Where to save energy: appliances

As price rises drive people to look for ways to save energy, it pays to know which appliances use the most power. If you know what’s most expensive to run, you know what to switch off! This chart from Bloomberg is a neat visual summary of how much it costs to use various appliances, in a typical day:

As you can clearly see, heating is the killer. If you want to reduce those costs, you can do the obvious things like turning down the thermostat and putting a jumper on – but you do that anyway, right? The big difference will come from adding insulation so that your house stays warmer for longer, making better use of the energy that you use in heating. Loft insulation and cavity-wall insulation are the big ones. Draught-proofing is quick and cheap. And adding thermal curtain linings on windows can make a difference too.

There are also a handful of other potential savings in that list. If you can cook less with the hob or the oven, and more with the microwave, that will definitely add up. You could boil the kettle and wash up the old fashioned way, and let the £1 saving motivate you. Hanging the laundry on the line is even better, and I spy a great excuse not to do any ironing.

The most frequently heard advice on energy saving is to switch off lights when you leave a room – which is great, but is only going to save pennies.

We’re all going to have to think about our energy use carefully in the coming months. And every little saving that we make will reduce carbon emissions too.

Luton residents fundraise for Pakistan

Luton residents are rallying in support of communities in Pakistan after the country was hit by historic flooding. Mosques, local businesses, organisations and individuals have been working together, hosting events including a sponsored car wash and a charity dinner. The funds will go towards relief efforts in Pakistan, where 33 million people have been affected by flooding. Many have lost homes, crops and livestock in the heaviest monsoon season for a decade.

Among those playing a key role in coordinating the fundraising efforts is local radio station Inspire FM. “What we’re telling people is that we will market whatever they are doing,” says Operations Manager Mohammed Tariq. “If there are people out there who can do a run, a sponsored walk, whatever you can do to raise money – then we as a radio station are happy to promote that, and to support them in their venture. And if there are people who want to raise money but don’t know of a credible charity, then we can help there too and bring people together.” Inspire FM’s website will be listing details of local fundraising events and projects.

It has been a difficult year for Pakistan, and for Luton families with a connection to the country. Earlier this year Pakistan was hit with a heatwave unparalleled in 122 years of temperature records. Scientists have since suggested that climate change made the heatwave 30 times more likely. Now Pakistan has been hit again, this time by devastating floods, driven by higher rates of glacial meltwater combining with very heavy monsoon rains.

“When you have disasters like this, it brings home the impact of ignoring the environment,” says Tariq. “It’s very important at times like this to not only help and support, but also to look at the causes of why it’s happening, and see the bigger picture.”

Make a donation

Image credit: Children displaced by floods in the Balochistan province of Pakistan ©UNICEF/Pakistan22/Sami Malik

Reporting on the Youth Climate Conference

The closing video from the Youth Climate Conference 2022. And yes, people are already talking about a date for the 2023 conference, so watch this space.

We were delighted to be able to partner with Youth Network, along with the council, Culture Trust, Luton Rising and and University of Bedfordshire to help out with this peer-led conference.

For more, check out the report from Climate Ambassador Shana Ryan in the July issue of the Zero Carbon Newsletter. (You subscribe, right?)

Cycling made E-asy pilot project

Luton has been selected as one of five pilot locations for a new electric bike scheme. Cycling Made E-asy is a government funded scheme run by the Cycling UK agency. It provides free loans of electric bikes, offering people an opportunity to try out a variety of different types – including cargo bikes, folding bikes, and e-bikes adapted for different abilities.

It’s a perfect opportunity not just to take an e-bike for a spin, but to take out a longer loan and trial it properly on a commute or a school run. Or in the case of businesses, perhaps to trial e-cargo bike deliveries and see how it works out.

The project will be based out of an ‘e-hub’, where riders will be able to pick up pre-booked e-bikes, and where they will also receive training in riding the bike.

As well as Luton, the scheme will also be running in Manchester, Sheffield, Hull and Leicester, with a view to a wider roll-out. The Manchester pilot is up and running now, with bikes in high demand. Cycling UK told us that they are “yet to set a launch date for Luton & Dunstable”, but we will report back with more details when they are available. You can already register your interest here.

 XR’s Carnival for Life to visit Luton

Extinction Rebellion are touring a ‘Carnival for Life’ around the East of England, and will be bringing their “big, bold, colourful and beautiful” celebration to Luton on Friday the 22nd of July.

The carnival will start at Manor Road Park at 3pm and proceed towards George Street and the town hall, where there will be a samba band, animal costumes, ‘die-ins’, dancing and more until around 7pm. All are welcome.

“We want to celebrate all that we hold dear in life, the art, the music, the fun,” says XR East of England. “We also need to give the message of the suffering happening already around the world, giving a platform for their voices.”

The carnival in Luton is one of six planned in July, with others taking place in Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Hertford, Colchester and Ipswich, in advance of wider Extinction Rebellion actions due to take place in September. More details on Facebook.

The Youth Climate Conference

Zero Carbon Luton is delighted to be working with Youth Network on the Youth Climate Conference, which will take place on the 11th and 12th of July 2022 at Stockwood Park.

Organised by and for young people, this youth-led conference be an opportunity to learn, to question, to help to shape a better future. Day one will be for participants from 11 to 18, and content tailored to secondary school audiences. Day two is aimed at those over 18, and includes more focus on skills and employability, ensuring that young people are equipped to play a part in the new green economy.

Here’s a video trailer for the conference, with further details from Youth Network here.

