It is very easy, living in the UK, to feel detached from the issue of the environment and to have the impression that it has no ramifications on us as a country. This leads to people thinking that it is an unnecessary ‘luxury’ that, while we are in an economic downturn, should be put into the background as we have greater problems to deal with. This however is a short-minded misconception, which could not be further from the truth.
We have an insatiable dependence on fossil fuels to provide us with electricity and fuel; basic commodities which are essential for almost everything that we do in our lives. However, fossil fuels are running out and if we continue with our current consumption, scientists have predicted that oil reserves will only last until 2055 and coal will only last until 2128. As fossil fuels become scarcer, the costs for them will rise to a point where it would be unsustainable, purely on a financial basis, to use them as fuel.
This is of course on top of the huge environmental damage that burning fossil fuels creates and highlights the need to convert to more sustainable method of creating electricity, of which there are many available. There are simple measures that could be implemented and would have a profound effect on both the environment and the financial costs of producing electricity. The installation of solar panels or wind turbines could drastically reduce our carbon footprint and save you money on fuel bills.
On average, if you install solar panels, you could save over £1000 with the governments “feed-in tariff” system to provide cash back for renewable electricity generated at home. This dispels the myth that renewable energy is too expensive to be a sustainable energy source. What people forget when considering the costs of renewable energy is the cost of the alternative, fossil fuels. The cost for initially finding these fossil fuels is exorbitant and there is no guarantee that they will even be present. The actual extraction of these fuels is very risky and potentially harmful, as shown by the BP oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico.
Ignoring the damage to the ecosystem and the impact on the lives of the fishermen, the cost of the clear-up was £27 billion showing that not only are fossil fuels an unreliable form of energy but also an expensive option too. If we do not act now to reduce our carbon footprint, the cost for the clean-up operation of a potential disaster that will occur as a result of global warming would far outweigh the costs for implementing the change to more sustainable energy sources now.
Between 1950 – 2000, there were 11 tsunamis in total and it wasn’t a term that many people knew. However we have had almost the same number of tsunamis in just over a fifth of the time (from 2001 – 2011) and thanks to the infamous Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, it is a term that almost everyone has now come across in one way or another. Although those who don’t believe in global warming could claim that this is just a coincidence, what you can’t argue with is that we are changing the environment for the worse and that increased numbers of floods are going to occur.
The huge numbers of fatalities these natural disasters cause is horrific and surely any money we can spend now to try to prevent this kind of event would be worth it? Despite what many companies think businesses can go green and lower costs at the same time. The experience of an auto plant in Indiana helps illustrate how re-engineering processes with green principles and greater efficiency in mind can not only improve a company’s standing with nature, but increase its profits and give it competitive advantages as well.
A Subaru factory of more than 3,000 workers, who make roughly 800 cars a day, has made a 14% reduction in electricity consumption on a per-car basis since 2000. An even bigger achievement is that it has not shipped any waste to a landfill since May 2004. Since 2000, the company says, it has reduced the amount of waste it generates per vehicle by about 47%. Of the solid waste that the factory still generates, 99. 9% is recycled or used by other companies as manufacturing inputs or as raw materials that they process to resell. This shows that business growth doesn’t have to be to the detriment of the environment.