Friday, May 27, 2011

Incentives 'can help home-owners go green'

Incentives, such as garden makeovers and fruit and veg vouchers, could help home-owners invest in energy efficiency measures, a pilot scheme has shown.

But the study found that more had to be done to convince people of the merits of flood protection devices, even if they lived in high flood risk areas. The trial by the University of Salford set out to discover if non-cash incentives could change attitudes. Studies have estimated that 70% of homes in 2050 have already been built.

Experts warn that unless existing homes are "retro-fitted" with energy saving devices, then the UK will not meet its target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% in the middle of this century from 1990 levels.

Tempting technology

In the small-scale trial, 50 households in Timperley, near Manchester, were offered surveys to assess the houses' energy efficiency and vulnerability to flooding.

They were then offered a selection of non-cash rewards, including public transport season tickets and access to further education courses, if they decided to go ahead and invest in devices to reduce energy use or protect their homes from flooding.

Out of the 50 homes, 25 agreed to have a survey carried out. Five households then went on to have their homes improved, while a further seven were undecided at the time the team produced its interim report.

The trial was funded by the Environment Agency and Trafford Borough Council.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said that one-in-six homes in England and Wales were at risk from flooding.

"The Environment Agency has completed 225 new defences in the past four years, increasing protection to over 198,000 properties, but flooding cannot be entirely prevented," he told BBC News.

"We urge people to check whether their property is at risk by signing up to the Agency's free flood warning service to get free alerts.

"Individuals and businesses can also help make their properties more resistant to flooding using specialised flood products."

Erik Bichard, who led the research team, explained why incentives could have a role to play as a policy tool to improve the take-up of green technology. "Psychologists have been trying to tell us about how people make decisions for some time, it just has not filtered through to this area," he said.

Professor Bichard said there were five main areas that affected people's decision-making processes:

- Understanding the issue
- Caring about the issue
- Knowing what to do
- Will doing something solve the problem?
- What will people think?

He went on to explain how the offer of rewards could influence how people made up their minds.

"Some of these areas are cognitive, intellectual, fact-based reasons, such as: Is there a problem? What can I do about it? Will it work?

"Incentives by-pass a lot of that thinking and take people straight to the question: 'If I do this then will I be better off than before'?"

One of the participants, Barbara Tarbuck, decided to pay for a new boiler to be installed in return for a garden makeover and fruit-and-veg vouchers.

Despite living in a relatively modern home, she explained that she agreed to a survey because she wanted to know what measures were already present in the house.

"I also wanted to see what I could do to reduce energy bills, so I was quite intrigued to see what ideas they came up with," she said.

Mrs Tarbuck also welcomed the idea of offering non-cash rewards: "It is alright to have a little grant to have a little bit to put towards the cost, but I am seeing benefits in two sorts of ways.

"I probably would never spend money on a garden makeover, I would have kept it for what you might call more practical things."

Tough choices

In the trial, all five households that decided to improve their properties all went for energy saving measures, with none choosing to reduce their homes' vulnerability to flooding.

Professor Bichard and his team asked people why they had decided against spending money on flood protection measures.

"About half of the people were put off by the price of flood protection," he said, adding that two door guards and some air brick covers would cost almost £2,000.

"Although we were proposing to reward back the full amount, the economic situation [meant that] people just did not have that sort of cash in the bank to make that sort of investment."

Mrs Tarbuck was among this group. She explained: "I went for the larger outlay of getting a boiler fitted. I am not saying I will not do it in the future, as I still have the report and what was recommended."

Professor Bichard said that the other half of participants were sceptical as to whether it was necessary to spend the money in the first place.

"They simply did not believe that flooding was ever going to affect their house, even though the Environment Agency's statistics show that they lived in a flood threatened area and they really needed to take responsibility to protect their house.

"That is interesting because even with the amount of incentives that we were offering, it just was not enough to overcome the fourth 'will it work' reservation."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Consumers go green for cleaning products

Consumers are voting with their wallets and opting for eco-friendly laundry products, consumer research shows.

The latest Canstar Blue independent consumer survey of 2500 Australian consumers, released on Thursday, revealed that Aldi, which recently committed to banning phosphate detergents, has the most satisfied laundry powder customers.

"Consumers are undoubtedly becoming more aware of their eco-footprint and consumers are starting to vote with their wallets by choosing products that are kinder on the environment," said Canstar Cannex head of research Steve Mickenbecker.

Mr Mickenbecker said brands are responding to the demand, with Aldi banning phosphate detergents across their entire range by the end of 2013.

Coles and Woolworths, the two major supermarket chains, quickly followed Aldi's lead.

Phosphates are used in many laundry products because they soften hard water and break down dirt, but once released in the water they have a harmful effect on lakes and rivers.

The research also showed that Australian consumers are going one step further, with one in four people using leftover water from their washing machine in the garden.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

“Is your life too plastic?”

Environmentalist and co-founder of ‘Take 3’, Tim Silverwood thinks so, and is hosting screenings of the new, award-winning environmental documentary Bag It to help raise awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans.

The film explores our daily reliance on plastic and how this threatens not only waterways and marine life, but human health, too. Two of the most common plastic additives are endocrine disruptors, which have been shown to link to cancer, diabetes, autism, attention deficit disorder, obesity and infertility.

The screenings of this fantastic documentary will act as fundraisers for Tim, who in July this year, will sail from Hawaii to Vancouver to research plastic pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge plastic 'soup' twice the size of France thought to contain over 100 million tonnes of waste.

‘Take 3 – A Clean Beach Initiative’ is a non-profit organisation formed in 2009 that asks everyone to take three pieces of rubbish with them when they leave the beach, waterway or coastal area.

Watch 'Bag It', you'll be surprised at just how little you know about plastic.

The documentary will be shown at the following six locations:

Sydney Premierre
Screening Date: Wednesday 25th May
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Chauvel Cinema, Paddington (Sydney)
Cnr Oxford St & Oatley Rd Paddington NSW
Ph: 02 9361 5398 w:

Screening Date: Thursday 26th May
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Newcastle Community Arts Centre
246 Parry St, Newcastle NSW
Ph: (02) 4961 1696 w:

Central Coast
Screening Date: Sunday 5th June – Special Event – World Environment Day
Screening Time: 5.30pm
Screening Location: Avoca Beach Cinema, Avoca
69 Avoca Drv, Avoca Beach NSW
Ph: (02) 4382 1677

Lake Macquarie
Screening Date: Tuesday 7th June
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Lake Macquarie Performing Arts Centre
39 Lake Street, Warners Bay NSW

Screening Date: Thursday 9th June
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Civic Theatre Playhouse, Newcastle
375 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW
Ph: (02) 4929 1977

Byron Bay
Screening Date: Thursday 16th June
Screening Time: 7pm
Screening Location: Byron Community Centre
69 Jonson St, Byron Bay, NSW 2481
Ph: (02) 6685 6807

You will find Facebook events for each of the events at:

Thank you so much for all the support!

Tim Silverwood
0420 668 114
Fundraising website: