Archive for Environment

Children are our best hope for growth

The IMF thinks cutting interest rates and VAT will grow the UK economy.

Not in the long term.

VAT is one of the better taxes because it acts as a break on consumption – the root of our greatest problems. It also generates the revenue needed for the state to pay back our debt mountain.

Cutting VAT will only channel money that would have been used to pay back public sector debt to paying back private sector debt. The IMF advice to cut VAT and encourage greater consumption fails to tackle the root cause of the issue.

True growth comes from invention, creativity, working smarter, getting more out for putting less in. Growth comes from using our brains to make things better, faster, easier, more efficient.

We must find ways to foster that. Fixing the root causes of our problems – being patient and investing in the future.

Children are the future.

Why does Britain have such high youth unemployment? Children are sponges. They are dynamos. They are imaginative. They have incredible potential. We invest billions in education yet millions of children are leaving school unable to find work or start a business. Their parents have failed them. Our system has failed them. This must end.

Every child from the age of 6 to 16 should learn about business. Business is fun. It's creative. It's rewarding. It gives people the feeling they are doing something useful, productive and valuable. Which they are.

By providing children with the experience of running their own enterprise, no matter how small or simple it may be, we will be nurturing millions of little growth-engines of the future and empowering every child to choose their destiny.

We must develop the belief in every child that they can do whatever they want with their life. That the world is there to be changed, by them.

Business can do that. Business does do that. It is not exclusive to a minority – everyone can change the world. Whether it is profit making business or a non-profit, our economies were grown through enterprise, yet we shield our children from it until the age of 16, 18 or even 21.

We've wasted precious years, providing little or no exposure to children in something empowering, something magical, something of lifelong personal, social and economic value. We should have been exposing them from an early age, feeding their natural hunger for creativity, experimentation and trade.

By the age of 13, every child should have started at least one enterprise. They could sell lemonade, wash cars, build iPhone apps, service bikes, shoot stock photography or one of a million other things. It doesn't matter what they do or how they do it, because it is an age of experimentation.

Children have nothing to lose, everything to gain. They have time on their side, they are not stuck in a comfort zone or tied down by mortgages or children like many adults are. Their enterprise may not even be trying to make money, the purpose is to let them create something of their own and experience the basics of enterprise.

Children are young, energetic, fearless and hungry to take on the world. When you let them loose at 16, 18, 21 or whenever, with the experience and knowledge they will have gained from their many childhood enterprises, they will be well equipped to make positive change in the world and do a lot better than our generation did.

That means growth. Lots of it. And I expect it to be good growth too – disruptive, creative, ground-breaking, environment-fixing, peace-making growth.

Here's Cameron Herold sharing his experiences on childhood entrepreneurship:


Car of the future is now in production

The internal combustion engine is dead.

The car of the future is electric.

The new breed in motor transport has overtaken a disused Toyota factory in Fremont, California to build 20,000 new Tesla Model S cars each year.

Tesla Model S - new factory

Fast, spacious, stunningly good looking and 100% electric. Order yours now.

If you can't wait for the future to arrive, it's actually already here, in a smaller, even faster variety. The Tesla Roadster.

Tesla Roadster

0-60 in 3.7 seconds. Range of 245 miles.

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5 ways to reduce your global warming contribution

Today is Blog Action Day 2009 and this years' topic is Climate Change.

Eco BallsWe all contribute to global warming through our daily activities, so here are 5 ways to reduce your impact:

  1. Shower faster – you will use less hot water. Heating water is one of the the most energy intensive activities in your home.
  2. Use EcoBalls – stop using washing detergent, start using these hi-tech ecoballs instead! We've used them for 3 months and they work well for us.
  3. Turn down your heating 2 degrees – you can save a massive amount of CO2 (and lots of money) by heating your house to a lower temperature.
  4. Turn off your computer – or at least, put it into standby. Obvious, but it is easy to fall into bad habits.
  5. Switch to Ecotricity – the UK's first 100% renewable energy company. Great customer service and they genuinely care about the environment. All their power comes from wind turbines.

Read my Blog Action Day 2008 post: Help nurture entrepreneurs in poor countries.

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How do you measure water filter efficiency?

Water filterI'd like to buy a highly efficient water filter to make healthy, potable, odourless drinking water in my home. The tricky thing is, how do you measure efficiency?

There is a debate going on at MetaEfficient about what constitutes efficiency. The reverse osmosis water filtration process is put forward as a solution even though it consumes electricity and outputs more waste water than it outputs drinkable water. Does that sound efficient to you? Me neither. The meta-efficiency is measured as follows:

"When assessing a product, we consider not only its energy efficiency but also its embodied energy, toxicity, affordability, and usability."

