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Zero Waste Week 2017

Category: General

Date: 20.09.2017

Time: 09:53

National Zero Waste Week 2017 ran from Monday 4th – Friday 8th September and the green accreditation scheme Investors in the Environment (iiE), run by the environmental charity PECT, was keen to encourage all organisations to get involved! Read on to find out how iiE’s April Sotomayor got on with the week.

Day 1: (Sunday)
I made a personal pledge to not buy anything this week with non-compostable packaging. I am consistently guilty of grab-and-go purchases as a result of not planning ahead and bringing in my lunch (the same goes for supper). I have children and often make pack lunches for school – at a minimum, I really should also be making my own lunch at the same time. So today, I did a lot of boiling of grains and beans and chopping of veg to make a variety of M&S inspired salads – but with less packaging, and of course a lower price tag! I used glass bottles, recycled yogurt pots and old  takeaway containers to stack my fridge with a week’s worth of  homemade ‘grab-and-go’ lunches! In honesty, this took a couple of hours, which at the time felt pretty defeating, but after nursery and school pick ups on Tuesday I was singing my own praises for this!

Day 2
I’ve done a big pantry audit to find what food I have that I need to use before its sell-by date. Vowing to use up the remnants of jars and remains of old packets, I’ve put together a couple of interesting meals. No #foodwaste here this week. What scraps we have are going straight to the wormery!

Day 3
It’s #TrashlessTuesday and we’ve taped up the office bins at work! Taking it one step further, I’ve even marked the recycling bins with  Zero Waste signage to discourage deposits, although this is tougher to enforce. Recycling is brilliant, and must be encouraged, but at the end of the day, recycling is still trash and we need to rethink how  much of it we’re putting out there.

Day 4
I’m a bit late in the game for this, but I’ve begun to collect my own personal rubbish in a carrier bag to see just what I’ve generated during the work day. Because I’ve been able to prepare well on Day 1, this has been minimal – with only a few odd chocolate wrappers and a little other packaging. At home, this is another story altogether. This exercise has really shown me how much packaged material we bring into our home – and this packaging primarily stems from purchased food. This comes in the form of both convenience foods and whole foods too. I’m probably doing marginally better than most because we run a whole foods cooperative in my area and I do buy a lot of products in bulk – from grains, to flours, to cleaning materials. Nevertheless, our recycling bin in the kitchen gets filled at least every other day and has even been a challenge this week.

Day 5
Because I knew Zero Waste Week was coming up, and because we’re leading on the campaign with iiE members, several months ago I started up a wormery. After my first failed attempt (worms and dirt from the garden won’t work as a starting point!), I got a supplement kit with proper ‘tiger’ worms and coir bedding to get it started. After almost two months in, our wormery is running excellently, generating loads of ‘worm tea’ for my flower baskets and the results are pretty amazing. It closes the loop on our food waste at home, as long as its all veggie.

Day 6
It’s the last day of Zero Waste Week. It’s been a very interesting week, made easier by preparation and planning. If it wasn’t for my afternoon of preparing several days’ worth of lunches and quick mid-week meals, I would have really struggled to keep the levels of rubbish down. This exercise really showed me that being ‘green’ is a journey in this modern world of ours, what we do at work and at home all have an impact.

The biggest takeaway message for me this week has been to ask myself this question before I buy most things: “What am I going to do with this packaging or product once I’ve finished with it?” Where is it going to end up?




Planet B: Clutter Bank

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 18.09.2017

Time: 11:10

The starting point for the Clutter Bank was a growing awareness of ‘the stuff’ in our lives, how we deal with it and the effect it has on our lives and the planet.

Dealing with possessions can be stressful. Most of us have to deal with an ongoing flood of objects that are bought, given or magically appear in our lives. They need tidying, sorting and inevitably throwing out every now and then so that we don’t drown under it all. No wonder personal storage use is on the increase. A study published by UCLA showed that women’s stress hormones peaked during the times they were dealing with their possessions and material goods.

