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Steve Backshall Goes Off Grid
Steve Backshall lives in a new build house which is very energy efficient and almost totally off-grid. However, achieving this has been extremely time consuming, expensive and pretty stressful. For this episode of Costing the Earth, Steve explores why -- when the cost of heating our homes is so high and we’re being encouraged to reduce our carbon footprint -- it’s so difficult and pricey to make where we live more energy efficient and access renewable sources of power. Steve describes exactly what he’s done to his house including triple glazing, batteries for electric power and even a bore-hole for water. He then hears about a research facility at the University of Salford where two new builds and a Victorian end-terrace have been constructed in temperature controlled chambers. There they test the efficacy of various energy saving and renewable technologies on the kinds of homes that most of us live in. Back in studio, Steve speaks to the Energy Saving Trust about the cost for householders of putting some of these measures in place and what grants are available. He also hears from the Sustainable Energy Association, a trade membership body, about what they believe should be done to make all of this more accessible and affordable.
Producer: Karen Gregor
Save the Microbes!
It's said that a teaspoon of soil contains more life than all of the humans on earth. Microscopic life that is - bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematode worms and microarthropods like springtails and mites, but there's increasing evidence that this invisible world, the earth's microbiome, is under threat. Author, biologist and presenter Gillian Burke is fascinated by soil and has fond memories of playing with the ochre-red soils of Kenya. Gillian digs into the science of soil to ask how to get more people to understand and care about this the trillions of organisms that exist beneath our feet in the same way that we do about the malnourished polar bear on an ice-cap or the endangered mountain gorilla, and what are the consequences of doing nothing?
Dr Colin Averill, senior scientist at ETH Zurich and co-founder of 'Funga'
Chris Jones, Woodland Valley Farm
Charles Nicholls, The Carbon Community
Dr Elaine Ingham, Soil Food Web
Dr Elze Hesse, The University of Exeter
Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Toby Field
Gardens of the Future
Climate resilient gardens are a feature of this month's Chelsea Flower Show, but how can the experts help the typical British gardener prepare for the future? To find out, botanist James Wong asks whether the way we garden could protect us against the effects of climate change, and if we can protect our gardens against more unpredictable weather patterns?
James joins Chelsea designer Tom Massey as he chooses plants for a mould breaking show garden. He learns tips for dealing with more unpredictable conditions at the Royal Horticultural Society's flagship Wisley garden, and from climate savvy gardener Kim Stoddart in West Wales. In the heart of London, amid the brutalist concrete of the Barbican centre, James meets Professor Nigel Dunnett, and considers how plants could make human habitats more liveable during heatwaves and heavy rain.
Producer: Sarah Swadling
Many of us can remember returning our pop bottles to the shop in return for cash and wonder why we can’t use a system like this today to reduce, reuse and recycle. In Scotland a Deposit Return Scheme has been on trial, but in a complex material world it’s not as simple as the schemes we might remember.
Tom Heap and Sepi Golzari-Munro turn detective to find out why the DRS (Deposit Return Scheme) is under threat and if it can survive to launch as intended. The scheme is causing issues for small businesses like craft brewers, it's angering politicians who are concerned about the added cost to consumers and it's being questioned by some waste management experts who believe the gains in recycling rates may be small in comparison to the huge costs of implementation.
Defenders argue that we need to take action and that change is never popular but that similar schemes in Europe have achieved over 90% recycling rates.
There are no simple answers with this one so it’s going to take some hard line detective work by our Costing the Earth crack team. Tom and Sepi step up to uncover the truth and consider the best future for bottle recycling.
Producer : Helen Lennard
Water pollution solutions
Sewage is now discharged into our rivers and seas on a regular basis. It's joined by agricultural pollution and a host of microplastics. In this special debate programme, Tom Heap asks what's gone wrong with our water system. How did we get into this situation, what will it cost to put it right, and how can we go about sorting out the mess we seem to be in? Tom is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the history, the finances and the future of cleaning up our waterways.
Producer: Emma Campbell