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Empty roofs offer great potential

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 30.06.2015

Time: 10:14

Claire Higgins, Chief Executive of Cross Keys Homes, explains how empty roofs in Peterborough enable the use of free solar panels, providing free electricity.

Taking advantage of empty, unused roof space, available funding and looking at things in a slightly different way has meant Cross Keys Homes has been able to provide tenants in Peterborough with plentiful free electricity thanks to our solar panel initiative – and that’s not the only benefit.

With rising fuel prices and more people getting worried about how their energy is produced, this scheme offers a great solution… and all at no cost to us or our tenants.

It was estimated in 2014, 2.5 million households in England were in fuel poverty and that was broadly unchanged from the previous year (Fuel Poverty Annual Report 2015). This scheme aims to change this.

By enabling 4,700 households in Peterborough – we expect over 6,000 by the time the solar panel scheme is finished – we are also generating £16.5million of capital investment and over 50 local jobs.

CO2 emissions are causing concern for many and with this scheme we have helped to extract 13Mw of energy – just over 9,400 tonnes of CO2 each year from the running costs of our housing stock. It has been said that this is more of a saving than some large solar farms in the country!

But that’s not all we’re doing. We’ve trained our front-line staff in how to identify and support tenants who have been struggling with funding high fuel costs and recently delivered a campaign to tackle fuel poverty, helping many residents switch suppliers and save money. We’ve also ensured all Cross Keys Homes’ departments are working together to create a joined-up approach in supporting our tenants through these changes.

To say I’m really proud of our team’s hard work with this initiative would be an understatement. We knew it was going to be an important project when we started, but the difference it has made has been remarkable and I think the figures speak for themselves.

This approach has helped to provide the right solution for us, our tenants and the city of Peterborough: we want our residents to have the best possible quality of life and for this we need a city which has a thriving local economy, strong communities and a sustainable way of life, which as a locally focused social enterprise is what Cross Keys Homes is always aspiring to do.



Fake Moustaches and Secret Messages

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 24.06.2015

Time: 09:34

Theatre practitioner and director from Lamphouse Theatre, Tom Fox, explains how detectives took over Peterborough during the Green Festival in May 2015.

If you’re curious about the title of this blog you might not know that, for the Green Festival 2015, some world-renowned Detectives arrived in the city to solve the greatest puzzle of today. They wandered around Peterborough city centre and slightly beyond to discover how to stop the underground crime syndicate from taking over the world. They met characters, found clues and followed their noses!

Detective [Insert Name] was a walking performance that put the audience in the centre of the action, playing the detectives. The themes of the narrative, although I won’t give too much away, were climate change, the environment and art heists. It is definitely something you need to experience to understand fully.

My role on the days of the show was to introduce the concept to audiences in an ‘initiation’ style scene - where detectives collected their gadgets, gave themselves a fake name and, most importantly, got handed their trusty fake moustache, to be used once and to be used wisely.

For us, the performers, it was quite a complex run of shows. Up to five shows could run every day starting every half an hour. With a duration of an hour and a half, we could have three groups within the show at one time. We had to find ways to communicate with each other without getting caught. Our own secret mission! I would receive texts from other performers such as ‘The eagles have left the nest…’ and ‘The cats are on the roof’.

The aim of the show was to get audiences to work together as a team and for them to have fun together. It was fascinating seeing families work with other families, adults working with young people, culturally diverse groups mixing and working together. We have had many good comments back such as:

‘It took us to a part of Peterborough we hadn't been to before in the 13yrs I've lived here. It made us look at the world around us and notice more detail. Interactive theatre is great and I hope you keep it up in the future.’

Hopefully the mission was achieved and that the audience looked around more, they appreciated their surroundings and walking in the open air. As the Chief Detective says at the end of the play:

‘Stand for what you believe in and work together to make a decent life for the next generations. We don’t need to be the destroyers, but the nurturers of a living world. Good luck in all you do… you are now released back to your normal lives. Be resourceful! Be active! Be brilliant!’



The Three Peaks Challenge

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 23.06.2015

Time: 13:56

Sophie Antonelli, Co-Founder of Peterborough’s community garden project The Green Backyard (GBY), explains why she and a team of fundraisers will be attempting the Three Peaks Challenge this June.

On June 27th I, along with five other walkers and two volunteer drivers, will be attempting the national Three Peaks Challenge. We’ll be doing our best to climb the three highest peaks in the UK – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – within a 24 hour window, and all in aid of The Green Backyard (GBY), the community garden I co-founded and have volunteered with for almost seven years now.

Whilst I am lucky to have a fairly active lifestyle, the only time I go running is when I’m late for a train. This, along with the fact that Peterborough’s fenland landscape is not exactly known for its hills, means that this is going to be a massive challenge! But despite the almost magnetic way that I am repelled away from exercise and attracted to the cheese counter, this year I wanted to attempt a physical challenge that would really test me.

Since we started fundraising in earnest for The Green Backyard last year, all of us here have been overwhelmed by the support and incredibly generous donations from people not just from Peterborough, but all over the UK, who have come together to say that they want to keep a community managed green space in the heart of Peterborough. To date we have raised over £18,000, and that’s without even knowing how much we will eventually have to raise to buy the site.

It’s likely that we have a lot more fundraising ahead, so before I ask anyone else to undertake sponsored walks, fun runs or yard sales I knew I had to put my money where my mouth is and get my walking boots on.

As the date approaches I find myself wondering whose stupid idea this was (it was mine for the record), but the thought of all the people that the GBY has helped over the years will keep me going. We don’t shout about them too much, but in my mind they’re always there with me; from the lady so agoraphobic she could barely leave the house and is now out of therapy and a remarkably creative and active figure, to the guy signed off work with stress, now making his living as a very busy and happy gardener!

