Categories
Environment How To Guides

How to be a little greener

We all leave a footprint on the world, just by being alive we contribute to environmental degradation. No matter what you do, you can’t eliminate your effect (offset it maybe) on the world, but you can minimise it.

In this article I am going to look at some very simple things you can do to reduce the impact you have on the planet, making you a greener individual.

Water Usage

The amount of water we use has a big impact on the environment, as well as other people. Last April I posted an article which asked you to question your usage of water. I have included a brief summary of the article

Of all the water on earth, just 0.007% is drinkable, and whilst our usage of water and the number of people on earth are both rapidly growing, water supplies aren’t. Drought is a real issue in many areas of the world and one in nine people don’t have access to safe drinking water.

Rainwater storage tank
Wall mounted water butts are becoming more popular – a great way to collect and store rainwater.

Excessive use (and arguably wastage) of water via things like regular use of hose pipes and using water hungry appliances (like washing machines) when they have spare capacity, can easily be reduced, and can significantly decrease our water usage.

In the comments, there was some great feedback. Jonny suggested using a water butt to collect rainwater to water your garden, saying “it is really shocking to think that many people use drinking water to keep the lawn green“. Shane told us how he plays 5 minute songs when having a shower, so he know when it’s time to get out, and Jean noted how he tries to fix leaks as soon as he finds them, as they are a massive waste of water – and money!

Buy Local

Another step you can take which will reduce your carbon footprint is choosing local. In 2009, I wrote an article on the technology behind food, discussing the journey food takes, and the impact it has on the planet, getting it to our table. Although the figures might have slightly changed, the concept behind the article is still the same: buying local produce significantly reduces your carbon footprint.

Local doesn’t even have to mean that close. Ideally, within 20 miles of the shop you buy is the best sort of ‘local’, however even food that has been grown within 200 miles is much better than food that has been flown across the globe.

Local food not only promotes energy conservation, but it also supports local farmers. Farm shops are a really good place you can get local food, why not check out BigBarn, a site designed to help you find where you can get locally produced food.

Farmers shop
Farm shops are a great place to source local food.

Reuse, Repair and Recycle Technology

It is important to use technology to its full potential, and to keep using it until it is no longer viable. Once something stops working, or is no longer able to fulfil your needs, whenever possible, repair or upgrade it. If your PC is starting to run a little sluggish, try to speed it up again (maybe visit my speed up your computer article) add some more RAM, upgrade the graphics card, and consider increasing the storage capacity.

As Jonny wrote last year, electronic waste is a real problem, computer components can be hard to recycle, and are often toxic. Therefore it is important to try to reduce electronic waste, and when it does occur, ensure it is disposed or/recycled properly.

If you have reused and repaired a device as much as possible, the next step is recycling. Recycling electronic waste is a growing industry, computer recycling and schemes which enable you to recycle mobile phones, so your technology is either properly recycled, or repaired and reused, either resold locally, or distributed to developing countries are becoming ever more common. Many firms (like the one I link to above) are even paying you for your old technology – reduce your ecological footprint, and get paid, what more could you ask for!

Save Energy

There seems to be a growing resistance to nuclear power, fossil fuels are running out and this matched with the lack of investment in renewables, is leading us to a global energy crisis. Every individual can make a difference, by reducing their consumption.

Electrical energyTurning off devices instead of leaving them on standby, switching to energy bulbs, and insulate your home and relatively simple and cheap ways to save energy, which we have probably all heard many times. Steps which involve using smarter technologies, such as getting Remote Heating Control installed and choosing smarter energy using devices are also good ways to save power, and are now also becoming more common.

In Summary

Four of the best ways you can reduce your environment impact are to: be more frugal with water; try and buy local produce; maintain technology for as long as possible, and then recycle it; and reducing your energy usage.

Feel free to critique any of my points, and by all means, suggest your own ideas below.

Categories
Internet

Is there really that much diversity on the internet?

The internet is big right? Okay it is massive. With that massiveness one naturally associates extreme diversity. Don’t get me wrong, across the entire internet, there is amazing variation, with billions of people adding their spin to the net.

What I am going to investigate in this post though is how diverse the ‘main’ internet is. What I mean by that is the internet that we use every day. How diverse is the most regularly used/visited content? Is there really as much choice as we think, or is the majority of the internet dominated by a few firms?


In order to go about this research I am going to use Alexa, who gather statistics on websites traffic. For most sites, the data isn’t that accurate, however for really busy sites, the numbers are so great, the reliability of the data is much higher, hence why I can use it.

Alexa's Logo

Google

According to Alexa, Google.com is the most visited site on the web. How could it not be? Alexa estimates that 50% of all internet users visited Google.com in the last three months. Second on the list for most visited sites is Facebook, which is trailing with just 45% of internet users visiting the site.

Remember however that is just Google.com, Google has a massive monopoly over the internet. In the 100 most visited sites on the web, 18 of the sites are owned by Google – 16 localised sites, Google.com and GoogleUserContent.com (the site you see when there is an error finding/displaying a page).

