A good read

 Jason Light (PIEMA) – Sustainability and Climate Change Manager, Eastleigh Borough Council

I experienced something new this week. Range anxiety. This quickly turned into a bit of an adventure, but its given me a new appreciation for why uptake of EV’s has been relatively slow, but also the potential they have.

In a previous post ‘Confessions of a sustainability professional, I talked about the juxtaposition of being an environmentalist and owning a car. Well, the trusty old Fabia has now bitten the dust and we are left with one vehicle (my wife Nat’s dog van). We adjusted quickly to having one vehicle, but it has dawned on us that the Van may not last for much longer and it’s a critical tool for her business.

It was my birthday on Wednesday, I took the day off and had a lovely breakfast and morning with my wife and the dogs. Clearly, Nat had some plans for the day, but when I had the offer to do “what ever I wanted today”, the obvious option was to spend the afternoon looking at 100% electric vans.

Now I appreciate that there are environmental issues in relation to EV’s, the batteries in particular. But I’ve been a big fan of electric vehicles for some time for a few reasons; local air quality, the possibility of solar storage, low carbon energy usage, dynamic demand management and I love gadgets.

We popped in a couple of showrooms, and were offered the chance to take a Nissan env200 on a four-day test drive right away. How could you not refuse that? The van was a dream to drive, surely it would be easy to use it for a few days.

As simple as Pie

We were only a couple hours into our Electric Vehicle adventure when we decided to take the van to Winchester to try some Vegan pies in a new restaurant. As it was unplanned, the Van wasn’t fully charged and we’d already driven it quite far. The vehicle itself has a listed range of 104 miles and we had about 35 on the clock, more than enough to do the 15 miles each way to Winchester. Whilst the pies were great, we both spent quite a bit of the time worrying about whether we had enough battery to get home.

Having decided not to risk it, we found a local free public charging point at a nearby Holiday Inn. Whilst driving there I questioned whether we were wasting key miles . . . What if the point wasn’t there? Or was broken? There were so many concerns. In reality, it was simple. A lovely unplanned pleasurable break, a chance to take an hour to have a quiet drink and chat without the usual distractions. Juiced up, we got home fine.

The Lights and the Lights

The next day having driven the van to work and then Uni, I decided to try the rapid charger at the local Ikea. The free 30 minutes charge managed to get me enough of a boost to give me the confidence to drive 30 miles each way to a comedy show at the Andover Lights. But only after I spent 15 minutes trying to work out the knack to unclipping the charger.

Despite the previous night’s dilemma, given that it had 72 miles on the battery we took a punt and drove the EV. It was cold on Thursday so we had the heating on, this instantly cut 20 miles off our range. Fortunately, I’d read in a guide that the heated seats only lead to a minor drop in miles. It was nerve racking and took longer than usual to get back as we were driving in ‘eco mode’, but we made it.

Habit changes

The truth is, it wasn’t ideal driving the van all the way to Andover, but if I’ve learned anything over the years, its that it takes a little while to adapt to changes and overcome habits. Perhaps in hindsight, we wouldn’t have booked tickets to somewhere so far away without a public transport alternative.

There were other lessons, the nicest was that as long as you plan for it and have time, it’s lovely taking 30 minutes out to relax and talk over a drink whilst they charge. This also supports the view that EV points can support local businesses, it certainly led to us spending money at the Holiday Inn, far more than the cost of the free electricity.

The last four days has also given me a new perspective on how much energy goes into each mile we drive, it’s similar to using a home energy monitor for the first time and seeing the dial go up when you turn the kettle on.

Unfortunately, some areas still don’t have public charging points, the different types can be confusing, they are potentially expensive and you can’t guarantee that the point won’t be broken or already in use. I liked the Zap-Map tool, particularly the user reviews which certainly helped us novices.

Now just the small matter of deciding whether the van will suit the requirements of Nat’s business and whether it would be cost-effective or something we can afford.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Since writing this article, Jason has gone on to buy his electric van and is delighted with the results.

 Manage growth wisely

By Editor, Lynda Daniels of Green Business Connections

When Poole based business, Elite Fabrication and Welding faced expansion after just ten years of trading, they needed to plan wisely for the level of investment that was to come.

Elite FabricationCompleting a change of address – and a daunting refurbishment project by anyone’s measure, the owners carried out extensive research to ensure they made smart choices that would secure the future of the business. These efforts are particularly apparent when it comes to their energy management and the subsequent cost savings they will have achieved.

Meeting Andy and Sue Rice, it became evident this husband and wife team has very clear goals for their business – and enthusiasm to see those goals through to fruition in spades. The Elite team has established an enviable reputation, resulting in business from leading Dorset companies such as Sunseeker, Lush, RNLI, Locators, Led-Zip Lighting, Greendale Construction and Morrish Builders. This hard work and dedication to quality continued to pay off until 2014 saw the owners reach a milestone in their company’s history – when their old facility could no longer cope with the order book – or enable them to say yes to larger projects. That was the point they faced the decision to either standstill or invest heavily in the future of their company.

It is clear that standing still was not an option and, when Elite eventually found the ideal premises and location, it was little more than a neglected shell of a unit close to Poole’s Holes Bay that had been empty for quite some time. Following a period of extensive refurbishment, which saw the costly removal of asbestos cladding, the fitting of a new roof, a modern heating system, low energy lighting, new ceilings and windows the company finally moved into their new building in January of this year.

Our motivation for the purchase of the building – and subsequent investment in its refurbishment was to ensure the future of the company for the rest of our working lives – and for our children going forward, Andy told us.

Each decision has been taken very carefully, both with the comfort of our staff in mind and with a view to reducing the energy we use and waste in order to control our costs. That is when we took the decision to become a member of the PEA Scheme, so that our future investments are based on informed decisions, added Sue.

Although it is too early to report firm data from the decisions taken during the refurbishment project, it seems likely that the increase in square footage won’t mean greatly increased costs for Elite.

Lighting

Their 9,261 square foot building accommodates smart modern offices with boardroom upstairs and a large manufacturing facility on the ground floor. Installing low energy LED lighting in a space of this size will play dividends in the reduction of the company’s energy costs. The offices have been upgraded using the latest anti-glare LED tile lighting, which replaces traditional fluorescent tubing and reduces the number of ceiling tiles required.

Rugged LED technology has also been introduced for the factory lighting, with further improvements planned. The difference in the quality of light using LEDs, and the much-reduced costs in energy provides very fast payback and therefore an ideal place to start any cost saving exercise. LED Lighting will also add generously to your carbon reduction targets.

The company also installed motion sensors in areas such as walkways and restrooms and this will ensure lighting is only switched on when needed. Work to upgrade the roof has also improved the quality of the factory roof lights, and there are now periods of time when the lights are not needed at all, Sue is pleased to add.

