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Joining the iiE Team

Category: Business

Date: 22.04.2016

Time: 11:05

Hello! My name is Nicola and I am on my fourth week here at Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT). My job is to support and grow the green accreditation scheme for businesses Investors in the Environment, otherwise known as iiE. 

I’ve also just secured my first member – Allia Future Business Centre. Allia helps and supports ventures that want to make a positive social or environmental impact. It was interesting to hear about the various projects happening here in Peterborough and I’m pleased to be working with businesses who want to be more sustainable and reduce their impact on the environment.

I have been following PECT closely for the last few years since taking an active interest in my local community and issues regarding the environment. It all began when I was studying a course on Social Science, where I learnt more about our ‘throw away’ consumer society and was overwhelmed to discover how much goes to waste. Here in the UK we throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink alone. I also discovered more about the devastating impact things like fossil fuels, the meat industry and deforestation are having on the planet.

This led to me making some personal changes in my life and becoming more conscious of my actions, especially around food and buying habits. Through this process I was introduced to Permaculture and decided to complete the full design certificate. Permaculture is a very creative way of installing ethics and principles into your life to live more sustainably and in harmony with nature.

I took my course in Italy and shortly afterwards I went back to spend some time WWOOF’ing, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. I worked at a meditation centre and farm that produced olive oil. Picking olives in the sunshine amongst the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany was a fantastic experience. I was inspired by the way of life there – people would grow a lot of their own food and make wine, share surplus with neighbours and there was a real sense of community.

Which is a lot like working for PECT! There’s lots of sharing – whether it’s the table of home-baked goods or home-grown produce, the lunches, or fresh juice. It also goes without saying that everyone here is like-minded with a shared goal of helping to protect our planet.  Straight away I knew I’d come to work at the right place.

Nicola Smith is the new Business to Business Sales Executive at iiE.



Healthy Homes: Top Tips to Cut Energy Bills

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 18.04.2016

Time: 15:34

Throughout 2016, PECT’s Healthy Homes project is working with residents in Peterborough and Fenland to tackle fuel poverty. When a household struggles to pay for adequate heating due to a combination of low income, high energy costs and poor insulation, it’s classed as being in fuel poverty.

It’s a big problem, affecting about 8% of homes in Fenland and 10% in Peterborough, and has real consequences not only on a household’s finances but also on health. The impact of cold homes is estimated to cost the NHS £1.5 billion and accounts for more than 18,000 premature deaths each year.

If you live in Peterborough or Fenland, you can get in touch with the Healthy Homes team on 01733 866440 to book a home visit, which covers changing tariff, tips to cut energy costs and home improvements such as insulation and boiler replacements for eligible households. However, everyone can benefit from some simple tips to cut energy bills, boosting income and health, while cutting carbon emissions:

1. Loyalty doesn’t always pay! You could save hundreds of pounds by switching to a different tariff or supplier. You can compare prices in a few minutes using uSwitch.
2. Check if you’re eligible for any heating benefits such as the Warm Home Discount, Cold Weather Payments or Winter Fuel Payments
3. If you have an oil boiler, consider joining a buying group to cut costs.
4. Review how you pay for your bills - most suppliers will offer a discount for paying by direct debit or using internet billing, usually around £75 per year.
5. Small behaviour changes can have a big effect - reducing tumble drier use by one load per week can save £55 per year and using a washing up bowl for dishes rather than filling the sink can cut your annual energy bill by £30. There are more tips to reduce energy usage on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.
6. Check if your bills are correct - are the costs based on actual or estimated meter readings (a letter ‘A’ next to the reading indicates an actual reading; ‘E’, estimated; ‘C’, reading made by the customer)? Accurate meter readings are really important to avoid over or under paying, which could lead to a big credit or debt over time. For more information about understanding energy bills, check out uSwitch’s guide.
7. Upgrade to more efficient appliances and insulation. Healthy Homes might be able to help with this if you live in Peterborough or Fenland. Even DIY measures such as loft insulation can slash costs - a 3-bedroom semi-detached house will typically save £140 per year, with a payback period of two years.
8. Consider investing in renewable energy sources. At the moment, Peterborough City Council residents have the opportunity to apply for free solar panels - find out more on the Council's website.

