Monday, 17 March 2014

Temple does Climate Week - Part 1

by Robert Slatcher (Principal Consultant) & Sam Dawson (Graduate Consultant)

The fourth annual national Climate Week campaign ran between 3-9 March. The aspiration for climate week is to develop a long-term shift in societal attitudes towards climate change. The campaign encourages individuals and organisations to promote activities during the week that raise awareness of the issues, challenges and opportunities in relation to decarbonising our society. Temple organised a range of activities throughout the week with each day focusing on a particular issue. The table tennis room in the office became the climate week hub for the week.

                                                      Monday - Sustainable Food

Approximately 20% (2.2 tonnes of CO2) of an individual’s personal carbon footprint in the UK comes from the food we eat. Factors that contribute to the carbon generated by food relate to the production process, processing, packaging, transportation, the seasonality and the storage. By eating in a manner that aligns with reducing the carbon required at each stage we can make a significant change to our personal footprint.

Climate Week kicked off with Eric Steltzer presenting on how to grow your own food and maintain an allotment. There was great interest from the 24 individuals that attended and plenty of questions at the end. Growing your own produce can significantly reduce the carbon associated with packaging and transportation. You are also more likely to grow seasonal produce thereby avoiding the use of energy to generate man made climatic conditions to grow out of season. Each employee that attended the event received their own pea seedling to inspire and kick start their own food collection.

At lunchtime a selection of low carbon food, prepared by Temple staff over the weekend, was set out. The aim was to use seasonal, local produce to reduce the carbon intensity of the food. The selection included a Kale and spinach tart; parsnip and apple soup; beetroot brownies; locally sourced cheese – the “Brighton Blue”; home-grown sprouts; and a kale, melon & orange smoothie.

Tuesday – Waste

The challenge for Tuesday was to produce zero waste. Although recycling saves energy (goods manufactured from recycled materials typically use less energy than those from virgin materials) waste prevention is the ultimate aspiration. This is because it is even more effective at saving energy (less energy is needed to extract, transport and process raw materials and to manufacture products). Reducing the demand for energy results in fewer fossil fuels being burnt and less CO2 is emitted to the atmosphere as a result.

Reduction in excess printing and paper waste was attempted through scowling posters of a member of the office environment team positioned over the printers; waste prevention and recycling of paper allows fewer trees to be felled and hence the carbon sequestration process (whereby trees absorb CO2 and store it in their wood) can continue and be maintained.

Staff were encouraged to bring in their own food from home in tupperware containers; as waste prevention and recycling of organic matter can reduce the amount of methane produced during decomposition through the diversion of waste to landfill. Packaging waste is one of Temple’s largest waste sources and hence preventing this would significantly reduce Temple’s carbon footprint.

A Bags for Life appeal was also implemented in support of a drive to reduce Temple’s plastic waste; a significant waste contributor are plastic bags from supermarkets. Temple now holds a small collection of bags for life that staff can take to the shops at lunchtime; this will significantly reduce plastic waste.

Wednesday – Transport

Transport is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making up approximately one quarter of EU GHG emissions; this is only second to emissions from the energy sector. Whilst GHG emissions from other sectors are generally in decline (falling by 15% between 1990 and 2007); emissions from transport are increasing (rising by 36% in the same period) and are expected to continue to increase despite improved vehicle efficiency.

The importance of reducing GHG emissions was communicated through the results of Temple’s commuting survey and the sustainability transport results. This enabled staff to visualise the environmental effects of their commute to work and were able to discuss more sustainable transport methods. Temple’s total annual commuting distance equated to 980,000km (more than the distance to complete a return trip to the moon,770,000km, and the same as the total length of all railways operational in China in 2012).

Carol Somper presented a lunchtime talk about energy efficiency entitled “Energy Efficiency - is it all just hot air?” In the talk Carol explained the huge energy consumption and ultimately cost saving that could be achieved through a range of measures. The talk drew upon various pieces of work Temple has undertaken to assess and reduce the energy use within other organisations.

Keep an eye out next week for part 2 of “Temple does climate week”. In this edition we will further discuss how energy use contributes to Climate Change in addition to the outcomes of a debate revolving around a highly controversial topic and the finale of the week – the Climate Week challenge.

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