A further benefit of LED lighting in a manufacturing space, where there are generally very high ceilings, is that purchasing quality products provides years of continuous use. Whereas, the cost of reaching traditional bulb lighting, that is constantly failing can really add up. The PEA Scheme has found this to be a particular issue for leisure buildings, community halls and churches.

Heating

The overall building is served by a new gas fired central heating system, incorporating the latest energy efficient boiler and individual timers on all the radiators in the office space. The owners then introduced a destratification system in the factory space. This technology is designed to ensure that heat which would normally rise to the ceiling and leave staff starved of warmth below is now more evenly and efficiently distributed. This investment alone will see the cost of heating the factory decrease substantially – avoiding wasted energy and therefore money. Another significant move in heat retention has been the removal of the old metal framed windows, which have now been replaced with modern heat retaining alternatives. And a new state-of-the-art Bosch technology door ensures the loading and unloading bay area suffers from as little heat loss as possible when closed.

Fume Extraction System

Rather than investing in a universal fume extraction system for the factory space, the company took the decision to invest in individual extraction units, with a superior silencer mechanism to ensure a better working environment. Not only is this method of extraction more suitable for health reasons, its efficiency will also see the company benefit further in energy use.

Recycling

Owner Sue is very keen to ensure the company operates as efficiently as possible when it comes to their recycling policy. Our plastic is recycled, she explains. As well as our waste paper and cardboard – and we are talking to a PEA Scheme delivery partner, The Roman Group about their system for recycling toner cartridges – especially as the money then goes to charity. This is an area where we are always looking at ways to improve – and will look to the PEA Scheme for ongoing guidance on new initiatives.

Up-Cycling

Although the company has invested in new technologies in the majority of cases, those purchases will go on to improve their efficiency, running costs and environmental footprint. Andy and Sue are keen to point out that purchasing any item for the business at this stage must make both practical and good economic sense. So, when they heard of a number of office chairs that were not only headed for the skip but already in one, they felt it was at least worth investigating. As a result, their amazing find boasts among the best examples of up-cycling we have seen, and represent a contemporary and attractive addition to their smart offices.

A number of those up cycled chairs are situated around a boardroom table that would not look out of place in a high end hotel. On complementing Andy and Sue on the table we were delighted to learn that this too was the result of up-cycling. The highly attractive metal frame is their very own work, made from metal off-cuts from the factory floor. The wooden top, complete with wooden compass inlay, has been cut down from its previous role as a much larger but cancelled order and enjoyed once more by visitors to Elite.

Financial Help

Frustratingly, explains Sue, if you are making repairs in areas of your facility there are corporation tax breaks on offer – but when you are looking to replace something with new it seems there is no help available at all. Not only were our premises too far down the road for repair, but a patch up would certainly not have been a wise investment. It would also not have seen this building reach a standard that will serve our business for decades to come. And, it would certainly not have secured the premises for our children, which is extremely important to us. Working with the PEA Scheme, we will be kept informed of changes in policy and any grants that become available for future projects.

Buy Local

Andy is very keen to point out that as a Poole man, born and bred, he makes a point of offering their business to local companies wherever possible. Throughout the refurbishment project, I believe the furthest supplier we have had to go to is in Southampton, he told us.

The company is also keen to develop local talent and has always employed apprentices. They currently have one apprentice from Bournemouth and Poole College, who is training in Welding and Fabrication, and one of their former apprentices is now being trained to take over from a key member of office staff who retires soon after many years of work at Elite, therefore ensuring those important skills are passed on.

Energy Rating

The Energy Performance Certification, (EPC), for the building when Elite took it over was rated as ‘F’ – and everyone will be interested to see their new rating following all the initiatives they have now put in place.

 

In summary

The owners of Elite Fabrication and Welding have made significant inroads into running a sustainable manufacturing facility. With the added advice from the PEA Scheme, the team will be able to continually improve their environmental management, as well as make further improvements to their energy efficiency – and, ultimately keep control of their costs.

Director, Tony Fisher summarises their work with the team at Elite: This dynamic family business brings a lot to our Scheme. With guidance from some of our experts they will be able to take a good look at their processes and not only implement immediate cost and carbon reduction initiatives, but also plan more for the future. This is exactly what we hope to achieve through the scheme, even more, profitable energy efficient businesses that are more socially responsible when it comes to their growth. Just as with my own business, it is beneficial to seek expert advice on your day to day practices and we look forward to the company achieving, even more, PEA accreditations for their Pod.

Up cycled table top with frame made from scrap metal.
Up cycled table top with frame made from scrap metal.

Up cycled table top with frame made from scrap metal.

About Elite Fabrication

Elite Fabrication is a family run business specializing in MIG, TIG and MMA Welding. Owned by Andy and Sue Rice, they are located close to Holes Bay in Poole and count amongst their Dorset customer base businesses such as Sunseeker, RNLI, Lush, Led-Zip Lighting, Locators, Morrish Builders and Greendale Construction.

With a current workforce of 23 employees, each benefitting from private health care provided by the company, the couple is keen to point out that their efforts are with one aim in mind and that is to secure the business for their children.

Their skilled workforce offers a range of commercial and domestic welding services, from bespoke fabrications, balconies, gates and railings to marine welding, site welding and wrought iron work. From small repair work right up to complex design and fabrication – this recent expansion has enabled them to increase the amount of work they are able to carry out, as well as the size of projects they can take on.

www.elitefaw.co.uk

 

 Star Consultants talk Telecoms and Environmental Management

Anita Potten – Star Consultants with our Editor, Green Business Connections

When considering your Environmental Management (EV) I wouldn’t mind guessing telecoms does not come top of your list – or indeed, I wonder if it will have made it onto your list at all?

I will admit that it’s not the most obvious consideration when it comes to carbon reduction and that is why we called on telecoms expert Anita Potten, Director of Star Consultants, to discuss Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and its place in your EV strategy.

Anita, can you firstly explain the role of VoIP?

In short, VoIP technology simply transmits the voice as data over the internet and, far from being a new technology it was recognised as far back as 1995 as an innovative way of providing businesses with a more sophisticated telephone service.

Explain then, how does HOSTED VoIP translate into a more environmentally conscious way of working?

HOSTED VoIP is fully managed cloud based telephone system. You won’t actually bring any hardware or software into the building at all. You simply sign a contract with your HOSTED VoIP provider and they host all the equipment at their premises.

It marks the end of the complicated manually operated PBX switchboard on site. The benefit is that one product can serve multiple businesses, rather than multiple businesses having to each purchase – and store their own system. One day that equipment will become out of date, grow more costly to maintain or will simply no longer be up to the job as your business grows.

This is where you can begin to see how HOSTED VoIP will play its part in your environment.