And yet the way we measure the economic health of the country is by calculating how much we spend and therefore how much we buy. It’s hard to resist the desire to pop into those sales, that people won’t judge us if our shoes are scruffy or if we deny our children the latest hot craze.

During the Clutter Bank installation at Queensgate, it was interesting speaking to some of the older generation, and it’s apparent that this is a recent and modern problem. Within one generation the number of objects we own has doubled.

The Clutter Bank was filled with a collection of hand-sized clutter. We asked people to attempt to count their possessions with our ginormous survey, sort through the clutter to find something that relates to their lives and then share a thought with others by writing a label.

We found that, with so much clutter, and so much apparent disorder of lost, broken and unloved items it was possible to create a new order. It was been possible to sort the items into colours and categories and perhaps recognise patterns in this collective clutter drawer. I wonder if this new creation of order from disorder might be something to draw upon again, and might form a metaphor for the state we find ourselves in faced with climate change.

During the installation, the days were filled with interesting conversations about what people collect, how they feel about clutter and how they deal with it. I spoke to a woman who recalled that her toys as a child had fitted into one bag and a young woman who was aware that she had a problem with hoarding, a couple who collect garden gnomes (with over 350 hand painted ornaments filling their garden), and a man who recognised that his inability to fix broken objects makes him feel embarrassed and somehow less of a man.

Taking part in the Planet B festival was inspiring and an exciting opportunity. It offered an opportunity to meet other artists and professionals who are engaged in participatory practice and interested in activism and using art to tackle or engage with issues faced by climate change. It has been an opportunity to take part in events in the festival itself and learn more about the issues and about the amazing things that people are doing to combat climate change.

A particular highlight for me was to watch ‘Demain’, the acclaimed documentary that won a prize in Cannes 2016. Do find a way to watch this, if you can, because it is packed with exciting projects that ordinary people are creating to side-step governments and big business to find new ways of thinking and living.

Now Planet B is over and autumn is here, I find that the festival has given me new energy and focus to develop more projects dealing with these difficult ideas of relinquishment and the insecurity of climate change. I now find myself planning on keeping the clutter collected from the project with the idea of taking it to another city to ask them “What’s in your clutter drawer’?

Emily Tracy was one of the artists commissioned as part of the Planet B festival in Peterborough, which ran in July and August 2017.



Are we ready for ESOS Phase 2?

Category: Business

Date: 14.09.2017

Time: 09:29

The charity PECT is currently leading delivery of a three year long energy efficiency project with the acronym BEECP, a project part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), completing in June 2019.

The Business Energy Efficiency Cambridge & Peterborough programme (BEECP) aims to provide support and grants to small businesses to help catalyse investment in energy efficiency initiatives, to reduce carbon emissions and realise the associated business benefits including; reduced operating costs, increased competitiveness, business growth and resilience, in some respects a small scale Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

Why do I say possibly not ready for ESOS Phase two? As a Lead Assessor who took part in Phase one, a lot of participants did not feel that the process added value to the business, most likely due to the additional cost of paying for the survey, however the odd few companies saw the cost savings that could be made.

In its first few months alone, the BEECP project has worked with nearly 50 different companies, and the company size has ranged from micro SMEs with three members of staff to companies employing up to 240 staff, and from office based to car engine manufacturers. To date the total potential savings identified have been 3,085,152 kWh of energy, 939 tonnes of CO2e with potential cost savings of over £274,000.

So far the project has found that just under a third of companies have significant energy consumption on the night tariff, mostly when the business is closed for the night, and the amount of consumption has varied from 16% to as high as 33%.

The stats so far indicate that the SME market best practice has the night consumption or “vampire load” of around 8% so far, the next best consumption is on or around 16% which has been average except for the extreme that spans between 20% to 33%.

The main thought that springs to my mind is that a large number of ESOS qualifying companies will have individual sites operating as independent entities, much the same as the SME companies that we have worked with so far. Assuming that a large entity has 10 separate sites, that is a potential for £59K of savings based on simple changes.

