Wednesday, 20 January 2010

the pull of the Dark Side...

There are lots of thing which seem to remain how they are because we get used to them and there is no real reason to change. Small things - things which we do not even notice.

One such constant in my life is my computer. I occasionally change the desktop image, do a crap clean, defrag and virus check every now and then, but mostly, it remains the same.

I turn on the Internet, and there is the glowing, pristine white of Google, ready to send me to the far flung corners of the Earth to find the solutions to my queries.

And so it has been for an age. Internet, Google, Search, Find. Happy Days.

But then a little report in 2009 tried to quantify the amount of energy every Google search used. The text cried tales of woe, relating every two Google searches to approximately 7g of carbon, or in plain old English, the amount used to boil a kettle for a cuppa.

As you can imagine, the report was littered with selected data, which was disputed left, right and centre by Google and its supporters. On the flip side, the anti Google brigade grabbed hold.

There did not seem, however, to be a definitive answer (it was dependant on searches, servers involved etc etc), and I stuck with Google. Better the devil you know, right?

But then someone introduced me to Blackle.

What I like about this search engine is that the science is simple. It does not baffle with figures, response times and the like. It is based on, and works on a very clear premise.

Black. The screen is predominantly black, with all text grey / white. Serene and slick looking, it is the sophisticated sister to the Google white and multicoloured logo.

So how does a colour save energy? Well, white or light screens use more energy to appear on your very screens than black or dark screens. And if you think how many PCs have a Google or other white based screen as a home page throughout the day, the little bits can really add up. I would love to say that the ecospot is dark blue because of this fact, but I am afraid it is pure coincidence.

The search itself is powered by Google, and for the purists, the above arguments about the big G will still be valid, but Blackle will save you (and ultimately the world) energy, purely on the screen colour. And for those who love numbers, a small counter on the home page tells you approximately how many Watt hours have been saved by Blackle.

So take a look, spread the word and test the inky waters.

Come and join me on the Dark Side...

Monday, 18 January 2010

calendar girl...

I try not to swear.

I try to be articulate and use interesting and creative English when I speak and write.
But sometimes there are just moments in this life when no other words except certain expletives will make the grade.

And so it was just before Christmas when I was doing a bit of pressie shopping...

Picture the scene - a busy shop, a large queue which seemed to be moving at a snails pace with myself around the middle of the throng. My back hurt, I was tired of being pushed about, shoved and tutted at as if I was continually in everyone else's way and all I wanted to do was purchase the book I was queuing with (Wild Gourmets) and go home.

To pass the time, my eyes wandered around the shop, the fellow peed off shoppers and the surrounding 'impulse buys' which were stacked around the tills. They finally rested on a calendar called 'Grow it'.

I found this calendar particularly amusing as it had a wonderful picture of an elderly gent in his back garden veg patch, surrounded by his wares - but wearing a vest, a flat cap and smoking a cigarette. From the colours in the photos I guestimated the photo as originating from the 60's.

'Ha - that is priceless', I exclaimed to my companion, as I spun the calendar over to see what other dated health faux pas were contained inside.
My eyes scanned once more and rested on August.

'Bloody hell - that's my sodding garden'.

A few heads turned. A few eyebrows raised. I stared intently at the image representing the month of August 2010.

It was an image of my first ever show garden staged at the NEC in 2008 - a contemporary vegetable garden based on the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' mantra. Oh, and a recipe for something using courgettes.

Of course, I duly purchased one for the press file (resisting the urge to buy one for everyone I knew - yes - I was that excited) and scurried out of the shop.

Now, I knew nothing about this calendar, and it was pure chance that I picked it up and had a gander. There were no credits for the photos on the sleeves either, so I will never know who took the photo (it was not one of mine - I did check).

So there you go - I can officially call myself a Calendar Girl.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

vampire devices be gone...

We all know that keeping video players, TVs, DVD players and the like on standby saps energy and ultimately raises our bills and our carbon footprints.

You are literally bleeding energy and cash, hence the wonderfully apt 'vampire device' phrase (which I love).

But some find it harder than others to remember to remove a plug and flick the switch. Sometimes we just forget.

So some bright spark (ha ha) at Logicor have devised a device which will take all of the effort and thought from remembering to turn it off at the wall.

The Green Plug Wall Socket looks very much like a standard socket front, and can either be fitted new, or retro fitted to 47mm deep back boxes.

But here comes the clever air driven power timer switch can be set to turn off the entire supply to the socket after the set period of time. So even if you forget to turn a socket off, it will turn itself off automatically after the set time has ticked away and any connected appliances will consume ZERO electricity.

