Apple Press Update
I have been busy checking out the logistics, processes and village apple resource regarding Mike's apple pressing proposal. I have also discussed the distinct lack of apples around this year for pressing with a number of you.
Apple crushing, pressing, bottling, pasteurising
For large volumes of juice an apple press, an apple crusher and a pasteurising unit may be hired from Transition Network at Haddenham (www.transitionnetwork.org) for a donation. Bottles and caps may also be purchased here. Contact Kirsten Shaw for more details on 01844 291586 / 07796 438020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If cider is the proposed end product then the pasteurising unit is not required.
If you have a large and empty freezer then fresh juice can be frozen in containers without the need for the pasteurising unit.
Undamaged fruit and preferably not windfalls will make the best juice
An alternative to hiring the equipment is to take your apples in volumes of 100 kilos to Waterperry Gardens. Chris Lanzac is the Orchard Manager and can be contacted on 07864 678867.
100 kilos is roughly 11 carrier bags full and will make between 70 and 90 bottles. Your apples are pressed, bottled, and pasteurised and are ready for collection at a cost of £1.70 per bottle. Please phone in advance.
Having taken a bit of a rain check regarding the lack of apples this year and therefore limited support, it would be my recommendation for those of you who have any, to take your apples to Waterperry and liaise with others in the group to co-ordinate the 100 kilo target.
The idea of purchasing the press/crusher/pasteuriser for the community of Steeple Aston for next year's harvest and beyond is very much to the fore so please pledge your support if you can. The benefits for the village would be significant.
September 5th, 2012
After the un-seasonal weather of recent months many of the apple trees around the village are looking very bare of apples; so this does not seem the best year to invest in the hoped for apple press for the village.
However there are several people keen to get involved in this venture, including the school, and there must be some apples on the trees surely. So the plan now is to borrow a press for a couple of days in the autumn so that we can at least learn more about how it works and plan for a better harvest next year. We aim to do this in late September but we cannot arrange firm dates until we see how the apple harvest goes.
So if you would like to be involved in any way, bringing your own apples, picking other people's, helping to organise the event or operating the press, please let us know. Jen Cawood has kindly agreed to co-ordinate this. So please contact Jen (Tel 01869 349081 or e-mail email@example.com) and she will let you know the final plans when she can.
Apple Juice anyone?
Or even cider? It is sad to see how much fruit goes to waste every autumn in our village with all its ancient apple trees. Not far away, near Aylesbury, Haddenham has joined the Transition Movement and, as part of their programme to 'transition' from a high carbon to a low carbon community they have bought an apple press. This they loan out for small donations to local individuals and organisations who would like to use such a press from time to time but cannot justify investing in one themselves.
It seems the arrangement works very well for all concerned. People get lovely fresh apple juice very cheaply, learn valuable lessons about not wasting valuable resources, and have a lot of sociable fun in the process. The press cost about £500 and the scheme is not onerous to run. There are people in Steeple Aston interested in setting up such a scheme. There may or may not be enough to make the idea viable, but if you would like to be involved in whatever way, financing, running or simply enjoying the social side and the juice, please let me know and we can see if it is an idea worth following up: Tel 347168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Oxfordshire Low Carbon Hub
The Low Carbon Hub is a promising new sustainability initiative in the county. In Oxfordshire, as all over the country, a growing number of organisations are addressing themselves to the problems associated with the relentlessly increasing number of us humans on our planet and with our chosen life styles. Some of these bodies are very small, some quite large. Some concern themselves with very narrow and specific issues and some seek to take on the whole sustainability agenda.
At a meeting in Oxford on 17th March to introduce the Low Carbon Hub, forty-two such organisations were listed in Oxfordshire alone. Among the narrowly focused were such bodies as Abingdon Hydro, who want to set up a small scale hydro electric generator by a lock on the river, or Dean Court Community Action Group whose main stated aim is to minimise waste, or the Barracks Lane Community Garden in East Oxford. Those with the wider remit tend to incorporate popular green buzz words in their names. Some of our close neighbours, all prefaced with the word Sustainable, are Woodstock, Charlbury, Kirtlington and Stonesfield: also there are Hook Norton Low Carbon, Grassroots Bicester, Transition Chipping Norton and Kidlington Versus Climate Change.
One thing all these organisations have in common is that they all spend a lot of time trying to get hold of information that they know is out there somewhere but they don't know where. So they are forever reinventing wheels. The Low Carbon Hub comprises people and organisations who have made it their business to know about these things and who now want to share their knowledge.
Among the things they can advise on is money. Grants nowadays are in short supply; so more and more that means self funding by local communities or by individuals. But such self funding can also be a good long term investment. So if you have ideas for projects, big or small, personal or communal, that could make money by saving energy or creating energy - by Powering Down or Powering Up in the jargon of the Hub - perhaps, with the Hub's help, we could make them happen. If you would like to discuss any such ideas, please call me on 01869 347168 or e-mail email@example.com.
Electric Cars: Guilt-Free Motoring?
