An Environmentally Friendly Porsche?

For decades, the last thing the motor sport industry has been concerned with is environmental friendliness.

The average owner of a high-performance vehicle has fit a certain demographic which has, by and large, stayed the same since the concept of driving cars very fast was invented.

Taking their lead from the world-famous racers and wonderfully rich movie stars, you’ll be hard pressed to find a man in his forties who doesn’t have his eye on a sports car.

Whether its a matter of them going through a mid-life crisis, or simply a case of them reaching for a goal that they have harboured for most of their adult life; statistics shows that men are more likely to purchase their first sports car when they hit the age of 52.

But this image of an older man zooming down a motorway at 90 mph doesn’t exactly chime with the demographic of an environmentalist. So why is it that one of the leading sports car manufacturers in the world, Porsche, has just piled millions of pounds into a brand new hybrid car?

Before we make any more sweeping statements about middle-aged men and sports cars (further alienating our own audience in the process!) lets take a closer look at Porsche and see if this is something that falls in line with their usual MO.

The first Porsche car was produced in 1931, the Mk 60K10 had a top speed of 99 mph, its engine producing 50 bhp. Only three models of the car were ever produced, with two of them being destroyed in the process of World War II. During this time Porsche, designed the world-famous Beetle, in addition to the Kubelwagen (the militarised version of their iconic economy car).

Once the motor sport scene started to truly get going, after World War II, Porsche were more than ready to compete with a string of highly competitive vehicles that would go on to win multiple titles.

With such an historic reputation to uphold in terms of performance and competitions, why are they now entering into the world of hybrid vehicles?

In 2014, over 80 years after the company’s inception, the Stuttgart-based company released its first ever sustainability report.

Within this booklet the company detailed its goals in regards to how they were aiming to reduce their emissions and even reduce the amount of raw materials that were using to manufacture their parts for Porsche cars.

So it came as no surprise when, in 2016, they released the third incarnation of this report, along with the announcement that every new model of Porsche car would reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 10%, compared to the previous model.

With this year’s of their 918 Spyder, a high-powered performance vehicle that runs on both electricity and petrol, Porsche have put a firm foot into the waters of environmentally friendly driving. The question is will their efforts be rewarded by sales?

Will the middle aged men of today be interested in a car that was designed to save the planet rather than tear up the tarmac?

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Forest Research Unearths New Techniques

Big Steps Forward This Month For Forestry Research

The restoration of peatland has long been deemed as one of the most cost-effective and efficient methods of limiting climate change.

It might seem like a small change to make to areas that are already deemed to be relatively green, but afforested land can still offer the world much more when its returned to its previous peaty state.

Forestry operations often affect our climate in a negative way – this goes beyond the simple act of cutting trees down. Planting trees, where previously there were none, has a negative effect on the global environment too; wildlife habitats, both small and large, are often disturbed and a release of carbon usually accompanies even the most minor of forestry operations.

Attempts to restore peatland to previously afforested areas have failed in the past due to underground cracks draining away the much needed moisture in the ground. However, recent trials conducted by Forest Research are starting to prove successful. New trenching techniques, which form a barrier preventing water drainage, have allowed successful rewetting of these sites – an accomplishment which was previously thought to be impossible.

By digging deeper than the troublesome underground cracks and repacking the ground with more peat, project leader Russell Anderson has been able to prevent water draining away from the treated areas.

In some cases his team used a thin plastic membrane to line the trench, however sites without the use of this drain were also successful in retaining moisture. In all test cases there was a dramatic rise in the level of underground water – an unmitigated success that should not be understated.

Its been a busy month for Forestry Research, who’ve also made a significant step forward in decoding the genetic makeup of the tree seed. Working in conjunction with NovelTree and cattle breeders from the Roslin Institute, a study investigating the DNA markers of 1,500 closely related trees (in the South West of England) have revealed useful information regarding how tall trees will grow and which kinds of trees will break bud first.

Applying techniques that are usually used for salmon and cattle, Steve Lee from the Department of Tree Breeding has likened the process of selection as similar to that of animal breed. Because of the vast differences in DNA structure, research has been able to progress much faster than usual. Genetic gain has increased substantially due to the fact that generation intervals have been shortened.

Its still early days for the researchers, but such is the case for DNA sequencers all around the world. The research method is still very much in its infancy, but its thanks to advances like these that we can hope to learn more about how organisms really work.

For more information on what Forestry Research is up to go to our ‘Outside Sources’ page.

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The Orangery: A New Kind of Extension

There’s a new kind of building fad on the rise in the North of England…

They’re attractive, environmentally friendly and a little archaic but window companies in the North West are receiving more orders for them than ever before.

Inspired by Victorian aesthetics and now more environmentally friendly than ever, traditional orangeries are popping up all over the North, bringing a new level of class and distinction to areas that are in dire need of it. So many questions have arisen from this discovery.

Why are these companies busier than ever? Why are there now so many orangeries in Manchester? And just where did this trend begin?

