, in itself, has been a so-called “carbon neutral” – I say so-called because I do not believe that it is actually possible to be carbon neutral (as a business) but whatever – company since late 2007. They have also invested over $100 million in renewable energy. That is a fair bit more £125,000 that Ecosia has raised in its first year (although that has no doubt helped a bit to protect forests, a laudable aim).

Personally I would rather use Google than Ecosia (Bing) because I think Google are a much more positive force in the world than Microsoft are (mostly because Google, despite their many imperfections, provide superior tools and do lots of Good Stuff like supporting open source/ free software projects – and in my opinion source/ free software is the foundation upon which we can build the community and things that we need for this community.

Google, as a search engine, is also faster by light years in comparison to Bing and gives far better results. Though, as said, Google is by no means a totally benign force in the world. But, I do believe that it is better than Bing, that is to say Microsoft.

© 2016

EU approves imports of genetically modified Monsanto soybeans

© Jim Young

The European Commission has approved the import and processing of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, after debates over glyphosate herbicide’s safety delayed the introduction of genetically modified soybean variety for months.

“Today the Commission authorized three GMOs for food/feed uses (soybean MON 87708 x MON 89788, soybean MON 87705 x MON 89788 and soybean FG 72), all of which have gone through a comprehensive authorization procedure, including a favorable scientific assessment by EFSA,” the European Commission said in a statement Friday.

All of the soybeans have gone through a comprehensive authorization procedure, including a favorable scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The approved seeds include Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend.

Following the Commission’s approval Monsanto’s GMO soybeans are now authorized to be used both to feed animals and in human food, but not for planting in the EU. The authorization is now valid for 10 years but the EU warned that “any products produced from these GMOs will be subject to the EU’s strict labeling and traceability rules.”

Although Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans are tolerant to both glyphosate and dicamba herbicides, the use of dicamba herbicide over the top of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans remains in the late stage of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review and is not currently approved by the EPA.

Read more here.

ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IMPROVES LOCAL ECONOMIES

organic-agriculture-improves-local-economies-featORGANIC food production is the highest growing food industry sector in the United States. Double digits increase in organic food sales every year has been witnessed in the sector surpassing the growth rate for the overall food market. It’s estimated that organic food sales in 2015 jumped by 11 percent to almost $40 billion, far outstripping the 3 percent growth rate for the overall food market. Foods produced organically fetch higher prices than conventionally produced foods. This has seen an increased interest in organic food production coupled with increased demand of organic food products. More farmers are transitioning to organic production, more organic businesses are sprouting. A key question in this transition would be; what does all this interest in organic and organic activity mean for LOCAL economies?

According to a white Paper that summarizes and discusses three research papers that investigate organic agriculture hotspots in the U.S. and systematically assesses the impact of organic agriculture on local economies titled U.S. Organic Hotspots and their Benefit to Local Economies, it’s been shown that median households income experience an increase by an average of $2,000 in locations defined as organic hotspots. The white paper has been prepared by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Organic hotspots consist of counties having highest levels of organic agricultural production (farms and businesses) and have neighboring counties that follow the same organic production.

Read more here.

Essex badgers keep their homes after railway is designed around them

RCM_badger_prittlewell1At the start of National Badger Week, which this year ran from 25 June to 2 July, Network Rail has unveiled a new way of working on major upgrade projects to protect badgers living by the railway and keep the project on track.

Structures are currently being put in place between London Liverpool Street and Southend Victoria, which will carry new overhead electricity lines to make the railway more reliable for passengers, as part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan.

The structures need deep foundations to be put in place to install the gantries that support the overhead wires, work which could threaten badger setts in the area. As standard practice, an ecology survey was carried out during the early stages of the project. However, rather than using the information to apply for a licence to move the badgers, details from the survey were sent to the project team so that designers could decide where the foundations should be put so that they didn’t affect the badgers. Not only does this mean that the badgers which live alongside the railway can stay in their homes, but it also saves time and money on the project. Network Rail is now looking at how this can be used on other projects.

The usual process, when badgers are found to be living on land where work is due to take place, is to move them to a spot where the work will not affect them. This is a long process, which involves getting a licence and building new homes for them, which they don’t always settle into, and can cause significant delays to essential upgrade work and additional costs.