Community-led spaces like the GBY transform people’s lives in so many, often intangible, ways. We try things, we welcome people, and we celebrate together. We don’t always get things right, and that’s how we learn what works. We are committed to creating a community that cares for and supports each other, differences and all. A Peterborough without The Green Backyard would be a colder, greyer, more dispassionate place, and that’s not the kind of place I want to live.

So that’s why the six of us will be dragging our weary Fen legs over hill and down dale this weekend, and why our drivers have signed up for a 1,000 mile round trip. You can sponsor us if you like, or start thinking about a challenge of your own. We’ll be live blogging the whole excruciating experience, so please follow and share it with your own followers. This is just part of a much longer journey for us, so I hope you’ll come along for the ride.




Electric Pedals: On being part of the Green Festival 2015

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 09.06.2015

Time: 14:56

Electric Pedals was excited to be part of the PECT Green Festival in Peterborough again this year and enjoyed seeing some familiar and new faces when bringing back pedal power for a music stage on the Saturday and a cinema on the Sunday!

Electric Pedals uses the energy from people cycling to power cinemas, sound-systems, outdoor classrooms in schools and much more. Pedal power can be used for home appliances or entertainment purposes – we can power almost anything, all in a clean and green way!

The way it works is very simple. As we move, whether it is cycling, walking or dancing, the chemical energy that is stored in us humans is transferred into kinetic energy. Electric Pedals was born out of the realisation that the kinetic energy produced by people cycling can be transferred into electrical energy to power things! What could be more fun and energy efficient than cycling to charge your own phone or power your own cinema?

The bike is an incredible invention: as a method of transport it helps us to save the environment whilst giving us the opportunity to exercise and improve our own health. When we realised we could also use the bicycle to transfer kinetic energy from movement into electrical energy through a simple set-up, our understanding of pedal power truly began.

We accommodate for all ages and all you have to do is pedal to generate the power. The stationary bikes are fixed to motors which spin as the back wheel whirls round. This spinning motion generates electricity in the motor and is transferred through cables to whatever we want to power. For larger set-ups, we have built our own Power Stations which transfer the low voltage DC electricity (this is suitable for phone-charging and other appliances that don’t require much power) into AC electricity which is what runs through all our homes, schools, and workplaces. This is then how we can power things like projectors and sound systems for cinemas and music festivals. It’s really very easy!

We don’t only use pedal power for cinemas and music stages. We also help to spread energy awareness through Educational Workshops and Power Challenges so please check out our website for more bike-powered fun (www.electricpedals.com). You can also see what we’re up to through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under the name Electric Pedals.

Power to the pedal!



The adventures of 'Enviro Girl'

Category: Business

Date: 05.06.2015

Time: 15:30

In November last year Claire Swindale, the Green Champion at Shield Technologies, was awarded Investors in the Environment’s Best Green Champion for 2014 (smaller business category) at the iiE Awards. We caught up with Claire to find out how she had gone from environmentally friendly to ‘Enviro Girl’ in the last three years.

PECT: Well done for winning the Best Green Champion at the IiE awards in November, what achievements enabled you to win the award?

Enviro Girl: Probably the most important achievement is that I have support of every member of our team. Everyone is engaged in the process of becoming a sustainable business and every member of our team share their thoughts and ideas for reducing our impact on the environment. All of this makes the whole process so much easier and the implementation of new processes quick and pain-free!

I believe that for any member working towards a Green iiE award, getting the support of the team is the first and most important step.

We use fantastic tools to communicate with staff and because of this we can get messages to the team quickly and often, and this keeps GREEN at the front of everyone’s minds.

We are almost paperless, a massive achievement for any business. This doesn’t mean we don’t use any paper but we print only when it is absolutely necessary and use less than a ream of paper each year –so far in 2015 we have used less than 150 sheets of paper!

PECT: Why do you think it is important for businesses to be green?

Enviro Girl: Growing an environmentally sustainable business is good for everyone, and it feels great. Knowing that as a business you are reducing your impact on the environment is very powerful for the engagement of your team.

PECT: What’s next for you to implement and why?

Enviro Girl: Since we started working towards green level accreditation in 2012 the business has grown steadily and with this so has our mileage. In fact our mileage, despite our best efforts, has increased over the last two years.

In 2015 our main focus will be on getting our mileage down, and we have introduced a number of initiatives that are so far working well. Every time a member of the team books an appointment to see a customer or complete an on-site job they will first check the calendar to see if anyone else is going in the same direction that week and then they will, where possible, car share with a colleague. 

Training courses are now only attended within the Peterborough area and we are thinking much more strategically about our on-site work. At the end of May 2015, compared to the same period last year, we have reduced mileage by 48%!

PECT: What has been the hardest thing to overcome?

Enviro Girl: Getting started! When we joined I looked at all of the paperwork and what had to be done over and over again before I actually got started. The turning point was the catch-up workshop with iiE I attended two months after we started working towards Green.

PECT: What advice would you give to other businesses looking to start this green journey?

Enviro Girl: There are two things that give you a great start, the first is to get yourself onto one of iiE’s catch-up workshops. If you are new to this, as I was, the workshop will help you to break the process down into bite-size chunks that are easier to manage. Plus remember to use the iiE team, call them and email them with any question no matter how silly you may think it is! The team are always really happy to help you whenever you need it.

The second thing is to get the support of everyone in your business, present this to everyone as an opportunity to grow, save money and help to protect the environment. There is something in it this for everyone no matter what part of the business they work in. Having the support of the whole business will be key to your success.

For more information about joining the Investors in the Environment green accreditation scheme, visit the website at www.iie.uk.com.