The power of the people!

One of the things we have been doing from day one at the Centre is to carefully watch our energy use. You might have noticed stickers and signs encouraging doors to be closed, and lights turned off, but what you can’t see is the care that Rachael our Centre Administrator gives to setting the heating timers for our hirers’ sessions.

By doing this we can save both money and reduce our impact on the environment. Saving money also means being able to direct our limited resources to other more beneficial activities as well as helping to keep our hiring charges as low as we can.

Now that we have reached the end of year two at the Centre we are delighted that our energy use in the year to March 2016 was up 11%. On the face of it you might think why are we delighted? The answer is that at the same time our letting income was up a massive 79%! *

This means that for every pound of letting income, our energy use was down a massive 38%!

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I would like to say a big thank you to Rachael, the Trustees, and you our hirers and visitors for your support in managing our energy use. Also, when you are next at the centre have a look at our annual update on energy, waste and water. Finally, I hope you can be inspired to see what you can do in your own home. You have the power!

Best wishes

Neil

Eco-Team Lead

* Please note these figures are to be confirmed at the AGM.

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Your Eco-Team and CAG need you!

At the forthcoming birthday celebrations (this weekend!) there will be a joint stall for the Eco-Team and Community Action Group (CAG). We need your help and we’d be delighted to discuss with you ways in which you might be able to help either or both of these two volunteer groups.

The Eco-Team

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We are a team of volunteers that helps the community centre to fulfil its’ ‘eco-ambitions’. Last year we successful attained the Eco-Centres award and we have just drafted a plan for what we would like do in the coming year. That’s where we need your help. We have a list of things we would like to do, which this year are mainly on the themes of energy, healthy living, and bio-diversity, but we need help to do them. Could you join the team and help us?

The Dean Court CAG

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We are a team of volunteers in the Dean Court area and are part of a 50 strong network in Oxfordshire at the forefront of community led action. We organise events and support action on issues such as energy, waste, transport, food, and biodiversity. Recent events included a litter pick and seed swap evening. We are always keen to have more people to help run and take part in our events. Could you help us?

We will both be at the event this weekend, on or near the stall, and we look forward to seeing you. Please come and say ‘hi’.

Neil Clark                    Naomi Sharland

Eco-Team Lead          Dean Court CAG

Will there be a drought this summer?

Who knows? But there is an increasingly serious side to the issue of ‘water stress’, as it is known, around the globe and even here in the UK. I chose to write about water this month because last Sunday it was World Water Day. According to the UN, 20 litres of water per person per day is enough to meet the basic hygiene and food safety needs, and according to Waterwise we use 150 litres each in the UK.

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Fortunately, right from the start the Community Centre has been well equipped to minimise its water use. The toilet cisterns are low capacity with dual flush, and the taps in the toilets are auto shut off. And, from monitoring our water meter that was installed last summer we know that we do indeed use a very low amount of water.

If you want to make some changes at home too, then just contact Thames Water, or search their website for ‘Freebies’. They have a selection of gadgets that they will send you absolutely free of charge (up to two) to help you in various ways to save water, and if you are metered, save money too!

Best wishes to you all,

Neil

Eco-Team Lead

 

The power of Fairtrade

As you sip your cup of tea did you know that we are currently in the middle of Fairtrade fortnight? This is an annual campaign to raise awareness of what Fairtrade means and the power we all have to make a difference in the lives of the people that bring us our tea, coffee and chocolate among many other things.

70% of the world’s food is produced by 500 million smallholder farmers[1] yet many of them remain trapped in chronic poverty while shoppers enjoy the fruits of their labour. Fairtrade ensures farmers across the developing world receive a fairer price for their work, as well as an additional Fairtrade Premium, used by farmers and workers to invest in their communities.

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For more information please search for ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’ on the internet and please consider if you can make a change for Fairtrade this year by looking out for the logo when you next go shopping.

And as we start to consider our year 2 Eco-Centres action plan we will be including an action to formalise what we can do at the centre to make better buying decisions. We already do lots from using recycled paper and some Fairtrade items, but we want to formalise and embed these and other choices in to what we do.

Look out for more in the coming couple of months and in the meantime treat yourself to a nice bar of Fairtrade chocolate!

Best wishes

Neil

Eco-Team Lead

[1]Powering up smallholder farmers to make food fair, February 2013 (page 12) from ETC Group, Who Will Feed Us?: Questions for the food and climate crises, November 2009, p.1

New year (green) resolutions

It’s a time of resolutions for some, and last week my wife and I did what we call our annual ‘planning’. It’s not as grand as it sounds, but it did involve cake, and often invokes a little chuckle from friends! One aspect we always consider is what we can do next in terms of ethical, eco, or environmental issues. In the past this has included things like buying more local or organic food, changing our electricity to a ‘green’ provider, or moving an ISA to a more ‘ethical’ bank.

This year one of the things we decided to do was to aim to have no meat for main meals two days a week. This is for both health and environmental reasons (search for ‘meat free Mondays’ on the web for more ideas and information). Indeed, tonight I cooked a vegetarian quiche with mushrooms and home grown parsnips and carrots.

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So, have you considered this new-year as an opportunity to make one change in your house? Although our individual actions appear small, when millions also make a change, and do so every year, it soon adds up.

Finally, following our successful Eco-Centres award last October, in the next couple of months the Eco-Team will also consider what our next Action Plan might contain. In the first year it focussed mainly on energy, waste and healthy living. If you have any thoughts or can help out, then please do get in touch.

Best wishes for a happy and well new year to you all,

Neil

 

Here’s the picture!

