Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Reminder: our quarterly meeting is on Wednesday

April 20th, 2015

Just a quick reminder that the Sustainable Witney quarterly committee meeting is this Wednesday at the Como Lounge on Market Square. As ever, non-members are welcome even if you know nothing about the group and you’re just coming along to find out what we do! We’ll be discussing:

Jenny’s 10 Tips for Sustainable Living

March 22nd, 2015

New Sustainable Witney blogger Jenny Guildford offers advice for living more sustainably.

I’d like to share my top 10 tips for a sustainable lifestyle. I’ve been learning how to live more sustainably over the years, so it’s time to impart some useful eco tips!

washing-up sponge1. Break up with disintegrating washing-up sponges

End the habit of using endless disposable washing-up sponges – you know the kind you buy at the supermarket and end up chucking in the bin after a few weeks. Instead, invest in a washing-up cloth that can be thrown into the washing machine after a few weeks (with other things) and used over and over again. I’ve used Euro Scrubby successfully for the past year.

2. Spend more on less

Treat every purchase as a long-term investment. Depending on your budget, always try to buy the best you can afford and you’ll end up spending less in the long run – and save landfill from filling up with multiple (broken) items.

3. Paint the home green, not red

Thinking of re-vamping your home this spring? Earthborn produce the most luxurious, clay-based environmentally-friendly paints on the market. They’re also great for solid walls as they allow them to breathe – perfect for Cotswold stone cottages! Claypaint and Eggshell both come in a range of 60 gorgeous colours.

Several candles in glasses with a twig design4. Burning the eco candle at both ends?

Opt for a soy wax candle. Soy candles are sustainable, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. I particularly love this Domestic Goddess candle.

5. Filtered water is better than bottled, and more!

We all know that filtering water at home is a better option for the planet than buying endless bottles of the stuff. Well, you can go one better than this. Choose bamboo charcoal to filter your water instead. You can even use the spent charcoal as a moisture trap – and then go on to use it in the garden or allotment to increase water retention! This is a completely natural and biodegradable option. Visit Charcoal People.

6. Do you need to buy it new?

Ask yourself this question every time you need something new: ‘Do I absolutely need to buy it new, or can I get it second-hand?’ With the power of the Internet, it’s very easy to source second-hand items instead of buying new each time. Hunting out bargains in vintage stores, charity shops or car boot sales can also be good fun! Freecycle is a brilliant resource too.

7. Ladies, please!

Use washable cleansing pads instead of disposable cotton wool pads that end up in landfill. Particularly good for removing eye make-up. I received these for my birthday last year and haven’t looked back!

Three onions in a row

8. Loosen up

Supermarkets really don’t mind if you put loose fruit or vegetables on the conveyor belt. I’ve been doing this for years and haven’t once been given any funny looks by sales assistants.

9. You’re a firestarter, twisted firestarter

For those of you with an open fire – or even better – a wood burning or multifuel stove, keep all junk mail that arrives through the letterbox, spent receipts and envelopes that you cannot reuse, to use as fire lighting material.

10. Be a natural

Try to buy clothing and other textiles that are made from natural fibres such as cotton, wool, silk, kapok, jute, sisal, bamboo, hemp, alpaca, or linen. The list goes on! It’s estimated that almost 2,000 microfibres get rinsed out of each piece of synthetic clothing every time it’s washed, which then ends up in our oceans. Read more about this here.

Happy sustainable living!

Urgent: Oxfordshire’s CAG network is under threat

January 9th, 2015

Did you know that Sustainable Witney is part of a network of community action groups (CAGs) in Oxfordshire? The CAG (Community Action Group) project supports local groups and links us together. Thanks to the CAG network, Oxfordshire has one of the most thriving networks of local sustainability groups in the whole of the UK. The CAG project doesn’t have a particularly high profile – they just get on with supporting us behind the scenes. Despite that, the project has received over 50 local and national awards for its work. And now it’s under threat.