David Palmer writes: Here you can see our solar powered car at home in Steeple Aston. Also solar slates, integrated into the south-facing roof, produce 'home-made electricity' to go.
A little while ago my wife, Shirley, wrote about our early experiences owning this electric car: the new Nissan Leaf. Since then there has been much discussion about the viability, range, and practicality of electric vehicles-not least from BBC Top Gear! After eight months of ownership and nearly 6,000 miles of driving, here are some personal impressions.
Our experience so far has been very positive. We enjoy the smooth acceleration (no gear changes!), refinement, reliability and minimal running costs. There are no problems with the lithium-ion battery-which in any case has a 5-year warrantee, and is said to be fully recyclable.
For the "Top Gear" fans amongst you, we've recorded a 0-60 mph time of 8 seconds: not bad for an "eco" family hatchback. As for energy economy, we are averaging between 3-4 miles per unit (kWh) of electricity, which works out at about 3p per mile. One could pay much less by opting to charge the car overnight with an Economy 7 tariff.
The battery gives a realistic range of around 80 miles for rural roads, which sounds like it could be a problem, but in practice one learns to work around this. In fact, most of our motoring easily fits into this range. We've also been able to take advantage of free parking (and electric charging) at venues such as The Centre, in Milton Keynes, and National Trust properties.
One of the major attractions of electric cars is supposed to be their environmental credentials. So how do these stack up in the real world?
The Carbon Trust has calculated the average amount of CO2 produced by each unit of electricity (as generated by Britain's current mix of gas, coal, nuclear. power stations). If we combine this with our measured energy economy (miles per unit), we find that the electric car is about 40% better (less CO2) than the most energy-efficient petrol car: the Toyota Prius (again, using real-world economy figures, courtesy of Autocar magazine).
So far so good. But there's more to pollution than just CO2:petrol and diesel engines emit some pretty noxious gases (and, in the case of diesels, dangerous levels of sub-micron soot particles). Electric cars have no exhaust emissions (and no exhaust pipes). Yes, there are other emissions associated with power stations, but these are much lower (for the same amount of energy produced), and easier to control.
Which brings us on to the issue of sustainability. Every petrol or diesel car-even a Toyota "hybrid"-is still 100% dependent on imported oil which, for better or worse, will run out. What about electric cars?
Fortunately, electricity can be produced from different sources. including "home-made" solar power! Based on our own experiences, a typical 4 kW solar array generates more electricity in one year than an electric car consumes. When the sun doesn't shine, other sources of renewable energy (e.g.wind, tidal, hydro) can help fill the gap. Indeed, innovative power companies such as our own supplier, Ecotricity, now offer "100% green electricity" tariffs: adding new renewable generation in response to customer demand. (And this country does have a huge potential for more green energy-not least our offshore "wind reserves"-perhaps a future topic for this column?)
Whilst there is scope for improvement-in terms of range, performance and price-electric cars are already a viable option for many journeys. Their "carbon footprint" can be reduced further if power is generated locally and/or, by switching to a "green" electricity tariff. Last but not least: a new generation of electric cars is arriving (check out Tesla Motors): no longer miserable milk floats, but fast, elegant-and fun!
Dr Radcliffe's School - Silver Eco-Schools Award
Thanks to Dr Radcliffe's School for this account of how our youngest villagers are learning about sustainability:
Dr Radcliffe's School is delighted to have achieved the Silver Eco-Schools Award. The Eco-Schools group have worked with the children at the school on projects focusing on biodiversity and energy usage. Bug boxes have been made by some children and new flower beds planted outside the infant classrooms. Potatoes and sunflowers were grown by year 3 children, with more gardening planned to produce food for the school kitchen. Next step is of course working towards the Green Eco-Schools Award. There is lots to think about, continuing the work on biodiversity, energy usage and healthy living.
In addition to the Silver Eco-Schools award, Dr Radcliffe's School has achieved Forest School status. We are immensely fortunate to have a large woodland area adjacent to the school field which is easily accessible and a wonderful site for the children to use. Over the last two years the youngest children at Dr Radcliffe's have enjoyed weekly sessions in the woods.
Research has shown that the modern child of the 21st Century lacks the opportunities to play freely outside. This has a detrimental effect on their physical, emotional and over all well being. Thus, there has been an expansion in number of Forest Schools in Britain over the last decade. The key principles are that children are taken to a different place, other than their playground. They are able to take risks and are outside in all weathers. Staff are trained in Forest School methods and learning is mainly play based.
At Dr. Radcliffe's we encourage the children to explore their natural environment, climb trees, build dens and light camp fires. Cooking the chocolate bananas over the fire was a highlight for Reception class children last year. The sessions have been shown to enhance the children's learning to such a large extent that this year, we have offered this opportunity to the older children.
A miscellany this month, starting with an update from the school on what they are doing to keep the children ahead of the rest of us in matters of sustainability.
