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My time at PECT

Category: General

Date: 18.11.2015

Time: 17:29

My name is Janine Starling. It has been two months since I left my role as Resources Manager at Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT), and I thought this would be a good time to reflect back on my nine years at the independent environmental charity.

In 2006, as a young graduate, I stumbled across PECT – I was relatively familiar with Peterborough, so was surprised to learn it was one of four UK Environment Cities. After starting my new role my eyes were opened to the vast environmental initiatives happening in the city. Over my nine years in the role I saw the charity and Peterborough flourish; I would love to share some of my highlights…

Probably the most memorable project for me was Forest for Peterborough. I had managed PECT’s Forest for Peterborough project since the idea was first seeded. I enjoyed the challenges tree planting in an urban city brought and I fondly remember the very first planting event in Thorpe Meadows. We were delighted by the volunteer support we received from both local residents and the business community. It was a true community event, I met lots of amazing people, and volunteers even came armed with delicious food to share. If you haven’t been down to the site recently I would recommend a visit – it’s a wonderful and peaceful wildlife haven.

One of the greatest things about Peterborough is its sense of community, which has been confirmed by the most recent award-winning Harvest Festival event. If you do one thing after reading this blog, please get involved with your local community by signing up to green skills share scheme Greeniversity. My most memorable event was Apple Day at Crown Lakes Country Park in 2007. On a beautiful October day, hundreds of people attended the event to celebrate the great British apple. We planted a heritage apple orchard, pressed our own juice and played apple-related games whilst dancing to folk music. It was such a fun and well attended event and we left a lasting legacy - please go and pick and eat the apples there this autumn.

I was lucky enough to be involved in PECT’s 20th birthday celebrations. A timeline was published showing highlights of the charity’s achievements over the 20 years – it was honestly hard to edit it down! I learnt so much about PECT’s past, from re-introducing otters into the River Nene to the building of the Flag Fen Millennium Centre. In 2013 four trees were planted in St. John’s Square as a thank you to the city for supporting PECT through the years.

Finally I want to mention a project that three of my ex-colleagues will remember very well – Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group. This was a partnership project with the University of Bath, which was testing whether people were more likely to change their habits to become more environmentally-friendly if they had recently moved house. This project started in the economic crash when no one was moving house! My team worked incredibly hard to find those new movers, and it was all worthwhile as the outcome was positive – it was proved that there is a small window of opportunity when someone moves to change their habits to help them to live a more sustainable lifestyle. To find out more please do read the paper published by the University of Bath by clicking here.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed every moment working for PECT, it certainly is a very special place. It not only achieves great things for the community of Peterborough and beyond, it creates a working environment that stretches and develops its staff whilst building a supportive and friendly team. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my professional career. I still support the work PECT does by giving a monthly donation because I believe PECT’s work achieves a really positive impact on the environment.



Fuel Poverty and the Private Rented Sector

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 16.11.2015

Time: 10:11

Winter is coming. Time to top up the insulation, switch and save, and keep your fingers crossed for a promotion – because these are the factors that will keep you out of “fuel poverty”.

But what happens if you can’t get a promotion, are stuck with a prepayment meter and the insulation in your home isn’t even your decision?

That is the situation many tenants in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) will find themselves in. Over the past decade home ownership in the UK fell for the first time since 1918, from 69% in 2001 to 64% in 2011. This decline can be attributed to the growth of the PRS which rose by 1.7 million households.

The PRS can provide accommodation very well for people like myself, and overall achieves high levels of satisfaction, with 83% of tenants happy with the service they receive from their landlord. However, by tenure grouping in England the PRS has the highest percentage of households in fuel poverty at 17%, in comparison to 11.3% in Housing Association (HA) properties.

A key influence on this result is the significantly poorer quality of energy efficiency across the PRS with a mean average Standard Assessment Proceduce (SAP) score of 55.4, in comparison to 63.8 in the HA sector.  

In response to this the UK Government are implementing two key policy initiatives:

1. From April 2016, domestic landlords in England and Wales should not be able to unreasonably refuse requests from their tenants for consent to energy efficiency improvements, where financial support is available from national or local schemes.
2. It is also expected that from April 2018, all private rented properties (domestic and non-domestic) should be brought up to a minimum energy efficiency standard rating, likely to be set at EPC rating “E” (39-54).

This legislation can be used in partnership with the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) which is still offering free cavity wall and loft insulation to households, and there is hope for a scheme to replace the “Green Deal”, which ended in June 2015.

