CIRCULAR ECONOMY PRINCIPLES PART 1

This article is the first part in a three part series looking into circular economy principles and how they can be applied to the built environment.

I just finished reading Building Revolutions by David Cheshire, which I though was a really good book that I highly recommend. Even if you don’t work in the built environment, we all engage with an interact with buildings on a daily basis, and we all share a common interest that they be designed, built, used and demolished in the most efficient way possible. This book is packed full of ideas that will help to make this a reality.

Principles are something that is really important and are probably not talked about enough in sustainability.

I am minded to quote from Ray Dalio and his book Principles, which I thought was one of the best non-fiction books of recent years. He explained that:

Principles are fundamental truths that serve as the foundations for behaviour that gets you what you want out of life. They can be applied again and again in similar situations to help you achieve your goals.”

Whether we need more principles in sustainability is a good question, it is probably more the case that we just need to make better use of ones that already exist and make sure that they are properly applied in all cases.

Principle 1: Design out Waste

This is the sort of principle that is commonly associated with circular economy thinking. It is also the sort of principle that is really easy to pay lip service to and to not actually deliver in real life.

This principle is all about refitting and refurbishing buildings as opposed to demolishing the existing structure and starting again. Exponents of this principle see waste as a resource, that can be extracted and then put to productive use again. It is also about using lean design methodologies to use to create buildings require fewer resources, with reduced complexity.

In the book, there is a really important figure from a RIBA paper called What colour is your building? Their research showed the following:

Roughly speaking, half the embodied carbon in a building is tied up in the foundations and the structure.”

For people wanting to adhere to the design out waste principle, this should make them think about whether they can retain the substructure and superstructure of the existing building and refurbish it. Rather than demolishing these and building new ones from scratch. These two elements are high carbon investments and should be treated as such.

A little later on there was a good observation about the conflict between a desire to build developments with low embodied carbon as well as strict adherence to circular economy principles. David Cheshire had the following to say:

Focusing only on reducing embodied carbon does not necessarily fit into the circular economy ideal, as it can drive designers to substitute highly recyclable (and recycled) materials, such as metals, with materials with lower embodied carbon – for example thermoset plastics, which are difficult to recycle. Also, focusing on embodied carbon does not consider the other impacts associated with winning and processing the raw materials, such as its scarcity or the impact on biodiversity of mining or drilling operations.”

This was an interesting perspective that I had not though much about before. It calls for a balanced approach, where circular economy principles and embodied carbon are traded off, with win-win solutions being the ideal outcome.

The section that was dedicated to designing out waste was really good and was packed full of useful information.

We already touched upon the need to refit and refurbish buildings where this is possible, because of the high amounts of carbon locked inside the building’s frame and foundations.

In terms of designing out waste on site, this can be achieved by moving from construction to production, with components made in factory settings and then delivered to site. It is important to always check that the waste created in the factory is put to good use.

Designing to match the standard size of sheets and panels is another way that waste can be substantially reduced on site.

Reusing components and materials is another hallmark of the designing out waste principle. Disappointingly there is a downward trend in using reclaimed materials in the UK.

The advice from David is that this cannot be an ad hock pursuit, but rather needs to be a primary consideration from the beginning of the project. From fit out components to bricks, kerbs and roof tiles, it is amazing what can be reclaimed from another site for use on a project. It is certainly not an easy thing to make happen, but it is worthwhile.

Another technique is lean design. This has a number of benefits. Each component in a building has its own lifecycle, with associated environmental costs, by aiming to have only the bare essentials, means that these costs can be reduced. This is something which if done correctly can reduce the embodied and operational carbon footprints simultaneously.

What you need to know

This article looked into designing it waste as a circular economy principle.

We looked into how the frame and the foundations are responsible for a significant proportion of a building’s carbon footprint, so if they can be retained, then savings can be made.

The we looked into a number of focus areas that are important if the design out waste principle is to be out into action, these include: refitting and refurbishing where possible, using offsite manufacturing techniques, reusing materials from other sites or industries and lean design.

Overall, I thought Building Revolutions was a great book and I will go into more detail on creating structures that are built to last in part two of this three-part series.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done make the circular economy a reality in the built environment?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

FANOCRACY – DAVID MEERMAN SCOTT & REIKO SCOTT

This book review looks into Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott.