That being said, a lot of large entities do have excellent energy control, however an equal amount do not. A comment to the ESOS qualifying companies however, do they monitor all external site energy consumption, do they report on energy spend, do they measure or monitor their energy use?

I believe energy prices are set to rise significantly, and the continuity of energy supply should most certainly be considered questionable, with the Hinckley C reactor now £1.5 Billion over budget and reported to be 15 months late with expectations to be ready for 2027, with the last coal fired power stations planned to be closed by 2025, and a delay in the build programme for gas power stations. Energy prices are not going to fall anytime soon.

Considering all of this the BEECP project on the other hand is offering a free service to businesses in the Greater Cambridge & Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership area to improve resource efficiency. The really big difference between BEECP and qualifying for ESOS is that the BEECP project can offer Capital Grants to qualifying businesses.

The main thing to consider from this piece is difficult times are coming, it’s time to tighten the belt, simple checks and changes with a reasonable investment can result in significant reductions in normal operations for big or small companies.

As a company will you grab the opportunity and push change forward? Are you ready to make a change? To register your interest in BEECP and to find out more, visit www.beecp.co.uk.

Warren Pope is a Senior Business Advisor at PECT.



A Rubbish Summer?

Category: General

Date: 12.09.2017

Time: 11:10

After my previous blog post garnered a record number of views, I thought it best to share another nugget of life at PECT from the ‘reluctant environmentalist’.

This is my second summer at PECT and it’s been jam-packed with awards, festivals and events. It started with the Peterborough Eco Education Awards in June, which celebrate students’ environmental achievements over the year. The highlight of my day was being ‘dabbed’ by one of the pupils rather than the celebratory high fives I was freely distributing. I believe it’s now official, I am too old to be ‘down with the kids’.

The next highlight of my summer was the Peterborough Heritage Festival. I spent the day on the PECT stand giving away free trees as part of our Forest for Peterborough project, talking to residents about their environmental concerns, promoting the upcoming Planet B events, all while being slightly deafened by the ongoing cannon fire from the Guildhall.

However, by far the highlight of my summer was attending the Green Meadows music festival near Elton. I thought I had lucked out on using my volunteer day to help at a music festival – what could go wrong with a bit of sun, live music, beer tent and a litter picker?

Arriving on the Saturday morning, my illusion was quickly shattered! I had been successful in ‘coercing’ my wife and our friend to help me on the first shift after the opening Friday night. We were greeted with a sight that most will remember from any student house party – the ground was littered with bottles, cans and food containers.

While whiling away the hours collecting the litter, I did become slightly disillusioned as to why people in 2017 feel it is socially acceptable to drop litter, especially when bins are provided in close proximity (white bags in the picture).

Once my ‘rubbish’ team of volunteers had transformed the sight back into the lush green meadows it once was, it was time to sort the waste. The festival organisers had provided two bins at each location to allow tins and carboard to be recycled with signs indicating which items were to be deposited in each bag. Quite a simple process and surely most people would be used to recycling since they hopefully do it at home!

It soon became apparent that whilst most revellers could read and follow simple instruction, there was a rogue element who had no regard to ‘following the rules’!

The rest of my day was spent sorting the waste so that it could be stored in containers ahead of being recycled, and whilst anyone who knows me knows I love pizza, if I ever see another pizza box in my life it will be too soon!

While this was the first year PECT had been involved with the Green Meadows festival we are planning to work with the organisers in future years to make the festival even more environmentally friendly and replicate some of the successes from other festival such as Shambala.

Finally, I should point out that whilst I was busy sorting rubbish, battling wasps and enjoying the aroma of a skip on a hot summer’s day, my wife and friend did get to enjoy some of the perks of being volunteers, including listening to the fantastic live music, a cold cider and their first vegan burrito.

I would like to thank all the volunteers who gave up their spare time to make the Green Meadows festival that little bit ‘greener’, and I also give special thanks to Selina Wilson (PECT’s Office Manager) for persuading me to volunteer in the first place!

Stuart Dawk's is PECT's General Manager.