Green motoring, how green are electric vehicles?

With the massive upsurge in usage and ownership of electric vehicles, just how green are they really? is a massive hot topic. Yes the car may produce 0 emissions , but if it’s plugged into the grid, then unless it’s renewable clean energy being generated is it really that green ?

There is an awful lot of argument and skepticism that is the emissions from energy generation could be just as much if not more than that of normal petrol or diesel vehicles. Well without getting debunking and quoting stats from reports, let’s look at what we do know and before we get into anything too deep.

Firstly how is the car being powered? Plugin full electric, hybrid PHEV plugin or self-charging hybrid. So let’s take Plugin full electric with no combustion engine at all and just an electric motor totally reliant on batteries, their range and recharge time.

Is the energy Green that powers it?
That depends on how the electricity is being generated and some may argue that Nuclear energy is clean energy, maybe in as much as the emissions, but not the nuclear waste produced as a bye product. Modern reactors we are told are much cleaner than the older ones. 
Wind turbines , yes green and renewable energy. 
Solar farms, yes green and renewable, but you also need to look at the manufacturing process and the expected life of solar panels. 


Biogas, energy made from food waste, green waste and often animal excrement.
Hydroelectric, probably one of the most efficient and cleanest, mainly because of the constant water flow and generation efficiency. 
Wind turbines need wind and that’s not always available all the time, depending upon location, offshore wind farms we are told are more efficent.


Biomass fuel-powered which has been used to convert the old coal-powered stations, or incinerators to generate electricity, although the amount of filtration needed on the incinerator some may argue it’s debatable if that’s a clean source of energy.


So if you plug your car into your house and you have solar panels fitted with battery storage capacity it’s pretty much a self-sufficient charging system. 
Solar panels are most efficient in the day time, so unless you work from home or your workplace has solar-paneled charging stations, then you way up efficiency.

for most of us mere mortals that don’t have access to solar, just make sure your energy supplier puts you on a “green tariff “ where all if not at least the vast majority of the energy is produced by cleaner generation through renewable energy sources.


The batteries required to run the cars are not exactly seen as environmentally friendly in the chemicals and minerals used to produce them. 
Extremely unfriendly to dismantle the end of life and disposal.

Although I understand the network of charging points is growing, I think until we see a dramatic increase in range before a recharge is required maybe self-charging is a better option. By all means if you only make short journeys buy an all-electric car, but the technology is still evolving and getting better which each newer model seeing increased range.

So are Self-charging hybrids the answer?
Self-charging hybrids are great for an awful lot of people simply because there is no need to plug them in, yes it still contains batteries, but much smaller than the full-electric cars require. It still has a petrol engine, which runs more efficiently due to using both under heavy load and increased driving speeds. For urban driving, at lower speeds, it can switch to electric.

Don’t get confused with PHEV which in all honesty is a token effort for most people if they travel a fair distance as the electric range is only on average mostly 30miles before it switches back over into petrol mode. Use both electric and petrol together for super-fast acceleration and it’s even less than a few miles. For me, I can see how company drivers are being swayed by the tax breaks on PHEV, but if a company really wants to make a difference to the environment there may be more efficient ways of reducing their carbon footprint.


So, in conclusion, I feel we have got a long way to go yet before the vast majority of people switch to full Electric vehicles and is it the heart or the mind that drives that decision.

For me personally, it makes more sense, for now anyway, to run our latest addition to the household which is a city car, with a 1.0ltr highly efficient petrol engine, stop-start technology, costs £40 to fill and achieves a whopping 70mpg. So no electric car yet for us anyway.

Balsamorhiza sagittata (Oregon sunflower / Arrowleaf balsalm root)

As mentioned in the previous blog, I am interested in plants that have a range of uses and this year one of the species I am trialling will be Balsamorhiza sagittata. Native to the western areas of the USA and Canada, it is a member of the Aster family.

In its native range it can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from desert scrub to grassland and mountain forests. It is extremely drought tolerant.