As soon as I heard that David Meerman Scott had a new book coming out in 2020 I was immediately excited. It is very rare for me to buy a book more than once, but for The New Rules of Marketing & PR I bought the updated edition in 2017 after having previously read the second edition.

I probably make more notes in David’s books than in books by any other author, which you can see by the large number of sticky notes that I have placed in all three books.

There is just so much useful information on each page. Not just useful business or personal branding advice, but good life advice too.

This new book Fanocracy continues in a similar vein, with lots of great advice for the reader to take onboard an implement in their own life.

In the beginning, David and Reiko provide the following helpful explanation of what a fanocracy is:

Fandom is everywhere. It’s the key for any organisation, artist, solopreneur, or other entity to be successful in bringing people together. Fandom spans generations and subject matter to bind individuals together in excitement, purpose, and buying power. No matter whom you’re dealing with, understanding fandom is the cornerstone to your success.

We call this act of consciously bringing people together through a shared endeavour a fanocracy: an organization or person that honors fans and consciously fosters meaningful connections among them.

In a later chapter called The Power of a Fan-Centric Business they share another piece of helpful advice, with the following:

The relationships we build with our customers are more important than the products and services we sell to them.

I think this piece of advice is really important and it goes to the heart of what David teaches about in his books and seminars. Especially with the advent of the internet with pay per click advertising and online shopping, the internet can make the world seem like a more lonely place.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, the internet and social media can lead to more meaningful relationships than would be possible without. It just depends how you choose to use it.

A short while later, in another good chapter called Get Closer Than Usual there was a really interesting section on mirror neurons. This is a psychological phenomenon whereby neurons in our brain fire off when we observe others performing an activity, as if we were performing it ourselves.

An understanding of mirror neurons can help an individual or business gain fans. A lesson learned is that gaining fans is about gaining an understanding of what it is they need and want, and then delivering it. It is about serving others.

Later on, in a chapter called Give More Than You Have To, there was some really good advice on reciprocation and how it can help people and businesses to develop fans:

Fandom is built on human connection, and when you’re given something of value completely free and with no obligation, you tend to share your appreciation with others.”

A short while later there was a really good chapter called Tell the Truth, Especially When It Hurts. In it there were some good examples of how clickbait and use of misleading marketing online, may drive traffic in the short term, but is not a strategy that can drive sustained long-term engagement to develop real fans. As soon as people realise, they have been tricked, it is likely to leave them with a negative impression of that person or organisation.

In a later chapter called Develop Employees Who Are Fans, there was some really good advice on how important it is to hire and develop people who are passionate about what they do:

Authentic advocacy from inside your organisation will inspire the enthusiasm, enjoyment, and passion that create a fanocracy.”

In the penultimate chapter called A Passionate Life there is further advice on the same topic:

The best person at any job is the person who loves it the most.”

This is all really good advice to help people not only be successful at business and to develop a legion of fans, but also to lead fulfilling lives at the same time.

What you need to know

This book review looked into Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott.

I thought this was another good offering and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in marketing and branding. But there is plenty of good advice in the book that makes it applicable to anyone looking for something interesting to read.

There was a definite theme and story that was woven throughout the book, which I liked.

If I was going to be critical, I would say that the chapters by David were quite a bit better than his daughter Reiko’s ones. The chapters were at times somewhat lengthy and I am a fan of short sharp chapters.

But overall, I thought this book was excellent and I anticipate that I will be reaching for it on my bookshelf to find the relevant pages with the sticky notes that I left inside.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book on marketing?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

GREEN SWANS – JOHN ELKINGTON

This book review looks into Green Swans by John Elkington. I have not done many book reviews for a while, so I was looking forward to reading this as anything that John puts his name to is normally high quality.

John Elkington provides the following helpful explanation of what a green swan is:

“A Green Swan is a profound market shift, generally catalysed by some combination of Black or Gray Swan challenges and changing paradigms, values, mind sets, politics, policies, technologies, business models, and other key factors. A Green Swan delivers exponential progress in the form of economic, social, and environmental wealth creation. At worst, it achieves this outcome in two dimensions while holding the third steady. There may be a period of adjustment where one or more dimensions underperform, but the aim is an integrated breakthrough in all three dimensions.”

