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An inspirational story from a sustainable Cornish town

In the wilds of North Cornwall, a small town called Wadebridge has picked up on the Government’s lax attitude to sustainability and taken matters into its own hands. Anna Duggal reports.

WREN, the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, is a group of over 550 voting members, whose aim is to produce 30% of the town’s energy from renewable sources by 2015. One year in, and the project is well on target, according to co-founder Stephen Frankel.

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In the wilds of North Cornwall, a small town called Wadebridge has picked up on the Government’s lax attitude to sustainability and taken matters into its own hands. Anna Duggal reports.

WREN, the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, is a group of over 550 voting members, whose aim is to produce 30% of the town’s energy from renewable sources by 2015. One year in, and the project is well on target, according to co-founder Stephen Frankel.

Frankel says that the idea for WREN arose from “continuing bewilderment that so little was being done to implement climate or renewable targets”.

The website highlights this further, especially in terms of the importance of tackling climate change as a group:

By approaching reduced carbon emissions and renewable energy use as a whole town, rather than individually, substantial reductions can be made in the cost of implementation with the added bonus that it can produce further benefits for the community at large.”

The group was launched in January 2011 when initial ideas focused on the installation of solar panels not only on houses but also on industrial roofs, wind turbines and greenfield sites, which could produce income for the town instead of outside industries.

Asked about how this had developed, Frankel claimed, “Solar PV is the simplest technology to implement, [and] over one megawatt (MW) has been installed in the area. We are developing big wind, anaerobic digestion and tidal energy programmes, but these are more complex so take more time.”

Other projects, Frankel says, include, “a system of real-time energy monitoring (WRENGAGE) whereby people are part of a community experience of energy monitoring. This is necessary as ‘behaviour change’ tends not to occur when people are dealing with such issues in isolation.

The rest of the programme is working on bringing high-value employment prospects in the low carbon sector – the WREN EcoPark. And this has the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Business community.”

WREN has already picked up some pretty high profile outside support, too. At the opening of its high street ‘Energy Shop’, Tim Smit, the founder of the Eden Project, was in attendance, a positive sign that the collective is moving in the right direction.

WREN has also been shortlisted to host an electric car club this summer with the E-Car Club, and will install free smart meters in homes, which can reduce energy usage by up to 15%. The increasing number of sustainable projects that WREN is involved in has led to it being awarded winner of the South West Green Energy Award 2011.

Looking at the wider picture of the UK’s renewable energy targets, Frankel concludes that we must “take them seriously and allow decentralisation of the energy economy. Only an actively engaged population can create the changes that are required.”

WREN certainly isn’t the only project supporting sustainable neighbourhoods in the UK.

In fact, a government-funded eco-town programme was proposed back in 2007 to offer an opportunity for high standards of sustainable living and affordable housing in 10 towns throughout the UK. But when the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came into government in 2010, the plans were put on hold.

In April 2011, it was announced that only one of the proposed sites, Northwest Bicester in Oxfordshire, would actually be constructed to the originally proposed standards. That is to say, zero-carbon developments that are exemplary in at least one area of sustainability, such as energy production or waste disposal.

Blue & Green Tomorrow recognises that the continued adoption of renewable energy is essential in creating a sustainable future. This widely appreciated view is outlined in a recently published in-depth report, The Rise of Renewable Energy.

If you’ve been inspired by the WREN project, you can always switch to renewable energy for your own home or business. Get in touch with Good Energy, who will help you through the process.

Related articles:

The Rise of Renewable Energy 2012

Harnessing the power of the community

The Green Doctors: making the world more sustainable

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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