Our snapshots blog provides you with recent news from the world of energy and sustainability in small, bite-size chunks!
McDonald’s Happy Meals to be more sustainable with removal of plastic toys
Posted: 20 March 2020
UK and Ireland McDonald’s have committed to remove plastic toys from their Happy Meals following a petition led by 2 young girls of school age, calling on the restaurant to cut plastic from its famous kids’ meals.
As a result, Mcdonald’s have pledged to ensure their Happy Meals will only contain a soft toy, paper-based toy or book from 2021, as an alternative to plastic toys. To put this in perspective, the company have stated that this change will remove more than 3000 tonnes of plastic flowing through its business.
This comes as part of a range of sustainability initiatives Mcdonald’s are proposing around packaging and recycling, which you can read more about on their corporate website HERE
Trees and plants have positive effect on air pollution in urban areas
Posted: 4 March 2020
Recent studies by two Universities, Lancaster and Surrey, have shown that trees and hedges specifically are helping to clean the air and reduce the spread of air pollution.
It was found that silver birch trees kept as hedges around adult height are particularly good at this job, as well as a both trees and hedges together which act as barriers, helping to prevent road air pollution spreading, including black carbon and harmful metals.
The leaves are the reason for this, as they are covered in tiny hairs and ridges which help capture the polluting particles. In addition, every time we have rainfall, these particles are washed away so the leaves can catch more particles; one of the reasons to be thankful for all the rain we have in England! Therefore, it has been suggested that more trees should be planted in towns and cities with high pollution.
World’s first climate positive Scottish gin, made using garden peas
Posted: 20 February 2020
In Angus, Scotland, Arbikie Distillery are producing a novel gin which avoids more carbon dioxide emissions than it creates with each bottle produced, therefore, achieving a negative carbon footprint. Specifically, -1.54kg carbon dioxide equivalent.
The distillery is achieving this impressive feat by utilising peas and putting all useful, leftover parts of the vegetable in to animal feed, following the distilling process. The remaining pea protein and yeast is blended, producing a substance called ‘pot ale’, which is suitable for feeding animals.
The difference between ’climate positive’ and ‘carbon neutral’ is that the latter means a product releases net zero emissions, however, ‘climate positive’ can only describe a product that is achieving benefits for the environment beyond net zero carbon emissions.
If you’re interested in purchasing a bottle of climate positive gin, it’s called Nadar Gin and you can buy it HERE
Financial investment in America set to shift and centre around sustainability goals
Posted: 3 February 2020
In an annual letter from Laurence D. Fink, the founder of the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, to the CEO's of the world's largest companies, he stated that BlackRock would be leaving investments which “present a high sustainability-related risk,” and encourages every company to do the same. This letter is well known about and incredibly influential in boardrooms across the world; it was also obtained by The New York Times, further highlighting its importance.
The letter stresses how the crisis that is climate change is the most extreme in the 40 years Mr Fink has been in the sector and he supports this by writing; “Even if only a fraction of the science is right today, this is a much more structural, long-term crisis,”
In summary of the letter's theme, Mr Fink said:
“Awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance...The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.”
You can read the full letter HERE
Hope for a future with hydrogen as a fuel
Posted: 6 January 2020
Hydrogen fuel is a more eco-friendly alternative to other fuel types which produce greenhouse gases and the start of 2020 brings positive news in the form of it being used at a Keele University campus with successful results. Specifically, 20% hydrogen has been blended into the university's natural gas supply which reduces the CO2 levels produced through heating and cooking. To put this into perspective, gas use for heating generates approximately 1/3 of UK emissions, but the only by-product of burning hydrogen is water.
This trial conducted at Keele University is of national significance and it breeds hope for supporters of the concept. However, there are concerns that hydrogen would be too expensive for use on mass and the UK only has small supplies of the gas currently. The 20% proportion does provide an ideal gas blend as it doesn't affect current gas pipes/appliances, but huge investment in infrastructure would still be required in order to produce high amounts of hydrogen so it isn't as attractive as other alternatives such as renewables.
Richard Black from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) told BBC News: “We will and should have hydrogen in the mix of energy options, but it’s not a wonder solution to everything, which you sometimes get the impression from the rhetoric. There is hope – but too much hype.”