Hi,

Although I did attach the picture as a ‘featured image’, I did not realise that those that get the email blog update would not see it. You will see it on the website, but as an extra bonus here it is below, I promise.

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And, I have learnt something new!

Neil

Are you feeling cold, warm, or hot?!

I went for a run one evening this week after a day sat at my computer. It was a good run but it was the first of the year when I put on my woolly gloves and hat. It’s quite a sight believe me!

So it seems the cold is definitely here now and so I thought I would update you on how we are operating the heating at the centre.

The main news is that all bookings will be timed in to the programmers so that the heating will come on automatically before your session starts. Rachael, our wonderful administrator, will be checking the timings every week and making sure the heaters themselves are on and set to level 5 or just above. This should be comfortable for most, but not necessarily all, sessions.

You can help us too please. Firstly, we want all users to be comfortable, but we also want to control costs and act with the environment in mind. We are after all now an eco-centre!

So, when you are visiting our centre over the winter months please can you;

  1. Keep external doors and windows closed when at all possible to keep the heat in.
  2. Do not turn off the radiators at the end of your session. The programmers will turn them off and it’s important they are on so that they will come on for the next users.
  3. If you need things cooler or hotter, please adjust the ‘slider’ on the individual radiator programmers (see picture). Level 1 is cold, and 10 is hot. You can use a small stick, a chop stick or kebab stick! If in any doubt as to how to do that, then please speak to the person that opens up the centre for you or get in touch via our email address.

Finally, could you do with reviewing your heating timers to help better manage your home’s comfort and costs?

Best wishes

Neil Clark

Eco-Team Lead

We did it!

We are absolutely delighted to announce that we are now officially an Eco-Centre!! The award recognises our work to embed sustainability in to how the centre is run as well as educating our community about our work.

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THANK YOU for all the support and help since this journey began over the last 16 months. I cannot tell you what a relief it is and how proud I am with what has been achieved together, and in particular since the centre opened in only March this year. Indeed, our Eco-Centres assessor, Karyn Fullerton from Keep Britain Tidy, commented that she was “very impressed by the amount of work done in such a short space of time”. We are now one of just two Eco-Centres in Oxfordshire.

It’s important at this point to say thank you to a few people; Thank you to your Eco-Team (Emma Bartlett, Naomi Sharland and Giorgio Bagordo, as well our retired member, Priscilla Waugh) for all their time and effort in going through the process and implementing the various actions. Thank you for the help of our mentor in this process; Moira Dorey from the EiE at Brookes University. Thank you also to Justin Andrewes at Sovereign Housing for supporting us with our initial registration fee. Thank you to Anna Pearson and the trustees for your support and for letting me lead the team on this.

We now have a nice certificate and a wall plaque which we will be displaying soon with great pride at the centre.

After a brief pause to catch our breath, we will resume our work to improve the environmental impact of the centre and to hopefully inspire you, our users, and the community to do likewise in your homes and in your daily lives.

With best wishes

Neil Clark

Eco-Team Lead

The heat is on…. off…. on…. off

As the fine September weather continues, at the centre we have been turning our minds to heating and have been doing plenty in preparation for the colder months.

  • We have prepared instructions for our volunteers on how to set our programmers and how to get instant heat by over-riding the system.
  • We have prepared instructions for users so that during your session if it gets too hot or cold then you will know what to do. You will be briefed, but basically you move the slider in the picture. Left (towards 1) for it to be cooler, and right (toward 10) for it to be warmer. Around 5-6 is usually sufficient.
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  • We have started to train the centre volunteers that open the centre so that they can get the heating going for you and are confident in knowing the essentials of how it operates.
  • We will be preparing some signage to further help our volunteers operate the system.
  • We have tested the system again to make sure the over-ride functions works only where we want it to!

So, why all this fuss? Well, there are plenty of reasons.

  • We want our users to be comfortable and our volunteers confident to be able to make your welcome a warm one (literally).
  • We want to control the costs of heating the centre, and by doing so, help keep the charges we have to make to our users as reasonable as possible.
  • We are really keen to do our bit to help reduce our carbon emissions which seems all the more important given the Climate Change Summit gathering in New York this week.

Hopefully we will get it right all the time, but please bear with us as we get this system fully up and running.

Maybe this could be the time for you to revisit how your heating works at home to stay comfortable but also reduce your costs and your carbon emissions?

Oh, and by the way, our Eco-Centres application is in and we wait to hear about the next steps!

Best wishes

Neil Clark

Eco-Team Lead

Water, water everywhere

Good evening,

It has just finished absolutely throwing it down outside and so it seems like the right time to talk about water!

We now have our water meter fitted at the centre, and so just as with electricity, we will be able to keep a very close eye on how much we are using, and to help spot any issues that might arise over time such as leaks or items left on.

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It might seem a little odd to be worried about water given what has just fallen from the sky, but there are several reasons why we will be keeping track of our usage;

– The centre will be paying for every drop we use. The need to carefully manage finances is important for any business and in this respect we are no different.

– In order to get clean drinkable water to the centre, it needs to be collected, stored, cleaned, and piped to us. This has an environmental cost too, for example the process relies on energy.

– It is difficult at times to remember that despite what has just fallen from the sky, we are at times under ‘water stress’ in a densely populated country and so good practices established now could very well prove very useful in time to come.

This might also be a good time to consider if you can do any more to save water?

I look forward to seeing you at the CAG Social tomorrow evening, 7pm-8pm, if you can make it.

Best wishes

Neil Clark

Eco-Team Lead