Dr Radcliffe's School - Silver Eco-Schools Award
Dr Radcliffe's School is delighted to have achieved the Silver Eco-Schools Award. The Eco-Schools group has worked with the children at the school on projects focusing on biodiversity and energy usage. Bug boxes have been made by some children and new flower beds planted outside the infant classrooms. Potatoes and sunflowers were grown by year 3 children, with more gardening planned to produce food for the school kitchen. Next step is of course working towards the Green Eco-Schools Award. There is lots to think about, continuing the work on biodiversity, energy usage and healthy living.
The woods (behind the school) have been increasingly used for forest school activities, particularly by the infant classes. Den building, tree climbing, hunting for treasures such as feathers and autumn leaves are enjoyed by all. The highlight for the reception class last year was surely the chocolate bananas cooked over the campfire! More activities are planned with the older children to make use of this wonderful resource.
Photovoltaic panels around the village
You may have noticed more and more PV panels appearing recently. Two full displays that can be easily seen are: one on the roof of Primrose Gardens, dead ahead across North Side from the Tchure, and another on the south facing roof of Southfield Lodge, to the left of the Tchure from the South Side entrance. Both these are in a style that might not be allowed in parts of the conservation area. So, if you would like to see a less obviously 'panel' sort of PV display, try walking down the Tchure, south to north, and look up at the last roof on your left before you get to the field. There are other styles available too, even better disguised than these. But if you are considering PV panels - which look a very attractive investment as long as the government Feed In Tariff continues - you need to act fast because the current scheme ends in April next year. If you would like to know more, please get in touch (see below)
Thermal Imaging camera
If you would like to see thermal images of your house to see where the heat is escaping on a cold winter night please let me know. I have one volunteer so far who would like to borrow the TI camera from Cherwell for this, but the council would be more likely to lend us this expensive bit of equipment if we had lots of people interested.
Want to get involved?
I now have a short list of people who would like to make Sustainable Steeple Aston more than just a more or less monthly feature in the Life and on the website: people who would like to make sustainable things really happen on the ground. If you are such a person and would like to get involved, please do get in touch soon so that we can decide where to go from here.
To contact me about any of the above please call me on 01869 347168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
I wonder if it is time to make Sustainable Steeple Aston something more than just a heading for a more or less regular monthly offering? (Sorry there was nothing in August's). Many small communities do now have proactive organizations making important and interesting sustainable things happen. Try looking at www.sustainablekirtlington.co.uk, for instance, to see what one of our near neighboring villages is doing. If you have any thoughts about this, or ideas of things we could achieve at village level, please get in touch. Meanwhile, however, the Parish Council is doing a great job and are asking us all to do what we can to support the project outlined below which could be of real long term value for the village. If you have not done so already, please sign up.
Energyshare - Stop Press!
Steeple Aston is now into the second round of the Energyshare bid to re-roof and insulate the Sport and Recreation Centre and install photo voltaic panels on the three community buildings in Fir Lane. We are working on putting a really good bid together but we need YOU! The bid will be judged in part on the community support it has. At present 86 people have signed up to support it but we need more. Anyone can sign up, so ask friends and relatives all over to support the bid. The more we can get the better our chance of success! Go to www.energyshare.com/steeple-aston where you will find a SUPPORT THIS GROUP tag in red on the right of the page. Click on that and you can log in to support us. We have a good bid and a real chance of success, so it is worth making the effort to add your support - thank you.
A Message from Cherwell District Council
The sustainability team at Cherwell would like us all to know about three more initiatives from them. Cherwell now has a supply of Energy Monitors which can be borrowed by villages for short loans to individual households. We are trialing these - or have trialed them, depending when and where you are reading this - for a few days in Steeple at the end of August. Then they will be more generally available to anyone interested. Secondly, the Thermal Imaging Camera is also still available to borrow from Cherwell. Some people tried this out last winter to see where the heat was escaping from their houses and found it very interesting. If you would like to know more about either of these, contact me as below. Finally, but this applies only to those who do not have easy access to mains gas, there are grants available of up to £1250 towards the cost of installing such technology as biomass boilers or heat pumps. For further information on this try the Energy Saving Trust on www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or phone 0800 512012, or try Jo Colwell at Cherwell on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday on email@example.com or phone 01295 221957.
A Footnote on Recycling
I started this series some months ago with the obvious thought that the less we waste and the more we recycle the easier the whole sustainability business becomes. I recently had the chance to visit three of the facilities which handle the rubbish we put into our different bins. One was the Materials Recycling Facility at Milton Keynes where the contents of our blue bins end up. At the end of the process there only one ton in forty of what we put into our blue bins ends up in land fill. The rest ends up in huge bales of aluminium, steel, plastic, cardboard and paper which are all recycled: and the company that sorts them makes money from them. I found that impressive. The land fill site was surprisingly interesting too. The first thing we were shown was a woman with a hawk to frighten away the seagulls. And the bio-digester which transforms food waste into electricity and fertiliser was fascinating. I will write a full account it all. So if you have any questions you would like me to try to answer in that account, please ask, either by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01869 347168.
