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Three renewable heat sources to consider for use in your home

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A woman enjoyr home time with her small write dog
The UK government aims to cut emissions by 78% by 2035, compared with 1990 levels, and to hit net-zero by 2050. | Photo: Roberto Nickson

Renewable sources of energy are the only way forward if we want to try and minimise the damage that we’re doing to the environment. Whilst there are plenty of things causing global warming, our choices for home heating is one of the contributing factors that we perhaps can personally take control over.

Whilst of course the ability to do this will be affected by budget, some are cheaper than others, and the UK government does offer grants and loans. This is because we need to make the switch to renewable energy if we’re going to stand a chance at hitting net-zero, considering heating accounts for the largest amount of CO2 emissions  for an average UK household.

But which renewable heat source is right for you? We take a look at three of the top options.

Heat pumps

If you think of a heat pump, you might be imagining an unsightly, large box that will ruin the overall aesthetics of your garden. However, there are many companies now working on making smaller, sleeker pumps that just sit down the side of your home.

There are a few different types of heat pumps, but they basically work by using pressure and temperature. Heat flows naturally from a warm place to a cool place, but we need the opposite to be true for a heat pump so that the home is heated rather than cooled. Heat pumps use compression and expansion to control this temperature flow.

Heat pumps produce more heat than the amount of electricity they use, so they’re highly efficient. When you choose a heat pump, you should also get a performance certificate that is tailored to your home. This will show you how efficient you can expect it to be based on average outside temperatures and your radiators or underfloor heating.

Solar water heating

Solar power is on the rise, with the UK generating 14 gigawatts per year. One gigawatt can power 750,000 homes, so that’s quite a significant amount. Solar water heating works by harnessing the solar power collected from home solar tubes or flat plate collectors, and then using this energy to heat a tank of water.

This will usually be combined with a boiler or immersion heater, as the amount of sun varies throughout the year, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get enough sun to warm the water year-round. This hot water is used for washing and the water that comes out of your taps, rather than central heating.

Biomass

Perhaps the most similar to a traditional gas boiler, a biomass heating system has a crucial difference – it uses sustainably-sourced wood pellets or logs to fuel it. Whilst it might not feel sustainable to be burning trees, as doing so actually releases carbon dioxide, it’s still considered to be a sustainable source. This is because trees are planted in place of the ones that have been used for fuel for biomass.

Your choice of fuel will depend on what you want to heat, and how much attention you want to pay to your stove. Log-burning stoves look great, and can make use of any logs you have from trees locally. However, they require topping up by hand, and you need to store the logs. On the other hand, wood pellets can be topped up with an automatic dispensing system. If cost is a crucial factor, logs tend to be cheaper than pellets.

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Sustainability

How I moved out of my apartment of 3 years with just two duffel bags

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Gabriela Knutson and a minimalist bedroom
Waste: the average adult American has been estimated to throw away approximately 37kg of clothes every year

I was in my third and final year of graduate school and I only had a few weeks left. Before I started packing, I started to gather up all my belongings into piles and I realized one very important thing… I just had so much stuff. My drawers were filled with random junk that I had forgotten about, shirts and underwear I had not worn in months and, most importantly, little knick-knacks I thought I could not live without. All this stuff was making me feel overwhelmed, panicky, and stressed about where the heck I was going to put all of it when I moved away. I did not need any of it – I just felt an arbitrary sense of connection to them.

I was literally studying a MSc degree in Sustainability and Energy, and yet I had so many pointless belongings and so much waste! I felt like a hypocrite, so I decided to make a change. I read books and countless articles, and watched documentaries, on an up-and-coming movement called sustainable minimalism.

Then I got rid of the stuff – almost all of it. That random shirt I got from an event? Sold on Depop. The earrings I got as a gift, wore once and never again? Donated. The “going out” shoes I would never ever let see the light of day? Tossed in the bin.

 

Meet sustainable minimalism, also called ecominimalism – a movement that has taken the environmental community by storm. It is a lifestyle that embraces simplification and rejects consumerism to free up space for the more important things in life.

You know that urge you get when you see a new iPhone, a new pair of shoes, or a new car? It is that purchasing drive that makes you want it, need it, and be unsatisfied with what you have until you get it.

The average adult American has been estimated to throw away approximately 37kg of clothes every year and to spend over $1900 on garments over that same time period. The main driver of this is fast fashion. Ecominimalism is a way to remove yourself from this endless cycle of consumerism and marketing-induced desire, while also having the added bonus of minimizing your carbon footprint in the process.

Minimalism emerged in the late 1950s as an art movement but has since then grown to become much more than that. Now it is not purely aesthetic. There are numerous minimalist influencers on YouTube and social media that preach about the core values and ethics of minimalism. At its core, its values are:

  • Own fewer things to clear up space in your life for what truly matters.
  • Live with intentionality and purpose.
  • Free yourself from your need for new personal belongings.

