Sustainable Living and Ways to Save Energy

Local Action on the Energy Crisis, Rising bills and Climate-Change

Climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, has become our frightening new reality. The effects are widespread and noticeable on a daily basis, both globally and locally. The 2021 IPCC report shows greenhouse gases rising faster than expected, leading to more frequent and extreme weather events. Much of East Anglia, for example, will be flooded by 2100 if our current emissions trajectory is maintained, and we are already seeing the impacts of climate change on food production globally.

We face an unprecedented challenge in tackling climate change, both globally and locally, and this can feel overwhelming– but there are steps we both we as individuals and our local councils can take, as well. We can all start somewhere.  

  • First, we need to talk about climate change and acknowledge its effects. By now most people understand the need for action, but there is an extreme and vocal minority that seeks to minimise the issue. We need to face facts- or nothing else is possible.
  • Second, we have the crucial next step of speaking with and putting pressure on all government bodies, local and nationwide, to take responsibility and implement measures to combat further damage.

There is plenty they can do, and here are just a few examples:

  1. Housing development improvements – Technological advances over the past few years have made alternative, carbon-friendly housing development now more viable than ever. From adapting existing technology models (such as the ground-source heat pumps as deployed at Swaffham Bulbeck) to using more sustainable and responsible designs (such as the Passivhaus approach, which keeps energy use as low as possible), there are numerous options for developers and councils deliver more environmentally responsible developments.
  2. Vehicle charging points – Electric vehicle uptake is growing fast, but there are shamefully few charging stations across the nation, especially in rural areas like East Cambridgeshire. We need action to fix this now. There are schemes that provide grants to local parish councils for such developments, while private companies will install them in exchange for a cut of their income. There are also examples of parish councils crowdfunding the installation costs of community charge-points. We need to put pressure on local governing bodies to choose and implement one of these many solutions fast.
  3. Public transport and cycle infrastructure improvements – This is a dire issue for our local area regardless of climate concerns. Reducing fossil-fuel burning vehicles on the road by attracting current car drivers towards lower cost, more efficient, better integrated public transport or onto bikes is a guaranteed way to lower carbon emissions, congestion and people’s bills, while transforming air quality.
  4. Re-Draft neighbourhood plans to encourage renewable energy development – This can empower communities to generate their own power locally while reducing our reliance on expensive and damaging fossil fuels.

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Lastly there are also plenty of ways in which we can make a difference ourselves- starting with the home. The past few years have seen a huge expansion of options for making our homes more energy-efficient, and most of these methods have the added benefit of also saving us money.

For home energy-efficiency, the easiest place to start is by minimising heat-loss: think insulation before installation, wherever possible. Be it fibreglass, foam board, sheep’s wool or even shredded newspaper(!), this is a fantastic place to start, as are draught excluders around doors or windows. Even existing insulation can benefit from new options, and there are even solutions for solid walls, as well- let’s talk about them!

 

Communities can also work together to implement solutions, such as communal heat pumps, that might be too expensive for individual households. Whilst it is true that investing in larger scale changes/technologies will yield greater benefits over time, the perception that these changes only come at great financial expense is false – meaningful differences can be made for only a few Pounds, for instance:

 

  • Reducing flow temperatures on certain types of combi-boiler.
  • LED lightbulbs reduce power consumption by 75% compared to filament, they also last 10x longer and are typically no more expensive.
  • Installing smart thermostats and lighting controls that give more control over the home will reduce wasteful energy use, such as heating empty rooms. Most smart thermostats only cost between £100-200, and are fast and simple for homeowners to install themselves.
  • Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) and even thermostatic taps cut down wasteful over-heating (and therefore over-spending). TRVs can retail for anything from ~£5 – ~£20, and thermostatic taps (shower and bath) are typically no more expensive than the standard variety
  • Aerated shower heads would also pair well with such solutions, they use 80% less water, are simple to install, and are easily available for under £100.

These are just some simple micro-changes that add up to a huge benefit over time, as can switching to green energy suppliers, or reviewing one’s ‘phantom load’, created by the devices we leave plugged in on ‘standby’ mode around our homes each day. These changes may seem small but they can help us break our collective inertia on the climate crisis.  Conclusion? We owe it to future generations not to despair. We can and must act now in our own lives and communities. Let’s get started.

 

If you’d like to take that first step and get involved with community action for the climate contact eastcambscan@yahoo.com.  We will also be hosting an electric vehicle and zero carbon homes expo at the Ely Green Fair on 10th September which we are co-organising with Ely Cathedral and East Cambridgeshire District Council. #ChangeWithUs @eastcambscan.

Written by Simon Harries