This month Shirley Palmer kindly volunteered to write a few words about a new and exciting experience - owning an electric car. Here is her report:
Three weeks ago, I took delivery of my first electric car: the new Nissan Leaf. This is a 5-door, family hatchback, about the size of a Ford Focus, and we have now driven 800 miles in it. An electric car will not suit everyone’s circumstances, but as a second car for local trips, it is certainly worth considering. In fact, we love the Leaf so much that we are now using it for the majority of our motoring, with our petrol car mostly reserved for longer journeys.
First of all, the most commonly asked question: “What is the RANGE?” This is around 100 miles, but it depends on your driving style, speed, whether you are in “Drive” mode (nice and zippy) or “Eco” mode (sluggish and much less fun). My normal daily driving range is 20-45 miles, so this is easily within the Leaf’s capabilities and it can be charged overnight, ready for the next day. I have made one longer trip of 60 miles to Birmingham, where I charged up (for 7 hours) before returning. A constant 70mph drained the battery rather fast, so although this type of journey is certainly possible, it isn’t ideal. Luckily, Nissan have a free recovery service just in case your battery runs out…
For charging, we use an ordinary socket in our garage where we can use some free power produced by the solar PV cells on our roof. There are public on-street pod point chargers and fast 30-minute chargers, but we haven’t tried these and they are not yet widely available. Hopefully, more will appear before too long.
So, a fun car, easy to drive – especially if you are used to an automatic, cheap to run (and not too unreasonable to buy with the various government incentives) and I especially love the keyless entry and start button (as long as the key is somewhere in your handbag, there is no need to rummage the depths looking for it - brilliant)!
Thanks for that, Shirley. If anyone else has any thoughts or questions that they would like to offer for this column, please let me know. Meanwhile, however, on to another topic:
Recycling. Nick Hull e-mailed me recently with some challenging questions about what happens to all the stuff we sort so carefully into our blue and brown bins. I have passed his questions on to Cherwell and expect to be able to report back their replies in a future article. Meanwhile, however, Cherwell are making two offers for anyone who is interested. If you would like to go on a tour of the Cherwell recycling facilities, or attend a talk in the village when you could ask council staff directly about what they do with our rubbish, please let me know. E-mail email@example.com or phone 01869 347168. If there is enough interest I will see what can be arranged.
Sustainable Steeple Aston - Grow your own food
There's nothing quite like fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the ground: and somehow, if you've grown them yourself they taste even better. So, if you haven't got a garden, or a big enough garden, how about an allotment? In Steeple the trouble has for years been lack of water on the allotments. Thanks to a lot of hard work by Jenny Hallam and the Allotment Holders Association there will soon be water. In the following account Jenny has been too modest to mention how much time and effort had gone into this; but if lack of water is what has been putting you off taking an allotment, now is the time to talk to Jenny. Just call her on 01869 340767. Meanwhile, thank you Jenny for this contribution to Sustainable Steeple Aston.
Steeple Aston Allotment Association is almost two years old. We have come a long way in that time, not least in being about to achieve the aim which was the original reason for forming the Association – the installation of a much needed water supply to help us grow our crops. The site has beautiful soil, but it is very light and after two or three weeks of dry weather, turns to dust.
Our Association wants to encourage people to grow their own produce, so that in a small way we are helping to provide the really fresh produce we crave.
Some allotment holders either have no garden of their own or only a very small one, so an allotment can be very important to them and allows them to get out in the fresh air, get some exercise and grow their own fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. How much more rewarding it is to eat your own home grown produce instead of driving to the supermarket and spending a lot of money on fruit and vegetables that are not always as fresh as you would like. It is also well documented that gardening increases well being and aids both physical and mental health.
Our allotment holders get together informally several times a year for barbecues, and to run the produce stall at the Annual Horticultural Shows. We have also compiled our own recipe book. Our allotments were part of the village open gardens scheme and attracted both local people and people from further afield. Produce was on sale and each allotment had a plan on display of the crops that were being grown. Villagers benefit when crops are used both for meals on wheels and for primary school lunches. The school kitchen staff now have their own allotment, and we hope children will come and visit to see how we grow our food. These things help to form a stronger community and encourage villagers of all ages and from all walks of life to get together and to offer help and support to one another.
The allotment site still has overgrown plots and our aim is to gradually bring these in to cultivation, so that even more people can enjoy the experience of allotment gardening. Why not come along and see for yourself? Better still rent an allotment and “grow your own". Please give me a call on the number below.
Jenny Hallam, Chair of the Steeple Aston Allotment Association. Tel 01869 340767
Sustainable Steeple Aston: Free energy!
Most of the information published so far under this title has been about saving energy through sensible disposal or recycling of waste, for instance, or insulating and draught proofing buildings. However the other side of sustainability is harvesting the sources of energy that are out there for us to take for nothing. The energy of the sun and the wind and water is free. Of course harvesting it is not free any more than windmills or water mills or sailing ships were ever free: and the modern technology needed to harvest these sources of energy for our more modern needs have been, arguably, until quite recently, unproven and costly and of interest mostly to "green" enthusiasts. But that is changing and governments, recognising the dangers of over dependence on fossil fuels, are offering incentives to invest in new energy generating technologies. In the present financial climate, not surprisingly, there are few simple grants available to help. But, instead, there are incentives to encourage us to invest our own money in ways that offer better rates of return on capital than are generally available elsewhere.
