petrol stationPetrol sales in the UK  have plummeted in the last five years, according to official figures. In 2007, forecourts sold 22.87 billion litres of petrol but the annual figure had slid to 17.42 billion litres by 2012, Government statistics highlighted by the AA showed. Diesel sales, though, have risen slightly over the last five years, going up from 14.80 billion litres in 2007 to 16.73 billion litres in 2012. Taking petrol and diesel sales together, fuel stations sold 37.67 billion litres of fuel in 2007 but only 34.16 billion litres in 2012. AA president Edmund King said: “Greater take-up of diesel cars and smaller petrol vehicles has contributed to this overall decline in UK fuel sales over the long term. However, soaring pump prices have taken a huge toll on petrol sales more recently – during the 10p-a-litre price surges last March and October pump sales of petrol fell by up to 5%.”

Sumatran_Rhino_2There are five species of rhino on the planet, all threatened with extinction – with two close to the edge. The Javan, which went extinct i Vietnam three years ago,  and there are now only 35 animals left in the Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia. There are probably less than 100 Sumatran rhinos left – the Indian rhino is threatended, and last year at least 745 black and white rhinos were poached and killed in Africa. The demand for rhino horn for traditional Chinese medicines seems to be insatiable and is driving the rhino closer and closer to oblivion.

Offbeat Spaces, the Youtube design channel, tips us to this very clever 200 square foot tiny house, built by the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Warren, Vermont. The Elephant House is designed to be “a prototype for small-scale living, providing a host of innovative design ideas for other builders”. The light fixtures are made from recycled plumbing. The exterior walls are made of one of shou-sugi-ban, a Japanese wood treatment where the wood is burned with a torch to create an exterior skin of black char. It lasts a long time and is actually fire resistant. And its heated by straw and manure! And check out Tiny Texas Houses believes who believe that the future of sustainable building lies in local materials that are “already harvested, sliced, diced, formed, and proven healthy, toxin free, priced for human energy”: With the apt motto of “building the future with the past,” their tiny homes are each an individual exercise in resourcefulness and diverse regional styles stemming from the wide variety of materials saved from demolitions.

In Borneo International Animal rescue arrived just in time to save a group of orang-utans whose home, pristine rain forest, had been bulldozed to make way for palm oil plantations.

In the UK pressure is mounting in England for a charge on plastic bags as many shoppers cant lose the habit of picking up new bags every time they shop and then sending the used bags to landfill – or leaving them around to  end up trees, eaten by animals, or blown into the sea. Almost 8 billion single use carrier bags were used in the UK in 2011 – 254 per second – or 61,000 tonnes of plastic.  A 5p per bag charge was launched in Northern Ireland on April 9th. Wales already has a charge – resulting in a 90% drop in bag waste – and all money collected is passed into environmental work. The Northern Ireland levy will increase to 10p next year. Plastic bags take between 500 and 1000 years to degrade in landfill.

The European Commission has released “Building the Single Market for Green Products“. The Commission has also issued a Recommendation on the use of the now published Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and the Organisation Environmental Footprint (OEF) methods. You can find the official press release here and Further information on the process is available here. In the words of EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik: “To boost sustainable growth, we need to make sure that the most resource-efficient and environmentally-friendly products on the market are known and recognisable. By giving people reliable and comparable information about the environmental impacts and credentials of products and organisations, we enable them to choose. And by helping companies to align their methods we cut their costs and administrative burdens.”  There will be more about the communication and the planned pilot projects from the European Commission and perspectives from stakeholders at the upcoming PEF Policy Conference on 29-30 April in Berlin.

A £5m fund has been awarded to the National Union of Students (NUS) in an attempt to ensure sustainability remains a priority within British higher education. The Students’ Green Fund, provided by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), aims to help students engage with their universities and colleges on sustainable development.

The UK needs significant levels of new infrastructure to renew ageing facilities such as energy, transport and water management to meet future demand and help deliver a low carbon economy. Speaking to, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s (IEMA) policy & practice lead Josh Fothergill said much of this investment will relate to energy and transport infrastructure; however significant work will also progress related to water, sewerage, flood and coastal management infrastructure saying “The environment profession will have a vital role in delivering this much needed infrastructure but does it have the right tools to help secure the UK’s economic and environmental future?”

The World’s largest offshore wind farm, the London Array, has reached its full capacity of 630MW with the commissioning of its final wind turbine. All 175 wind turbines are now exporting power to the national grid and are expected to produce enough electricity to power almost 500,000 households a year.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have launched a new website to help small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) understand their environmental responsibilities and encourage good environmental practice. Called NetRegs, the website contains guidelines for businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland to help them comply with environmental regulations.  

More inclusivity must be built into London’s smart city agenda to safeguard its infrastructure against future climate threats, a leading sustainability analyst has warned. Forum for the Future CEO Peter Madden spoke of the importance of futureproofing big cities like London so that they could function effectively as low carbon hubs as demand grows for more housing stock and transport frameworks.

The motor industry has highlighted the benefits of low carbon vehicles on UK roads after figures showed a decline in fuel sold in the last five years (see above). Vauxhall told that the motor car was “vastly cleaner” than it was just 10 years ago with a huge number of vehicles now on sale at under 100gm of CO2. Nissan put the reduction in fuel sales down to consumers seeking more efficient cars because of tax and fuel costs.  The company also noted that “manufacturers had made great strides and improved fuel efficiency in the past few years.”  In addition, Nissan said its electrical vehicle (EV), LEAF, has just had its best ever sales month in the UK. And Ford is rolling out eco-paint technology across its manufacturing sites in a bid to further reduce CO2 emissions during vehicle production. The 3-Wet technology process, already in operation at eight of Ford’s plants in North America, Asia Pacific and Europe, have reduced emissions by up to 25% and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 10% at those sites. And how about a sugar powered car? Xylose, a sugar found in plants, has been used to produce gas to power cars which release almost no greenhouse gases when used. Sweet!

Southern Water has pledged to utilise low-carbon technologies and sustainable best practices to improve water supplies. According to the company’s 25 year Strategic Statement, investment in new technology such as sensors and monitors, will enable it to improve the reliability of water supplies by helping it to identify and repair burst mains before they cause problems.

We have heard of the very sad news of the death of UCL scientist Katharine Giles, who was killed whilst cycling to work in central London. Dr Giles worked as a research fellow at the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at UCL  and was well known for her work on global warming. She was killed by a turning lorry in Westminster, and is the second cyclist to die in London this year, renewing calls for better protection for cyclists against lorries and HGVs – better planned cycle lanes at junctions, and lorries fitted with better mirrors, sensors and cameras if they wish to drive in cities.


By |2016-11-01T15:04:37+00:00April 11th, 2013|AGF Blog|