It is a perennial, hardy to zone 5 in the UK and has a long tap root which in its native range can reach 2m in length and has large hairy leaves. The yellow sunflower like flowers are 2 1/2-4 inches wide borne on stems that can range from 8 – 24 inches in length. The plant prefers a sunny aspect and will not grow in the shade

Uses

Before looking at the uses I would just like to say that this section is for information only and we take no responsibility for anyone trying any of the uses listed below – so that’s the boring bit over, lets look at the possible uses for this plant.

Pollinator plant

The flowers are recognised in its native habitat for attracting many bees

Edible

The crown of the root is said to be edible raw and the roots, when cooked have a sweet taste although there are reports of the roots being a little bitter.

To cook, they are best slow roasted. Young shoots are reported to be edible and can be cooked or eaten raw in salads and the young flowering shoots can be peeled and eaten.

The seeds can be roasted and ground into a flour for cooking with or used to make a dough that can be eaten raw. The seeds may also be ground into a coffee substitute.

Medicinal

Native American Indians widely used part of the plant for medicinal purposes including an infusion of the leaves and stems to treat a wide range of illnesses from stomach pain, through to fevers and headaches.  Chewing the roots and swallowing the juice is reported to ease sore throats and toothache.

Chewing the roots and putting the pulp on skin complaints and wounds. The pulp has also been used to cool and repair burns etc.

Cultivation

Sow the seeds in early spring in a greenhouse or inside, apparently the seeds germinate quite quickly if they are only lightly covered with compost. I’m planning to sow successional batches from the end of February into march and see how fast they do germinate here and then planning to grow on both at the allotment and in our flower beds.

Once the plants are large enough, they should be ready to plant outside, again the literature seems to agree that they will tolerate a range of light and medium soil types, which suits the ground at the allotment but soil at home is slightly on the heavy side so it will be interesting to see how they grow in the slightly heavier soil.

There are other Balsamorhiza species that have similar uses but so far, I have not been able to locate any of the seed. If anyone can point me in the direction to obtain seed of the following species, I would be most grateful.

Balsamorhiza deltoidei

Balsamorhiza hookeri

Balsamorhiza incana

Musings, ramblings and a little bit of plant lore

Can you remember as a child, someone holding a buttercup flower under your chin to see if you liked butter or blowing dandelion seed heads to tell the time or maybe to attract the person that you were attracted to?

It’s amazing what pops into my head when I’m traveling long distances on the train!

On a recent journey to Leeds from North Wales, whilst staring out of the window I started to think about my childhood and growing up in the countryside and about the plant lore my grandparents used to talk about.

The history of plants, their uses and plant lore has always fascinated me since I was a child. So much so that it has led me to interests in agroforestry, forest gardens and even a thesis on the import and conservation of medicinal plants in the UK.  On talking about this over dinner with family we began to reminisce further about plant lore and sayings and so this blog was hastily put together to record some of these stories and sayings.

One story I remember from my grandmother was about eating young Hawthorn leaves and how they were supposed to taste like bread and butter with cheese, or as she used to say “a little bit of bread and no cheese” having eaten young Hawthorn leaves, they definitely don’t taste like bread and cheese!

Another story related to my gran being chased out of her house because she had brought in the flowers from Lady’s Smock / Cuckoo flower. The reason being was that it’s a fairy flower and bad things would happen if they stayed in the house!

Going back to my own school days I fondly remember throwing clumps of cleavers not the backs of fellow pupils (or teachers!) or finding them on my own clothing. The story goes that each clump that stuck to someone was the number of boyfriends / girlfriends they had or if non stuck to you then it just got worse……

If anyone watches the Harry potter films, there is a sequence where the young mandrakes have to be potted up and start to scream – white bryony is also said to scream when removed from the ground and is sometimes called false mandrake by mistake.

To end on, a little bit more plant lore and we would be interested to hear of any sayings / plant lore / memories you have  some please comment below.

  • If you pick a speedwell flower, your mums’ eyes will fall out’
  • ‘Daisies keep fairies from your garden’ – hence the wearing of daisy chains to protect people
  • ‘Taking a foxglove onto a boat was considered bad luck’
  • ‘A droopy daffodil is a foreteller of death!’

