Climate Change, Applied Science GCSE
GCSE Applied Science Project covers the theory of climate change AND encourages students to pledge to reduce their emissions at home!
Will, my eldest boy, is doing Applied Science GCSE. The projects are now coming thick and fast, from cloning to the ethics of embryo enhancement, science and ethics in one.
His latest is climate change: discuss the causes and effects and make a pledge to reduce your family’s impact.
I, of course, took huge paternal interest but tried not to meddle. He had a pretty decent understanding of climate change, probably to be expected in our household. But, we did explore the practical steps that you can make to reduce carbon emissions at home, the quick wins and those that need more planning, money and outside support.
It was the mix of theory and action that we liked. We could understand the issues and then were encouraged to take an action. Much like Planet Positive!
The coursework is just like the training programme we are putting together for Lend Lease and their BeOnsite re-employment programme. They are taking long term unemployed and providing a constant loop of coaching to help them into work on construction sites, hold onto the job and learn more about health, safety and building.
And now they have asked Planet Positive to include a module on climate change. We’ll talk through the issues and talk about action, from creating green buildings to saving money and reducing emissions at home.
Whether it is training for green construction or Applied Science GCSE, we are witnessing a huge surge of education and increasing understanding. There is real energy here and real momentum. It makes me full of optimism that we will make lasting change happen.
Harvest Festival & Food Miles
...is your pizza
20,000 miles. The distance it takes to make a pizza. Where did I come by this information? The Harvest Festival of course!
My middle son, Thomas, and his Bobcats class used their harvest festival session at the local church to get a message across to the mums, dads and kids assembled in Mayfield Church.
They brought the products up one by one. 5,000 miles for a pineapple, 1,000 miles for the tomatoes and the mozzarella. It is was played out as though they were picking the ingredients in the local take-away in Tunbridge Wells.
Then they let us know what food miles meant; for producers, retailers and buyers. And they explained what they meant for the environment and the carbon footprint of transporting by plane and truck. Wow. The audience was genuinely captivated.
It was fun and it got the message across. Think about where your food comes from and “look at the labels on the tin” they said. I will Bobcats, I will!
Zero Waste – the Nil to Landfill campaign
At Field End, we are on a mission to say Nil to Landfill. Every year each one of us produces about 500kg of waste of which only 1/3 is recycled. We are recycling more but total waste will double by 2020 – that means you could fill the Albert Hall every hour with our garbage!
Where would it all go? Well at the moment, containers of part-sorted recycled material is shipped off to China to be fully recycled.
At home, we have created our own systems for collecting and recycling. We are trying to train and encourage each other to use them – me, Ros and the boys. It’s not easy.
For collecting tin cans, paper (and cardboard), glass and plastics we have bins outside the backdoor. All food stuffs go to the compost that Ros and Will built by our planters. We collect it and take it out once a day, or sooner if it is too awful to have around.
All the other recycling is then taken to the local centre when we take the boys to the swimming club so we don’t burn additional diesel on a recycling-run. You can find your nearest recylcing point by typing your postcode into the search of the Recycle Now website. That reminds me, I must write to the council to get some collection service for our community.
The boys are getting the hang of it. They will be a less wasteful generation than us. And, as they rightly pointed out, if we get less rubbish in, there is less rubbish to put out. Therein lies the solution. Reduce the rubbish we buy and the packaging that it comes in.
And let’s get some joined up action on infrastructure to help each one of us make this more efficient. Nil to Landfill!
We call it Orf
I was strimming at 6am for an hour before work. Why? To get rid of thorns that have been scratching the noses of the lambs, which has led to them contracting orf…
So, the lambing/small holding saga at Field End continues. No sooner did we get the little lambs to feed than they got Orf. This is a painful skin disease, like a type of eczema, that affects the nose and mouth of the lambs. It looks like raised lumps and it can be transferred to the mother’s teat and udder. If that goes pear shaped (not literally) then we might end up hand feeding all 7 lambs, which makes strimming weeds at 6am a breeze!
We have sprayed the lambs and ewes with an antibiotic to contain the spread and it seems to be working. We understand that it clears up in a few weeks but this whole thing was a new one on us. Thankfully, help was at hand again as Jill who sold us the sheep came by to see how we were getting on and spotted it.
It is at times like this that we feel embarrassed by our lack of knowledge and we do need to ask advice a lot. There is also a wider responsibility to the farming community to make sure we are running our small holding properly. But, while I am sure there is some rolling of the eyeballs, we have not seen it or encountered it. We have only had positive encouragement and advice.