Less equipment to be manufactured
Less materials required
All these products will not end up in the landfill
Less power consumed
No on premises air conditioned facility required for larger systems
What about those businesses with remote workers?

This is another way in which VoIP really comes into its own. The technology offers several different features, and one of them is the ability for staff to work from home on a part-time or even full-time basis.

If this method of working is suitable for certain roles within your company, VoIP will enable that to happen efficiently and effectively and will instantly reduce the carbon impact on your business. Less staff driving to your facility every day equals a reduction in harmful emissions, and this is something that is easily quantifiable.

The features of VoIP would enable your business to engage staff in an ‘Environmentally Conscious Days’ Scheme, for example. That way staff can evaluate their action list and choose to telecommute where appropriate.

What about sales teams? They are not generally near a landline

Many of the key VoIP providers can operate what is known as ‘Virtual Extensions’. These connect the employee’s office numbers with their mobile phones. It enables them to receive the calls they would normally take at their desk on the landline, on their mobile device. Again, this may mean less time having to commute to the office. And, it provides a more robust service for the customer, as they are less likely to be greeted with an answer phone – although, if they are it will be the mobile and they will have their call returned that much faster.

Many of the VoIP providers today also offer a mobile APP for smart phone users. This enables access to all their contacts and call logs – and includes an option to send and receive calls from their business VoIP number.

One other item to point out is the ‘Find me Follow Me’ option. This feature allows employees to programme other phones to ring when an incoming caller dials their number. They can therefore choose to receive work calls on their home landline or mobile device.

Suffice to say; with today’s technology nothing is unachievable with VoIP. And you can start to see here how the technology can make life so much simpler for your staff and for you.

Some businesses are using video conferencing as a way to reduce travel and meetings times. Can VoIP accommodate this?

Absolutely – any travel, be it by road, rail or air costs the business in terms of money and its carbon impact. Conducting business is all about relationships, and this level of personal interaction is extremely important. VoIP enables employees and customers to join a virtual conference platform, incorporating a video screen for face to face interaction. This enables the human element of the business process to function as normal.

I guess you could describe it as closing down distances between your business and the customer, from anywhere in the world. Of course, a further benefit is that your remote workers can also join the meeting without having to drive to the office.

For some businesses, security is a real issue. Where does VoIP sit in terms of this?

A secure telephone system is important for any business, no matter what sector you operate in, and for some you are right this is absolutely imperative. A traditional phone service does not offer the level of security provided by a good VoIP provider, and a system that is well installed. For those businesses relying on a digital Skype service, I would point out that this is heavily reported to be vulnerable to hackers.

Suffice to say, you can rely on a good system being a highly secure one.

Does VoIP offer businesses any cost savings?

There are definitely cost benefits for a business using HOSTED VoIP systems. These include cost efficiencies that come from free office-to-office calls and cheaper calls anywhere around the world. It is also scalable without any effort, which means extensions can easily be added or you can extend to new office locations.

In terms of resilience, calls can be re-routed in the event of an emergency situation and call features can include advanced routing and on-net recording, with 24-7 web access to those recorded calls stored at highly secure data centres.

What about the maintenance of the system?

A company no longer needs to concern itself with servicing, maintenance, ageing equipment, the system going wrong – as a fully managed service, that is now the job of your VoIP provider. And, again one system serving multiple companies already reduces the need for maintenance people travelling to lots of different sites around the country and so many spare parts being shipped all over the world.

Thank you Anita, you have certainly helped to explain how a VoIP system will play an important part in your environmental management.

Contact Anita direct: email:anita.potten@starconsultantsltd.co.uk 01202 971186 www.startconsultantsltd.co.uk

Environmental Practice Afloat At Brittany Ferries 

By Green Business Connections

As editor of Green Business Connections I invited myself along to Brittany Ferries’ facility in Poole for a meeting with Sarah Newbury, UK Freight Accounts Supervisor and Keith Baker in charge of Maintenance at the Poole Brittany Ferries site, to discuss just some of the ways in which they are putting their environmental management strategy
into action.

Brittany-Ferries-logo

Fleet Compliance

Have you ever travelled on Dorset’s MS Barfleur, which is operated by Brittany Ferries between Poole and Cherbourg in France? In 2015 it was subject to new legislation which saw its scrubbers or, in layman’s terms, the equivalent of a vehicle’s catalytic converter overhauled as part of the reduction of sulphur emissions in all commercial vessels.

The 23-year-old Barfleur was away from port for a period of two months, while the £10 million project was undertaken to remove the sulphur dioxide from the exhaust system which, although a costly exercise, will certainly future proof this important vessel for years to come.

It is part of new European Legislation, Sarah told me, and will see some ferries go out of service completely in some European countries due to the significant cost of this upgrade.

Electric Vehicle

Electric Van
Electric Van

As part of their green strategy, the organisation acquired an electric Renault Kangoo van from the Westover Group to run around the port, together with their very own electric charging point. “As the vehicle is only used around the port, we do not cover enough miles to really reap any real financial savings,” Keith told me. “However, it makes perfect sense for us as a vehicle as it is simple to plug in, costs so little to run and does reduce our emissions. Another one of our sites has

Electric Van
adopted solar energy and no doubt we will look at Solar PV for this site at some point – and then it will cost us nothing at all to run.”

LED Lighting

Keith met with leading, local LED lighting design company, Led-Zip Lighting who have now installed the tiled edge-lit panels to the office ceilings to replace the costly fluorescent lighting. “We are lucky in this building to enjoy lots of natural light,” shared Sarah and Keith, “but lighting the building is still costly and LEDs are a major way in which we can improve both our costs and our environmental management.”

Brittany Ferries were introduced to Led-Zip Lighting through the Green Knowledge Network after a staff member heard a talk at Poole’s Soroptimist Society by Green Business Dorset on Environmental Management in Poole.

The LED lighting was installed by local Dorset business Martin Barker Electrical, who have worked on many low energy lighting projects across the UK and with Led-Zip Lighting. The company also install low energy heating products and are very experienced in supporting businesses with environmental management projects.

Heating

“We reached a point where we needed to update our heating and will be installing low energy boilers at the site,” said Keith. At that time we also introduced thermostats to each radiator which enables us much greater control over the energy we are using.

We also replaced our old windows and introduced double-glazed panels. This building is 35 years old and the existing windows would have meant heat loss even with the most modern of heat solutions.

Solar Energy

Green Business DorsetGood Property Services in Poole (pictured, BF Keith Baker left, Nick Good owner of Good Property Services right), is pleased to have installed a 20 kilowatt solar panel system at the Brittany Ferries and the company is now the proud owner of a SolarWorld energy generating panel system, distributed across five roof positions to maximise energy generation.