Oxfordshire County Council are now proposing to cut the budget of the CAG project, with the long-term aim of removing all funding by 2018. This would mean that small volunteer-run groups like Sustainable Witney would be left with no support network. There would be no formal structure linking us to – and helping us work with – other groups in Oxfordshire. No more fruitful skillshares. No more help with administrative issues like sorting out public liability insurance for running our events.

Please email ask@oxfordshire.gov.uk to object to the proposed cuts.

The cuts are being made for financial reasons – but the numbers don’t add up. The project costs £96,000 a year to run, which sounds like a lot until you realise that this covers:

  • two incredibly hard-working full-time members of staff
  • a support fund for groups like Sustainable Witney to run events and initiatives we couldn’t afford otherwise
  • grants for very hard-up groups
  • insurance for events (which is a very significant cost if you’re a small group)

In addition, calculations show that the work of the CAG project has put around £800,000 of financial benefit into the county’s economy. That’s in addition to helping to create up to ten jobs in Oxfordshire by helping to kick-start projects that didn’t exist before. Cutting the funding might make short-term financial sense, but it’s a crazy idea in the long term.

But the real negative effects are harder to measure. Right now Oxfordshire is seen as a national leader in carbon reduction. That has a lot to do with the sustained, full-time work of the CAG team. Leaving this innovation to small groups working alone (wonderful and committed as we are!) will not achieve the same results. Right now we have a county bursting with exciting, innovative low-carbon and waste-reduction schemes. So many volunteers are putting their energy into running these projects in their spare time. Taking this small but crucial amount of support away sends a very negative message about the kind of place Oxfordshire is, and it won’t encourage any new volunteers.

The consultation about the proposed cuts ends TONIGHT at 11:59pm. Please take five minutes to email ask@oxfordshire.gov.uk and object to the proposed cuts.

 

Tis the season to get crafty

December 19th, 2014

cork snowmen on craft tableChristmas is a time for giving…but also for making. That’s why Sustainable Witney had a stall at the Cogges Winter Fayre, where we demonstrated different ways to get crafty at Christmas.

Over 40 children came to our stall over the course of the day to make their own Christmas tree decorations. The snowman option (pictured) was particularly popular. The bodies of the snowmen are actually made from wine corks painted white, so if you want to try this at home you might have to open a bottle! As an alternative, some children wove mini-baskets out of paper.

Another way to get creative at Christmas: not with the actual gifts, but with how you wrap them. Shiny wrapping paper is very difficult to recycle, which means it’s not a very sustainable choice. We were demonstrating the Japanese art of furoshiki, which basically just means wrapping gifts in cloth rather than paper. It’s not as difficult as it sounds but it looks very impressive – and it’s easy to find inexpensive scarves in Witney’s charity shops at the moment. If you’re intrigued by the idea and you missed our demonstration, there are instructions online.  If you find the concept a bit daunting but you want a more sustainable alternative to shiny paper, why not try plain brown wrapping paper from the Post Office? Or even wrapping gifts in newspapers or magazines?

volunteers at the stall holding up scarvesOur busy day also involved giving out paper copies of the Green Travel Map for West Oxfordshire and signing people up to get their houses thermal-imaged. On breaks from the stall, the Sustainable Witney volunteers also found time to browse the rest of the fair and do a little Christmas shopping. Our thanks to Cogges Farm for organising such a well-run Christmas event and giving us the chance to be part of it.

Reminder: Christmas social, tonight!

December 17th, 2014

Just a reminder that the Sustainable Witney Christmas social is tonight. We’re meeting in a room at St Mary’s Church on Church Green at 7:30pm. Non-members are very welcome; you don’t have to bring anything or commit to anything, just come along to meet us and enjoy some refreshments. If you’re coming, please do let us know so that we can be sure of bringing enough mince pies for everybody!

We’re surveying people’s houses for energy efficiency: interested?

November 12th, 2014

thermal image of a terraced houseThe Sustainable Witney Thermal Imaging Team (not as grand as it sounds) is back out on the streets these dark evenings, surveying the houses of Witney residents who’ve signed up. And if you haven’t done so yourself, then here’s why you could benefit from a thermal imaging survey.