High-flying drones could be the future solution for household power
Posted: 3 June 2019
The US Energy Information Administration recently reported that in 2018, wind power generated five times more electricity compared with 10 years ago, however, this still only accounts for approximately 4% of electricity globally. The main issue with using wind as a renewable energy source is that the wind is very intermittent and unreliable, however, winds above 500m are more consistent and stronger. Wind energy technology company Makani are currently trialling a new offshore system in partnership with Shell, utilising huge kites mounted on floating buoys which are guided by flight computers. These kite prototypes have been designed to produce enough electricity to power around 300 homes. In addition, Swiss company Skypull has produced an autonomous drone that can fly up to 600m high which is three times the height of a traditional wind turbine.
The key downfall of these types of systems is that the amount of electricity generated is low compared to the levels created by current wind turbines and for context, hundreds of Makani's kite prototype mentioned above would be needed just to power a small city. Hence, these types of drones are expected to be utilised alongside traditional wind turbines for a long time yet, but Udo Zillman from Airbone Wind Europe stated that he believes renewable energy, including wind, is "definitely capable of meeting the entire world's energy needs, and drones can help us achieve this".
Committee on Climate Change (CCC) suggests UK could reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050
Posted: 13 May 2019
The current government policy is to reduce emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050, however, in a recent report the CCC stated that the UK should lead the way by cutting greenhouse gases to zero by 2050. This would need government backing to be written into policy and currently it will not create much of an impact as the CCC are an independent advisor to the government, however, the authorities are considering the report. In order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the UK wouldn't be able to rely on just cutting emissions, there would be a key requirement for tree planting and storing emissions.
The CCC have stated that Scotland could achieve zero carbon emissions sooner than the rest of the UK, by 2045, as Scotland has excellent scope for planting high numbers of trees and is better suited for carbon capture and storage. On the other hand, it is expected that Wales will only be able to achieve a 95% carbon emissions reduction by 2050 due to its large scale farming industry, whilst Northern Ireland will work to England's timeline.
LED lures could be used in energy efficient fishing
Posted: 15 November 2018
Currently, many fisherman lure fish with energy-intensive incandescent lights which allows them to be caught more easily due to the light which draws fish and many other marine creatures to the water surface.
However, these type of lights swiftly lose battery resulting in the requirement of a highly polluting generator, therefore, swapping the aforementioned lights for LEDs will achieve the same benefit but significantly reduce energy use and costs.
Comply Direct member Britvic sign renewable power contract with Eon
Posted: 3 October 2018
All of Britvic's GB sites will be powered by 100% renewable electricity following their signing of a 4 year deal with Eon. Making this switch should result in savings of 17,000 tonnes CO2e per year.
In addition, Britvic's sustainability strategy has 'powered' the implementation of more electric vehicles in their GB company car fleet, meaning now more than 20% of the fleet are alternatively fuelled.
Alison Rothnie, Senior Sustainability Manager at Britvic “believes that businesses have a role to play in tackling the global climate change challenge, and energy efficiency and emissions reductions have been a priority area for our supply chain operations for a number of years in all the countries where we operate.
“The move to renewable electricity in GB through our partnership with Eon is a significant step, not only in helping us to minimise the environmental impact of our operations and reduce our carbon emissions, but also supporting the development of a low carbon future for the UK.”
UK are changing energy suppliers more and more
Posted: 1 October 2018
In September 2018, just under 500,000 energy customers changed providers which is a considerable 11% rise in comparison to September 2017. To-date this year, electricity switches have reached 3.7 million.
Summer proved to be the busiest time for switches, with almost 1.5 million customers making a supplier change in that period alone.
Energy UK are pleased to see these figures as it shows that the switching process is easy and 9 out of 10 customers have said they are satisfied with the system.
Lawrence Slade, Chief Executive of Energy UK said:
“Competition is thriving in the energy market and ever-increasing numbers of customers switch every year – with a record 5.5 million doing so last year. It is vital that these positive steps, which deliver benefits for customers, are not undone as a result of policy decisions..."
New research proves consumers place higher value on renewable energy
Posted: 16 July
According to a new survey of 500 people conducted by renewable energy company Ørsted, 73% of UK consumers would prefer to use renewable energy suppliers over and above non-renewable alternatives.
Interestingly, this research also discovered that 86% of UK consumers think it is worthwhile purchasing products such as food and clothing produced using 100% green energy.
Additional statistics include:
- 23% of respondents willing to pay higher prices for supermarket products that use 100% renewable energy
- 24% of respondents willing to pay higher prices for beauty products that use 100% renewable energy
- Approximately 60% of consumers preferred product packaging displaying a ‘green’ message.