That's sensible, but you can't roll all these things into one score because they are measured by different means. Furthermore, people have different perceptions of what is important. $100 might be a lot of money to me but it could be cheap to you. Environmental impact might be important to you but it might be critical to me.

The solution would be to rate products on separate factors and provide multiple scores, e.g.

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): taking all environmental impact into consideration, measured in a unit such as joules. Incredibly hard to do accurately.
  • Usability: gauging how well it does the job and how easy it is to use. Scored out of 100.
  • Retail price: in £/$/€
  • Running cost: in £/$/€

Only when you separate the important aspects of a product and measure each one in an standard unit can you compare products effectively.

It takes a true geek to do such in depth research and comparison for water filtration systems. It will happen eventually – the internet's global reach makes in-depth comparison a viable business proposition. But in the meantime, can anyone point me in the direction of a highly efficient household water filter, regardless of cost?


Help nurture entrepreneurs in poor countries

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch blogged about a great way to help eliminate poverty – by providing microloans to entrepreneurs in small countries. Helping people help themselves is a great way to give aid.

Anything from $20 to $350 can help someone start their own business in Karachi, Kabul or Kirkut. Read more here.

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No more letters thanks

NHS donor letterI receive 1 or 2 letters per day and at least 3 out of 4 of them are pointless.

Why do companies still write letters? Has nobody told them that emails are free?

I previously wrote how the Organ Transplant website showed excellent use of NHS money. Old habits die hard though, prompting me to send the following email to Christine Cole at UK Transplant. If enough people complain about needless mail, organisations will stop sending it.

Dear Christine,

I received your letter confirming my registration as a donor and the card attached to it.

However, it is pointless! If you want to confirm my registration (which the website already did on the "thank you" page), send me an email.

Post is dead….

It wastes NHS money employing staff to write, print and post letters.
It wastes NHS money on the cost of postage.
It wastes paper and plastic (the unnecessary donor card).
It wastes my time opening and then throwing away the letter.

The UK Transplant website is fantastic. Allowing people to sign up online as a donor is a brilliant idea and the site is very easy to use. Well done! Please now take that next step and replace all paper letters with emails.

Best wishes,

Jake Brumby

400 people died in the UK last year while waiting for a transplant. Register now.

In the mood to save paper? Cancel your Yellow Pages.

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Wake up and keep it real!

The Story of StuffHave you ever noticed how people forget about their childhood dreams, aspirations and beliefs as they grow older? It's a gradual process that seems to happen to almost everyone whether they notice or not.

Is it just me, or when you were younger, could you see obvious solution to problems? Did you wonder why we put up with things that were blatantly wrong or ill-conceived? Did you wonder why it took us years or decades to implement simple ideas and still they weren't done as well as they should have been?

Too much rubbish!Recycling facilities for paper, glass, plastic and aluminium. Proper school dinners. Energy-efficient housing. Renewable energy plants. Alternatives to petrol and diesel. Affordable and reliable public transport. No smoking in public places.

Most of these great ideas are still waiting to happen, yet thinking people (particularly children) thought of them 10, 20, 30 or more years ago. I use the expression thinking people because it seems that when we get a job and then a better job and then a house and a husband/wife and a family, we forget to really think. We just go with the flow. We get into a comfort zone and are easily influenced by the media and advertising. We begin to forget those great ideas we once had and we lose the ambition to actually make them happen.

Let's not forget them. Let's nurture them and grow them through action. Let's keep our brains and spirits alive and kicking.

Now here is what prompted this post – The Story of Stuff – the latest outstanding video from Free Range Studios.


Next-generation sports cars

I just found a new vehicle while surfing.

Here are the specs…

  • Price: $108,000 (£55,000)
  • Weight: 3000+ lb (1360+ kg)
  • 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h): 4 seconds
  • ¼ mile (0.4 km): 12 seconds @ 120 mph (193 km/h)
  • Top speed: 150 mph (240 km/h)

Now visualise what a car with such high performance would look like.

Now go and see what the car is.

If you enjoyed that, you might also like this great looking car and this space age one.

Both the Tesla and Aptera are in production now but have a seriously long waiting lists and can only be purchased in the USA. The Tango has not yet reached mass production.

Update: The Tango is already in production and you can order one from the UK. I just received this email from their President, Rick Woodbury:

Hi Jake,

Thanks for your enquiry:

Yes, you can certainly pre-order one for the UK.

We are shipping one to London with a few months.

The T600 is available now. It is made to order. Orders placed now will take approximately 6 months to deliver. The price is $108,000 in USD, fully equipped including a 10-year unlimited-mileage parts warranty. We can customize the Tango or remove items at cost if so desired.