Adriaan Bekker, Network Rail’s environmental manager for Anglia, said: “We should always consider wildlife at the design stage and how to avoid disturbing it and avoid risks and delays to the project before construction starts. Providing design engineers with simple technical information from the environmental report has enabled them to design a railway that considered the wildlife already living around it, rather than trying to move the badgers away. This has saved a lot of time and money on the project and meant that the badgers can keep their homes.”

Dominic Dyer, CEO of the Badger Trust, said: "We would like congratulate Network Rail in using ecological survey information to construct railway foundations that do not threaten badgers or their setts. Being able to work at the railway design stage to avoid the need to relocate badgers is a major environmental breakthrough and cost saving, which we would like to see rolled out across the rail network."

Badgers are commonly found along the railway network and create homes in embankments and many other areas of railway land. There are occasions when routine operations, maintenance, or infrastructure project activities impact on badger territories and affect badgers in a number of ways including destruction of setts and feeding habitat, and general disturbance by noise and light.

Failure to identify or account for badger occurrence can and does cause costly delays to renewals projects and maintenance tasks and can incur a heavy fine or even a prison sentence, as they have significant legal protection in Britain, including their own Act of Parliament: the Protection of badgers Act 1992.

For more information about Badger Week or the Badger Trust go to http://www.nationalbadgerweek.org.uk/

Source: Network Rail

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Sweden subverts Paris agreement with Vattenfall coal deal

Stockholm, July 2016 – Greenpeace condemns the Swedish government’s decision to allow state-owned Vattenfall to hand over its lignite mine assets in Germany to the Czech company EPH. The decision announced this morning risks catastrophic consequences for the climate.

Annika Jacobson, Program Manager for Greenpeace in Sweden, said: “This is a political collapse. The government and parliament have failed to stand up for the most crucial issue in our time. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven had the chance to make a historic contribution to the climate and to show true leadership. Today's decision will seriously hamper international climate work and implies a direct subversion of the Paris Agreement.

“The cost to society in terms of impact on the climate, environment and health risks may be immense. The costs will far exceed what Vattenfall possibly managed to save in the form of reduced loss for the company.”

The Czech company EPH stated previously that they hoped for a coal renaissance in Europe. The risk is great that EPH will open new lignite mines and thus emit 24 times Sweden's annual emissions. The world has turned their gaze towards Sweden recently and global leaders have urged the government to decommission coal power plants instead of selling them.

“The fight to leave the coal and the oil in the ground continues,” said Jacobson. “Despite today's announcement, we are pleased that more and more researchers, companies, organizations, politicians and individuals realize that the climate requires real action, not just a signature on a piece of paper. Those who do not go from words to action will loose their credibility in the future."

Source: Greenpeace Sweden

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The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge if them. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

The EU Wants to Block Romania's 51% Local Food Shift. Who Cares?

A Romanian farmer showing his plums. Amid all the mayhem and turmoil of recent weeks, here's a news story you may have missed.  The Romanian parliament unanimously passed an amendment to the country's "Law on the Sale of Food Products" bill which states that every large supermarket in the country must ensure that 51% of the fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, honey, dairy products and baked goods they stock are "locally sourced".  As a demonstration of how enlightened policymaking can unlock Transition, it's an eye-catching and paradigm-shifting piece of legislation.  But is it legal, and, actually, does that matter anyway?

The legislation has been criticised for being "very general" and "pretty confused".  It doesn't really address the thorny question of "what is local?" (a question academics have debated for years).  Does it mean within a certain distance?  Just within Romania? And what about products made in Romania but with ingredients sourced from elsewhere?  It's a tricky and complex thing to nail down but it should lead to some fascinating discussions.  It gets round the seasonal question (as in is it 51% all year around or just in the summer?) by stating that during the winter a maximum of 70% can be imported.

Read more here.

THIS GROCER NOW HAS AN IN-STORE VERTICAL FARM SO YOU PICK YOUR PRODUCE

(UR) Berlin, Germany —  The produce section of the supermarket is changing. You might say it is getting a technological facelift. The change, however, is more than merely cosmetic. INFARM, a German high-tech firm, is changing the way we interact with not only the supermarket, but the food system as a whole: in-store vertical farms.