Emma Taylor is the Healthy Homes Project Support Officer.



Hyperlocal Rainfall: April progress

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 14.04.2016

Time: 16:36

Whilst our Hyperlocal Rainfall app is working its way through the final stages of its initial development I thought I would take this opportunity to give a better idea of the concepts and aims behind this project, how we are achieving these, and where we will be taking Hyperlocal Rainfall over the next few months!

The weather is one of the main factors that influences how we choose to travel, and changeable or bad weather can be very off-putting when it comes to walking and cycling places. We believe that there is an opportunity here to minimise the negative influences of the weather by providing more accurate information; because this will give people more confidence in when to travel and how to be properly prepared for the day’s weather, allowing them to choose more active and sustainable options. 

Hyperlocal Rainfall is the first project of its kind to bring together a route-planning tool with hyperlocal (small, localised to a specific area) weather predictions. To be able to make this an effective tool for people to use around Peterborough, our app will be providing rainfall predictions in greater detail than currently available from other services, with predictions every five minutes for the hour ahead compared to the standard one-hour intervals.

To achieve this innovative service we are using a combination of rain radar data and historical weather data with additional real-time information from local weather stations, recently installed on schools across Peterborough. This allows us to see what is happening at many different levels with great accuracy and project partners Meniscus will be able to use their own analytics platform, MAP, to translate it all into our accurate, short-term hyperlocal predictions.

Within the Hyperlocal Rainfall app you will be able to plan your trip with our route planner (using Google Maps), which will then be overlaid with our rainfall predictions for your specific journey. Each journey will be provided with its own personal rainfall predictions that will be adjusted for how you choose to travel and when you will be starting your trip. A great part of the app is the more you take a trip the better it will get at predicting your journey time (improving on Google Maps), so for your regular trips and commutes you will get more personal rainfall predictions.

For more information about how the app will work have a look at our information poster here. By helping to increase the amount of walking and cycling around Peterborough there could be many positive impacts for both the local area and residents alike. There are countless environmental benefits, such as improving local air quality and reducing carbon emissions from lowering congestions, as well as personal benefits in increasing your fitness and wellbeing whilst reducing the risk of many health conditions, such as heart disease.

In the coming months PECT will be providing further information on how walking and cycling more can help you, and providing support to get you started and keep going with active sustainable travel. This will all contribute towards Peterborough become a greener, healthier, and more sustainable city, so watch this space!

We really want to engage with people from Peterborough to help this app be truly reflective of everyone’s needs, so going into the summer months we will be looking for Peterborough residents to get involved in the project again to help us try out and test the app around the city!

This will provide us with important feedback in how the app is working and if there are any further improvements that needs to be made. If this is something you think you would be interested in getting involved with or would like more information about the project, please do get in touch! Email freya.herman@pect.org.uk.

Freya Herman in the Project Officer for Hyperlocal Rainfall.



Smart Meters: The Next Generation

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 13.04.2016

Time: 16:36

As you may have heard, the government has set the target of installing a smart meter in every household in the UK by 2020. Smart meters are next generation meters for both gas and electricity; they are set to replace your existing meters, which use decades old technology. Smart technology is beginning to revolutionise how we live our lives and the introduction of these meters is another step towards an interactive, technology-dominated lifestyle.

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters use a secure national communication network to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to your supplier, it’s up to you how often your meter will send this data, but it could be as often as every half hour.

Your old meter does have to be taken out and replaced with a new meter, you’ll also receive an in-house display that will be synced with your meter to provide you with all the information that your old meter gave you, and more.

What are the benefits of smart metering?

A better understanding of how you use energy at home

As mentioned previously, your new smart meter will come with an electronic display, which you can plug in anywhere at your home. This will allow you to see your energy use live, in turn allowing you to understand what items in your house use the most electricity and therefore cost you the most.

So for example, when you turn the kettle on you will be able to see the kw/h of electricity that your house is currently using rise, the amount you have spent over the day will also increase. You should be able to relate this to all the appliances in your home and have a good understanding of your most expensive appliances in your home.

The display also allows you to find out information about your tariff, such as the standing charge and the unit price, having this information at your fingertips will also allow you to make informed decisions about whether or not to switch tariff or provider.  

The end of meter readings and estimated bills

Meter readings will now be live, its up to you how often you send the information from your meter across to your energy company, but it could be up to every half hour. Meaning that there is no need for you to ring up and give a meter reading or receive an estimated bill. This feature will be extremely helpful for anyone that finds getting to their meter a struggle.

Prepay meter users

Smart meters will prove most beneficial for houses that use prepayment meters, particularly for when you are close to running out of credit on your meter. Having an understanding of what uses what will allow you to make informed decisions about what you can do with out for a couple of days, if necessary.

Having awareness of how little some household items cost to use will also help those people who are scared of using too much and putting themselves in debt, particularly when it comes to heating their homes in winter time. For example, some people sacrifice heating their whole home and just use an electric heater in one room, which in most cases is actually a more expensive way of keeping yourself warm. This should allow residents to make better decisions about how they keep themselves warm.

What’s next?

As smart meters begin to integrate with other smart technologies it is very possible that we will be looking at a brand new type of tariff being made available to the public known as a, ‘time of use tariff’.  These tariffs will be similar to Economy 7 tariffs in the sense that they will offer you cheaper rates during off-peak hours, such as during the working week. This should hopefully help to distribute the demand for electricity away from peak hours, helping the grid to cope with the growth in demand for electricity in the UK.   

Hugh Smith is the Project Officer for Warm Homes Peterborough.



Not waving but drowning in a sea of waste

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 11.04.2016

Time: 14:49

We’re drowning in a sea of waste, especially plastic waste which carpets our environment on land and in water.

Walk down your street and note the amount of waste on the pavements, in the gutters and in people’s front gardens or parking areas: drinks containers (plastic, tin and glass), cigarette packets (cellophane wrapped), snack and sweet wrappings.

Local authority street cleaning services cannot cope by themselves with this litter mountain! We all have a part to play in binning and recycling litter even if we didn’t drop it.

Clear any rubbish from the space in front of your home and keep the pavement and gutter clean. If you have time, arm yourself with a litter-picker and clean a neighbourhood street or two, especially of recyclables. If you like company, there might be a local volunteer litter-picking team - your local councillor should be able to put you in touch – or why not start one yourself?

Plastic is the No.1 villain in this scenario. What can be done to reduce the use of plastic in modern life?

As a consumer, only buy food and drink in non-plastic containers (preferably bio-degradable material). You might want to ask your MP to persuade government to impose an environmental levy on the manufacture and use of plastic containers or bring in regulations to make use of recyclable plastic in the food and drink industry mandatory.

Some of you might not recognise the grimy vision painted above. But you do eat fish, don’t you?

Plastic pollution of the world’s oceans has reached extreme levels, both as surface-floating debris and more significantly as micro plastic confetti which can coat the ocean bed. Micro plastics act as sponges for oceanic toxins that affect the fish that ingest them, rendering these fish increasingly unfit for human consumption. We now have ‘Garbage Patches’ in most of the world’s oceans.

Human ingenuity is trying to ameliorate this catastrophic situation: the Ocean Cleanup project (www.theoceancleanup.com) is developing large-scale floating barriers which funnel surface debris into smaller areas for extraction; Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s (www.seashepherd.org) ‘Vortex Project’ harvests ocean plastic for eco-innovator ‘Bionic Yarn’ to turn into their unique clothing fibres.

On land, Japanese scientists have discovered enzymes found in the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis which can break down Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic into environmentally harmless constituents in a number of weeks.

Plastic pollution affects us all, so what are you going to do about your plastic use? Don’t drown in a sea of waste!

Peter Reynolds is Greeniversity Peterborough’s volunteer administrator.