The next chapter is called Diving into Tomorrow, which I though was pretty good. In it John reveals the following eye opening figure, which took me by surprise:

Who knew that the combined mass of the 23 billion chickens alive at any point in time now outweighs all other birds earth?”

In this chapter John provides more detail on his product recall of a management concept, which he performed on the triple bottom line in 2018. I think John should get a lot of credit for this. It is too easy to just layer management concepts on top of each other, without much visibility on whether this is actually leading to improvements. If more thinkers took John’s lead the world would be a simpler and better place.

The following chapter called Miracles on Demand was quite forgettable. But there was one quotation on fossil fuel subsidies that stood out:

“The world spent an appalling $4.7 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2015, for example which grew to $5.7 trillion in 2017. China was ‘by far, the largest subsidiser’ in 2015 at $1.4 trillion, with the Unites States spending more on such subsidies than it did on its bloated Pentagon budget.”

For me, this made two things really clear. One is that the money is out there if it was required. The other is that attempting to solve a problem by subsidising the thing creating it is a recipe for disaster.

The next chapter called A Wicked World was what I considered to be the best in the book. If there was a consistent narrative throughout the book focussed on wicked problems and how they can be overcome, I think the book would have been better.

The sub section on the Anthropocene was particularly good, but I thought it could have been bigger and been the central focus. Whilst the timing of the Anthropocene is highly debated, humans are clearly having an outsized impact on the environment and driving a number of environmental trends in a negative direction globally.

This led into another chapter called Black Swan Capitalism, which had a good sub section on plastics. This included the following interesting statistic:

By 2015 we humans had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that waste total, only 9% was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.”

A couple of chapters later, there was a good chapter called Getting Future Fit. In it there was a good line on the proliferation of management buzzwords within the field of sustainability:

Still, there are times when I wonder whether we are building a modern-day Tower of Babel. As we worked through the early stages of our Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry, the Volans team was repeatedly struck by the multitude of initiatives and languages in this space. Indeed, some business leaders use the very fragmentation of change movements as an alibi for no, or slow, change. Come back when you have sorted yourselves out, they say.”

This is something that I can definitely agree with. We don’t need more buzzwords or language changes, what we need is real change.

For me, the next couple of chapters were again quite forgettable. There was lots of information on each page, but it was hard to see where the overall narrative and storyline was.

In the chapter called Green Swans Take Off, there was a reference to Orsted, the Danish company that made a 180 degree turn from fossil fuel extractor to renewable energy giant. Again I thought the book would have benefited from more case studies on companies that have made such changes.

A little bit later on there was a chapter called Exponential Migrations, which I thought was pretty good. This would have been another angle, that if magnified would have improved the book.

John shares the following important insight:

For the necessary market breakthroughs to happen in good time and good order, though, we must move way beyond incremental change, way beyond ‘change as usual.’”

I thought this was interesting and highlights just how much more there is to be done.

What you need to know

I have tried to highlight the positive bits in this book review, and there are quite a few good sections contained within it. But I will say compared to the high standards that John sets for himself based on his previous work, this was quite disappointing.

This is certainly not a classic. Message discipline is hard. This book felt a lot more like a book with information on sustainability, rather than a story that grabs you.

By comparison after reading anything written by Amory Lovins, I am imparted both with useful information and a belief that anything is possible.

After reading this I cannot say I felt the same.

If you have never read anything by John Elkington and you want to learn more about corporate sustainability in 2020, this is an accessible entry point.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What is your favourite book on sustainability?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WOODEN BUILDINGS AND SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into wooden buildings and sustainability. What does this material have to offer sustainability?

It seems poignant on the 3-year anniversary of the Grenfell fire in London to look again at this material and its potential. Following the fire, the UK government banned timber as well as other combustible materials from the exterior of residential buildings more than 18 metres high.

Instead of being reviewed with a pathway towards supporting wood in the construction of buildings, the government is planning to reduce the maximum height of wood-framed buildings from six storeys to four.

This does not seem to be a balanced interpretation of the science, which would indicate that wooden buildings can be constructed to the highest fire safety standards and would perform very strongly on sustainability at the same time.