Designers of “indoor vertical farms,” INFARM has partnered with METRO AG to produce the first-ever in-store farm. Rather than simply selecting the freshest veggies that have all been transported in some capacity, shoppers can basically harvest their own produce. Of course, this system is still in its infancy, and the installation of their indoor vertical farm at one of METRO AG’s Berlin location is only the first step. Yet, by partnering with other organizations like 25h Hotels, Olympus, and Mercedes-Benz, INFARM definitely has room to grow.

Read more here.

Ricardo and Recycling Technologies to characterise plastic waste derived clean fuel

• Recycling Technologies’ highly innovative PlaxxTM fuel is created from residual mixed plastic waste that is not amenable to direct recycling and would otherwise go to landfill. The company is working with Ricardo to characterise the use of this recycled, low sulphur fuel as a substitute for fossil based heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel in applications such as power generation and marine propulsion

IMG_1652_1-1024x882_webSwindon, 5th July 2016 – In the European Union alone, more than 25 million tonnes of post-consumer waste plastic is produced each year. Of this huge quantity of material, only 26 percent is recycled, with 36 percent going for incineration, while the remaining 38 percent contributes to the ever expanding problem of landfill. In addition to the loss of its material value, the carbon cost of processing this mixed waste is considerable, not least due to transportation, as many regions and states export their mixed plastic waste due to a lack of localised processing facilities. To help address this global issue, Recycling Technologies has developed a machine (RT7000) and is industrialising a process to convert residual plastic waste into a low sulphur hydrocarbon compound known as PlaxxTM. This can be used as a petrochemical feedstock, a manufacturing commodity such as paraffin wax, or as a clean and more sustainable fuel substitute for fossil-based HFO, which also displaces imported oil.

In the project announced today, Ricardo will work with Recycling Technologies to assess the relative performance of PlaxxTM, HFO and diesel when used in an engine of the type and scale typical of power generation or marine propulsion applications. The Ricardo Atlas II research engine will be used for this work: this advanced test engine is capable of efficiently evaluating the performance of fuels in large, multi-cylinder engine designs ranging from 150-200 mm bore and representing engines in the class 0.5 to 5 MW, in a single power cylinder. This can result in a reduction exceeding 90 percent of the test fuel consumed in a typical research or development project.

In the early stages of the Recycling Technologies project, a thorough review of the properties of PlaxxTM as a combustion engine fuel will be carried out in order that a comprehensive test plan can be developed. Back-to-back testing of PlaxxTM against diesel and HFO will then be undertaken over a range of loads using the Atlas II engine. Combustion characterisation will also be trialled based on the measured in-cylinder pressure, power, specific fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. This will help to fully understand the behaviour of PlaxxTM in this type of engine and enable the further refinement of engine and fuel settings for maximum efficiency and low emissions.

“Finding solutions to landfill diversion is a critical challenge facing modern society,” commented Dr Adam Read, Ricardo Energy & Environment practice director for resource efficiency & waste management. “The ability to generate fuels and recover plastics is key to the sustainable management of the world’s resources. As such, assessing the viability of the process during the pilot phase is an exciting and potentially ground-breaking step for Ricardo and the team from Recycling Technologies.”

Adrian Griffiths, CEO Recycling Technologies commented: “The marine industry is a key market as the use of high sulphur oil is increasingly being restricted. Working together with Ricardo on this project, we are now taking steps to get Plaxx™ qualified so that it is fit for use in medium and large marine engines. Plaxx™ is an ultra-low sulphur feedstock and can be adapted for use in any markets where crude oil derivatives are used. Through this pilot project, we hope to qualify Plaxx™ as meeting the new global MARPOL requirements.”