There are two broad categories of energy harvesting: generation of electricity and collection and storage of heat. Electricity has, until very recently, always been generated from the energy of motion. In the UK that motion has usually been provided by motors burning fossil fuels; but in some countries moving water, hydro electricity, has been an important element, and nowadays wind is becoming an important part of the mix. But the new story is generation of electricity directly from the sun: photovoltaic generation by PV panels with no moving parts. This is revolutionary technology. And the good news is that, whichever way we choose to generate our own electricity, the government will now pay us for it: and it's not bad pay.
This is the Feed in Tariff. It means that "You will get 41.3p for every unit of electricity you generate tax free for 25 years. Over the guaranteed 25 year lifetime of the panels and tariff, a typical system would triple your investment - equivalent to putting money in the bank at 10% interest!" That is not a quote from a commercial company trying to sell you something. It is from the website of Sustainable Wantage (www.sustainablewantage.org.uk). They are inviting other towns and villages in Oxfordshire to join then in a group buying scheme to get the best deals for those who would like to invest in PV and to cut out the cowboys who will inevitably come into this market.
Collecting heat from the sun by way of solar water heating, or from the ground or the air by means of heat pumps, are now well tried and tested technologies. Unfortunately it is not so easy to measure and record this sort of energy collection and storage, and so no way has yet been agreed for the government to reward us for it. However the good intentions are there, we are assured, and we should hear more about the long debated government Renewable Heat Incentive before the end of the year. When more is known it will be reported here.
There are people in the village involved, actively planning, or keen on all of the above. Over the next few months I will try to persuade some of them to tell us more about their ideas and experiences. Meanwhile, however, here is a short postscript about another topic that was raised in an earlier item.
Car Sharing: It was suggested that, if anyone had a second car that was not getting as much use as it should and so was nor paying its way, they might be willing to consider some sort of cost sharing arrangement with others who would like occasional use of a car but cannot justify the cost of running their own. We now have an offer from someone with such a car interested in such an arrangement with others. So, if you would like the use of a car in this way, please let me know and I will put you in touch.
For this or any other sustainability issues, contact me, Mike McKinley, on 01869 347168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sustainable Steeple Aston: Report from Dr Radcliffe’s
Did you know that your local village school has the Eco-Schools Bronze Award?
Dr Radcliffe’s School is currently working towards the Silver Award within the Eco-Schools Programme.
Eco-Schools is an international award programme which aims to promote learning about sustainable development issues and incorporate environmental practices into everyday school life. This is focused around nine key environmental topics. These are – water, biodiversity, energy, global perspectives, healthy living, litter, school grounds, transport and waste.
After achieving our Bronze Award, we are now focusing on biodiversity. An area behind the infant classrooms has been redeveloped into an attractive outside space that can be used during lessons, such as design and technology, science and art. It will incorporate plants to attract wildlife and birdfeeders. Class 1 children will soon be making bug hotels to put in the garden.
A group from class 5 are monitoring and reviewing water usage within the school. Their aims are to increase awareness amongst staff and pupils and reduce water wastage. They will be running a whole school assembly on this topic.
Class 3 are responsible for monitoring the energy consumption from lights in the school. During lunchtimes, the class 3 light monitors are extremely vigilant in roaming the school, ensuring that lights in classrooms are turned off when not in use.
The Eco-Schools Group comprises pupils, teachers, teaching assistants, governors and parents. They have worked together to decide on the choice of projects needed to achieve the Silver Award. The Group believe that learning about the environment is essential in today’s world. This fits with the school ethos about caring for other people, the environment and the world.
Kirsten and Jo
PS: Many thanks to Kirsten McKilligan and Jo Cubitt for providing the Sustainable Steeple Aston item this month. No doubt the children will be teaching their parents all about it.
Also thanks to Chris Hawes for doing such a great job with the thermal imaging camera while we had it in the village in February. If you have heard about it from someone who did have their house looked at and wish you had had yours done, let me know. Perhaps we will be able to get hold of the camera again for a few days if there are enough takers.
Mike McKinley (Tel 01869 347168 or email email@example.com)
This month, a miscellany of brief thoughts.
Car Sharing / Car Club: I wrote in November that I would cover this fully, but subsequent research suggests that anything like the club currently running successfully in Oxford, which was the model I was looking at (see www.oxcar.org.uk), would not be viable at village level. However, if you have a car which is not really paying its way, and you would like to share the cost, or you do not do not have a car but would like to have the use of one sometimes, let me know. There are ways of match making that could be worth investigating.
Thermal Imaging Camera: As mentioned earlier, we will have a thermal imaging camera on loan from Cherwell for the first two weeks of February. If you have not yet contacted me and would like to see where that expensive heat is escaping from your house, please contact me now.