Each socket can be adjusted separately for period from 15mins to 24 hours and can also be disabled, if you want the power switching back in your own forgetful hands.

The nice thing about this item is that it is very easy to fit, and could save you a great deal of carbon and cash. One of the major gripes with people is that a lot of 'eco' provisions are difficult, expensive or almost impossible to retro fit into an existing property - this is a simple little thing that you could change that could add up to big savings.

So - vampire devices be gone (and no need for the garlic)

Friday, 8 January 2010

Green Power to light up the South Bank...?

There are a few bits about the train journey from Brighton to London which get me excited.

The first is a wonderful tunnel which you whizz through as it undercuts a section of the South Downs. If you crane your neck (or face backwards without puking) you see a beautiful, over the top tunnel surround, complete with towers. A mini Camelot, which was once inhabited.

The next is the views over the back gardens as you speed into Coulsden - I love the snooping factor of this, but is sort of allowed as I am on a train? I also saw a fox asleep on a shed roof here once which made me chuckle.

The last, which prompts the 'get-your-stuff-away' thought is the sudden and imposing view of the wonderful Battersea Power Station.

There it sits, all sad and lonesome, but with an air of dignity and strength, like a once loved and twinkling star who is clinging on to the edges of their fame as it fades gently into time.

I have to admit that I have a particular love for industrial and abandoned architecture - the emptiness and force of the voids, the contrast of textures as they age and how nature winds her way through the cracks. But it is shameful, in a time of the urban sprawl to not make use of these brownfield sites if we can.

Fortunately, Battersea has seen many incarnations since it stopped producing power in 1983, from art exhibitions to film locations, music videos and installations, and quite recently a fantastic snowboarding Big Air Festival and music festival.

More permanent proposals have been brought to the south bank table, but the most recent is very interesting indeed.

Real Estate Opportunities have set forth an eco-renovation for Battersea which is set to include both green energy production and London's first carbon neutral office complex. Cafe's, restaurants, an events centre and open public space will also be included, all within the iconographic skin of the power station.

Destined to begin in 2011 with completion in 2020, this is a quite slow burner in construction terms, but if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

I'll keep me beady little ones on this for you...

Monday, 4 January 2010

resolution realisation...

Well, the crimbo limbo is over. New Year has been and gone.

(organic) chicken was eaten, along with unhealthy amounts of venison, duck, pheasant, roast parsnips and home made mince pies. Our elderflower tipple was duly uncorked and consumed.

But now the resolution realisation has kicked in. And with the beginning of a new decade, it sort if feels even more important to look at how I live my life, what I do, why, when and how much - both for my benefit, of those around me and the really big picture which makes my head spin just a bit too fast.

Of course, it does not help that every magazine, supplement, paper and glossy is filled with the 'get yourself thin, young and beautiful for 2010' articles, campaigns and 'buy lists' to aid you along the way. Health, is of course something on many minds after the recent bingeathon, but surely there are other things to add to the resolutions list?

So, when I was pondering the content of this, my 100th post on the ecospot, I thought about what I am going to aim for for 2010 - what are my aims and aspirations?

Firstly I have realised that any huge and massive changes will probably not last much past January 15th. This is something that most people realise but never take on board. Consequently, you feel even worse when the resolution sails past you like a feather on the breeze. Start small and work upwards.

So I begin with my health. I will aim to continue with building up my running which is 1. free, 2. pretty green and 3. will reconnect me with what is going on in the outside world when I am mainly stuck inside. It will also, eventually, 4. take me to places I haven't seen for a while or at all and 5. hopefully make me fitter.

Next, I pledge to streamline what I do. It was not until I was speaking to someone who asked what I did in my free time that I realised that I have none. I seem to run around, head down bum up at such a pace that I am constantly on the go. I forced myself to sit down and read the other day and it was bliss. And I learnt something and felt relaxed for the first time in eons. I also realised that without being centred myself, I cannot effectively do anything for others.

The School of Life is wonderful for looking at these little ideas and how to work them into your everyday ( more on this gem in another post)

As far as pledging for the planet, well, that it a very big ask and one of those head spinny moments. But, as I have said again and again, a little action by each person adds to be a big thing.

So, I am pledging to:

1. ALWAYS have a bag with me when I shop (I have ended up buying approximately 10 reusable bags due to my cotton bag sitting at home) a good option is this little wonder

2. make the most of my local farmers market.

3. throw away as little food as I can (a real wake up call was illustrated in my last post)

4. Smile to people in the street. This will either spread a little happiness about, or I will be sectioned. I am hoping for the former.

So there you go - 2010 here we come. Here's hoping for a better one than 2009 eh?