Wooden buildings lock up carbon that was stored in the trees during their lifetime. If this wood is not turned into durable products, the carbon can re enter the carbon cycle as the wood decomposes and contribute towards anthropogenic climate change.

Similar to the articles that I have written about bamboo. There is a dual benefit to using low-carbon natural materials such as timber and bamboo. Where these replace high-carbon non-renewable materials such as steel and concrete, you can achieve significant carbon reductions by targeting carbon hotspots in a buildings design.

Wood has a lot of other benefits in that it does not contribute to the urban heat island effect as much as comparable materials and aesthetically it can be used to create stunning buildings.

No other governments around the world have taken the steps that the UK government has. Around the world there is a wooden building arms race as developers compete to build the world’s tallest wooden structure. Unfortunately, the UK is being held back by regulations that bear no resemblance to the risks posed.

I appreciate that to the lay person it may seem that wooden buildings are incredibly risky, but engineered timber can be created that has excellent fire proof properties. There is an excellent video here that was produced by the Estonian government.

What you need to know

This article looked into wooden buildings and sustainability.

3 years on from the Grenfell tragedy, it does very much appear that wooden buildings have been a casualty of an overly strict regulation.

I am sure it was designed with the best of intentions, but when wooden buildings can be designed to exacting fire safety standards, the regulation really needed to be reviewed and not enhanced.

Perhaps it has something to do with the relative paucity of forests remaining in the UK. When you look at the list of countries that are making great strides in wooden buildings they all have significant forest resources. Whereas the UK is a significant importer of wood products.

People are looking for hope and looking for change. We don’t need bad regulations standing in the way of progress.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

HOW GREEN IS GREEN ELECTRICITY?

This article looks into green electricity and asks if this is actually as green as it is made out to be?

The good news is, that on the supply side the UK electricity system just recorded its greenest ever month in May 2020, with 0 coal burned for an entire month. Sunday 24th May was also the greenest ever day for the electricity grid. Both of these accomplishments were helped by record low demand, coupled with abundant wind and sunshine.

As you can see from the National Grid chart from Friday 5th June, in terms of wind and solar, the UK is able to produce more than 40% of its electricity from these two sources alone. This is a good thing and is a cause for celebration.

This is all excellent, but there are two things that I think do a disservice to the overall goal that renewable energy is trying to achieve. One is misleading marketing claims and the other is the murky world of renewable energy certificates (RECs). Both of these piggyback off of the good work done by others, without contributing anything positive for the environment.

Misleading marketing

I am singling Ovo out purely because there is a recent example of them being exposed. Please see here for more details. There are other providers who have been guilty of such claims in the past.

Regarding their standard rate tariff, this has been shown to have a higher carbon intensity than the UK grid average.

Then for their supposedly 100% renewable premium tariff, this allows Ovo to submit enough Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) to the energy regulator Ofgem each year to cover that used by the consumer.

The only problem is, that for a £60 premium, only £1 goes to pay for these REGOs. Ovo also spend some money via the Woodland Trust, but it is not clear how much.

Unfortunately, what this means is that customers of Ovo are spending money on a premium product that does not support the growth of renewable energy in the UK.

Renewable energy certificate (REC) accounting

When a lot of people see that a company is claiming to have purchased 100% of their electricity from a renewable source, they would assume that they have a contract with a provider who matched their demand with an equivalent amount of renewable supply. Unfortunately, this is not the case and there is a significant aftermarket, where certificates are traded and the additionality can become weak.

For more information there is a great article on clean energy hub here.

The main problem stems from the unbundled RECs, as the link between the electricity and the renewable certificates is broken, making it open to abuse. This makes it very hard to verify whether the money being paid for the certificates actually led to the development of new renewable energy production.

What you need to know

This article looked into renewable energy and the green claims that surround this industry.

From a UK perspective, particularly wind power and to a lesser extent solar have been a great success story of late.

Low demand, coupled with abundant wind and sun has seen record after record broken. This proves that the technology does work at scale and can lead to real and meaningful emissions reductions at a grid level.

There are two things that I identified as being problematic. One was that of so-called green tariffs sold to customers which offer little towards sustainable outcomes. The other is the REC aftermarket, where certificates are traded and used to make claims of being 100% renewable energy, but where it is not clear this actually led to the development of new renewable energy generation.