 

Becoming a sustainable minimalist does not mean you need to create a capsule wardrobe or throw out all your possessions tomorrow. On the contrary, being a truly sustainable minimalist means wearing and using everything you own for as long as possible. Don’t throw out that iPhone just because you saw a new one came out. Don’t buy a new shampoo when you have a perfectly good one lying in your shower hamper. That shirt you don’t like? Transform it into a dish towel, or a blanket, or donate it to a friend or local charity shop. Zero-waste living is important, but we can take it a step further with minimalism to live with intentionality and love for our items.

If you want to simplify your life, reduce your stress, and help the planet, start slow. There are many methods to declutter your apartment, exercises to help you choose which items to keep and which ones to toss, and how-tos on what to purchase when you do need something, but the most important step is this: stop buying so much stuff you do not need and focus on you, your life, and your family and friends.

To learn more about sustainable minimalism or the minimalist movement itself, here are some helpful links:

Becoming Minimalist

The Minimalist Vegan

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Sustainability

Luxury brand is donating leftover fabrics to fashion students in the UK

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Young fashion student posing at a lab
Georgia Bate, fashion student from Brighton: initiative allows us to cut down on the existing waste

Through its Institute of Positive Fashion and BFC Colleges Council, the BFC is helping Burberry’s donations – which include a variety of fabrics from past collections – reach the hands of young creatives and up-and-coming designers. Providing a blueprint for brands and colleges to work together to offer practical support for future talent, the initiative enables creativity in a way that is positive for the environment, education and the collections of future creatives.

Launched in 2020 with the BFC, the ReBurberry Fabric programme provides donations of leftover fabrics to fashion students, upcycling surplus fabric and saving it from going to waste

‘We are committed to supporting the next generation of exciting creatives while ensuring we all do what we can to protect the environment. We’re proud to be working with the British Fashion Council once more to help emerging diverse talent achieve their ambitions, while reinforcing the importance of sustainable practices and circularity. By equipping students with these materials and tools to help their creativity thrive, we can all create a better future for our industry.’, says Nicole Lovett, Responsibility Programme Director at Burberry

The partnership has continued with a second donation through the programme, taking the total amount of fabric donated to over 12,000 metres to more than 30 fashion schools and universities in the UK, including the Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Brighton.

‘For me, the most important aspect of the initiative would be that it allows students like myself to work with fabrics they wouldn’t have had access to before. As new designers, we want to be working with as many different types of fabrics as possible in our experiments and in the trialling stages. Along with being very wasteful, this process can be really limited and hard to do when keeping to a budget. This initiative allows students to cut down on the existing waste and provides us with more materials to work with, which I think is so important.’, acknowledges Georgia Bate, 1st Year B.A. (Hons) Fashion Design with Business Studies student at the University of Brighton (pictured above).

‘One of the BFC’s priorities is to encourage the industry to move towards a circular fashion economy while supporting excellence in fashion design. We are delighted to work with Burberry, helping ensure students across the country have access to the best quality fabrics. Creative talent is at the heart of the industry and we are proud of our world-leading colleges – being able to provide these students with such opportunities is a privilege.’, says Caroline Rush, Chief Executive at British Fashion Council.

 

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Sustainability

Global contest to design a sustainable car is now open

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Polestar team at a Nadasq event
Swedish automotive brand Polestar was established in 1996 and recently listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange

A design contest for aspiring designers, both professional and students, is now accepting entries.

Launched in 2020, the annual Polestar Design Contest, powered by the Swedish electric performance car, will award winners – one for interior and one for exterior design. Following the previous two themes of ‘Pure’ and ‘Progressive’, the 2022 Contest brief is to design a Polestar that is the antithesis of the classic idiom of high-consumption performance rooted in the 20th century. It must visually show a new form of ‘Performance’ and tell the advanced technical story that enables this in a sustainable way.

“For a design to be presented on the world stage in much the same way as one of Polestar’s own concept cars is a money-can’t-buy opportunity for any designer. We want to encourage, support, and celebrate innovative design, and the people who realise it. What better way to do that than to present a full-size model of their creation on the centre stage at one of the largest automotive shows in the world?” – says Maximilian Missoni, Head of Design at Polestar.

Since the start, the contest has featured a variety of vehicles and cutting edge concepts, and draws entries from students and professional designers across the globe. The ground-breaking designs have previously included a car which tackles local pollution with on-board and externally visible air filters, an electric-and-helium airship, prosthetic springboard blades for walking and a luxury yacht that exuded Polestar’s minimalistic design tonality.

This year, Polestar plans to produce the winning design as a full-size 1:1 scale model, expected to be showcased on the Polestar stand at Auto Shanghai in April 2023. Deadline for initial design submissions is 31st August and 10 professional and 10 student designers will be shortlisted after initial submissions of 2D design material.

More information on how to enter the Polestar Design Contest can be found here.

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