Google undoubtedly has reduced diversity on the internet, having such a monopoly on the sites we all visit. The thing is, it isn’t just 18 sites. Google also owns YouTube and (the third most visited site on the net) Blogspot which is ranked 10th, Blogger at 47 (Blogger and Blogspot are now one) and Blogspot.in (India) ranked 73. That means 21 of the most visited sites on the net belong to Google, meaning it owns more than one fifth of the ‘main’ internet.

Googlite Logo
Google’s dominance on the web suggests that a lot of us are Googlites!

Can you call the internet diverse, when in the top one hundred sites, one firm owns more than a fifth of all sites? Maybe, what does the rest of the field look like?

Microsoft

Unsurprisingly, the company that is arguable Google’s main rival is in second place. Yahoo and Microsoft are currently in a ‘Search Alliance’ therefore restricting competition, so I am going to count them in the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences. Here is the list of sites that Microsoft owns/influences which are top 100 websites:

  • Yahoo.com – Ranked 3rd
  • Live.com – Ranked 7th
  • Yahoo.co.jp – Ranked 16th
  • MSN.com – Ranked 17th
  • Bing.com – Ranked 29th
  • Microsoft.com – Ranked 30th – ironic how it is lower many of the other sites it owns!
  • Flickr.com – Ranked 53rd and Yahoo owned

Therefore Microsoft own/influence 7 of the top 100 sites. Add that to Google’s 21, and 28 of the top sites on the net are owned by two firms. More than a quarter.

I am starting to think the ‘main’ internet is not as diverse as one may first assume.

Amazon

Next on the list of internet giants comes Amazon. Amazon.com is ranked 10th, whilst Amazon Germany (Amazon.de) is ranked 91st and Amazon Japan (Amazon.co.jp) is 95th. Amazon also owns the Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) which is the 50th most visited site. Amazon owns 4 of the top 100 sites.

Amazon's Logo32 sites gone.

Alibaba Group

The Alibaba Group is a privately owned Chinese business, which owns Alibaba.com, Tmall (tmall.com), Taobao (Taobao.com) and Sogou.com. The group therefore account for four of the sites that make up what I am calling the ‘main internet’.

36 sites taken by just 4 companies. How diverse is our internet?

eBay

Next we come to eBay.com which sits 23rd on the list of top 100 sites. eBay International AG (ebay.de) is in 80th place, followed by eBay UK (ebay.co.uk) in 86th. eBay also owns PayPal (paypal.com) which is ranked 46th.

eBay steals another 4 sites, leaving just 60 of our hundred left, and so far only 5 firms are involved.

Time Warner

CNN (cnn.com) AOL (aol.co.uk) and The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com) are all sites owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is the sixth business involved now, leaving just 57 sites.

WordPress

The blogging platform WordPress (wordpress.com) is ranked 19th, and its brother, which allows users to host the content management system on their own site (wordpress.org) is ranked 83rd.

The Official WordPress LogoThere goes another two sites, meaning just 55 left, and only seven players so far.

Twitter

Ranked number 8 on the list is Twitter, however its URL shortener (t.co) is ranked 31st, meaning Twitter is also one of the big players in the top 100 sites, arguably with some form of domination over the internet.

Twitter's Logo47 sites of the top 100 accounted for and a mere eight organisations involved.

The Rest

Of the final 53 sites, 5 are adult only sites leaving 48 sites – although many of these either are a part of, or are a much bigger group.

Some familiar faces appear in the other 48 sites, Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (6th), LinkedIn (11th), Apple (34th), Tumblr (37th),  Pinterest (47th), BBC Online (48th), Ask (54th), AVG (62nd),  Adobe Systems Incorporated (67th), About.com (81st), ESPN (82nd),  Go Daddy (85th), Netflix (89th),  The Pirate Bay (92nd) and CNET (97th).

Remove these very well known, well established, and massive brands, and we are left with 32 sites – less than a third. Of the remaining sites, around half are Chinese, showing the growing influence and usage of the internet in China.

My Verdict

In this post I have established that of the sites we visit most regularly, 47 are owned by just eight organisations. Does that really represent the freedom that we all believe the internet offers?

I was surprised by the type of content, and the limited number of different sites that there are in the global top 100. It would seem that the most visited sites consist of search engines, social media sites and news websites. Interesting statistics.

So, what is your verdict on how diverse the internet we use everyday is? I personally am not quite as convinced as I was before writing this article that the internet is quite as free and diverse as we all believe.

Please note these rankings are changing all the time, and all content was correct according to Alexa.com at the time of writing – the 6th of July 2012.

Categories
Charity News

Blog Action Day 2011

It’s not often we post on a Sunday. In fact I think this is the first time we ever have. The reason for this post is clearly one of high importance then…

UPDATE: I have since discovered that this is our second post on a Sunday, the first being a warning to potential writers about providing copied content – another (although slightly less) important matter.

Every year (for the past four years) on the 15th of October, there is a global Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world write about one common problem in the world today, in order to try to raise awareness of a pressing issue.