Recycling Technologies has funded its extensive R&D projects through various government funding organisations, including the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) and the Energy Catalyst grant with the University of West England (UWE), funded by Innovate UK. There has been additional support from other government funding organisations, such as the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

About Recycling Technologies
Recycling Technologies has created one of the world’s most significant developments in the world of turning waste to energy, by creating a highly commercial distributed solution for a multi-billion pound global problem. Recycling Technologies has been formed to commercialise the development of the plastic recycling technique established originally by the University of Warwick. Some of the UK’s leading experts on Plastics, Waste Management and Engineering Processes make up the Recycling Technologies team that provides direction and delivery for the business. The company provides innovative solutions to help customers achieve financial gains through turning residual plastic waste into a valuable resource. Its flagship machine, the RT7000, converts unsorted residual plastic waste – that is currently disposed of in landfill or incinerators – into a valuable low sulphur hydrocarbon known as Plaxx™. For further information, please visit www.recyclingtechnologies.co.uk

About Ricardo
Ricardo plc is a global, world-class, multi-industry consultancy for engineering, technology, project innovation and strategy. Our people are committed to providing outstanding value through quality engineering solutions focused on high efficiency, low emission, class-leading product innovation and robust strategic implementation. With a century of delivering excellence and value through technology, our client list includes the world's major transportation original equipment manufacturers, supply chain organizations, energy companies, financial institutions and governments. Guided by our corporate values of respect, integrity, creativity & innovation and passion, we enable our customers to achieve sustainable growth and commercial success. For more information, visit www.ricardo.com

Source: Ricardo Media Office

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The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge if them. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Growth in electric vehicles sales central to closing emissions gap

  • New frontier of vehicle design represents significant opportunity for the energy sector

  • Electric vehicles play a central role in policy or technology portfolios designed to lower emissions

WECElectric vehicles (EVs) will need to increase their combined market share to 16% by 2020 to achieve the aggressive fuel economy standards set by regulators, according to new research by the World Energy Council.

While EVs currently represent less than 1% combined market share across the world’s largest markets for new passenger cars, they should be considered central to any policy and technology portfolio designed to lower transport emissions.

Christoph Frei, Secretary-General of the World Energy Council, said: “Over the past decade, we have seen the emergence of climate change and fuel price volatility as headline issues that keeps energy leaders awake at night. As a result, many countries have set ambitious fuel efficiency targets for passenger vehicles.

“The innovative role EVs can play in meeting these standards makes for a pragmatic step in closing the emissions gap by 2020. Looking beyond 2020, EVs and innovation in this area present a major growth opportunity not only for car manufacturers but for the energy sector as a whole.”

Over the next five to ten years, passenger vehicle manufacturers will be confronted with regulatory pressure and material penalties, as gains in fuel economy fall behind the required rates of improvement set to address environmental preservation and climate change mitigation.

With a collective annual demand of over 40 million passenger vehicles, three of the largest car markets in the world, the EU, US and China, have all set fuel economy improvement targets of approximately 30% for cars from 2014-2020 (as measured in NEDC gCO2/km), which are expected to exceed forecasted new internal combustion engine (ICE) powered car capabilities.

The World Energy Perspective 2016: ‘E-mobility: closing the emissions gap’, published by the Council in collaboration with Accenture Strategy, examines the growth in sales of EVs as the latest technologies to increase average fuel efficiency and meet these stringent economy standards, set in all three markets, referred to as the “EV gap”. In the EU, the EV gap is 1.4 million, 10% of the estimated 2020 projected passenger sales, in the US, 0.9 million (11%) and in China roughly 5.3 million, 22% of the projected passenger car sales.

The report, which will be presented in the margins of the G20 Energy Ministers meeting in Beijing by Berat Albayrak, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, highlights key findings which represent a new frontier and a significant opportunity for the energy sector which will be fully embraced at this year’s World Energy Congress in Istanbul, where global energy leaders will address these and similar challenges.

Murat Mercan, Chair of the 23rd World Energy Congress Organising Committee, said: “These insights are really significant and will help to ensure that our programme will address the right issues at this time of major transition for the energy sector.

We already have over 240 confirmed speakers, from 82 countries, including 44 ministers confirmed for the congress, which will guarantee that the new frontier for the energy sector will be embraced by all.”

Stuart Solomon, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy, added: “To help close the emissions gap through more widespread adoption of EVs, utilities need to play a critical role - not only to ensure a reliable electricity supply, given the added pressure from plugging more EVs into an already stressed grid network, but also by making sure that any added demand for electricity to power EVs increasingly comes from clean power sources.

