Below are ten ideas for challenges but you will probably be able to come up with good ideas of your own. Whatever you decide to do, Birmingham Friends of the Earth and FoE nationally are aiming to provide help and advice where (and if) necessary, so please let us know what your challenge is, what you hope to achieve, and why. Call Alex Philips on 0207 566 1673, and James Botham on 0121 632 6909 to register your challenge.
1 Star Challenges
1. Be energy aware
Replace ordinary lightbulbs easily and cheaply with low energy bulbs. Some of these use less than a quarter of the electricity of their equivalents, and they last much longer too. Do you fill your kettle to the top for one cup? If kettles were only filled with the water needed the UK could save £1 million a week.
Do you use the bath when you could use the shower? A shower uses half the water of a bath, meaning you need less energy to heat the water. Could you turn your thermostat down by just one degree? You’ll barely notice the temperature difference, but the difference to your wallet could be a saving of £30 a year. Do you wash your clothes at 60 degrees in your washing machine, or only use it half full? Simply by turning your machine down to 40 degrees, and waiting until it's full, you can reduce the energy needed and still have clean clothes.
2. Buy green electricity
Switching your electricity supplier to one that sources renewable energy is easy and an excellent way to reduce your emissions of carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas implicated in climate change. See page 4 for more information on switching to green energy.
2 Star Challenges
3. Cut your transport emissions
Could you walk, cycle and use public transport for some journeys where you currently use the car? Cutting the number car journeys you make helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Buses and trains produce less carbon dioxide than cars or planes, and cycling and walking produce none at all. A single journey from London to Edinburgh by plane produces twice as much carbon dioxide per person as the same journey by rail. (Source: Commission for Integrated Transport).
And it’s not as if short haul flights save much time; once you factor in the transfer, a flight to Edinburgh is only an hour shorter than the train, and with a lot less flexibility and a lot more hassle. Could you pledge to cut short haul flights and use the train instead?
4. Buy local
Buying locally produced food from farmers' markets and small local shops wherever possible removes the need to freight the same foods across the globe, cutting 'food miles' and transport emissions, and helps the local economy too. Could your challenge be to find your nearest farmers' market or organise a local food box scheme for your neighbourhood? Visit Big Barn at www.bigbarn.co.uk for ideas.
5. Get an energy efficiency grant
There's plenty that can be done at home to reduce energy use, but sometimes it can be hard to take the first step. Each year the UK's houses lose enough heat through windows and walls to heat 3 million homes for a year. (Source: Energy Saving Trust)
The Energy Saving Trust (www.saveenergy.co.uk) has a huge store of information and advice available on-line, with plenty for every homeowner to take action on.
There are plenty of grants available to lessen the impact on your wallet. Depending on your circumstances you may be eligible for reduced prices on loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, condensing boilers and much more. Use the Trust’s Grantfinder tool (www.saveenergy.co.uk/gid/eligible.cfm) to see what is available for you.
6. Invest in renewable energy
It's easier than you might think to financially support renewable energy. With as little as £250 it is possible to join a co-operative, Energy4All, (www.energy4all.co.uk/) and become an investor in wind energy projects.
Energy4All promotes community owned wind projects and is itself owned by Baywind Energy Co-operative Ltd , the UK’s first community owned wind farm. This type of scheme has worked successfully in Denmark and Germany, and the success of the Baywind co-operative shows how it can work here. Energy4All will be launching four projects this year, in South Lincolnshire, Aberdeenshire, Cumbria and Oxfordshire, so there are plenty of opportunities to invest.
3 Star Challenges
7. Green your work place
Could your challenge be to set up a green group at your work place? Wherever you work or study it’s likely that more could be done to save energy. There are easy changes that can be introduced at minimal or low cost, that can make a real difference:
Reduce energy use: Lights, computers, monitors, photocopiers, faxes and printers all consume electricity. Yet the amount they use can be reduced by simply turning them off overnight or when they are not in use. Does your work place encourage good energy habits? Visit the Energy Savings Trust website for businesses www.est.org.uk/business/index.html for ideas.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Are there products at your work place that could be reused, recycled or even dispensed with altogether? This helps to save energy and resources. For more information see Friends of the Earth's Waste and recycling guide www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/waste_and_recycling_booklet.pdf
Changing transport use: How do people get to work, and travel around for meetings during work hours? Could more be done to encourage cycling, car sharing and public transport use?
8. Install your own renewables
The burning of fossil fuels, like oil and gas, contributes to climate change. At the moment there aren’t enough renewable energy projects up and running to meet the UK’s energy needs. But you can make a difference. Why not be a renewable energy pioneer and install renewable energy in your own home? Grants are currently available for up to 50% of the capital costs of installing renewable energy to help make it cost effective. You might even find it to be a profitable exercise; if you produce more energy than you need you could sell the excess back to your energy supplier.
Grants and advice are readily available. The Energy Savings Trust (www.est.org.uk/solar) has more info on grants for solar photovoltaic panels. The Clear Skies Grants Initiative (www.clear-skies.org) can tell you about other types of small scale renewable energy. The Centre for Alternative Technology (www.cat.org.uk) as well as being a great place to visit offers information and educational courses.
9. Adopt a renewable energy project
You can find out if there are any renewable energy projects planned in your area, and ‘adopt’ one that you will help support. Writing a letter to your local authority's planning department or the local media lends valuable support and can help make the project a reality.
Yes2Wind (www.yes2wind.org) is a coalition which aims to provide information and resources for the public to support wind farms locally. Friends of the Earth’s briefing 'Wind power: your questions answered' (www.foe.co.uk/resource/factsheets/wind_power.pdf) is a good introduction to wind energy issues (call 0207 490 1555 for a paper copy).
FoE has also produced a document for local campaigners called 'How to understand the new planning system' (http://community.foe.co.uk/resource/how_tos/cyw_41_understand_planning_system.pdf ). To find out how to contact your council’s planning department visit www.upmystreet.com/
10. Get renewables installed locally
Schools, hospitals, universities and businesses all tend to have high energy demands. So why not encourage a local institution or business to invest in their own on-site renewable energy to meet some of their energy needs?
Recently, a well-known telecommunications company, together with a wind turbine company, developed a roof-mounted wind turbine suitable for the urban environment. Following successful trials of the prototype, the company now hopes to install the turbine on more of their buildings.
For more information on renewable energy suppliers check out:
- Solar (Photovoltaic) Solar Century (www.solarcentury.co.uk);
- Solar (Thermal) Solar Trade Association (www.solartradeassociation.org.uk);
- Wind Power Merchant Wind Power (www.ecotricity.co.uk/projects/mwp.html);
- Combined Heat and Power Combined Heat and Power Association (www.chpa.co.uk)
- General Renewable Power Association (www.r-p-a.org.uk)
A list of all businesses offering renewable energy services can be found at the Source Guides website (www.energy.sourceguides.com/businesses/byGeo/byC/UnitedKingdom/UnitedKingdom.shtml). For non-profit organisations the Community Renewables Inititative (www.countryside.gov.uk/NewEnterprise/Economies/CRI.asp) will be able to help and advise.
3+ Star Challenges?
Individuals can make a real difference, but by working together we can have an even greater impact. If you would like to be part of a group climate challenge then contact James Botham or Mick Davies at Birmingham Friends of the Earth, on 0121 632 6909 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.