Each solar panel benefits from up to 15% increased energy generation as a result of individual Enphase micro inverters. Enphase also enabled the fitting of panels split over a multiple roof space and were fitted as standard rather than the usual premium for this product.

Pictured: Keith Baker Brittany Ferries with Good Property Services owner Nick Good.

The company were delighted with a more than anticipated energy saving prediction, which they will receive on top of the government’s 20-year Feed in Tariff paid for every kilowatt hour generated, and from the 50% energy generation payment from the energy supplier.

They were also delighted to see just how quickly they had generated enough energy to power a lightbulb for 51 hours!

 

Recycling

“All our confidential waste is shredded,” Sarah told me, “and all our cardboard is removed and recycled. We have also joined the Perry’s Recycling scheme which pays £10 per tonne of recycled paper to the Dorset Community Foundation, which they then share among local charities.” The scheme, which is largely for the domestic community, rather than business, takes newspapers, magazines, junk mail and telephone books.

The team at Brittany Ferries has also embraced the Ideas2Action scheme, which provides endless initiatives for home and business. “The scheme lists the items you can collect for recycling,” Sarah and Keith shared, “and then who will take them from you, what they will do with it and who/what will benefit. We are still working our way through it for new ideas,” they said.

Up cycling Scheme

The team at Brittany Ferries have proven that Environmental Management, or acting as a socially responsible organisation, does not have to be all facts and figures, it can be fun too and include the whole team working together.

Keith is very involved with the Lions Club that supports projects to help local and international communities.

Brittany Ferries Lions projects to date include:

Handbag Auction – Staff were invited to bring along unwanted handbags, which went into an auction held by Wessex Autism.

Coats – Staff were invited to bring along unwanted coats to go to the Dorset homeless charity BCHA.

Eyewear – A current and ongoing initiative is to collect unwanted glasses that can be sent out to third world countries. If you have any old glasses you would like to include, please contact keith.baker@brittanyferries.com

Pallets – “I now scour the site for unwanted pallets,” said Keith and we give them to Dorset Wildlife Trust who use them for wildlife habitats.

Community Environmental Management

“Brittany Ferries is based at Poole Harbour among a number of other organisations. We have thought about environmental management projects where we can have all the surrounding organisations working together,” said Sarah and Keith.

Although nothing has been implemented to date, this is a very real possibility for any business which shares a postcode* – for example, industrial estates – and could result in greater buying power when it comes to negotiating with suppliers. Each organisation would benefit from improving their own environmental management – it is just a case of engaging and sitting round a table to discuss what can be done and the benefits that can be achieved by working together.

My thanks to Keith at Brittany Ferries in Poole.

Useful links. www.brittany-ferries.co.uk http://lionsclubs.co.uk

http://www.dorsetcommunityfoundation.org/how-to-donate/perrys-recycling/

http://www.ideas2action.org.uk/

Tendering for New Business? Don’t be put off by environmental questions

By Green Business Connections

Legislation may well determine a need to demonstrate an environmental management strategy when tendering for new business. Or, it may be in response to your customer’s own environmental management efforts that they expect the same in return.

Tendering for New Business - Dont give up
Tendering for New Business – Dont give up

Or, perhaps they have simply chosen this as one method of comparing business against business according to their best practice ideologies.

 

If you are looking to do business within the public sector you will certainly be expected to have an environmental management strategy in place. In one recent tender request, sustainability was ranked as important as price in terms of the percentage each section of the tender would be awarded. This alone may well put some SMEs off even trying for their business; however, by detailing and implementing a robust, step by step strategy now will render you in a far stronger position to put your company forward next time.

Don’t be negative

It is important not to see this as a negative for your business. Adopting this level of best practice will form the basis of a sound platform for how to run your company going forward, and can have a very positive effect on its running costs. When you then use it in your promotion it can help you win new business and also attract the best staff.

Overcoming the ISO 14001 question

Just because your business has not undergone ISO 14001 does not rule your company out of all tender processes, although it would be wise to look at the possibility for the added benefits it will provide.

However, if your company is not in a position to undergo the accreditation at this time, you might begin your tender by stating ‘we have reviewed ISO 14001 and feel that in terms of the size of our organisation it is not appropriate at this time to adopt such a formal accreditation. However, in readiness for our business development and eventual adoption of ISO 14001, we have implemented a number of policies within our organisation to improve our environmental impact.’

You can then list any of the policies your organisation now follows, such as recycling, training, energy reduction, following legislation and so on.

At the end of the day, transparency is paramount, ensuring your potential customer understands that you view this as an important element of running your business and something you take very seriously.

Help with Environmental Management

It is a good idea to research local help to become better educated on the environmental management tools available today. For example, is there a green networking group in your town or county? Are there any seminars being held locally? Is there a local consultant, or perhaps your local council is organising help for local businesses. Environmental management is unavoidable today, for many different reasons and so it is highly likely there is low cost or even free help out there.

In terms of the policy document itself, there are sample templates available free or to purchase online. You just need to ensure that this document is as professional and complementary about your business as any other part of the Tender process. It is also a wise move to demonstrate that this element of the Tender comes from the highest possible level within your business. Increasingly, it is becoming important that environmental management is seen to come from the top and therefore resonate down through company culture.

Environmental Policy

The questions you are likely to come across will include:

  • Do you have an environmental management policy in place?
  • What actions have you taken to reduce your impact on the environment?
    What environmental training do you provide for staff?
    Who is responsible for your environmental management?

Item 1: If you do not have a policy documented as yet, it is wise to begin one now and ensure it is the responsibility of one person within the organisation to ensure it is kept up to date. It is also vital that department heads are tasked with sharing their strategy and success with this person; otherwise, you will miss important elements that could be moving your company higher up the tender success list. All this information can be drawn on at any time to fulfil your Tender obligations, shared on your website, during presentations etc.

Preparation of this document will also help you to focus on what has been achieved already, and areas which still need attention. It is surprising how many changes have been adopted by companies without them giving it much attention, such as recycling of paper, splitting out waste, re-using envelopes for internal use, taking waste metal for remuneration, having toner cartridges collected, using hosted telephone services, conference calls instead of meetings, PIR lighting and so on.

You can begin by creating an introduction outlining details on the company, what you do, where you operate and your key values.

Then add the statement as to why you do not have ISO 14001 if this is the case.

Next is your opening environmental statement, along with the lines of…’our company policy is to provide our (products/services) in the most responsible and ethical manner – and to manage the future growth of our company with this in mind. We, therefore, place significant importance on managing and continuing to improve our environmental management.

As a company we have analysed areas where our organisation has an impact on the environment, which include *energy, *transport and the use of *paper. We have therefore taken the following steps to begin to address them, with a policy of continuous improvement in all these areas.’