These changes should be welcomed as more rights for tenants and improvements to our housing stock will reduce carbon emissions and help protect against fuel poverty.

Sam Bosson is the Warm Homes Peterborough Project Officer at Peterborough Environment City Trust.

Further References




The war on plastic

Category: General

Date: 12.11.2015

Time: 15:57

OK, I’m going to start by admitting I’m a natural born worrier. But now my day-to-day anxieties are beginning to filter into my dreams!

Last night I dreamt I was standing in the middle of a supermarket, instructing shoppers to wrap their freshly-bought food in paper rather than plastic. By the end of the dream I was feeling vaguely panicked as mounds and mounds of plastic heaped up, covering every supermarket surface in sight.

It all started after I heard about the amount of plastic being produced in the UK, most of which is either non-biodegradable or is very slow to break down. We may think our waste is disappearing, but particles are remaining to pollute our oceans and aquatic life. The worrying thing is that plastics have only been around for a few decades, so we don’t have huge amounts of research on their long-term environmental impact.

This has lead to me starting to try and complete my weekly food shop without putting plastics in the trolley, which I soon discovered was impossible! Some items I will accept defeat on, but it’s amazing how many items are needlessly covered in plastic – such as fruit and veg – only for consumers to take them home, immediately unwrap them and put the plastic straight in the bin!

Apparently the UK uses over 5 million tonnes of plastic each year, of which an estimated 24% is currently being recovered or recycled. That’s a lot of plastic ending up in landfill. And a lot of shoppers buying plastic-covered food every day throughout the UK.

If every consumer started making some small steps, such as using reusable drinks containers or buying fruit and veg from local markets where the produce has less packaging, then we may be able to make a real difference. Then I can sleep better at night too!




Category: Public/Communities

Date: 02.11.2015

Time: 18:35

Conventional wisdom has it that life speeds up as we get older. It certainly seems the older I get that the months and years fly by much faster, and I'm always amazed to discover: “It’s autumn already!”

The feeling of mild anxiety that time is passing me by is never more prominent than during this time of year. Nature is stubbornly marching to its own pace. It races on while I am left wondering what happened to summer? Is it over already?

Well, yes but the year still has so much more to give and now is the time to slow down and enjoy that splash of autumn colour and a time of year that has a much deeper meaning, relating to our own life more than you may think!

Trees provide food for wildlife and are a source of fuel for winter warmth. Trees are a shelter from the elements and a producer of clean air. Just like our feathered friends, we use trees to build our own houses but beyond their practical uses, trees can stimulate imagination and to some carry deep symbolism.

As the final leaves fall and the colour fades the trees seem to disappear and a sense of hibernation soon takes over - but don’t forget the importance and impact they have on all of us in our daily life. Take a moment to sit back and remember the expression: trees gave knowledge to Adam and Eve, enlightenment to Buddha, and gravity to Isaac Newton.

Simon Belham is PECT's Forest for Peterborough Project Officer.


#ForestFor Peterborough

Running the Anna's Hope Fun Run as a Fairtrade banana

Category: General

Date: 02.11.2015

Time: 13:56

A few weeks ago a small team of us ran the 5k Anna's Hope Fun Run at the Perkins Great Eastern Run to raise awareness and funds for our charity, Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT).

As a member of Peterborough Rowing Club I am fairly fit and so wanted to do something a bit different to challenge myself. I therefore decided to run it dressed as a banana – Fairtrade of course! As an environmental charity we encourage the use of Fairtrade products, ensuring a better and more sustainable deal for farmers and workers.

In fact, did you know that Peterborough is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade City? The local not-for-profit community group, Fairtrade Peterborough has been working hard to spread the word and encourage commitment to Fairtrade across our city. To find out more about what Fairtrade means visit www.fairtrade.org.uk.

Running the Fun Run and cheering on the subsequent Half Marathon was a tiring but exciting day; I felt on a high from the community spirit, as well as the overwhelming support for a variety of great causes that people were raising awareness and money for. It was impressive the level of commitment that people had gone to and the enthusiasm both runners and supporters had for the event.

After cooling down from my (very hot) run I saw local runner Eric Winstone cross the Half Marathon finish line, with the announcement that he is the only person who has run every single Great Eastern run since it launched – an impressive feat!

To refuel I enjoyed a meal made from locally-sourced ingredients at the nearby Beehive Pub; the staff were as surprised as my fellow diners to be sharing their lunch time with a banana! Maybe next year I will attempt the Half Marathon – watch this space…

Jennie Orrell is the Greeniversity Development Lead at Peterborough Environment City Trust.