Heating Oil: If you depend on oil for your heating, you will know what a hassle and expense it can be to get timely and affordable tank refills. There are substantial savings to be had by shopping around for the best deals and co-ordinating orders within small areas. A resident of Wooton, Chris Pomfret, has seen this potential locally and set up a service to which a few people in Steeple are already subscribing. He charges £20 per year, but some of his members have saved several hundred pounds in a year, and the average saving is £180. To find out more contact me or go to Chris direct on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01993 812371. Oxford Rural Community Council has set up a similar scheme which is not yet active in Steeple, but they plan to have it available here soon. So there will be competition even among the price busters. More on that when more is known.
Recycling: This was covered at some length in December. However it is worth highlighting some figures from the Cherwell Link news letter pushed through our letter boxes on 10th January. "Every tonne of rubbish sent to landfill costs council tax payers £70, whereas paper, card and plastic recycling costs £10 a tonne to recycle and food and garden waste £38." In these straitened times when local councils have to watch their costs so carefully, there must be better ways to spend our council taxes than throwing them into landfill. Let's keep on recycling.
Power Generation: This is a vast topic which covers generation of both heat and electrical power. We already have good examples in the village of solar water heating, solar photo voltaic panels and ground heat pumps. There are also tentative plans for wind power. Technologies are developing fast and the government is, I believe genuinely, seeking to encourage them. The introduction of the "feed in tariff", payable to those who generate their own electricity and feed it into the national grid, is a good example of this. This can make "micro generation" not just a worthy green thing to do but an attractive investment option for difficult financial times. This is an exciting topic: expect more on it later in the year.
Please Have Your Say: I have had a couple of offers to contribute to this column in future issues, and more would be very welcome. If you would like to write a full page item, or half a page, or even just a brief thought to include in a miscellany like this - or if you have any other questions or comments, please contact me Mike McKinley on 01869 347168 or email email@example.com.
Sustainable Steeple Aston: Insulating and Draught Proofing
Last month's topic was the important but not very exciting business of waste disposal and recycling. This month it's another fairly simple subject. But the difference is that insulation and draught proofing could SAVE YOU MONEY.
Estimates of how much expensively heated air escapes from where in an 'average' house vary. But figures from the Energy Saving Trust are: from the walls 35%, roof 26%, draughts and ventilation 12-15%, windows'12 -15% and floors 10-12%. Taking those in order:
Walls: If you have thick old stone walls, they are probably not your main source of heat loss. If you have double walls with cavities between them, filling those cavities with the right insulating materials can save up to 60% of the heat loss from them. 'Typical figures', again from the Energy Saving Trust, suggest that £500 spent on cavity filling could save you £90 per year which represents an 18% return on capital - pretty good compared to other investments just now and this will of course increase in real terms as the price of fuel increases. If you have single walls you will be wasting masses of heat through them. To insulate these by internal or external cladding is pricier but, because the savings are also proportionately bigger, the return on capital could be very similar.
Roofs: If you look in your loft and find no insulation or, more probably, just a few scrappy bits from many years ago barely coming to the top of the ceiling joists, you are losing an awful lot of heat there too. The recommended depth for loft insulation is 10 to 12 inches or about 270 mm. This alone could save you 20% of your total heating bill and pay for itself within 4 years: an even better rate of return on capital than for the walls above.
Draught Proofing: Getting rid of draughts from doors and window, letter boxes, cat flaps etc can be a very cheap and simple way of saving money: much of it simple DIY stuff that will pay for itself within a few months.
Windows: In that 'average' house, windows are not as big a factor as sometimes thought. But if you sit by a single glazed window on a cold winter night you know how cold it can be. Full double glazing throughout is great and there are some amazingly efficient glasses around nowadays. But if that is just too costly, secondary double glazing inside your existing (well draught-proofed) windows makes a pretty good alternative. Some might even DIY this.
Floors: Insulation can be put under wooden floors in much the same way as in lofts or between walls; or added on top of any floor: and obviously draughts must not seep up from below. Cost benefits cannot be generalised for floors as clearly as for other areas.
While this may not seem the most riveting topic, there are some exciting things being done in Germany and Sweden, for instance, where there a now many 'carbon neutral' buildings which are heated almost entirely by the human bodies living in them. Even in the USA, where they are generally even more profligate with their energy use than we are, there are some wonderful examples. Try logging on to www.rmi.org and look at what Amory Lovens and his team are doing at the Rocky Mountain Institute where, well above the winter snow line in Colorado, they grow bananas all year round with hardly any input of energy except from themselves and the sun.
Meanwhile back here in Steeple Aston, in February, we are borrowing from Cherwell a thermal imaging camera with which we will be able to look at your house and see where your expensive hot air is escaping. Interested? If you would like your house 'thermally imaged', please call me on 01869 347168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
For other queries, first go to the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512012 or www.energysavingtrust.org.uk. They have all the technical expertise to hand as well as information on possible grants (for pensioners in particular, but anyone should ask) and recommended installers.
