Climate emergency. What do we all do?

So this is a climate emergency. What do we all do?

You know, just as we know, that the work we do at the CCF, and all the amazing things that you do, will have an impact on the climate, big or small. Sometimes it isn’t obvious, and sometimes what we should do about it isn’t clear either. But we have been told time and again that this is an emergency, that time is running out, that ‘we are in a battle for our lives’, so it’s time to act.

We have looked carefully in our office and as individuals to see how we can contribute to reducing our own carbon emissions. Now we want to share with you some of our findings and ask you, when you apply to us for support, to consider them yourselves. This might make your costs higher – if they do, we will look positively at covering extra costs.

This is only a beginning, and we certainly don’t have all the answers – so please come back with suggestions and ideas, and we promise to look at them carefully.

Keeping us warm

Heating is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions. But before we even get there, we also know that many halls and meeting rooms are poorly insulated and draughty. Sorting that out will cost money: it will also help to put a dent in heating bills as well as emissions. So we are ready to help wherever we can.

Many halls and community centres – and offices – are costly to heat and the heating system may be very old, so the same offer applies. We know that for many of you, raising the temperature to even the minimum for comfort is a struggle, but remember, an extra jumper can save a lot of carbon emissions! Remember also that as the electricity grid is being rapidly decarbonised, at the same time oil and gas boilers will be phased out. Electric is much kinder to the planet – but expensive, and that takes us back to insulation and draught proofing.

Most of us have already replaced old lighting systems – or the old style light bulbs – at home. This hasn’t necessarily happened in community places and will make an immediate impact.

What we have done.  Our heating is provided from a heat pump , and the office is quite well insulated. However our lighting system may not be up to scratch, so we are reviewing it at the moment (knowing that even renewable electricity has a carbon impact!).

Getting around

We’ve been taught a useful lesson during Covid about the value of home working and zoom meetings. Happily this also means reduced emissions through less travel. For most community facilities this will not be relevant – most users will come from the parish. For us, when people are coming from afar, we will now always consider whether an on-line meeting could replace a physical one. We hope you might too. For some organisations who are delivering goods or visiting users of your service, we understand that there is a difficult balance to be struck between personal service and vehicle emissions. We would still hope that you will think about whether you can reduce your mileage, or use a low emissions car or van, or share transport, or use public transport – there is often more around than you think (honestly!).

What we have done. We have reviewed all our staff commitments to see when and how members of our team can work from home. Even if this only happens part of the time it can make a huge difference. We have had less luck with transport to the office for those who need to come in, because we are in a rural area, and because the roads local are poorly suited to cycling (and dangerous). We use online meetings extensively to limit our impact caused by travelling.

Goods and materials

There are some simple rules of thumb on materials which can make a huge difference. The first is – do we need them? Can we re-use or recycle existing materials? Often the answer will be no, so the next step is –

  • Where are they coming from?
  • What are they made of?
  • How will they be packaged?

This last item is important as there are many recyclable and compostable forms of packaging around. Even asking the question of your suppliers can have dramatic results, as they may never have been asked it before. Our experience is that they welcome the challenge. The question is even more important with plastics. It’s not just packaging, it’s also plastic water bottles which pollute our waterways and seas: making sure you don’t use them will send out a strong message to others.

What we have done.

We have dramatically reduced our printing and now circulate nearly all documents electronically. We use emails for most of our communications and when we print letters we use recycled paper. All of our printed brochures use paper from sustainable sources and vegetable based inks. We separate waste to recycle materials.

Building and construction

Generally we are not able to make significant financial contributions to construction projects. Even so we want to be sure that in our grant making we are not adding to a problem. Knowing that concrete, cement and glass are all highly intensive in their energy use leads to some obvious questions to ask:

  • Can other materials substitute for them?
  • Are there materials that can be re-used?
  • Which are the most effective in terms of storing carbon?

It might seem a paradox, but the production of plastics is much less energy intensive than cement, and if it’s used structurally will lock up carbon indefinitely – so is a good material in construction.

Next steps

This is only a start. Please let us know if there are areas where you think more research can be done. We are not in a position presently to offer formal guidance, but of course there are hundreds of enterprises online offering support and advice.

We will keep this note under review and update it regularly. Let’s get going.

Cornwall Community Foundation

December 2021