Whilst the technology is both necessary and desirable, like with anything consumers and businesses need to do their own research to make sure what they are buying is actually sustainable.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage the development of more renewable energy?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

PARTNERSHIPS FOR SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into the recently announced partnership between several Danish companies to create breakthrough sustainable fuels.

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I have written about partnerships before as they are a very important tool for helping to make sustainability a reality.  Back in 2018 the NextGen Cup Consortium stood out for its ambition. Likewise, the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 17, which is Partnerships for the Goals is for me the enabler that will make achieving all the other goals possible.

The businesses involved in this exciting initiative include the following. I have included the exact industry that each company specialises in, in case my readers are not familiar with exactly what each company does.

  • Copenhagen Airports – Airport operator

  • P. Moller – Maersk – Integrated shipping company

  • DSV Panalpina – Transport and logistics

  • DFDS – Shipping and logistics

  • SAS – Airline

  • Ørsted – Multinational power company

The aim of the partnership, is to create an industrial-scale production facility to produce sustainable fuels for road, maritime and air transport in the Copenhagen area.

The project’s first stage, which aims to be operational by 2023, is comprised of a 10MW electrolyser which can produce renewable hydrogen used directly to fuel buses and trucks.

The second stage is comprised of a 250MW electrolyser facility which could be operational by 2027, when the first offshore wind power from Bornholm could be delivered.

This is when the industrial ecology of the partnership really kicks in. In the second stage, the production of renewable hydrogen is combined with sustainable carbon capture from point-sources in the Greater Copenhagen area to produce renewable methanol for maritime transport and renewable jet-fuel (e-kerosene) for the aviation sector.

Then later on in stage three the project is developed further. In stage three, which aims to be operational by 2030 when the offshore wind potential at Bornholm is fully developed, this would upgrade the project’s electrolyser capacity to 1.3GW and enable the capture of more CO2. This could supply more than 250,000 tonnes of sustainable fuels, which could be used in buses, trucks, maritime vessels and in aviation.

What you need to know

I think this is a really exciting partnership and I hope it is the catalyst to encourage other businesses around the word to develop partnerships to think and act big on sustainability.

There are two caveats that I think it is important to mention. One is that the whole initiative is still the subject of a feasibility review and no investment decisions have yet been taken.

The second thing that could limit the impact of the initiative is born out of the fact that by its very nature, this initiative is focussed on the Copenhagen area. This is not a problem for providing sustainable fuels for busses and heavy goods vehicles.

But by providing sustainable fuels at airports and sea ports in the Copenhagen area, these vessels will only be able to make a 1-way journey on low carbon fuel. What is required is a network of similar schemes in other parts of the world to make aviation and shipping dramatically more sustainable than they are right now.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to encourage more partnerships for sustainability?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

BAMBOO AS A DEVELOPMENT TOOL

This article looks into bamboo as a development tool.

garden-bamboo-wall-fence-texture-background-picjumbo-com

Bamboo is a resource with many properties that are favourable to sustainability. In terms of its environmental properties, last week we looked into why it wins on the environmental front.

But sustainability is meant to be tackling social, economic and environmental problems at the same time and bamboo has many advantages that allow it to be a key tool for development.

One benefit is that it is a can be used as a tool to encourage sustainable, integrated farming systems. These allow farmers to diversify and create a balance of crops to sustain their livelihoods.

Another benefit is that it is a resource which has multiple uses. It is highly valued as a material that is able to produce range of products from consumer staples, to houses. Many of these products are aimed at international markets, which can contribute to export revenues. Bamboo allows for the development of value-added manufacturing opportunities that are accessible to the rural poor.

Lastly, the fact that it is a grass allows it to be harvested annually after it has reached maturity. This is essential as the long lead times and capital-intensive nature of tree crops make them unsuitable for lifting people out of poverty.

What you need to know

This article looked into bamboo as a tool for development.

We looked into 3 reasons why bamboo is a superior resource that can be used as a tool to enable development.

As a resource, it faces many challenges in terms of stereotyping and preconceptions. But it has many advantages and is facilitating real change.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to promote the benefits of bamboo as a sustainable resource?

 Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

WHY BAMBOO WINS ON SUSTAINABILITY

This article looks into the sustainability credentials of bamboo products.

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It is based on the findings from the INBAR Technical report number 35, which can be found here.

Bamboo is often lauded for its best-in-class sustainability credentials. The INBAR report uses Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and carbon footprinting to assess the sustainability of a selection of bamboo products. These are the two best methodologies for comparing the true sustainability of various products.

The figure that caught my eye in the study was the finding that showed that if production parameters were optimised, that industrial bamboo products can have a negative carbon footprint over their full life-cycle, from cradle to grave.

The authors provide the following helpful explanation of what this means:

“This means that the credits gained through carbon sequestration, and from burning to produce electricity in a power plant at the end of each product’s life, outweigh the emissions caused by the production and transport processes.”

I thought the study’s finding that energy consumption in processing industrial bamboo products is the largest contributor to their environmental impact was interesting. This makes up 36–53% of eco-costs and 52-63% of the carbon footprint of bamboo products.

A common defence of using timber in Europe and North America is that Bamboo’s transport from South America and Asia will make it less sustainable. In this regard it is interesting that the next largest contributor to environmental impact is international sea transport, which is responsible for 15-25% of the carbon footprint and 28-37% of the eco-costs of industrial bamboo products.

Eco costsCo2 costs

As we can see from the two charts bamboo performs vary favourable as compared to other materials in terms of carbon costs and eco-costs.

However, the key benefit of bamboo and why it wins on sustainability lies on the resource side. Because bamboo is a giant grass species, it is less susceptible to clear-cutting and deforestation and is ideal for reforestation.

The key winning features of bamboo include the following:

  • The mother plant consists of many stems connected through a vast underground root system, with new stalks coming up each year.
  • Bamboo is harvested like an agricultural crop.
  • Due to its extensive root system, bamboo can be planted in areas where farming is not feasible.
  • Its fast growth results in a high annual yield

What you need to know

This article looked into why bamboo wins on sustainability through the findings of the INBAR technical report number 35.

The report provided the eye-catching figure that bamboo products can be produced that are carbon negative over their lifecycle.

Energy consumption and international shipping were identified as two pinch points that are responsible for a large proportion of bamboo’s environmental and carbon footprint. Actions taken in these areas would go a long way to making it even more sustainable.

Bamboo was shown to compare extremely favourably in compassion to other industrial materials.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to promote the benefits of bamboo?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

THE HIDDEN COSTS OF CARS

As cities and regions around the world begin to shape their transport systems for a socially distanced future, the hidden costs that cars impose on society should not be forgotten. Now is the time to envision car less streets, towns, villages and cities.

I am minded to share the following quotation, which is attributed to Rudiger Dornbusch:

“In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.”

After years of campaigners pointing to cycling success stories in the Netherlands and Denmark in the hope that their local area could have space for cycling, lots of people are waking up to find that their politicians have finally answered this call.

Interestingly in these areas which are often held up as having the apex of cycling infrastructure, their local politicians are calling for even higher levels of cycling, to facilitate socially distanced mobility.

In all this, we should not forget the hidden costs that cars impose on society. Car less cities and rural areas are a good idea with or without a highly infectious virus.

The figures that I will go through can be found here.

In this European Commission study, the following externalities were taken into account: accidents, air pollution, climate change, noise, congestion, well-to-tank emissions, and habitat damage.

1

The total external costs of transport in the EU are estimated at €987 billion.

These are significant costs and it is important to look at the differences between transport modes.

5

As we can see in the table, passenger cars is the largest contributor to external costs, making up 57% of the total costs, at €565 billion.

This is a significant burden placed upon society, so it is only right that this is called into question as to whether this is a desirable long-term solution.

What you need to know

This article looked into the hidden costs of cars.

It was based on a 2019 European Commission report that showed that transport is responsible for almost €1 Trillion of external costs on society, with passenger cars making up the vast majority of that number.

It is only fair that these hidden costs are taken into account as cities and regions look to remodel their transport systems to facilitate socially distanced mobility.

Whilst the study is purely academic, the costs imposed on society by the excessive and unnecessary use of passenger cars are real.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to communicate the hidden costs of cars?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby