What Are The Greener Options For Charging Your Phone Or Tablet?

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Image via Flickr creative commons from markguim

Gadgets can suck up a fair bit of energy over their lifetime and it is unsurprising that more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their energy spend and bring down household bills at the same time as doing their bit for the environment. The good news is that there a number of ways that you can be more environmentally aware when it comes to charging up your gadgets such as smartphones and tablets. Charging them is easy, especially when you have covers from the Snugg UK that allow easy access to all of the ports. What is not so easy is remembering to be green – here are a few helpful tips!

Think carefully before charging overnight

One of the best and probably one of the simplest ways to save money and energy when it comes to charging gadgets is to make sure you think carefully about when you do it. Something that many people do is charge their smartphones and tablets up during the night when they’re not in use. Unfortunately today’s gadgets don’t actually take that long to charge up and so they remain plugged in and drawing down electricity even after they are fully charged. While you’re very unlikely to notice a spike in your electricity bill from doing this now and again, it’s important to remember that you are wasting electricity which is not only costing the environment but also hurting your wallet.

Don’t leave your charger plugged in at the wall

Taking appliances off charge once the batteries are full isn’t the only thing you’ll have to remember. It’s also important to make sure that you have turned off the charger at the socket once you’re done. Even if the device has been unplugged, a small amount of electricity can still be used by the plug. Cut out waste – turn it off.

Go for a timer

If you really don’t have the option of charging up your tablet or phone in the daytime or during the evening, then consider investing in a device to cut off power after a set period. It is possible to buy low-cost outlet timers that will automatically turn themselves off and stop drawing down power after a fixed period – perfect if your device will only take four hours to charge but you’re going to be in the land of nod for eight hours!

Harness the power of the sun!

If you’re not too keen on drawing down power from your home’s electricity supply then how about harnessing the power of the sun and getting some juice for free. It is now possible to buy solar-powered phone and tablet chargers that will drink up the sun’s rays and then dispense it into your gadgets when you’re ready. This type of device can be great for when you are travelling and don’t have a mains power source handy, or alternatively, is just a fab way of staying powered-up without harming the environment. Everyone wins!

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This year’s most important new environmentally-focused books

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Image via Flickr creative commons from anselm

Climate change is undoubtedly one of the defining issues of our time, and quite possibly the single most important of them all. Politicians the world over have spent decades trying to get to grips with the problem, although it has to be said that their lack of progress is starting to attract ever closer scrutiny from activists and other observers. As you might expect, there have been a raft of books over the last few years debating and scrutinising the issues surrounding climate change and the environment more broadly – and 2013 has already seen a whole host of new environmental books hit the shelves. Here are five titles you might want to consider delving into, which you shouldn’t have much trouble finding at a Book people nature and outdoors section.

1)      Hungry Capital: The Financialization of Food – Luigi Rossi: Published by Zero Books, Hungry Capital sees Luigi Rossi examine the rapid restructuring of the global food chain in recent decades. The financialisation of the global economy more generally has had a significant impact on the way the international food chain operates, with the influence of multinational firms and large retail chains fuelling extensive changes. Hungry Capital looks specifically at the influence of financial experts on the worldwide food economy, and questions whether the edifice can hold for much longer in an increasingly unstable, interconnected global economy.

2)      Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science – John Berger: According to USA Today, Climate Myths is a study of the global fossil fuel industry’s attempts to obfuscate and undermine the science associated with the processes of climate change. In the book, John Berger compares the modern-day anti-climate change lobbying efforts of fossil fuel firms to the propaganda disseminated by tobacco firms in earlier eras, aimed at downplaying the mounting – and now widely accepted – evidence that cigarettes posed various health hazards to smokers.

3)      Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change – Andrew Guzman: This book looks at the likely consequences of allowing the planet’s temperature to rise by another two degrees centigrade. Andrew Guzman, a law professor in the US, warns that further warming is likely to cause widespread instability – fuelling increased conflict as nations squabble over increasingly scarce resources, destroying island nations and leaving millions of people around the world displaced from their homes.

4)      Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent – Gabrielle Walker: Having visited Antarctica five times, Gabrielle Walker takes the opportunity to show us just what the continent is like in this book. She describes in unflinching detail the minus 60 degree temperatures, the months of darkness and much more besides. She also looks at what the future holds for Antarctica as climate change takes its toll.

5)      High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Levels and the Coming Coastal Crisis – John Englander: In High Tide on Main Street, John Englander warns that regardless of what how global temperatures rise over the coming years, higher sea levels are now an inevitability – and he points out that this could endanger coastal communities, driving millions of people further inland.

Why Fashion Shouldn’t Cost The Earth

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Image via Flickr creative commons from rubinowicz

The impact a business as huge as fashion can have on the planet and its people is well documented – both anecdotally and in the news. Sweatshop scandals of the 1990s have lest a strong impression. When you buy a new dress, chances are you don’t think twice about where it came from, who made it and what it’s made from.

Earlier this decade, figures from Verdict Research showed that £1 in every £5 spent on fashion in the UK was going to low cost shops. More recently, some of the biggest high street brands have become embroiled in ethical trading scandals.

But the past decade has seen an increase in the globally-conscious shopper – especially in the UK. A chocolate bar, for example, may cost a little bit more when it’s fair trade, yet many will happily pay extra in the knowledge cocoa farmers in the developing world are not being exploited for a desk worker’s sugar fix.

That eco-friendliness also extends into organic fashion. The developed world may not mind suffering for fashion once in a while, but there’s no reason the entire planet should. Organic cotton, for example, should be grown from non-genetically engineered seed and developed without the use of synthetic fertilizers or toxic herbicides and pesticides. It experienced a sales growth of 35 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

The people who make our clothes often work in terrible conditions. Many garments purchased in the ‘Western World’ are imported cheaply from the South, where they are made by sweat shop workers (often children) who work long and hard for very little money.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was developed with the aim of defining world-wide requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles. It covers everything from harvesting of the raw materials through to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing. All clothing covered by this must also be labelled in order to provide credible assurance to the consumer.

GOTS requires safe, humane working conditions (including regular employment, fair wages and working hours) and specifies that employees cannot be underage or forced labour.

Eco-fashion clothes are made using organic materials – such as cotton grown without pesticides and silk made by worms fed on organic trees. It can also include recycled and improved second hand clothes. Clothes can even be made from plastic bottles. Post-consumer resin (PCR) can be spun into thin fibres that are then used to make a form of polyester. This becomes the fabric to create any type of clothing including exercise outfits, casual shirts and jackets.

It may not seem obvious when you see a bargain sweater or maxi dress, but the products used to make clothing can cause a great deal of damage to the environment. Pesticides used by farmers can harm wildlife, contaminate other products and even get into the food we eat. This is especially true with the chemicals used to bleach and colour.

Thinking about the environment even extends to the clothes we throw as away – which can take up valuable space in landfill sites.

The evolution of the electric car

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Image via Flickr creative commons from exfordy

One of the most striking automotive technological developments of the last few years has been the electric car. At a time when the need to take decisive steps to tackle the growing problem of climate change is becoming ever more apparent, there are those who hope that the electric car will eventually come to supersede petrol and diesel-powered cars. However, it has to be said that electric cars are yet to make the break into the mainstream and so remain relatively niche. However, it is interesting to look at just how the electric car has evolved over the years. Contrary to being a brand new innovation, its history does in fact back well over a century.

According to an article from About.com, it is still disputed as to just who invented the first-ever electric car, but Hungarian Anyos Jedlik did invent a small-scale vehicle powered by an electric motor he designed himself as far back as 1828. Another electric-powered carriage was invented by Scotsman Robert Anderson as some point between 1832 and 1839, while a Professor Stratingh of Holland and his assistant Christopher Becker designed a small-scale electric car of their own in 1835. In that same year, another small electric car was created by American blacksmith Thomas Davenport.

Around 1842, both Davenport and Anderson devised improved electric-powered road vehicles, powered by non-rechargeable electric batteries. Frenchman Gaston Plante developed a more effective battery in 1865, while his compatriot Camille Faure improved on Plante’s battery in 1881. Because the newer generations of batteries provided more effective storage and were longer-lasting, they therefore enabled electric cars of the era to become more practical. Of course, it would prove to be some time before the electric car truly made an impact on the mainstream consciousness. Nevertheless, there have been experiments with electric vehicles for many years.

By the turn of the century, electric, steam and petrol-powered cars were available in the US. As we now know, it was the latter which went on to be comfortably the biggest seller and remains so to this day. However, electric vehicles did still have selling points over and above their gasoline-fuelled counterparts in the early 20th century. They were free of the not-inconsiderable noise, grime and pollution associated with petrol-powered vehicles, for one thing. However, by the 1920s, the need for longer-range journeys lent the gasoline car a crucial advantage over its electric and steam-powered rivals. Charles Kettering’s invention of the electric starter in 1912 also eliminated the need for the hand crank. By the mid-1930s, electric cars had almost disappeared entirely.

As an article from the Guardian points out, it wasn’t for another three decades that the electric car would resurface. The oil price spike of the late 1960s into the 1970s would prompt a global economic crisis which took more than a decade to play out. While Ford, GM and AMC all started to carry out tentative experiments with new electric cars, the eventual decline in oil prices brought this phase to an end. It wasn’t until the 1990s that electric cars once again started to attract the attention of the dominant car manufacturers.

GM’s EV1 attracted a great deal of media attention, but was eventually widely derided as a failure – and within a decade of its appearance, more or less every EV1 had been recalled or destroyed. At around the turn of the millennium, however, manufacturers such as Nissan and Mitsubishi had more success with their own electric cars and in 2011, it was predicted that electric cars would account for 20 per cent of all vehicle sales come 2016. If you’re thinking of buying a used car – and there is used car finance available from ACF Car Finance, incidentally – then you’ll find there are a lot of models to choose from. But don’t overlook the electric car right away, because you could be surprised at what you find.