This year the day have been moved back to the 16th of October (today) as that makes it coincide with World Food Day. Unsurprisingly, this years Blog Action Day theme is on food.

A history of Blog Action Day

The first Blog Action Day was held in 2007. The 2007 theme was the environment. At the time, one of the main global concerns (not that it isn’t even more so now) was regarding the sustainability of our current way of life, and the environmental impact, be it global warming, climate change, ecosystem instability or environmental degradation.

The world is in our hands
A green coloured globe represents the environment, which is held carefully in someone’s hands – representing how we control the future of our planet

Blog Action Day took off with a bang with around 20,000 blogs taking part, of which, there were around 20 in Technorati’s top 100 blogs – at the time. This proves that from day 1, Blog Action Day had a big influence, giving it a big potential to actually raise awareness and improve things that it petitions for.

2008 saw an equally important matter being raised: poverty. Poverty is a very pressing issue, and is part of the UN’s 8 Millennium Development Goals which it hoped to meet by 2015.

In 2009 the theme changed to climate change. The phrase ‘global warming’ used to be used before we realised that it wasn’t a very good term, as it’s not just warming that is likely to take place.

The world’s climate is so intricate and complex that you couldn’t say that increase in greenhouse gasses via intensive farming of rice, rearing of cows, burning of fossil fuels, cutting down of rainforests etc. would cause global temperatures to rise, as it wouldn’t necessarily do that everywhere, all the time.

Melting Ice Caps - A Sign of Climate Change
Melting ice caps are a symptom linked to climate change

Hence the term climate change was born in order to supersed the term ‘global warming’ in describing the likelihood of an increase in extreme and irregular weather/climate patterns.

In 2010 Blog Action Day moved onto stressing the importance (and scarcity) of water. Currently most people in the developed world use far more water than should really be available to them, if all water supplies were equally divided.

Only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater, of which the majority is ‘locked up’ in the form of ice. This means that less than 0.007% of all the worlds water drinkable and accessible. This matched with an exponentially rising global population is why over 20% of the world’s population don’t have access to safe drinking water, and one in three people around the world have inadequate sanitation.

One in Five People Don't Have Access to Safe Drinking Water2011 – Food

Now down to matter in hand – Blog Action Day 2011. As I have already mentioned, today is World Food Day, and Blog Action Day’s focus for this year is food.

World Food Day marks the 1945 foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organization, a UN project aimed at achieving food security for all, as well as making sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality, nutritional food, to lead active healthy lives.

Why should we worry about food?

In the words of Blog Action Day’s website:

“We use food to mark times of celebration and sorrow. Lack of access to food causes devastating famines, whilst too much is causing a generation of new health problems. It can cost the world, or be too cheap for farmers to make a living.

The way we companies produce food and drinks can provide important jobs for communities or be completely destructive to habitats and local food producers. Food can give us energy to get through the day or contain ingredients that gives us allergic reactions.

Food can cooked by highly skilled chefs with inventive flair, or mass produced and delivered with speed at the side of road. It can be incredibly healthy or complete junk and bad for your health. It can taste delicious or be a locals only delicacy.

Food is important to our culture, identity and daily sustenance and the team at Blog Action invite you to join us to talk about food.”

Nobody alive today can live without food for more than a month, and a lack of inadequate amounts/types of food can also kill.

Many people don’t realise it, but the greedy ‘Western’ lifestyle is the main reason for food issues around the world. Developed countries are getting too fat, whilst undeveloped ones are not getting enough food. According to the UN, malnutrition kills a child around the world every 15 seconds. That is heart breaking.

Westerners waste so much food, it is disgusting, even more so because of the fact that there are people who don’t have enough of the right foods (or any food at all for that matter) to eat.

How can you help?

If you want to help on a personal level there are two main things you can do.

  1. Try to source as much of your food as locally as you can. This helps local producers, as well as reduced greenhouse emission and water loss from undeveloped countries who use vast amounts of their scarce water to produce food for us. Some global food purchases can be justified, so try to pay attention to where your food is coming from and what the impact of getting it to you is.
  2. Donate to a crisis. There is currently a famine in Eastern Africa, and charities are there to help, but they need your help, be it through voluntary work or capital donations. I an not listing any charities, as it’s often better to decide yourself which ones to support.

You could also blog about the topic. If you have a blog, I wholeheartedly recommend you help to raise awareness yourself. If you read this a day or two late, don’t worry you missed the date, sill write about it and raise awareness. I missed the day last year, but I still blogged about it.

Blog Action Day suggest some topic areas you might like to discuss, which can be helpful if you are not sure where to start.

Blog Action Day 2011 Bagde
Technology Bloggers is supporting Blog Action Day!

If you do decide to write about Blog Action Day, you can register your blog with them, on their official list, so that they know roughly how many blogs took part.

The final way (I can think of at the moment) to help the Blog Action Day cause is to like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter. Technology Bloggers is already doing this.

Please do your bit for the world and support Blog Action Day in whatever way you can.