Sustainable development goals.

Revisiting the sustainable development goals.

Following on from the previous blog  looking at the definition of sustainability  I thought that it would be useful to revisit the sustainable development goals .

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) arose from the report ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ which was adopted by all UN member states in 2015.

The SDGs for a core part of the report and comprise of 17 goals which act as a sort of ‘call to action’ for everyone .
 The SDGs are :

1. No Poverty
2. Zero hunger
3. Good health and well-being
4. Quality education
5. Gender equality
6. Clean water and sanitation
7. Affordable and clean energy
8. Decent work and economic growth
9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
10. Reduced inequalities
11. Sustainable cities and communities
12. Responsible consumption and production
13. Climate action
14. Life below water
15. Life on land
16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
17. Partnerships for the goals

Still with me….? That’s quite a list to remember, obviously climate action had been all over the media recently and life below water has attracted a lot of coverage, especially following on from ‘The  Blue Planet’ series.

Some of the others may seem more obscure in how they fit into the sustainability agenda or how individuals or small businesses can engage with them.

The SDGs can’t be seen as individual silos, independent of the others.

They should be seen as an interacting framework that work as a whole entity and need to engage as many individuals, companies and organisations as possible .

 2030 is not far away, time seems to me to be running out fast and urgent action is needed.

Over the next couple of blog posts I will look at some of the SDG’s in more depth and present some ideas on how to get involved.

Sustainability

Sustainability (or trying to define what it is!)

I’m often asked by friends, family and colleagues, ‘what sector do you work in?’ and my stock answer is sustainability. Over the years I have noticed that some people understand what this is, and some do not. I have also been called a tree hugger in the past, one person has said ‘oh you do green stuff then!’ and others have said ‘that’s nice’!

As sustainability is such a broad discipline, I thought I would try and give a brief definition that hopefully will lead people into further reading and research about the wide-ranging reach of sustainability.

So, what is sustainability? 

One of the more common definitions that you may come across (on numerous websites) is:

‘Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’

Ok, so now we have our definition, but it doesn’t explain how and where sustainability fits into our everyday lives.

The three pillars!

The concept of sustainability is based generally around three ‘pillars’:

Economic  – so here we are getting into the realms of P&L, ethical businesses, politics and policy etc

Environmental – protecting the planet, conservation, reduction in energy consumption etc

Social – social value, social engagement, reducing poverty, health and wellbeing, equality etc

The three pillars are also referred to as profits, planet and people.

With me so far….. its not an easy topic to fit into a specific pigeonhole.  On top of the definition and the three pillars concept we also need to factor in people’s behaviour and beliefs, attitudes towards the environment and each other. For instance, environmentalists have a different viewpoint to ecologists who have a different stance to say an economist (more on this in later blogs!).

So hopefully this blog will have helped a little with understanding what sustainability is (or just added to the confusion!) and hopefully I will pick up some of the above concepts in other blogs but for now  I will quote a well known saying from Lloyd Lee ‘green is a trend, sustainability is a mindset’

Exciting Times Ahead

Welcome to the first blog from Organeco. It’s been a hectic and slightly traumatic three months since taking the plunge and going live with our website and finally launching the business and a process of trial and error along the way.

However we have undertaken our first bits of work as the new company, including the provision of an Ecological clerk of works to a sub contractor undertaking vegetation removal and working at Forum packaging, installing bug hotels and a pollinator friendly planting scheme.

Behind the scenes we have been frantically tweeting and increasing our social media presence on facebook and linkedin, adding pages to the website and attending networking events in London. There’s been a few minor heated discussions along the way, some near nervous breakdowns and the odd moment of quietness where we can reflect on what we have done in such as short time.

Without the support of friends, family and colleagues I doubt if we would have had the strength to get this far, but we have a strong business ethos and are looking forward to the new year to continue on this journey as we believe that sustainability is not just a box ticking exercise and is a way of thinking.

So for now we would just like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New year and we look forward to working with you in the future.