Archive for November, 2013

Blue

November 29th, 2013

By Cycle. Autumn. Odessa. from REKORD 8 on Vimeo.

Cruisin’

November 22nd, 2013

Master Works – Awesome Wood Bikes from Anthony Perez on Vimeo.

Bagufacturing

November 15th, 2013

Forseti from Crash Eleven Productions on Vimeo.

Let us take a heat-picture of your house

November 13th, 2013
Thermal picture of a house

Thermal image of a home in East Oxford, by kind permission of the homeowner.

Most of us know our house could be better insulated. Would you be more likely to get round to it if you could actually see the heat escaping? That’s what thermal imaging does – it takes a temperature-sensitive picture of the outside of your house, so you can see where your home is losing heat.

For example, this picture shows that the brickwork around the window on the left is letting more heat out than the window on the right. It also shows that the loft insulation must be good because there is no heat escaping from the roof. Would you like to see what your own home looks like in a thermal image?

Sustainable Witney volunteers have use of a thermal imaging camera this month (borrowed from West Oxfordshire District Council) and we’re carrying out free surveys throughout November. You won’t need to puzzle over the results yourself – we’ll have a public meeting on 11 March 2014 where you can get an explanation of your images (just like the one we held last year). It doesn’t matter whether or not you own your home – the important thing is that you live there and want to keep warm with lower fuel bills!

You can sign up by emailing us with your full address. As ever, we’d like to remind people that we’re just a small group of volunteers and that the weather conditions have to be right for the imaging to work. This puts a limit on how many houses we can do. But the sooner you get added to the list, the sooner we can get round to you. And if you know someone who you think might be struggling with fuel bills, please tell them about this free service and suggest they get in touch with us on thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk.

ReFashion returns to Witney!

November 10th, 2013

ReFashion returns to Witney on Saturday 16th November, from 10am – 4pm, with the town’s Langdale Hall hosting an array of stands all doing their bit to promote the reuse, repair or upcycling of fabric.

With around 8000 tonnes of textiles ending up in landfill across the county each year, West Oxfordshire District Council is working in partnership with all the Oxfordshire councils to tackle the problem of wasted material.

Cllr David Harvey, cabinet member for environment at West Oxfordshire District Council says: “After an incredibly successful event last year which saw over 300 people attend and over 300kg of materials diverted from landfill sites we are delighted to be hosting and supporting Oxfordshire Waste Partnership’s second ReFashion event inviting residents from all over the district to join in the Witney event”

Brigitte Hickman, volunteer from Sustainable Witney has been one of the main organisers of the Witney event. She says: “We were so pleased with how popular the event was last year, and we hope that this year it will be even bigger and better than before! We’ll have all sorts of activities going on throughout the day such as charity shop catwalk shows, crafting sessions and clothes swaps. The event is open to all ages and sexes so I’d encourage everyone to come down, bring their old clothes, and get inspired to do something new with a once loved item of clothing!”

Rebecca Lake from Oxfordshire Waste Partnership says: “Because of ReFashion’s popularity last year we have decided to make it an annual event, as encouraging textile reuse and recycling is really important to us. While Oxfordshire is one of the best areas in the UK for recycling, many textiles are still ending up in landfill. There are so many things you can do with unwanted clothes, from swapping, mending, turning into something else and of course donating to a charity shop. ReFashion aims to highlight these through a free, fun event!”

You can read more about this event at www.oxfordshirewaste.gov.uk/refashion.

ReFashion Witney 16Nov-A4

Means

November 9th, 2013

REMEMBERING JULIA – Ingrid Chavez & David Sylvian from marzio mirabella on Vimeo.

Can we get Britain cycling? (Oxford event)

November 8th, 2013

Philip Darnton OBE, executive director of the Bicycle Association of Great Britain, will be speaking at the Cyclox AGM. Cyclox describe him as an “inspiring speaker” who believes strongly in the importance of cycling for national wellbeing.

  • Date: Thursday 21st November
  • Venue: St Michaels at the Northgate on Cornmarket Street, Oxford
  • Time: 7:30pm.

All welcome at this free event. Refreshments provided.

How can we afford green energy?

November 3rd, 2013

I’ve heard the same argument a lot recently, phrased in slightly different ways:

“How can we afford green energy taxes when people can’t afford to heat their homes?”
“Why are you focusing on climate change when fuel poverty is killing people?”
“Green taxes are an insult to people who can’t pay their energy bills.”