Sustainable Steeple Aston: Waste and Recycling
From the New York Times earlier this year, under the headline "Converting Garbage Into Clean Energy". Horsholm, Denmark:
'The lawyers and engineers who live in an elegant enclave here are at peace with the hulking neighbour just over the back fence: a vast energy plant that burns thousands of metric tons of household and industrial waste, round the clock. Far cleaner than conventional incinerators, this new type of plant converts local trash into heat and electricity.....Such plants have become both the mainstay of garbage disposal and a crucial fuel source across Denmark.....Morten Sloven, Horsholm's mayor, is trying to expand it. "Constituents like it because it decreases heating costs and raises home values", he said with a smile.'
I'll highlight more hopeful snippets from the press later, but now back to that Local Government Association report I mentioned last month which told us that the country has only eight years of landfill space left. I find that frightening.
So what can we do, each of us, to help? Well if we all put as little as possible into land fill (green bins) and recycle as much as possible (blue and brown bins), that would be a good start. There has been lots of criticism of local council coloured bins systems around the country, but my research suggests that Cherwell are doing pretty well.
However, many of us are still uncertain about what exactly should go in what box, and what should go somewhere else and if so where else?
After my November article our local councillor, James Macnamara sent me a very helpful and encouraging note. He wrote: "Your point about people being daunted by not knowing precisely what goes into which bin prompted two thoughts.
1. Practical: If it's not spelt out on www.cherwell.gov.uk a phone call to Environmental Services should give you the detail.
2. Philosophical: When we started recycling, amid much press noise about councils using "Bin Police" and "Waste Spies" to chastise their residents, I asked the then council portfolio holder what our view was. He reassured me that Cherwell reckons we get a far higher take-up of recycling by an "if in doubt, put it in the blue bin" approach than by being fussy. So if it looks like paper, plastic or metal just stick it in the blue bin and, if it's not right, they'll chuck it out at the Murf (Materials Recycling Facility). A similar approach now applies to the brown bin: if it's organic, stuff it in - just no plastic bags please! So the message is stop worrying and if in doubt treat it as recyclable.
I find that sort of sensible pragmatism from a local council encouraging. Incidentally I did test James' suggested phone call to Environmental Services and, once I got to a human being, it was very good. The number is 01295 221940. The website above is good too.
However, for those who would like a little more on the most common "which bin?" questions: we should not put in the blue bin: glass, polystyrene based materials like meat trays, juice cartons, tin foil, cling film, plastic bin liners or bags, garden waste or food waste. But if we make mistakes the Murf people will sort it out.
So what about those things that don't go into our boxes at home? Well, we have two places to dispose of bottles in the village: by the Village Hall and in the Red Lion car park. At the Village Hall there is also a big container for food and drink cans and, as of quite recently, a small box for dead batteries and a bigger one for small electrical items. There is also a container for paper, cardboard, plastic and cans just down from the shop on Paine's Hill.
There are also collection points for old clothes and shoes at each of those three places, collecting variously for the Salvation Army, Breast Cancer Research and Planet Aid UK. All these ask for wearable items only, in bags. When I asked Cherwell what about worn out clothing I caused some confusion, but their advice was to put them in those same collection bins too. Such old clothes have to be properly sorted anyhow and there are plenty of good uses for torn up or shredded old clothing.
As for other things that you no longer need but might be useful to someone else, there are always the traditional jumble sales in the Village Hall which will benefit a good cause as well as get things off your hands. A popular new idea in sustainability circles is the Swap Shop event which we may try some time next year in Steeple. Another modern idea is to go to the village website, into the Forum under Freebay, and advertise there - or look for things you might need yourself.
For "Large Waste Items" like furniture and white goods which we cannot get rid of in any of the above ways, Cherwell offer a pick up service at £20 for up to four items (but free to over sixties). Again, check their website under Recycling and Waste or call 01295 221940. They also offer assisted waste collection for those who, for whatever reason, have difficulty getting their bins to their pick up areas. (Same contact details). Other bulky and difficult items probably have to go to Ardley. If this is a real problem for you I would like to know so that I can explore ways to help.
To complete the picture around the village, there are also simple litter bins at each of the bus stops on South Side, at the shop, at the bottom of Paine's Hill by the seat, on the corner of Paine's Hill and North Side, at the play ground outside the Sports and Rec and at the entrance to the Tchure on South Side.
I want to keep these monthly items down to one page in future. But there are just too many hard facts to cover on this topic, and I did want to quote James Macnamara fully and give you a taste of the more exciting aspects of waste disposal.
So here are a couple of those promised press snippets. "Total recycling means that in future all waste will be reused, down to the last gram.", "Could vaporising trash kill two of humanity's dirtiest environmental problems with one stone?", "One tonne of scrap from discarded PCs contains more gold than can be produced from 16 tonnes of ore", "New generation of recycling plants will churn out cleaner, greener plastic and be more profitable". From some eco publication for bearded tree huggers? No, all those are from different but recent editions of New Scientist.