Images like the one on the right can make it clear to an expert exactly whereabouts on your property you’re losing heat: and having to pay both in terms of cash and also long-term environmental damage for it! They can check if your existing insulation measures are sufficient, and also if you need any other improvements to your house.

If your property is surveyed by us, or if you’ve any questions generally, you can come along to a meeting in March at Woodgreen, and get advice from such an expert!

Interested? Email thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk with your address and postcode and we’ll try to fit you in. Please note that we’re volunteers with limited time (and the imaging is very sensitive to weather conditions), but we’ll do our best!

Join the energy revolution

November 4th, 2014
children  holding a banner and balloons

The launch of the Low Carbon Hub share offer at Larkrise School

We’d all like our money to work harder. But what if your investment made Oxfordshire a better place as well as bringing in financial returns?

The Low Carbon Hub is giving you the chance to invest in a “new wave of renewable energy projects” through its community share offer scheme.

What’s the point?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to build another Didcot Power Station? The Low Carbon Hub has a long-term plan to boost production of renewable energy in Oxfordshire, reducing the county’s dependence on fossil fuels. But we’re not talking about giant Didcot-sized renewable projects; we’re talking about lots of smaller projects like rooftop solar and mini-hydro projects. Lots of small-scale projects add up to something much bigger: a clean-energy future for Oxfordshire (with less vulnerability to price shocks).

How does it work?

You invest between £250 (minimum) and £100,000 (maximum) to buy shares in the scheme. That money gets spent on local clean-energy projects. Those projects generate electricity, which makes money, some of which comes back to you as a return on your investment. The Low Carbon Hub says that the return on your investment is likely to be around 5% a year.

How do I apply?

You need to have at least the minimum investment amount of £250. You can apply for the shares online. The Low Carbon Hub are using an ethical investment company called Ethex to manage the community share offer, so you will need to register with the Ethex website before you can apply.

Your money will be accepted immediately and held safely in a separate account while your application is processed. It may take up to 28 days for the Hub’s board of directors to accept your application for shares. If for any reason they can’t issue the shares to you, or end up issuing fewer shares than you applied for, your money (or part of it) will be returned to you.

Will I make a quick profit?

No. The point of the share offer is to create an energy supply that’s both financially and environmentally sustainable. That can’t be done in a hurry. This is about the long term. So the Low Carbon Hub community share offer is designed to bring solid financial returns over a 20-year period. You can’t sell or transfer your shares to make a quick profit.

Is this a safe place to put my money?

If you’re thinking of investing, you should be clear that this isn’t like putting money in a savings account. Your money won’t be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or any other deposit protection schemes, and the return on your investment is not guaranteed. The Low Carbon Hub advise people to think about whether they can afford to lose the money they are thinking of investing. If the answer is no, you are urged not to invest.

What’s the deadline to invest?

You have until Friday 28 November to apply for shares. The Low Carbon Hub is aiming to raise £1.5 million for this part of the scheme, which they call the “first wave”. This will fund lots of solar panel installations across Oxfordshire, including rooftop solar at The Marlborough School and Woodstock Primary School. At the time of writing, people have already invested £646,050 in the share offer – that’s 43% of the target. Could you be the next to invest?

Logo for the share offer, saying "Invest now in renewable energy for Oxfordshire". To find out more and to invest, go to: www.lowcarbonhub.org/invest

 

Autumn event schedule: Swap Shop, Dinnertime, Cogges Christmas, committee meeting…!

September 21st, 2014

We’ve come back from our summer break with a great schedule of sustainable events for Witney in autumn. We’re not finished yet, but here’s what’s already planned thanks to SW and other CAGs and like-minded organizations:

  • The committee is having its quarterly meeting at St Mary’s Church on Wednesday 15 October. All welcome: you don’t have to volunteer if you come along.
  • There’s an autumn Swap Shop at Cogges on Sunday 26 October. Come along, get rid of your old (working) stuff, and maybe find a bargain.
  • Dinnertime returns to Witney on Sunday 19 October. Click through and have a look at that amazing food they cooked last time; and then let Ellie know you’re coming along via the contact link on that post.
  • We have a stall at Cogges Christmas fair on Sunday 7 December, where we’ll be demonstrating sustainable Christmas decorations!