In partnership with the Culture Trust, we’re delighted to have Stockwood Park and Discovery Centre hosting us for the duration. Sessions will take place inside and outside, in the gardens, exhibition spaces and buildings, with lots of time to explore the site. Lunch will be provided.

How to get involved:

  • We’re recruiting a team of young people who will be presenting workshops and facilitating the conference. If you’d like to be part of the team, email info@youthnetwork.org for more details.
  • We’d love to welcome more schools groups alongside those already attending. Teachers and heads, please get in touch with Youth Network to discuss your needs.

A big thank you to Luton Council, the Culture Trust, Luton Rising, University of Bedfordshire and everyone else who has been working with Youth Network to organise this event for young people in the area.

Factcheck: Luton’s efficient homes

Luton often appears in lists compiled by PR companies hoping for a bit of news attention. Their methodology can often be highly suspect, giving entirely false representations of the town.

I recently came across two rather different perspectives on the efficiency of Luton’s homes. This survey had Luton at number five, as one of the best places in the country for efficient homes, ahead of dozens of supposedly greener and wealthier towns.

But then this county-wide report names multiple areas of Luton where home efficiency is low, and where residents are paying over the odds for their energy. According to this report, 65% of Luton’s homes were rated D to G.

So which is right?

The facts are easy to find if you know where to look. There’s an open database of all Energy Performance Certificates in England and Wales, so you can see for yourself how Luton is doing.

Of the 72,895 certificates publicly available, around 36% score C or above. That’s the government target, so anything below a C needs work – and that’s the majority of Luton’s homes.

To get to net zero, we’ll have to do better than that, and improve all of Luton’s housing towards an A or B rating. This will be a long-term project. Just 44 homes in Luton currently score an A for energy efficiency.

In terms of where Luton sits nationally, this ranking from Compare the Market has Luton at 242 out of 305, and its figures look about right.

Better homes are going to be an important part of Luton’s story over the coming decades – and rightly so. We have everything to gain from making these improvements. A highly efficient home has low bills, and is comfortable all year round – as well as being better for the environment.

Don’t all of Luton’s residents deserve an A-rated home?

(Header photo by Monika/Flickr)

What could you forage in your local park?

How many edible plants could you find on a stroll through your local park? Residents of High Town got to find out recently, on a walk in People’s Park with Jane Simmons, aka The Hitchin Forager.

Starting at the park’s green flag, it took a matter of yards to find the first edibles tucked away in the grass. Plantain, with its distinctive veined and spear-like leaves, was plentiful.

Further up the hill into the woodland, we were introduced to the possibilities of lime flowers, wild cherries, elderflower, and hawthorn berries. Beneath the trees we found the bright leaves of garlic mustard, wild garlic, and woodland strawberries. The children were delighted to find that stickyweed is entirely edible and tastes (sort of) like peas, as well as being a useful weed for sticking surreptitiously to adults’ backs.

There’s more, including the wonderfully named stinking bob, but I won’t aim for an exhaustive list. The takeaway is that even an urban woodland can be full of wild foods. And while foraging is never going to replace a substantial number of calories and reduce our carbon footprints, it does give us a greater appreciation of the local landscape. When we understand more about the land we occupy, we care more about it. We build a greater connection to the earth, and perhaps we’ll be more inclined to act to protect it.

The foraging walk was organised by Friends of People’s Park and Edible High Town, who are also responsible for the community orchard that graces People’s Park.

Cheaper solar with Solar Together Bedfordshire

At a time when electricity costs are rising, having your own solar panels is looking more appealing with every bill through the letterbox. Solar can be expensive though, and so here’s some good news for those who have been pondering the pros and cons: Registrations are now open for the group-buying scheme Solar Together, running across all the councils in Bedfordshire. The aim is to reduce the costs of solar by working together.

If you’re interested in getting solar panels or domestic battery storage, you’ll need to register here, giving details of your roof size and orientation. There’s no obligation at this stage. Once all the registrations are in, selected installers will bid for the work – and by grouping orders together, everybody gets solar at a more competitive rate.

The winning contractor will then survey your home, give you a recommendation and a quote, which you can then accept or decline. If you’ve been considering getting solar, there’s nothing to lose from joining the scheme – but be quick, because registrations close on June 14th.

Here’s the link again: solartogether.co.uk/luton

Could you be Luton’s climate champion?

As part of its Easy Being Green campaign, Luton Council is hosting a competition to find the town’s climate change champion.

The council wants to hear examples of people who are reducing their carbon footprints, and who would be willing to share their story. Using images and video, you’d be sharing your experienced of how you are cutting waste, saving energy, choosing sustainable transport options, and any other steps towards a greener lifestyle. Who might you inspire by sharing your story?

Is there a prize, you may ask. And yes there is. A family membership to ZSL – that’s Whipsnade and London Zoo – is on offer. It’s an annual pass that’s worth £325, or if the zoo isn’t your thing you can request an equivalent value in vouchers.

“Each action we take on climate change makes a difference” says Councillor Tom Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Climate Change. “Our Climate Change Champions will highlight how small lifestyle changes are impactful, attainable and often cost free – if anything our residents could actually save money!”

“I’m very excited to hear what our community is doing to tackle this issue in their everyday lives – the more original the idea, the better! Whilst we are taking steps to lead the way on climate change locally, from reducing emissions in council buildings to using gas-to-liquid fuel in our vehicle fleet, we know the people of Luton are also key to change. Those with experiences, ideas and ‘green’ lifestyles are our allies and we need to hear their voices.” 

How do you enter? Email the council here: LutonLife@luton.gov.uk

You have until the 27th of May to enter, with the winner announced on June 5th. More details here.