Next month, more briefly, Insulation and Draught Proofing as promised last month. Any comments, questions or suggestions to me, Mike McKinley on 01869 347168 or email@example.com please.
PS: I do wonder what earlier generations of villagers would make of all this. For them re-using, mending, recycling were just facts of life, common sense, so obvious.
Sustainable Steeple Aston
I have used that title a couple of times already in the Life and on the village website, and I would like to use it for a regular monthly feature in future. I hope I will not have to write it myself every month because I know there are others who have strong views about sustainability and more expertise than me in certain areas. So I hope they will do the writing from time to time. However this is just to let you know what to expect in the next few months. The four topics I plan to address first are waste disposal and recycling, insulation of buildings, car sharing and power generation. The reasons I have chosen these particular topics to start with are:
Waste Disposal and Recycling: A media release from the Local Government Association in July this year warned that the country has only eight years of landfill space left. Yet I know several people, including myself, who do care and try to do their bit in this respect but are still confused about just what they should put in what bin, what to take up to the village recycling facilities and what to take to Ardley. So if you have any such questions please ask me and I will try to answer them next month.
Insulation and Draught Proofing of Buildings: For most of us these offer the easiest, quickest and biggest potential for saving both energy and money. Anyone who has not already done all that can be done, could be both richer and warmer if they dealt with these. For some there may even be grants and it could cost nothing. After Christmas we plan to borrow from Cherwell a thermal imaging camera which shows how much heat is being wasted from a house. The images show bright red where lots of heat is being wasted, through shades of orange and yellow where it is not so bad, to cool blue where there is no wastage. How would you like to see your house's thermal image on a cold winter's evening?
Car Share or Car Club: Replies to the parish plan questionnaires showed a lot of interest in these ideas, which is why I am raising them now. Most successful schemes are in towns, but that does not mean it would be impossible here. There is a scheme in Oxford called Oxcars run by a 'community interest company' called Commonwheels which seems to have started well. (www.oxcar.org.uk and commonwheels.org.uk). One basic model involves owners of cars, maybe second cars, who feel they are not using those cars cost effectively, leasing them at times they do not need them to a group of people who need cars occasionally but cannot afford or justify the full costs of running one of their own. It raises many tricky questions; but, done right, it can be a 'win win' scheme for all parties. If you see yourself in either of the above groups, let me know and I will see if I can act as a go-between.
Power Generation: This is for longer term, but I know people who are keen and there are already solar systems and ground source heat pumps operating in the village. Recently we invited Tim Lunel, Chief Executive of the National Energy Foundation in Milton Keynes, to advise us on the potential for any sort of power generation from the cluster of public buildings around the Village Hall: Sport and Recreation, Church, School and Nursery School. He saw big potential for photovoltaic panels on the school roof. If you have ideas of your own on power generation, please let me know.
Questions, comments, suggestions, ideas? Please call me, Mike McKinley, on 347168 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Energy saving light bulb myth buster
Why use them?
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 80% less electricity, save you about £3 a year each, and last up to 12 times longer than old fashioned tungsten bulbs.
What are they?
Think of them as compact versions of the strip lights in work places since the 1950s.
Have they improved?
You can now get all shapes and sizes, fittings and levels of brightness, including 150W equivalent and dimmable options. A recent blind test of 761 shoppers, found that 64% preferred the light from them.
Is it better to leave them running?
No, switching them on uses the equivalent electricity as leaving them on for a few minutes. Most now light instantaneously.
How should I dispose of them?
Use the service your local council provides for the safe disposal of fluorescent tubes.
Is mercury an issue?
Ironically, installing CFLs ought to help reduce the need for coal-fired electricity production - a major cause of global mercury emissions. CFLs contain mercury - about 5mg. Locked into its tube, this is harmless.
What should I do if I smash one?
Ventilate the room for 15 minutes. Put on your rubber gloves, brush the bits into a bag, seal it and drop it at your local waste and recycling centre next time you visit.
Are tungsten bulbs banned?
No. Manufacturers have agreed to withdraw them for sale, starting with 100W this year, 60W in 2010 and 40W in 2011.
Where can I find out more?
Contact the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012 or go to their website: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk
This article was produced by United Sustainable Energy Agency (USEA), an organisation created by the merger of Milton Keynes Energy Agency & Thames Valley Energy Centre in May 2008.
USEA works in partnership with local authorities throughout Bucks, Berks, Beds, Herts, Oxon, Hants and the Isle of Wight. It has just been awarded a new contract with the Energy Saving Trust (a not-for-profit organisation funded by Central Government and the private sector) to operate an Energy Saving Trust advice centre for the South East. The centre provides impartial energy saving advice to the residents of Bucks, Berks, Oxon, Hants and the Isle of Wight. USEA also offers a free insulation price comparison service called Cocoon
For more information on the blind-test mentioned in the article, visit: http://crave.cnet.co.uk/greentech/0,250000598,10001096,00.htm
Gordon Glass, Marketing Co-ordinator