Despite having ‘to-do’ lists longer than a politician’s nose and the inevitable feeling of being total and utter amateurs, this whole lifestyle is important and worth going through. There are so many benefits, from a deeper understanding of the food chain to a greater ‘feel’ for more sustainable living. Our family and friends are getting involved and it is desperately good fun, for us and the boys. We love it, so we won’t call it Orf.
Leaving Field End for London
Lambs - it's like having kids again!
It's not just the politicians that have their snouts in the trough. Twice daily feeding of our pigs is one of a myriad of jobs.
What a weekend. What a week. Our sustainable, Planet Positive lifestyle means living in the country and working in London. So, when our 4 ewes came into lamb we have been a bit stretched. We now have 7 by lambs and it has been a steep learning curve.
I’m writing this on the train to work in London. Every time I leave Field End I feel like I am ‘bunking off’. I love it at home but I need and want to work - so I would not want to give up the 9-5 yet (see Guy’s post last Friday). I’ve a busy day in town working on developing our pilot programme for the Carbon Army, a task force of community carbon auditors to help people make carbon and energy savings at home. Later, I’ll go to my first Green Monday meeting. It’s a networking event for businesses leading the way in sustainability and I’m looking forward to it.
But, poor Ros will have to handle Field End…
All the lambs came last week while I have been at work, leaving the burden entirely on Ros’ shoulders. In the evenings and over the weekend I did my bit as we struggled to get our first flock sorted with feeding. The last two, tiny lambs have been the most tricky. The ewe had mastitis which makes it uncomfortable for her and the milk taste disgusting for the lambs.
We mixed the hours with massaging her udders, expressing milk, using warm towels, bottle feeding and eventually persuading them to eat. We seemed to get breakthrough last night as they were consistently feed from their mum.
It was parenthood all over again, with all the tiredness and worry too. And the upside is that we have seven chocolate brown lambs bouncing around the field. Spring is truly amazing.
From Chocolate Lambs to the Work/Life Balance
The First Lambs of Field End
I was torn between work and home today. Our first ever lambs were born yesterday morning and, having worked late, I didn’t get to see them until this morning. Ros had been there just after they were born and she managed to rub one of them into life.
She said it was amazing and I was gutted that I missed it! I was in the Planet Positive office having a great time developing our 2020 Vision campaign that we will be launching early June.
So, this morning we went to check the lambs who were in good shape but found two of our ewes clearly had a stomach upset… After the school run we set to work in cleaning them up and calling our farming friends for some advice to make sure it would not affect their lambs.
I was able to hit-foot to work for a meeting with our web manager and the preparation of the Planet Positive carbon calculator which is looking great on the ‘mirror’ site before it goes live in a couple of weeks.
This balance is really exciting but it is difficult when it is out of kilter. When there is real pressure of essential (and fun!) opportunities to make more of our sustainable living then getting a train for over an hour to London is not so appealing. Conversely, running Planet Positive is my dream job. It is all consuming, stretching your mind and your ability. There are no boundaries and you could literally spend every waking hour making more and more opportunities happen.
So, sustainable living and working do put pressure on the work/life balance, but only because you want more of both.
Planet Positive Living
Cavity wall insulation at Field End. It took 6-months but it will be worth it!
At last our home insulation is complete!
Our Planet Positive living is really gearing up. Outdoors we are working hard to supply more food from our land. Indoors we are trying to use less, improve our sustainable living and reduce our carbon emissions.
We still get our gas and electricity from E:On, specifically because we wanted to complete our discounted cavity wall insulation. This is a great scheme – the subsidising the insulation of homes across the UK.
We applied to our energy provider late last year and after a telephone survey were given the all clear for an onsite survey. This is conducted by a local company, subcontracted to E:On. After some time (about 3-months) we received a survey and after a couple of weeks were given the green light for a subsidised insulation.
Now, in mid-April the work has just been completed. The timing is somewhat pedestrian, however, I am sure that is down to the number of applicants and homes to process.
We have a 4-bed home and were asked to provide about £240 towards the insulation. We estimate the cost saving will be about £150 per year, giving us a payback period within 2-years. We know that cavity wall insulation can reduce heating loss by up to 15% and reduce our annual carbon emissions by about 1-tonne per annum.
This is one of the most cost effective and carbon effective activities you can do. To find out more take a look at the following: Planet Positive reduction tips for your home and Grants in the United Kingdom
We will now review the different energy suppliers to secure the best green energy we can get.
Preparation for Lambing
3 of our 4 Manx Laughton ewes look like they are ready to lamb
Constructing sheeps pen from old pallets and fence posts. Cost Zero!