*These are just examples.

Item 2: As you detail the actions you have taken, you should also outline any added benefits to the business as a result. An ability to show facts and figures is an excellent way to demonstrate that best practice is being adopted.

Item 3: We ensure our staff – no matter what role they play in our organisation, is aware of our environmental management strategy and that they understand how to comply. We have therefore carried out…………..
Organise staff update sessions.
You can make your environmental management strategy available as a Handbook alongside their Contract of Employment for all existing and new staff members and detail this in your tender document. And, depending on the size of the company you can hold quarterly sessions, for example, where environmental management for the company is shared and detailed. You can then demonstrate this by date and time taken. If this is difficult in terms of the number of employees or working hours, this can be carried out department by department following the same guidelines.

Also, include updates and results in internal newsletters and emails – and add this to your staff section. You can include a ‘staff suggestion box’ and detail that you operate this system to ensure continuous improvement and that staff feel fully engaged and motivated.

It is important to note here that this type of activity can also help to bond a team and their engagement can have a positive effect on the running costs of your business as everyone becomes more aware of their own impact on resources.

Item 4: Again, a smaller organisation is simply not in a position to employ a dedicated member of staff for this role. However, it will no doubt fall to the company owner(s) and key management – so you can state that the size/type of organisation does not warrant a dedicated team member. We have therefore nominated the following staff (names) (positions) and they have been responsible for……………………. Some companies use the term ‘Environmental Champions’ or ‘Green Team’ for example.

In summary

It all comes down to that old saying ‘be prepared’. As with so many other worthwhile and time-saving activities for your company, it does take an amount of work and preparation upfront. However, a strong environmental management strategy has the power to help your business in so many other ways – and hopefully it will start with you winning that next tender.

 

What is your Energy Bill telling you?

The price you will pay for not taking the time to understand your electricity bill may be a tough lesson to learn, says Green Business Dorset expert Tony Fisher of SwitchedonSavings. The devil is in the detail, he says, and it’s vital to understand the information presented to you.

Green Business DorsetUnderstandably, due to the stresses of running a business what can be considered of less importance today may well be increasing in importance thereafter if you are paying too much – or even too little for your electricity. Very few businesses can afford to overpay a bill today, and how catastrophic would it be to actually be accruing debt for your business as a result of underpayment.

That is why we have asked Tony to help make this element of running a business a little easier by explaining what our electricity bills are actually telling us…

No matter what provider you have chosen, he explains, undeniably there will be a percentage of your bill that is complicated – usually due to an abundance of figures and small print.

It’s as easy as A, C, E

Green Business DorsetWhen you look at your bill it’s vital to ensure the figures being used by your supplier to calculate your bill are accurate.

Firstly, look at the breakdown of figures where you’re shown how much you’ve used (in KWh) in the billing period.

If the figure shown has an ‘A’ next to it, it means the reading is Actual and the figure has been given to the supplier either because you have a ‘smart’ meter or you’ve had one of their representatives visit your premises and read the meter.

A figure with ‘C’ next to it denotes that you, the customer, have volunteered your reading either by completing and sending a card, by phone or via their website.

Either A or C, your bill should then be accurate at the time of the reading – and what you have been charged should be accurate too.

The letter ‘E’, however, is the letter you DO NOT want to see. This is an estimated reading and therefore only represents an approximate usage report.   This is very bad news for your business and you must act on this immediately. If the supplier guesses too high you’ll be charged too much, if they guess too low you’ll start to accrue a deficit which, sooner or later, will have to be paid.

The best advice is to pay attention to any paperwork sent to you by the supplier – including bills, meter reading requests and invoices – and take action in the given timescales.

If you do receive a bill with ‘E’ next to the usage figure then call your provider, give them a correct reading and ask for your bill to be recalculated. At the same time, you might like to ask if they provide a free Smart Meter for their commercial customers, as some providers do. If they do not supply this free of charge, you can consider purchasing a meter at a cost of approximately £300-400 fitted.

Standing Charges

The next step is to look at your bill in relation to how and what you are charged.

Your bill will show a standing charge which is normally quoted for daily usage but may also be shown as a quarterly fee. Standing charges vary dramatically from supplier to supplier, geographically and by fuel type – so it’s hard to know if the figure is right, or not, unless you compare it to the figures quoted on your contract documentation. It’s worth checking whenever you move contracts to make sure no human error has crept in and you’re being charged what you expect. To put it into perspective, standing charges can range from zero pence per day to tens of pounds per day so an error here can be extremely costly.

Cost per Kilowatt Hour (kWH)

This is usually expressed on the bill as kWh or Units and refers to the amount of energy you’ve used and will therefore be charged for in the billing period.

Dependent upon the type of meter you have (this is a story for another day) you may also find additional line entries that provide an even more detailed breakdown including your day, evening and weekend usage.   Again, compare it to your contract document to make sure that it looks correct – and, if you have time have a think about how much you’re using in the given timeframe and why. It’s also a good idea to bear in mind the energy saving measures you can take to reduce consumption.

We’ve had many cases where a customer has had unexpected high usage patterns in what should be a low usage time period (such as night) and when we’ve investigated the reasons why it’s invariably been due to equipment or lights being left on, ovens left burning or even someone else using the customer’s power!

Charges, levies and taxes

Depending on the size of the meter and associated meter there may be other charges for metering, data collection and so on – and if you are confused by all this it’s time to talk to the supplier or your energy broker as it can get expensive.

It’s also worth making sure the Climate Change Levy (CCL) and VAT are shown correctly. Whilst these are Government taxes, there are some circumstances where the CCL can be reduced and businesses can have their VAT reduced based on the industry sector they operate within.

Contract End Date

This date is extremely significant when it comes to retaining your grip on your energy expenditure, and remaining more in control of what you spend and who you spend it with.

Unfortunately, this is one of the items that is less visible when it comes to understanding your bill and your contract end date is likely to be buried somewhere in the dreaded small print.

Once you have located it, make a note in your diary to review this with your broker approximately four months prior to when it comes to an end.   As well as providing your company with as much time to give you the opportunity to take a look around the market, this window is important because each provider has different terms of notice according to the different profiles of meter (as referred to previously). By planning ahead you will ensure you do not miss your termination window, it will give your broker the time required to shop around for a good deal for you and you will not then be rolled into punitive ‘out of contract’ rates.

Monitor your usage and spend

Keeping a record on a month by month basis (or whenever you receive our bills) of your usages and spend may also help you to spot problems. Keeping a simple spreadsheet will enable you to identify and review issues the first month they become apparent, rather than several months and much wasted expenditure later. Of course, businesses vary in their usage patterns and you’ll need to take into consideration changes such as…

  • Shift patterns
  • Increased/decreased workload
  • Boiler replacement
  • Out of hours activity
  • Changes in plant and machinery

Lastly, a very good reason to understand your usage is to enable you to monitor the effects of any measures you may have taken to reduce your running costs.

