Bags for Better Lives
Replacing plastic bags with reusable ones
In 2008, Sustainable Merton member Mariana Cervantes-Burchill co-ordinated our first big project: Bags for Better Lives.
Sustainable Merton planned to knock on 3000 doors in Wimbledon Park and deliver a sponsored cotton shopping bag. We did not ask for money, only that residents should try to remember to use the bag and so help reduce our reliance on oil based products, protect the environment, cut business costs and control litter and waste.
The team also approached local shops. If their customers had been given re-useable shopping bags, then we hoped the shops would feel justified in not giving out free plastic ones so readily. They would also be asked if they wanted to sponsor the project – in return their name would be printed on the bags.
It was the first time this sort of project had been tried in London. What sort of reception would they get?
In the event, Sustainable Merton was overwhelmed by the amount of support and encouragement they were offered. Not only did many local traders sponsor the bags but the Co-op in Arthur Road sponsored a whole bag of their own, allowing Sustainable Merton to deliver two bags per household. Merton Council gave us time and money, Wimbledon Park and Bishop Gilpin Schools and the Wimbledon Park Residents’ Association all pitched in and the local Guardian covered the project from start to finish.
During the summer holidays of 2008 five volunteers from Sustainable Merton installed a pond-based ecosystem at the school in Colliers Wood with the help of pupils, parents and staff.
Like the Phipps Bridge Community Garden, the Singlegate Biostation was one of Sustainable Merton’s first projects. A raised dry wall rockery was built and a selection of flowering shrubs, trees and spring bulbs were planted. Then aquatic plants for the pond, a shed, picnic table and picket fence completed the picture. Dragonflies soon arrived and were followed by newts, frogs and birds.
The creation of the Biostation at Singlegate School was an exciting and worthwhile project and is part of a bigger environmental awareness process going on at the school for which it was awarded the Gold Standard in the 2009 ‘London in Bloom’ contest. Sustainable Merton believe that projects like this are vital if our children are going to develop an interest in the natural world and, in time, take on the role of its protectors.
Juice from Your Roof
London’s first not for profit buyers’ club for solar panels.
Juice from Your Roof (JFYR) is a free-to-join, not-for-profit buyers club, offering Merton businesses and homeowners the chance to benefit from discounts on rooftop panels purchase and installation.
It kicked off in April 2010, the idea of Sustainable Merton member Alban Thurston.
Solar clubs like JFYR were key to Germany’s massive growth in solar power generation after it started offering ‘feed-in tariffs’. These have been in force in the UK since April 2010, known as ‘Clean Energy Cashback’. They pay a regular subsidy based on the amount of electricity generated from smaller-scale renewables. “You get paid for every unit you generate, even if your family uses all of it,” said Alban. “Anything left over, you can sell back to power companies”. The government guarantees their payment, tax-free, for 25 years.
“I can’t pass a south-facing roof, without wondering how its owner could be making money from it,” Alban added.
In partnership with British Gas Solar Technologies, one of the UK’s oldest solar power firms, JFYR is offering a discount of up to £12.5%. The more people who join, the greater the discount, which is applied after each threshold is reached.
In most situations, planning permission is not needed for solar electric or heating systems. Even conservation areas and Listed Buildings can benefit, provided south-facing roofs don’t overlook neighbours.
“Merton gave the world the “Merton Rule for commercial buildings; now feed-in tariffs make low-carbon energy a reality for many homes”, he added.
Due to charity law, Juice from Your Roof is not an offical part of Sustainable Merton.
Wandle Valley Low Carbon Zone
Sustainable Merton participated with Merton Council, national environmental charity Groundwork London and others to engage the residents of the Phipps Bridge Estate in one of the Mayor of London’s ten Low Carbon Zones. The three-year project ended in 2012.
A Low Carbon Zone is an exciting, community-led approach to cutting CO2 emissions. Ten boroughs, including Merton, won support and funding from the Mayor of London to create local zones. The intention was to provide examples that could be rolled out both within and beyond London, paving the way to a cleaner, greener future.
Sustainable Merton’s role in the zone focused on public engagement. We hosted many events, some at the neighbouring Phipps Bridge Community Garden.