Spring has really put a focus on our Planet Positive and sustainable living. Having sat back and relaxed as Basil the ram enjoyed his 3 month stay with our 4 Manx Laughton ewes, we now have had to prepare for the results!
3 of our 4 chocolate Manx Laughton sheep look like they are pregnant. This is our first lambing so we have tried to prepare ourselves as best we can.
Ros and I have a clear demarcation of duties. She and the boys tend the animals (4 sheep, 2 pigs, 30+ bantams, half a dozen ducks and assorted dogs, cats, fish and rabbits) while I do the labour and the building.
So, this weekend I built 3 stalls in our barn. It is imperative for the mum and the lamb to bond so they spend the first few days in a stall before going out into the field.
We wanted to make our own stalls so we scavenged our wood store and created 5’x 3’ pens out of old pallets, fence posts and picket fencing. Total cost £0. We let the sheep into the compound around the barn tonight and their inquisitive nature has already led them into the pens. So far, so good.
Ros has attended a local lambing course and also attended some live lambing at a local farm. She saw (and helped with a few) births including one ewe that successfully delivered 6 lambs! We are hoping ours only produce 1 (as is usual in their first year apparently) and much easier for us to manage.
So now the serious business of lambing is about to start. We think the first one is due on Thursday. We will keep you posted.
Will we come of Age with The Age of Stupid
What an inspiring movie. Starring Pete Postlethwaite, the Age of Stupid looks back on our lacklustre efforts to act on climate change. We did too little too late and suffered the consequences as the movie ends in meltdown by about 2070.
It is a wake-up call and if you haven’t seen it, please act and move fast. The film will remain in circulation as long as attendance remains strong. To find out more and join the Not Stupid campaign go to www.ageofstupid.net.
After the movie I caught up with Chris Brierley who was responsible for the wonderful music and score. Following a lively Q&A, I asked if he and the Age of Stupid team would provide their views on climate change if we get it right.
This is our 2020 Vision campaign which gives people, kids, artists, business leaders, celebrities and scientists the chance to express their view of how life will be better by 2020 as we work together to reduce carbon emissions. We want to inspire people into action and reassure them that there are practical steps and solutions that they can achieve to get to their persona 2020 Vision goal.
I was pleased that we are developing this idea when my 9-year old son asked about the movie. I gave him a softened version but still let him know the ending. I could see him computing 2070, 2070, 2070. He could not comprehend, “But that is in my lifetime Dad, I’ll be alive. I’ll be a grandpa but the world will be ending.”
I saw genuine panic, genuine fear spread across his face. It brought tears to my eyes. “It’s ok fella, we can still solve this thing.” I told him how we can hold on to what we have got, how we can survive and how we can still create a better way of living, but we have got to act.
I am even more sure that fear and inspiration have a role to play in bringing people in climate action.
Life at Field End - Bring it E.On!
No Cup for E.On... we will be watching the FA Cup this summer by the time we get a contractor to Field End!
The government has stipulated that energy providers must subsidise cavity wall and loft insulation in our homes. Fantastic idea! Well, almost. This has caused massive demand and there don’t appear to be enough contractors to provide the service. So, there is a huge backlog. In winter…
If your house was built in the 1940s or younger, you may well be eligible to take advantage of this energy saving subsidy. To find out if you are, contact your energy company and they will write to the local insulation contractor who will come to your house to provide a free quote.
Ros contacted our provider, E.On, about 6-weeks ago. They were extremely helpful but warned of the backlog. When a vacancy becomes available they will send a contractor. According to E.On, they are spending millions on this activity but it has been poorly thought through by the government who failed to set up sufficient contractors to handle demand. I’m not sure if that is passing the buck, but it sounds entirely plausible.
So someone had a great idea and almost got it to happen. However, there are BIG upsides. Big demand means people understand the benefits and are ACTING. And it will be worth the wait, E.On estimated that our 4 bedroom house will cost us about £220 for cavity and loft insulation. The payback period could be under 2 years. Our neighbours have had their home insulated and it has made a huge difference to their energy bills – and reduced their carbon emissions.
The thing with great ideas is that they have to be thought through and delivered to qualify as GREAT. So, right now this is a good idea that is starting to happen. Come on E.On, once you have someone hooked you really must deliver. It’s frustrating to find that we can’t access this solution to energy and emissions saving within months
Will be looking for an EPC soon too - an Energy Performance Certificate - to see how the house rates and how we can make it more energy efficient. I haven’t researched this much yet so would appreciate any help.
In the meantime, let’s get E.On with it!
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