We’re also planning a sustainable drinks some time in the autumn, an informal social evening where we don’t have to feel like we’re organizing or doing specific tasks. Keep informed of this, and all our events, by registering to subscribe to our news feed.

Reminder: free flooding workshop this weekend.

July 10th, 2014

This is just a quick reminder that there are still spaces available on the free flooding workshop from COIN this weekend.

Have you been affected by the recent flooding, or is it a worry? Do you know someone else who has? Book places and read more information about the workshop here.

Oxford green energy pioneers speak tonight, 7pm

June 19th, 2014

It’s a bit last-minute, but here’s a quick note to say that a number of Oxford’s “green energy pioneers” are speaking at a public meeting tonight:

  • Adam Twine, a farmer from Watchfield, home to the highly successful Westmill Wind Farm and Solar Park, a cooperatively-owned venture
  • Barbara Hammond, who led development of the new Osney Lock Hydro-electric scheme and is Director of the Oxford Low Carbon Hub
  • Moira Dorey, a Parent Governor at Cherwell School, host to a new solar power system

The meeting is at the Oxford Baptist Hall, Bonn Square, Oxford at 7pm and is hosted by Oxford Friends of the Earth. They’ll be joined by speakers including

  • Fiona Booth, the new head of Community Energy, at the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change,
  • Friends of the Earth’s national campaign manager, Quentin Given, and
  • Oxford City Council’s Environment Manager, Jo Colwell.

Not strictly Witney-based, but Bonn Square is a hop and a skip from the Gloucester Green bus station!

Talk your way to a greener lifestyle

June 11th, 2014

Many of us have thought about trying to reduce our carbon footprint, but given up because we don’t know where to start:

“What kind of changes should I be making to my lifestyle?”
“Will reducing my carbon footprint mean compromising on other things that matter to me?
“Which changes make the biggest difference?”
Why should I be reducing my carbon footprint anyway?”

You can get answers to all these questions (and more) through Carbon Conversations, a series of group meetings taking place in Witney this summer for the third year running. The idea behind it is simple: give people a supportive, non-judgemental space to talk about climate change and what it means to them. If you’re dithering about how to do your bit to prevent climate change, feeling guilty about not doing enough or feeling totally clueless about what it all means, Carbon Conversations is for you.

Essentially, it’s about having a chat. But unlike a regular chat with your friends, the group meetings are led by trained facilitators. You get a handle on the concepts involved through activities such as games and timed discussions. The groups are small and friendly and there is zero preaching or judging. You’ll learn the basics of climate change and get practical no-obligation advice on reducing your own carbon footprint.

The first Carbon Conversations meeting for 2014 starts on Thursday 26th June. There are still two places left in the small group; if you are interested in joining, please contact us.

The full list of dates is as follows:

Thurs 26th June
Thurs 10th July
Thurs 24th July
Thurs 7th August
Thurs 21st August
Thurs 4th September

This blog post was edited on 13th June to reflect a change in the meetings schedule.

July 9th meeting is now a CAG chat and bring-and-share meal

June 10th, 2014

For our summer SW meeting, we’ll be chatting with the good folks at local organization network CAG Oxfordshire, accompanied by a bring-and-share meal. This will take place from 7.30pm on Wednesday 9 July, at St Mary’s Church, on the Leys end of Church Green.

Oxfordshire is especially lucky in the sheer scale of its network of Community Action Groups (CAGs), of which Sustainable Witney is one. These groups both support each other and also benefit from the great centralized help and advice provided by the kind folk at CAG Oxfordshire.

That means it’s easier than you might think, to set up and run your own local CAG. So why not come along: for ideas, inspiration, and maybe even a helping hand?

Licensed ecological surveyors sought

March 26th, 2014

We’ve written before about the fantastic campaign to build a community path between Eynsham and Botley. The proposed path would run alongside the B4044, providing a safer alternative to this busy road for cyclists and pedestrians. A group of determined residents have been working hard to make this project a reality and they’ve just received a funding boost which could mean that construction of the path starts as soon as this summer.

However, the campaign group have been advised that they need to carry out a detailed ecological survey of the area proposed for the path (the grass verge alongside the B4044) in order to find out whether or not there are any rare or protected species living in this area. They are urgently seeking one or two licensed, qualified ecological surveyors to carry out this work. The work has to be done in the spring so would have to be started this week or next week. (If it can’t be started very soon, this could delay the whole project by several months.)

If you are a qualified ecological surveyor, please ring Ian Leggett on 01865 862614. And if you know of someone who might fit the bill, please show them this blog post!

Personalised heat-saving advice for Witney residents

March 12th, 2014
Two men chatting in front of a poster saying "Affordable Warmth Network"

Dale Hoyland talks to a resident about energy-saving.

Homeowners gathered for personalised heat-saving advice at last night’s thermal imaging feedback meeting. This winter our team of volunteers have been busy taking thermal images of Witney homes.  We invited the people whose homes have been thermal-imaged this winter to view the images and get energy-efficiency advice tailored to their specific needs.

Dale Hoyland of the National Energy Foundation gave a presentation on how to interpret thermal images. He was on hand afterwards to explain people’s images one-to-one and offer advice on topics such as insulation, fuel-saving and home improvement grants. The rest of the team were also available to chat about energy efficiency measures and offer general advice. Energy-saving household items such as radiator foil, energy monitors and power-down plugs were available to buy.

This winter’s round of Sustainable Witney thermal imaging is now over, but our team of trained volunteers will probably re-start the project in autumn 2014. To add your property to our waiting list, email thermalimaging@sustainablewitney.org.uk . (You don’t have to own the property to get it thermal-imaged, you just have to live there.) Please do also get in touch if you’re interested in helping out with the project next winter – we’re always looking for volunteers. For updates on this and other Sustainable Witney projects, why not subscribe to our email updates?

A Christmas gift for our members

December 11th, 2013
The balcony at Seren Loft

View of the balcony at Seren Loft

What do you call the time between Christmas and New Year? Whether you call it “Christmas week”, or use the catchier “Twixtmas”, it’s a time when a lot of people are at a loose end – and a surprisingly popular time for booking the next year’s holidays.

Welsh holiday cottage Seren Loft is offering a special discount for members of Sustainable Witney and Witney BUG: 10% off bookings for the whole of 2014. Just use the code SUSWIT13 when you ring up or make your booking online. Bookings can be made any time between now and autumn 2014 and the holiday can be taken any time before the end of 2014.

Why go there? Well, it’s the perfect place for genuinely green-minded travellers: a rural holiday destination you can reach without a car. Seren Loft is a short walk away from Cynghordy station on the scenic Heart of Wales train line; you can get to Cynghordy from Oxford station in just over five hours.

It’s slap-bang in the middle of cycling country, less than two miles away from the cycle trails of Crychan Forest. Bringing your bike on the train is pretty easy – if you’re used to Oxford-London journeys, the friendliness of Welsh train staff might be a bit of a shock to the system! Or you can hire a bike to collect at the cottage when you arrive. There’s even a cycle museum for rainy days. No wonder the owners describe Seren Loft as a “perfect base for a cycling break”.

The cottage itself sleeps three people (plus room for a cot) and is run on eco-friendly lines. Everything from the energy supplier to the cleaning products is chosen with sustainability in mind.

So during that odd, quiet period after Christmas, when you’re idly websurfing to avoid yet another “Countdown of the Year” programme on telly (or another round of turkey sandwiches), think about booking your next holiday at Seren Loft. The code SUSWIT13 is valid for bookings for the whole of 2014.