Lead-acid batteries that have a range of 40 to 80 miles depending on speed and terrain come standard. Li-Ion batteries are also available with a range of 100 to 200 miles or more of freeway driving with prices ranging from approximately $25,000 to $50,000 depending on type and capacity. We are expecting a final quotation and warranty shortly. The Li-Ion batteries promise much more power than even the lead-acid.

We are also taking deposits on less-expensive models which will be designed and built as funding becomes available from profits or investment capital.

There is more detailed information on our web page under the "Ordering" button.

If you have further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Best wishes,


So you can order a T600 now ($108,000 with $10,000 deposit) and receive it in 6 months, or you can pre-order a Tango T100 ($18,700 with $500 deposit) and wait 2-3 years.


Cyclists banned from trains

Bicycles - but not on trains thank youI was thrown off a train at Marylebone Station 4.58pm today because I had a bike. I argued with the railway staff, including the station manager, but they enforced a rule that would not let me on their trains between 4.30pm and 7.30pm.

The train was ready to depart and there were plenty of spare seats. But they forced me to wait in London for 2 and a half hours before I could use my ticket.

People should be commended for choosing to cycle, not thrown off and prevented from travelling. Cycling, instead of driving, reduces CO2 emissions and gives people exercise. Climate change and obesity are two of our greatest challenges – cycling to work helps solve two problems in one go.

Encouraging cycling is clearly a good policy, so let's not prevent people from doing a good thing. Let's make more space for bikes on trains or just increase the frequency of trains. It's as simple as that. Yes it might mean refitting some trains or adding a carriage here or there, but if we're serious about climate change and obesity, having bikes on trains is a no-brainer.

The station manager told me that the ban was 'governments rules'. I questioned his judgement and rightly so. From what I've since read online, only some train companies ban bikes on trains, though it is an increasing trend.

The Labour Government harps on about 'integrated transport' and tackling climate but as usual, it is hype and rhetoric. Labour was petitioned 14 months ago to allow bicycles on trains but they declined to help, saying it was up to the train companies. We didn't elect our Government to pass the buck.

The train companies don't get it. The government doesn't get it. So where do we go from here?

  1. We can lobby the Office of Rail Regulation.
  2. We can lobby the train companies.
  3. We can vote Labour out of power in 2 years time. And we will.

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VW Polo running on vegetable oil – no modification needed

For the last 600 miles, my Volkswagen Polo 1.4tdi has been running on a mixture of diesel and vegetable oil.

It's an experiment I've been wanting to run for 2 years but I'd been put off by the antiquated Inland Revenue taxation regime on fuel. That was scrapped recently so you can now put vegetable oil in your car without paying fuel duty. (Check that your car can run on biodiesel before trying this!).

Pouring vegetable oil into my VW Polo
I have done no modification to my 2001-built VW Polo so I was a little apprehensive for fear of damaging the engine. The car is designed to run on diesel, but the handbook states that it can run on up to 50% RME (Rapeseed-Methyl-Esther) mix, so I should be safe. Some diesel engines require modification because vegetable oil is more viscous and puts more strain on the fuel pump. It can also be harder to start the engine in winter.

To minimise the risk, I used a 1:4 mixture in my first tank. My mix is:

  • 80% diesel
  • 20% vegetable oil

55p per litre
The fuel tank capacity is 10 gallons (45 litres). So I put 9 litres of vegetable oil into the car, then filled it up with diesel.

The price of diesel recently rose above £1.00 per litre. Vegetable oil costs about 55p per litre in the supermarket. So, by using a 25% mix, I saved about £4.05 on a tank of fuel. On my next tank, I will use a 50% biodiesel mix, and will save over £10 per tank.

There was no noticeable change in the average MPG (miles per gallon) – I recorded 68mpg which is what I achieve with standard diesel.

Biodiesel is, arguably, better for the environment than diesel. It comes from a renewable source and the CO2 emissions are equal to the sequestrated amount when the vegetable grows, so it is carbon neutral. However, some people believe that it is contributing to the destruction of rainforest as Malaysia, Indonesia and other developing countries cut down their rainforests to plant palm oil, which can also be used as a biofuel.

Seeing as I am burning sunflower or rape seed oil, I don't think I am having a direct effect on rainforests. But if I wanted to run the ultimate biodiesel car, I would copy my mate Adam and collect used vegetable oil from the local fish and chip shop, run it through a filter then stick it in my car. It's free and it's an otherwise waste product. Everyone's a winner!

If you want to investigate biodiesel, there are lots of useful websites. I recommend this one to start with.

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