The North of England has been home to a number of traditional Orangeries for decades. These visually arresting buildings were, more than often, attached to stately homes, providing their rich owners with space to store plants and trees that were susceptible to the cold. They also gave eager horticulturalists the opportunity to cultivate fruits that would not usually survive in the North’s chillier climate.

Great examples of orangeries that have survived into the modern age can be seen across the North, tucked away in the corners of grand parks and attached to manor houses.

Despite their fragile nature, they have been maintained throughout the years so that the Great British public can continue to enjoy them. In Liverpool’s Sefton Park, the Palm House plays host to weddings, late-night dance raves and school proms. During the day, all is peaceful as visitors to the park can wander through and explore the wide range of exotic plants that grow in there.

Over in Barnsley, Wentworth Castle is home to a quintessential example of Victorian orangery. Ornate iron framework and fine detailing make this a must-see piece of architecture, even without the broad range of plant life inside. Taking one and a half years to restore, the £3.5 million project returned the 130-year old building to its former glory and showed the people of the North how grand an Orangery could really be.

A modern orangery, built with the finest of modern materials has several advantages over its older counterparts, making it an ideal addition to any home (as long as there is space to build it). Instead of single pane glass and iron frames, windows now come double glazed with high-tech PVC for extra insulation. Ultra-modern designs allow orangeries to be built in almost any style that the customer desires and lightweight materials make the build much quicker than a traditional extension.

Perhaps the reason why orangeries have seen a significant spike in popularity in the last few months is their eco-friendly nature.

Ethically sourced PVC, combined with thick double-glazing, means that homeowners can benefit from extra space in their rooms whilst saving money on their energy bills and helping out the environment. Of course, should they so wish, exotic plants and fruits can even be grown, leaving the homeowner with endless growing opportunities.

As more and more of these buildings come into fashion, we’ll no doubt see a return to prominence of more Victorian styles. Who knows what the next archaic design concept will be to receive a modern update? An anti-gravity grandfather clock? A solar-powered rocking chair?

The sky’s the limit. 

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Efficiently Farming American Heroes

American has been working hard to shake of its reputation as a gas-guzzling nation of meat-eaters.

Leading the charge are a dedicated band of agriculturalists who are choosing to put the environment first, whilst still creating profitable businesses; demonstrating how margins can be increased by using truly innovative techniques.

In his book , The Lean Farm, Ben Hartman strives to show how farmers can increase their profits by reducing their land size.

40% of all the food produced in America, inevitably, goes to waste.

In a land where over 42 million people live in houses with insecure sources of food, there’s clearly something wrong with the way this country’s production lines are functioning.

Ben decided to make a change, starting with his own holding. He tackled efficiency in his farm by reducing his holding from 3 acres down to 1, growing 30 varieties of specialist vegetables and fruits. By staggering his planting schedule he has been able to maximise crop yield and reduce his waste by a fifth; he’s now reaping the rewards as his profits are skyrocketing.

Its not just farming in the countryside that is improving leaps and bounds in innovation.

Marianne Cufone’s own brand of ‘recirculating farm’, in her home city of New Orleans, is proving that large scale farming can be achieved with the smallest of plots.

The third most poverty stricken county in the States, healthy food is in short supply in Louisiana, with 18% of homes not having access to good sources of nutrition. To show how ordinary people could grow their own healthy ingredients with limited space, Marianne used homegrown bamboo to create scaffolding that could support multiple stacks of plots.

Growing staples such as cucumbers, tomatoes and strawberries; she used an eight square foot, rubber lined pond for irrigation and fish waste as fertiliser. This kind of setup can be erected for $6,000 and could potentially be installed anywhere.

Environmentally friendly farming in America is also learning to embrace emerging technologies like AI.

Irving Fain’s Bowery Farming uses hundreds of sensors connected to a massive network in order to measure the health of the crops in inside his indoor vertical farm.  Every possible variable is accounted for, from moisture to LED lights to the plant feed, this allows Irving to produce enough veggies to deliver to three Whole Food stores (as well as a number of restaurants) without the use of pesticides.

Considering that his farm uses 95% less water than the average US holding and the food travels less than 10 miles to reach its destination, its hard to see how food production could get much greener.

However, the food product that is at the root of our current environmental woes is the one that is most widely eaten: meat.

Not only does meat production require a mammoth amount of water, it also ends up producing an insane amount of methane gases. Although hundreds of thousands of vegans argue that we can halt this by simply not eating animal-products, a handful of companies have sprouted up to offer another alternative.

Uma Valeti is one such innovator, attempting to grow meat in a lab. Cruelty free and without the same environmental impacts, Memphis Meats debuted their first lab grown chicken breast this year, although it cost $9,000 to create – food critics reported that it tasted just like the real thing!

Thanks to innovative startups and ambitious farmers like the above, America is forging its own path into a greener future.

Lets just hope we can keep up! 

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