The main achievement of the project was visiting 830 homes in the Low Carbon Zone with the Green Doctor scheme, just 30 short of the target set at the beginning of the project. Through the Green Doctor scheme, residents saved a massive £50,558 a year on their energy bills and 834 tonnes of CO2 is saved each year. With the schools, we installed solar panels on Haslemere and Benedict primary schools, and water saving measures was installed at Haslemere Primary School and Melrose School.
One of the big successes of the project was the creation of the Friends of Phipps Bridge; they are a community association created in early 2011 focusing on local social aspirations. The group has been well received in the area and run events such as litter picks with the local school, eco-focused training and their successful summer event. The event saw over 400 people turn up to share food, have fun in the games and races and listen to live music; as the event was well received by the community the first year, they ran another event this year.
Other highlights include the draught proofing day at Mitcham Parish Church which saw faith groups and local residents come together to share new skills and get to know each other. The refurbishment of the South Mitcham Community Centre was another success, as the hub of the community it was important for them to lead the way and in the times of cuts was good news for them to have savings of around £2420 a year.
As part of the project, the project partner’s hosted 11 young people in Future Job Fund placements that were given a 6 month paid placement with the project and its partners. Six months after their placements have finished nine of the young people have found a job either full or part time and two young people have returned to further education, this is in contrast to national figures which saw 40% of participants reclaiming job-seekers within seven months of their placement.
One of the good things to come out of the project was to find out that 18 months after a Green Doctor visit, 95% of those surveyed considered themselves either fairly or very aware of environmental issues, 92% remembered the advice given and 85% still had the information pack they were give. All of those that were surveyed reported that they had stuck to their behaviour pledges.
You can find the full report by Merton council on the Wandle Valley Low Carbon Zone webpage.
Sustainable Merton worked in partnership with the London Sustainability Exchange on a project to see how Merton residents could gain maximum benefit from all sorts of energy saving technologies.
One hundred households across the borough were visited by volunteer climate change champions who talked through appropriate home energy saving measures and their relative cost benefits, explaining government and local policies such as the Renewable Heat Incentive, Feed-in-Tariffs and the Green Deal.
The main results from the project showed that 75.9% of those surveyed were very conscious of energy saving and the three most important factors in energy use in the home are: cost, the environment and being comfortable. The survey also showed that very few people knew much about the Green Deal. The main barriers to reducing energy use were found to be: maintaining comfort, the cooperation of others and cost; the Green Deal will only help with the final point. The survey established that Sustainable Merton has strong outreach to homeowners across the borough through its social networks. This will be vital in future for Sustainable Merton’s role in educating residents about behavior change to reduce their energy use and facilitating access to schemes like the Green Deal.
The research should leave Merton well placed to make the most of the Green Deal, enabling households to reduce their energy consumption and make their homes warmer without any upfront costs.
You can find the full report from the project on the London Sustainability Exchange Energise Merton webpage here.
Big London Energy Switch
Sustainable Merton is working with the London Borough of Merton to give all Merton residents the opportunity to potentially save money on their gas and electricity bills. Along with 20 other London boroughs, Merton has signed up to a collective bidding process which aims to offer a better deal for those who register.
This is quite a revolutionary idea and is being supported by the government because it is felt too many people are paying too much for their energy and failing to shop around for cheaper tariffs.
The opportunity to register for this scheme is limited to this month so we would encourage you to register at www.biglondonenergyswitch.org.uk before the end of March. The scheme is open to all Merton residents so please feel free to tell your friends and family about it.
Once registration is closed all the energy companies are invited to offer their best prices to everyone who has registered. You will then receive details of exactly how much money you could potentially save by switching if you accept the offer. There is no guarantee that the new tariff you are offered will be less than your present one, but there is no obligation to accept the offer. By registering an interest now you are not committing yourself to anything.
For more information please contact Mike at Sustainable Merton on 07788 432 489. Alternatively contact Merton Council on 020 8274 4901 or email email@example.com or see http://www.merton.gov.uk/environment/sustainability-climate/climatechange/what-can-you-do_/collective_energy_switching.htm
The government’s Green Deal scheme is a new way for householders to pay for home improvements designed to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. Savings are gained through better insulation, a more efficient boiler, draught proofing and other measures. The scheme lets you pay for some or all of the improvements over time through your electricity bill. Repayments will be no more than what a typical household should save in energy costs.
Sustainable Merton is publicising the scheme across the borough and ascertaining local residents’ views of it. To enable the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Merton Council to learn more about how the scheme might apply, 60 free household assessments are being offered to local residents at no cost.