If you’re campaigning for a sustainable energy future, you’ll have heard this argument too. You’ll hear it from people who are justifiably angry about the suffering caused by rising fuel prices – sometimes too angry to listen. It’s not always easy to gather your thoughts in that kind of situation, so here are some ready-made answers.

“How can you say green energy is more important than keeping the heating on?”

Nobody’s actually saying that, because it’s not one or the other. It’s not an either/or choice between the green option and the staying-warm option. Green politics and social justice go hand-in-hand; for example, the UK’s Fuel Poverty Action group fights for affordable energy and to safeguard the climate. Sustainable energy is about supplying energy at a price people can actually afford as well as keeping the lights on (without wrecking the planet in the process).

“We can’t afford to invest in renewables.”

Most green campaigners accept that the UK’s future energy supply has to come from a mix of sources – although there’s fierce debate on what exactly that mix should be! We’d prefer to see more investment in renewable energy and less in fossil fuels, for two reasons:

1. There’s a limited amount of fossil fuel left on Earth. That means it’s not an economically sustainable energy source, because it’s running out, and scarcity pushes up prices.
2. Fossil fuels aren’t an environmentally sustainable energy source either – if we extract and use  the remaining fossil fuels, it will without a doubt push the world into runaway climate change.

Point 1 is about the long term, but it also applies to the short term. A representative from the UK’s sole shale gas producer, Cuadrilla, recently admitted that even a boom in shale gas wouldn’t actually drive down prices. So destroying the countryside with fracking might not make any difference to your bills.

Contrast that with solar energy, where the price of a typical panel (including installation) has dropped from around £10,000-£12,000 to about £7,000. That will save the average household about £150/year on electricity straight away, as well as making money for the occupants from feed-in payments. Which is doing the quickest job of driving down household energy prices: fracking or solar?

“You keep asking people to switch to a green energy supplier. Don’t you realise that some of us have to watch every penny?”

Again, it’s not an either/or choice between green energy and saving cash. As I explained in a recent post about Ecotricity, most people in the UK are still on a standard energy tariff, despite all the hoopla about switching. Ecotricity promises to undercut the standard electricity tariffs of the “Big Six” energy companies, which means that most people in this country could save on their electricity bill by switching to Ecotricity.

Of course, the “Big Six” invest in green energy too – reluctantly, through the “green levies” they’re obliged to pay. Which brings us to the next question…

“How can you support green taxes when people can’t pay their bills as it is?”

When people talk about “green taxes” or “green levies” on energy bills, they’re usually talking about the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). The energy companies are obliged to pay this, so they charmingly pass on the costs to customers. ECO payments make up 9% of a customer’s bill. 3% is invested in renewable energy, 5% is spent on energy efficiency schemes and 1% is spent on the European carbon emissions trading scheme.

Let’s look at that 5% again. This goes to pay for home insulation subsidies, other home energy-efficiency subsidies and the warm-home discount for pensioners. In other words, it goes towards measures to help people keep their homes warm – including people who couldn’t otherwise afford those measures. It’s correct in one sense to class it as a “green levy”, because it helps people to use less fuel – but it could just as accurately be described as a “fuel poverty help levy” or a “social justice levy”.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change calculates that all these energy efficiency schemes will bring energy bills down in the long run, making them lower than they would have been without the “green levies”. So that so-called “tax” is saving you money, long-term.

“Well, how come energy bills are going up?”

There’s no doubt that price rises are happening. The average British Gas dual-fuel customer will soon see bills go up from £1,190 to £1,297. Is that anything to do with green investment? Well, data is available for how much money energy companies actually spend on investment in renewables. So we know that British Gas spends just £7.55 per customer on renewables investment. We also know (from the parent company Centrica’s own annual report) that £49 of the average customer’s annual bill is pure profit. I’m not saying they should heat our homes for free; I am saying that to blame price rises on renewables is ludicrous.

The idea that “green energy” and “affordable energy” are two opposing concepts is damaging, because it undermines the efforts of people who are fighting for both. I hope I’ve shown why it’s simply not true. A final thought: who benefits from the false idea that energy can’t be affordable and renewable?

He’s Got The Whole World…

November 1st, 2013

Peter Bellerby – The Globemaker from Cabnine on Vimeo.