Monday, 21 September 2009

Environmental responsibility and charities

Charities, as well as other third sector organizations, play an important role in our society. They form the link between the citizens and the public institutions. In recent years, the prominence for the need to promote environmental responsibility has created a latent demand for action on behalf of the third sector. Looking top-down, local and national authorities have created the institutional infrastructure in this field; spontaneous local actions by individuals and communities are accomplished bottom-up. Now, all that we need is environmental awareness on behalf of the charities, so that they can use public foundations and the will of volunteers or activists.

Generally speaking, charities can act in a responsible way towards the environment in two ways: a. creating greener surrounding in their back office, the same as any corporate would have done. For example – working only with "green" suppliers, creating paperless environment, encouraging employees to come to work without their car. b. working actively to promote environmental responsibility, either by defining it as the charity's core problem, or promoting it as a by-product of the charity's main activity. For example – charities that focus on lowering car traffic by encouraging commuters using other means; charities that purchase products from local suppliers only.

At first glance, these activities are relevant not only to third sector organizations, but to everybody, public and private sector alike. Nevertheless, one crucial difference does exist: since those charities communicate quickly with the community they live in, they should create an environmentally responsible model which everybody can relate to.

For example, suppose a third sector organization decides to purchase computers from its post code area, and to cut stationery budget. On the one hand, these actions are good, since much less paper will be wasted. On the other hand, one should take into account the marginal cost of the new computers in terms of maintenance and cleaning; as well as the negative effect that will surely hit local stationery shops.

That is to say, each positive pro-environment action, encapsulates the negative effects that will occur to those people. Firms and organizations that cannot adjust themselves to the new era. Environmental responsibility is, with no doubt, the new buzzword. Nevertheless, it should be used selectively, without the need to scrutinize and "green" each and every action we do.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Green cities: Roof top gardening

The days where environmentalists were perceived as young and idealistic are at best gone. In most cases they were seen to be nuisance to developers. Fortunately for us, environmentalists today are seen as visionaries, the forerunners of this consumer plagued society.

The reason I mention these old times is because recently, I recalled an article I read several years ago about roof top gardening in the US (I think it was in Manhattan). When I first read about this idea, I thought it was ridiculous: how do you plant, maintain and irrigate a garden placed on the roof top of an office building, or just a regular block of flats?

After the short research I conducted, I found out that this idea is flourishing all over the world, as well as here in London. I don't want to write a "how-to" guide, as I you can find much more than a handful of sites that explain everything you need to know. I just wish to emphasise the sheer importance of these beautiful market gardens both to the gardeners themselves, who enjoy the food they grow and by that get a deep sense of meaning to their deeds; and to the neighbours, who are surely encouraged by the initiative of the individual and find themselves swept away into the daily efforts to improve their immediate surroundings in their apartment block.

Friday, 4 September 2009

A Short Guide to Sustainable Buildings

As we all know, environmental responsibility is the talk of the day. Broadly speaking, the title of "environmental responsibility" refers to actions and policies taken by governments, NGO'S, firms, factories as well as individuals, in order to better preserve the environment for future generations. That is, to limit the "footprints" we mark on the face of Planet Earth.
One of the most inspiring aspects of environmental responsibility is green architecture, which is the craft of erecting sustainable buildings that use resources efficiently during the daily use by their occupiers. Moreover, sustainable buildings are planned to create a healthy and productive setting for those who live or work in them. Environmentalists point at the damage inflicted by the existing environment, which, in retrospective examination, has in many cases harmed its surroundings. Virgin lands offer developers and environmentalists to show how to do it correctly.

Being a real estate entrepreneur, I find it highly important that new buildings should be planned according to principles of green architecture. As the developer of a new business park in Durham city, I see no reason why new buildings will not be built as "green buildings".

Green architecture has many aspects. Follows a short "how-to guide" for green office buildings:
Locate the building as close as possible to public transport (train stations, bus hubs).
Pose the building in the right place inside the development. Business parks are relatively large.

The building should be planned in order to enjoy maximum sunlight and shortest connection to underground infrastructure.
Use transparent windows that can be opened easily, in order to minimise the use of electricity for heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Enable conditions for employees who cycle to work (bicycle park, showers).
Use solar systems to create electricity. Use up-to-date products such as small solar panels as signs inside the buildings.
Recycle water: use grey water from office kitchen taps & dish washers for toilets.