In summary

  • Look closely at your bill and talk to your broker about jargon busting to make life simple
  • Look at whether it is displaying an A, C or E next to the usage figure. Take action if necessary.
  • Make sure you’re aware of any usage changes such as shift patterns, seasonal variations.
  • Monitor your usage, a simple spreadsheet is a good idea.
  • Know your contract end date and make sure you or your broker issues a termination notice so you’re free to move to another supplier with better rates if appropriate.

Our motto at Switched on Savings is that ‘energy is just a commodity, so why should you pay more than you need?’ So, if you’re looking to drive down the cost of the energy you require please call us on 0800 923 2000 or email info@switchedonsavings.com

Lush Earth Care Team

Interview by Green Business Connections

Green Business Dorset Lush LogoFor the very few of you who are not familiar with the £454M Lush brand, you will have at some point found yourself shopping somewhere in the world and breathing in a very fresh and special aroma. At that moment you will have just walked past one of their 935 stores worldwide.

Dorset and Lush

Dorset is very much the home of Lush and where their first products were launched back in 1995 by the same husband and wife team who own the company today – and four co-founders, although their actual business goes back even further. Poole is where the first of their 935 stores was opened.

Products

Lush products include the bath bomb, synonymous with the Lush brand, soaps, shower gels, shampoos, hair conditioners, bubble bars, face masks, hand and body lotions – catering for various skin types.

935 stores worldwide
935 stores worldwide

The name Lush derives from ‘fresh and green’ and today, as always, the business is run on a culture that lives, eats and breathes sustainability. Dominating the landscape in Poole, Dorset – the company has a total of 23 sites in the Borough, from their recycling plant, to manufacturing, storage and offices – and, they are by far its largest employer.

What the Earth Care Team Stands for

Lush is living proof that what you stand for, stands you in good stead for a successful business. The Earth Care team is passionate about caring for the Earth and works alongside the company as it manages one of the largest organisations in the UK – and certainly one of its greatest exports. It is the team’s responsibility to ensure that all this carried out whilst remaining continually mindful of its environmental impact.

The idea of the team is also to inspire others by encouraging, supporting, facilitating and celebrating an ‘earth care’ attitude within their own business – while through their actions facilitating a knock on effect of change in how other businesses and consumers view their own actions.

A tall order you may think, but it is clear the Lush team take this very much in their stride and consider it just another part of doing business.

Nurturing a mindset

Suzy Hill - Earth Care Team
Suzy Hill – Earth Care Team

Suzy Hill – Earth Care Team

“Before we embark on anything product or business related, the first thing we do is to question it,” said Suzy Hill, Lush Earth Care Team Facilitator. “Do we need to do it at all? Do we need to do it that way? Does it need to be produced that way? Is there are better, more sustainable way? Does it need that type of packaging? How can we reduce the packaging? What about transport etc.

In short, is there a better way to bring it to market or to the process? And, what are the implications now and further down the road to what we are doing and – how can we turn that into a positive by re-using or re-cycling.”

Zoe worked for the company for 3 years before joining the Earth Care team, moving through the business starting at their retail outlets. This experience gave her a well-rounded view of the business and is helping enormously with understanding how to review its processes from every angle.

“It is all about the mindset,” Suzy explains. “This is something we cultivate throughout the business and this is then passed on to the customer. For example, we ask if our customer would like the packaging at the point of purchase, and we know from feedback that this has, in turn, made them question the packaging of other retailers.”

Creating Green Champions

Lush ensures their entire team is behind Earth Care, especially as this has been a company philosophy right from the start and all the staff understands this. Indeed, it is this strategy that has made them a sought after employer in Poole – and around the world.

“Within manufacturing, Earth Care run a Green Team,” explains Suzy. “We meet every Friday and this is where we can pass on information on new projects we are embarking on, provide updates on existing projects and benefit from new ideas from the teams themselves. Following our meetings and brainstorming sessions the team is then able to go away and impart this knowledge to those they work with – and this ensures everyone is aware of what is happening at Lush. This level of communication helps keep us all interested and motivated – after all, this is a team effort and it is what we are all about.”

Lush also adopts a questions forum with their management team – and this resonates across the globe. There is also a Sustainable Lush Fund – SLush Fund as I later saw it called, which looks at funding worthwhile projects on a global basis. But moving beyond simply buying fairly traded ingredients and, instead, developing supportive partnerships with the communities that produce them.

 Influencing the Supply Chain

I put the question to Suzy and Jack, in terms of their material supply chain and how they ensure they share the mindset that is so carefully nurtured at Lush.  “Our Creative Buyers believe in creating long-term partnerships, working directly with producers wherever possible and visiting suppliers on the ground,” replied Suzy.  “This allows us to understand the processes involved and fosters relationships that are collaborative and transparent, allowing us to work together to share best practices and ensure our suppliers understand our environmental and ethical aspirations.”

Rosewood oil project – The Peruvian Rainforest

Lush use Rosewood essential oil in some of their formulas for its beneficial properties (antiseptic, antibacterial and stimulating) – as well as for its wonderful warm and deep scent.

Rosewood is now listed as an endangered tree species due to it’s over-exploitation for furniture making and for distillation into an oil for the perfumery industry.

Five years ago Lush committed to decrease their usage of this oil and to consciously work on contributing to the conservation of the endangered tree within its natural habitat.

Rosewood in native to – and thrives in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon. Here, the trees are increasingly being felled in unsustainable numbers.

In an attempt to demonstrate how rosewood oil could be obtained in a sustainable manner, securing current and future conservation of the species, Lush created a model for producing their own essential oil in situ.

As an alternative to logging and destroying the whole tree, a coppicing method is used by which smaller branches are used, allowing the tree to regenerate. Are planting management plan was also designed and endorsed by the local Forestry Department.

The funds from the purchase of the oil to Lush goes directly to supporting internship programmes for local Shipibo community on forest conservation and ecological agriculture to ensure the regeneration of the forest species in Peru.

Permaculture

“We always aim to find solutions to the continuous survival of the ingredients and materials we require, whilst protecting them for the future and the future of the livelihoods where each is located,” Suzy told me.

This is described as permaculture and represents ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’, aiming to embrace the social culture so important for sustainability. The term combines three elements, including environmental sustainability, socio-economic justice, a holistic understanding of the processes and relationships in nature and a systemic design framework. The emphasis is on ‘observing before doing’ and you can find more of what this means at Lush via https://www.lush.co.uk/article/what-permaculture-0

Packaging

Almost half the Lush products can be taken home from their stores with no packaging.  “It is the customer’s choice,” explains Suzy.  The ethos of the business is to create products that require no packaging where possible, or where they do, ensure that the packaging is kept to a minimum.  There are various, smart initiatives in place – with one to offer a free ‘fresh face’ mask for every five of their black pots a customer returns.  The pots themselves are already made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic, as are the plastic bottles.The Earth Care team is also headed up by Jack Gale who manages the company’s Utility Projects. Jack also worked for Lush for two and half years prior to taking up his present role, and now researches and oversees the utilities, technology and legislation as part of the companies Environmental Management.

The Dawkins Road site in Poole is home to the company’s 20,000sq ft plastic and cardboard recycling plant. “All our cardboard goes through a bailer, said Jack. “It is also recycled for further use and at the same plant we are turning our plastic into products which can be used again. We also create our own wood chip and use it to heat one of our Poole facilities via Biomass Heating.”

Find out more from their buyers and Green Team Manager by watching this video:

https://www.lush.co.uk/files/recycling-our-packaging

 Legislation and Technology

Green Business Dorset Jack Gale Lush Earth Care Team
Green Business Dorset Jack Gale Lush Earth Care Team

Jack Gale – Lush Earth Care Team

“As a result of our turnover exceeding 50M Euros and number of employees above 250 we fall under the government’s new ESOS directive – or, Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme,” Jack confirms. “This means we must comply with regulations concerning our energy by the December deadline. We have been working with an ESOS assessor; however, we are already the majority of the way there in terms of compliance simply because of the sustainable practice we have always adopted. This is also something I am looking at studying, to enable us to continue to comply with evolving ESOS regulations in-house.”

Infrared Heat Technology

Another supplier found through the Green Knowledge Network – included Eco Infrared Technologies. “We are now working with Eco Infrared Technologies in Bournemouth,” explained Jack. The company install low energy heat panels, under-floor heating, heat mats, carbon boilers and solar PV heat panel solutions. “We were extremely interested in this as a low energy, low-cost heat source – which will have an extremely positive effect on our carbon impact, added Jack.”

Eco Infrared Technologies has now installed individual heat platforms in some of their Poole factories. “Infrared Heating technology acts to heat the person first and not the space around them – or above them as traditional heat tends to rise,” explains Jack. “In a case where one member of staff feels the cold and another doesn’t, these products are ideal. They can be individually controlled, so everyone is happy without high impact on costs or the environment.”

IMG_0499Russ – Managing Director of Eco Infrared Heating Technologies

Russ Ustinovicius, Managing Director at Eco Infrared Technologies also reports the health benefits of infrared heating, which creates a movement of the heat in the body through optimum blood circulation. This, in turn, produces a sense of deep warmth and is also good for people with health conditions such as asthma or bronchial ailments, as the heat method does not create air currents that increase dust circulation. For homes and working space with unwanted humidity as an issue, the technology also prevents this and the undesirable mould that can result.

Lush has also installed Eco Infrared Technologies heated mirrors is some of their stores, which prevent mirrors from steaming up.

Directing the heat –with Destratification Equipment

Back in 2012 Lush contacted the Dorset business Airius Limited, suppliers of Destratification Equipment. “At our Hatchpond Road site we were experiencing problems in terms of cold working temperatures and in turn the extremely high cost of gas to heat the facility,” explains Jack. “Naturally, if you have high gas costs you are using a large amount of energy and this was not acceptable in terms of our environmental values for the business.”

Heat Dissipation in Large Volume Space…

Airius destratification units work with existing HVAC units and re-circulate heat back down to floor level. This is particular important in areas with large volume space, as heat naturally rises and is wasted by ending up where you don’t need it – while staff and visitors are not benefiting from the high cost of that heat. This is also likely to have an impact on production.

A continuous circulation of air mixes the internal air until temperatures become balanced and equalised between the floor and the ceiling – known as thermal destratification.

Green Business Dorset contacted Airius to discuss the Lush project and, from an originally estimated saving of some 35% in energy, the reality turned out to be as much as 61% following installation.

Data collected  
Return on investment Just 26 days
Energy Saving 61%
Previous Heat Spend £26,638.83
Post Airius Destratification System £7,333.38
Full system installation cost £2,967.50
Annual running cost of system £68.75
Benefit Re-circulates process heat, enabling free heating.

The Hatchpond Road Factory was a good test case for trying this technology,” added Jack. “This process significantly reduces the amount of heat required to maintain desired temperatures within an internal space – and in turn costs.”

Rain Water Harvesting

 Jack explained, “Water is an extremely important commodity at Lush, so we have incorporated rain water harvesting to make use of as much naturally generated water as possible – which means less impact on the water supplied to us.”

Low Energy Lighting

“We have installed the tile LED lighting in our offices,” said Jack. “And LED lighting provides very real savings in terms of energy costs, as well as on the environment.

Bottle Top Return Scheme

No matter where the bottle top comes from or is used on, Lush began an initiative with schools and the public to collect them and bring them into stores all over the country. “Word spread so fast that we were also approached by local councils,” added Suzy. We are now trialling the tops to create long lasting and durable work and table tops that are as multi-coloured as the tops themselves. This has been a great initiative for getting local communities involved – and one we are very proud of for that reason. We want to share ideas and have those ideas make a real difference.”

What next for Lush

So, what next I ask the Earth Care team, well aware that they – and everyone else at Lush is showing no signs whatsoever of slowing down. “Lots in terms of projects”, answered Jack, with Suzy nodding in reply. “Primarily I would have to say Germany,” he adds. “We are looking at setting up a centre of excellence in the Country to provide the ideal gateway for manufacture and transportation around Europe. The centre will also go some way to addressing the massive growth the company is under-going in Europe – and around the world, as well as supporting its growth plans for the future.

Suffice to say, this growth will be managed with the utmost care for the environment, and the Lush story – as with others we have reported on at Green Business Dorset, clearly demonstrates that a greener strategy also means a cost reducing strategy and therefore a win-win for the future of your business.

www.lush.co.uk

Go Green – Save Money

By Green Business Connections

Talk to any business about their green strategy and the one common denominator for all their stories is the money that has been saved.

imageIt would be nice to be able to tell you that the motivation behind their endeavours is purely about the environment, but for most businesses that luxury is just not one they can afford. No, for many it’s about legislation, the tendering process or the money they have realised it will save them.

 

LED Lighting

Glenn Mason - Managing Director of Motabitz Stores
Glenn Mason – Managing Director of Motabitz Stores

Take a Ferndown retailer who made no bones about the fact that reducing his business costs was at the heart of his decision to look into low energy LED lighting. That, and the fact that it had been pointed out to him how dark and uninviting traditional halogen lighting was making his showroom. But then, that too comes back to money and a need to make it a better shopping experience for his customer so they stay longer and come back again.

Following receipt of his first electricity bill after installation of LED lighting, and a provable reduction of some 40%, he was quick to point out that he was going to strategise LED lighting across his other stores and that, after all, it was making him feel a bit better to be doing his bit for the environment too.

With LED lighting you can be looking to pay just 1p for every penny it is costing you now. Thousands of hours of use, better quality light, a reduction in maintenance costs and more.

Biomass Heating

I was lucky enough to have a tour of Dorset’s leading shop fitting business. They fit Jamie Oliver restaurants and many more big names. The nature of their business meant a lot of off cut/waste wood. This resulted in several skips a month, wit a high cost of hire and Co2. When I visited I was delighted to see how a company can really turn a negative for their business into a complete positive for their environmental footprint and their bottom line!

In the corner, tucked out of the way so you would hardly know it was there, is a biomass heating system. And, yes you have probably guessed it, so much of that waste wood is now heating the factory space, large office space and the hot water for the company. Impressive. And the company will be benefiting from government payments every quarter, from the Renewable Heat a incentive, or RHI – as a thank you for helping them in their carbon emission reduction.

Factory Floor Heat Distribution

I have talked to several manufacturing businesses addressing the issue of bad heat distribution using what is known as destratification technology. This is installed in the ceiling space and acts to control the distribution of rising heat where it is needed. Factories are, let’s face it, one of the most challenging when it comes to spacial heating.

You can’t afford to have a cold and, therefore demotivated staff.  Thes companies are saving money by addressing the high cost of poor heat distribution, and therefore reducing their Co2.

Infrared Heating

This is a relatively under-used form of heating as yet, using a very low amount of energy. A very useful attribute is the fact that it can add to a buildings heating system by simply plugging it in. Although it can be used in any type of business – or home for that matter, it really comes into its own in the case studies I have seen when a high ceiling, high volume space is concerned.

Right now I am thinking of a church application, a notoriously and quite often impossible space to heat. Or, at least the people. As heat rises, the ceiling is enjoying most of that lovely heat you are paying dearly for. Enter Infrared heat, which acts more like an object/person seeking missile. That is where it directs it’s energy, not towards the large volume of space but at their congregation.

A Birmingham church reported its congregation being able to take their coats off for the very first time during the colder months, all that benefit from a much cheaper form of heating. And adding so much less to their Co2 emissions. Infrared heating is reputed to be the only heat for the area between the knee and foot, an area where people can feel the cold very quickly in a large space.

By heating the person it also reports enormous health benefits, and by not pushing air around the building it is better for sufferers of Asthma or bronchial conditions.

Also, if you have staff that feel the cold and complain all the time, this is the heating for you. It would be safe to say that a member of your team that feels the cold will not be at their most productive – which is costing you money too. You can buy individual infrared heat mats – good from the office to the factory floor. Pets love them too, especially ill or arthritic animals – so vets and grooming parlours would benefit from offering them as part of their service.

The products include infrared boilers, under-floor heating, heat panels in white or coloured glass, picture or loco panels, industrial panels, heat mats.

Solar Electricity

IMG_0659I have never quite got over the novelty that Green Business Dorset runs on solar energy. I know there are 16 panels on the roof, representing 4 kilowatts, but as I can’t see them it’s strange to think they just get on with working hard with no fuss whatsoever. As we have a micro inverter on each panel, called Enphase, I log in now and again to see how we are doing (although there is also a meter on the wall) as each panel is able to report to me. And Enphase boosts our energy generation by as much as 35%. Enphase is also good for roofs with shading issues and for smaller roof spaces – enabling a split roof location installation. This is because most systems run on a single inverter, lumping the energy into one single source. So, if two panels are shaded it will bring the whole array down to that level.

The cost of our electricity halved immediately, and despite going in during an autumn we were still generating happily away as its only daylight that’s required and when does the sun ever have a duvet day!

Something that has always shocked me, is just how much businesses pay in energy. Visit a manufacturing facility, for example, and it’s staggering. Imagine, then, what it cost to run one of our hospitals on a 24/7 basis. It can be crippling to pay energy bills of this amount before you even pay your staff, buy materials, stock and more.

We get paid from the government Feed in Tariff, or FIT incentive. You receive this every quarter, based on what you generate in kilowatt hours. No matter whether we use all the kilowatts we generate, or not, we still receive money for every kW. Plus, it is estimated on a basis that we will send 50% back to the grid for the to sell on, and they pay us for that too.

On top of that we have a very low cost iBoost hot water system. This is linked to our water tank, so you do need to have one, but any energy we don’t use goes to our iBoost which means as well as having solar electricity, we also have solar hot water.

This is all so logical to me, so it makes no sense that the financial incentive is being stripped back to almost nothing for installs after December. A much earlier phase out than was promised. The same has happened with other renewables.

With domestic installations you will still cut your energy bill in half but payback will be much longer but, in time, with rising energy prices I am sure the public will come back to solar energy – for commercial installations a good many will still stack up as their bills can be that much higher.

Air-Conditioning

Most of us have heard that air-conditioning is a high-cost exercise – and it is a luxury item most do without. But what if the nature of your business dictates a need to use this technology. I go back to our hospitals, for example. And, with climate change we will need to use them more and more.

Not only are they bad news for the budget, they are extremely bad news for the environment.

I was interested, therefore, when I met a Dorset business that were tackling this exact issue with an invention born out of their own frustration at the inadequacy of this technology to regulate itself and therefore reduce the cost of running it.

Turns out that a low cost unit was the answer, manufactured right here in Dorset it is removing the human element of managing the systems and it is being sold all over the UK and now in Europe. The NHS Trust, British Gas, Universities, retail giants, manufacturing – you name it. If you run air-conditioning the cost saving data I’ve seen is staggering.

Cardboard

I recently interviewed a manufacturing company in Poole and some weeks later I saw them enthuse on LinkedIn that they had been trialling a waste compactor and cardboard and plastics baler. They took the decision not to buy the equipment, but rent it and the savings they are making is more than paying for them to do so. They were paying for bin after bin and, and it is hard to impress on staff to be more efficient on how they pack the cardboard in those bins. This was costing the dearly in money and on their carbon footprint.

Their head of Health & Safety and Environmental Management reported that he was amazed just how the volume was reduced by the baler – saying “it has to be seen to be believed’. As a result they were anticipating a 50% reduction in the cost of unavoidable cardboard waste. And then there is the income they will earn from that cardboard. And, of course, their good management has reduced what was previously directed to landfill.

There are so many stories just like these, but I hope you already beginning to get the gist of our message at Green Business Connections, and that you too will begin to investigate the green power of cost reduction.

To share your story contact lynda.daniels@southernsustainability.co.uk