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WRAP Report Release and REA Comment

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Farmers’ and growers’ confidence in digestate and compost has been given a welcome boost, as new ground-breaking research published today, shows smart use of these renewable fertilisers can increase yields and reduce bills with no negative impact on crop quality or safety.

The programme of field experiments, ‘Digestate & Compost in Agriculture’ (DC-Agri), confirms that food-based digestate – a product of anaerobic digestion – is a valuable source of readily available nitrogen; the single most important nutrient influencing crop yields. This new data will enable farmers to predict how much nitrogen the digestate will supply their crops, allowing them to confidently reduce the amount of bagged fertiliser without affecting yields.

For compost – made from recycled green garden waste and food waste – the research shows it builds levels of soil organic matter1 more quickly than other organic materials, such as farmyard manure, which will help deliver stronger and more resilient crops.

In addition, both digestate and compost provide crops with a measured boost of phosphorus, potassium and sulphur, helping to maintain soil fertility. Crops grown with an integrated nutrient plan combining bagged fertilisers and digestate or compost resulted in higher yields2 and better financial returns.

The five year research programme3, led by resource efficiency charity WRAP, demonstrated that the timing and method of digestate application is critical if the maximum value is to be gained. If digestate is used in the spring on actively growing crops, or other times when there is a crop nitrogen requirement, farmers and growers can significantly increase its nitrogen value. For best results digestate should be applied using precision application methods such as band spreading and shallow injection.

With compost use, the research confirmed that it should be seen as a means to build up long term soil nitrogen rather than a short term replacement4. The value in compost lies in its ability to build soil organic matter more quickly than other organic materials; retention of the organic matter in soils supplied by green compost was almost double that of farmyard manure indicating it’s more resistant to decomposition.

DC-Agri’s robust scientific evidence has now been brought together in WRAP’s guides to good practice, also published today. The guides explain how to use these products safely and help farmers and growers make the most of renewable fertilisers economically and environmentally.

Dr. Richard Swannell, Director at WRAP, said: “Digestate and compost are valuable renewable products of our food and garden waste recycling processes. These new findings show the benefits that using the products correctly can bring, and for the first time farmers and growers have the evidence to make informed decisions about their fertiliser use. This is a significant step forward for both the anaerobic digestion and composting industries and for farmers and growers.”

Defra’s Resources Minister, Rory Stewart, said: “Sustainable farming is increasingly important for our environment and food supply. I welcome this report which will allow farmers to make better decisions about renewable fertilisers, helping to grow crops more smartly and efficiently.”

Responding to the release of the DC-Agri documents, Jeremy Jacobs, Technical Director of the REA said:

“Anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting play an important and growing role in our efforts towards decarbonisation and in creating a more resource efficient  economy. The DC-Agri report will add precision to the push to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuel based fertilisers.

There is serious room for growth particularly in AD, but additional government support is needed. Food waste is collected separately in Scotland and Wales in both the commercial and household sectors, which supports the industry. Whereas the UK now has over 240 sites in operation, Germany already has over 8,000. The government should introduce UK-wide mandatory food waste collections to help us catch up.

 

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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