£500m energy efficiency fund launched in London
Posted: 10 July 2018
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is actively supporting the reduction in the city's hospitals, businesses and universities' bills and carbon emissions. Organisations including Lloyds bank and Santander UK worked with the London Mayor to enable a £500 million energy fund and flexible finance via many funding options with the aim of supporting public-sector companies and small businesses obtain the finance required to implement energy efficiency measures.
Long-term aims of the funding project over an investment period of up to 20 years, are to implement new technologies and replace and improve the current low carbon infrastructure in the city. Some of the key focus points will include electric vehicle charging infrastructure, energy efficiency measures and battery storage.
'Green' energy company claim their power is vegan-friendly
Posted: 5 July 2018
Leading the way in green electricity, Ecotricity are promoting their energy as suitable for vegans due to the fact their power generation doesn't contain any animal by-products. In addition, they are planning a vegan gas product launch.
The energy company say they are the only supplier in the industry to be registered with the Vegan Society and in line with this do not utilise any generation sources which use animal by-products, often found in biomass and AD-derived energy.
The vegan community is seemingly growing, if news and social media coverage is anything to go by, and Ecotricity are calling for energy sourcing labelling to be mandatory so vegans and non-vegans alike have the knowledge to make the right energy choices for their individual lifestyles.
England receives water supply shortage warning
Posted: 23 May 2018
The Environment Agency (EA) have warned that unless water use and wastage is minimised quickly in England, the country will face water shortages by 2050. The reasons for this are due to leakages, population growth and climate change. The EA have reported that a staggering amount of water is wasted through leakage every day, specifically enough water to supply 20 million people. This equates to a huge, 3 billion litres of water wasted every day through leakage alone.
The full government report on England's water resources, which is the first major report of it's type to be published, can be accessed HERE
To tackle the issue initially, the EA wants the public to have specific water targets on a personal level and the agency have strongly advised that people use their water at home more economically going forward. These targets have already been recommended by the government as part of its 25-Year Environment Plan released in January this year - you can read our news story on this topic HERE
Both companies and household owners need to do their bit to help address the problem and it is seemingly in everyone's interest to do so.
Plastic-eating enzyme created by scientists
Posted: 4 May 2018
A scientific accident has caused the development of an enzyme that is able to digest some common plastics which are currently polluting the planet, and could possibly be a revolutionary recycling solution.
Teams at the University of Portsmouth and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) led the research and were only aiming to study the structure of the natural plastic-eating enzyme PETase. However, inadvertently they managed to create an enzyme that is more effective at degrading plastic than the aforementioned enzyme. The team of researchers now plan to develop an enzyme that is able to break-down plastics in a much shorter length of time. Professor John McGeehan from the University of Portsmouth, said:
“This unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics.”
Large number of major brands commit to science-based emission targets initiative
Posted: 17 April 2018
103 global corporates, including L’Oreal, Tesco and McDonalds, have signed-up to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), to attain scientist’s support to help mitigate threatening climate change. The initiative itself aims to assist companies with minimising their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
The staggering total market value of companies signed-up to the initiative is at roughly £2.4trn. Gaining competitive advantage in the move to a low-carbon economy is a key driving factor for businesses in committing to the initiative.
The amalgamated annual greenhouse gas emissions of the aforementioned brands committed to the SBTi are equal to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of 100 coal-fired power plants. By signing-up to the initiative, these companies are demonstrating their commitment to producing a below 2°C planet.
Overall, a total of above 370 organisations have signed-up to the SBTi, with in excess of two companies committing each week to the initiative since its beginning in mid-2015.
Rapid electric vehicle growth is not a worry to the National Grid
Posted: 27 March 2018
A huge increase in electric vehicles (EVs) is reportedly not a big deal for the National Grid and they are confident they can easily handle the additional generation capacity needed to handle millions of vehicles.
According to National Grid’s EV lead Graeme Cooper, smart charging could half the 8GW of additional power generation required if 9 million electric vehicles were on the UK roads. If the uptake of electric vehicles is much higher than the National Grid expects, Cooper is still adamant that the system would manage and insists it is highly robust so they will be able to respond successfully. Speaking to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee Cooper said:
“People who lease a car tend to be on a three to four year cycle; people who buy private vehicles tend to be on an eight to nine year cycle. So while a change overnight could be more dramatic [it is unlikely to be] a cliff edge”.