“Utilities can also play a leading role in bringing together key stakeholders from the automotive, technology and home services industries to encourage customer uptake of EVs through more attractive electricity tariff structures, combined with bundled product offers, such as connected car and home solutions. Customers could realise cost and lifestyle benefits as a result, while new revenue streams could benefit industry players.”

Electricity demand attributed to new EVs can likely be managed with proper planning by utilities and could be further mitigated at the local level with emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G). Faced with a complex array of policy and technology options including hybrid technology, down-weighting technology, off-cycle credit, aerodynamic improvements and many more, it is important for decision makers to understand the potential impact and feasibility of each option.

Key recommendations of the report include:

Industry: Vehicle manufacturers will need to respond to regulatory pressures and shift their product portfolio to avoid material penalties. Additionally, there is an opportunity for vehicle manufacturers and utility electricity providers to partner to deliver a superior value proposition to consumers. By 2020 each market would need an additional:

  • 3.7 TWh (equivalent to 734,000 homes) in the EU
  • 4.5 TWh (equivalent to 367,000 homes) in the US
  • 26.2 TWh (equivalent to 17 million homes) in China

Policymakers: Regulators should examine how proposed fuel requirements can be matched by working with industry through financial and operational incentives in order to achieve desired improvements in CO2 emissions.

Consumers: Consumers should provide feedback to regulators and manufacturers by evaluating the economic and environmental benefits of EVs alongside alternative online transportation methods.

World Energy Council

The World Energy Council is the principal impartial network of energy leaders and practitioners promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all. Formed in 1923, the Council is the UN-accredited global energy body, representing the entire energy spectrum, with over 3,000 member organisations in over 90 countries, drawn from governments, private and state corporations, academia, NGOs and energy stakeholders. We inform global, regional and national energy strategies by hosting high-level events including the World Energy Congress  and publishing authoritative studies, and work through our extensive member network to facilitate the world’s energy policy dialogue. Find out more www.worldenergy.org and follow @WECouncil

World Energy Congress

The World Energy Congress is the World Energy Council’s global flagship triennial event that enables dialogue among Ministers, CEOs and industry experts on critical developments in the energy sector. Running since 1924, the 23rd World Energy Congress will be held in Istanbul, Turkey from 9-13 October 2016 with the theme “Embracing New Frontiers”.

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The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge if them. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.

Solar Energy Experts Navitron Predict a Return to Solar DIY

ae097c5ab352b4df_800x800arDespite the subsidy cuts for solar energy which were implemented late last year, it seems like interest in solar power continues to grow, as the UK saw a new record in April, with solar power surpassing coal for 24 hours, according to a recent article by The Guardian. Whilst the rise in solar energy seems to be due to increasing interest in and awareness of the benefits of renewable energy amongst people across the country, as well as the falling prices of solar power technologies, Navitron, a UK leading supplier of renewable energy solutions for both home owners and businesses, have noticed another interesting trend.

According to Jack Knight, Marketing Manager at Navitron, the company has observed a surge in interest for DIY solar solutions. He comments “Whilst we provide a wide range of renewable energy solutions, from solar panels to wood stoves or water turbines, as well as all the ancillaries needed for a hassle-free installation, over recent months we’ve noticed an increase in sales for our DIY Solar Installation Kits.”

“Increasingly more DIY-enthusiasts and home owners are keen to make the switch to green energy and they are opting for our complete DIY solar kits which can be easily mounted and include all the equipment needed to implement the system themselves.” Says Jack Knight. “By choosing to implement their newly bought solar system themselves, people can save on installation costs and start enjoying the benefits of their solar power source from as little as £1300.”

However, Navitron recommends to their customers to make an informed buying decision, ensuring they have all the permissions needed and if they do require any assistance with the installation or any other part of the buying process, Navitron’s team of experts is only a phone call away. Interested parties can contact Navitron on 01572 725512 or email sales@navitron.org.uk. Furthermore, those customers who opt to have their solar power system installed by a professional can choose an installer via Navitron’s extensive national network.

Source: Navitron Ltd

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The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not recommend, approve or endorse the products and/or services offered, as we have no direct knowledge if them. You should use your own judgment and evaluate products and services carefully before deciding to purchase.