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From the blog

Cutting carbon

by David Knight

For over 25 years, PECT has been working with businesses and communities to support, guide and inform on how to become more sustainable through behaviour change and action. With a mission to create sustainable places by working to protect and enhance the environment, PECT has four core areas of focus:

  • The Natural Environment – aiming to increase our green spaces, improve habitats, boost wildlife and biodiversity, as well as increase education of why this is so important.
  • Health and Wellbeing – helping and encouraging people to make healthier choices, whether through active travel, improved food choices or community involvement.
  • Eco Education – inspiring future generations to understand and consider their impacts now and in the future. Through PECT’s Eco Charter, over 40,000 students are engaged with annually, encouraging them to think sustainably and collectively reduce their impact.
  • Responsible Resource Use – becoming smarter and more considered with the resources we have available to us. Including supporting the transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the future of our planet. 196 different countries came together in 2015 under the Paris Climate Agreement, with the central aim to reduce carbon emissions and work towards limiting the increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5°C.

The UK Government has passed legislation for the UK’s target to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, compared to the 80% it was previously, against a 1990 baseline. To achieve net zero, the UK needs to reduce all unnecessary carbon emissions, and balance the remaining emissions by investing in carbon removals that will remove the same amount that is emitted each year. It is vital, therefore, that all organisations, communities, and individuals start making a difference and reduce their own carbon footprint.

Carbon is the term given to the group of seven Greenhouse Gases (GHG) as recognised under the Kyoto Protocol, including Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O), Hydro-and Per- fluorocarbons (HFCs, PFCs), Sulphur Hexafluoride (SF6), Nitrogen Trifluoride (NF3), and of course, Carbon Dioxide. These gases are expressed as equivalents of Carbon Dioxide referring to the Global Warming Potential of each gas over a period, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

The planet’s carbon cycle, while in a constant state of flux, is considered to have been relatively stable over the last 800,000 years, because carbon is naturally emitted when organisms die, volcanoes erupt, fires blaze, etc. and is absorbed by plants into the ground or by the oceans.

However, human activities are releasing large quantities of carbon through land use changes such as deforestation, the increased burning of fossil fuels in our cars or to heat our buildings, in operating our refrigeration and air conditioning plants, or through industrial processes, and also through the waste we produce.

Unfortunately, modern life is generating carbon at a faster rate than would naturally occur. According to the IPCC, just over half of these emissions are absorbed by the planet, leaving around 40% of all anthropogenic (man-made) emissions in the atmosphere. To make matters worse, our emission rate is rising, not slowing down, which is compounding the effect. As these carbon levels rise, so will the planet’s temperature, causing the polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise. More than that, this rise in global temperature has knock-on effects such as disruption of eco-systems and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Individuals and organisations at a local and global level need to be more aware of the challenges that we face collectively. We need to become smarter, more efficient and considered with the resources and materials we use.

PECT’s Responsible Resource Use team is in the position to inspire positive action and support innovation for better, future-proof solutions.

To help understand the impact the charity has realised within different organisations and groups, we have measured and quantified the potential and actual savings that have been achieved through advice and support given.

The impacts are reported in tonnes of CO2e and are a summary of projects that have been completed over the last couple of years. To help understand the impact of these savings, one tonne of CO2e is the equivalent of an average car driving 3,450 miles or fully powering (heating and electricity) an average UK house for almost four months.

Investors in the Environment

Investors in the Environment (iiE) is a national environmental certification scheme for organisations. It is designed to help organisations save money, reduce their impact on the environment, and get promoted for their green credentials. To become certified, each business is audited and awarded a certification level of either Bronze, Silver, or the highest award, Green.

Each audit period covers a year with businesses providing up-to-date measurements of various resources, which are compared against previous year measurements, to demonstrate improvements made.

Converting the members’ resource measurements into carbon equivalents and comparing against the previous year, iiE members audited between April 2019 and April 2020 achieved a total saving of 7,436 tonnes CO2e. This is equivalent to powering 2,267 houses or taking 3,467 cars off the road for a year.

Cool Food

The Cool Food project aims to encourage people to make small changes to their shopping and eating habits to have a big impact on the planet. The Cool Food revolution aimed to help at least 1,300 households in the UK and France to make a 20% reduction in their carbon emissions over the course of just two years. The project has been co-funded by Interreg of the European Regional Development Fund promoting cross border co-operation. It supports the transition to a low-carbon economy in the food sector.

In just over one year of public engagement (2019-2020), the estimated carbon saving achieved was 2,405 tonnes of CO2e, based on pledges people made to change their shopping and eating habits. This is equivalent to powering 734 houses or taking 1,122 cars off the road for a year.

Warm Homes

Through Warm Homes, support is given to residents who are struggling to pay their energy bills or cannot keep their home at a sufficient temperature. There is substantial evidence of the detrimental impact of fuel poverty on the physical and mental health of residents. The aim is to reduce the number of people living with preventable ill health, and to help reduce energy usage and cut carbon.

Energy was saved through a range of behaviour change advice and small measure improvements such as fitting LED bulbs. Measuring the impacts between the end of 2018 to the beginning of 2020, the estimated carbon savings were 156 tonnes of CO2e. This is equivalent to powering 48 houses or taking 73 cars off the road for a year.


Business Energy Efficiency Cambridgeshire and Peterborough (BEECP) was a business support project where energy advisors worked with eligible Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), carrying out site energy audits to identify opportunities for the enterprises to reduce their energy consumption through improved staff behaviours or more efficient / low carbon technologies. The project was part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

As part of the support, BEECP offered businesses grant funding to support the implementation of these identified opportunities. Whenever a business claimed funding for work carried out, the revised carbon saving was calculated (based on the change made) and the actual estimated saving was captured.

The project started in 2016 and completed in March 2020. At the end of project, energy advisors were able to identify a potential carbon reduction of 6,729 tonnes of CO2e.

Following the investments in new technologies, with support from the grant payment, businesses were able to save an estimated 1,096 tonnes of CO2e through the introduction of low carbon or more efficient technology, heating, etc.

This is the equivalent of powering 334 houses or taking 511 cars off the road for a year.

Business Lincolnshire

Business Lincolnshire is a business growth support project where eligible SMEs in the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) could receive direct support from a Growth Hub advisor, as well as specialised support in either financial readiness, supply chain, digital and marketing, and resource efficiency. Like BEECP, as part of the resource efficiency element, the organisation would receive a site visit to identify opportunities to make improvements to resource consumption. Each site visit would be followed by a report that identified the potential cost saving opportunities and highlighted the amount of carbon that could be saved if the required changes were implemented.

As part of the support, businesses could seek grant funding to support the implementation of these identified opportunities. Whenever a business claimed funding for work carried out, the revised carbon saving was calculated (based on the change made).

The first phase of the project started in 2016 and completed July 2019. During this phase, the Business Lincolnshire advisors were able to identify a potential carbon reduction of 700 tonnes of CO2e.

Following grants paid to support businesses in making changes, businesses were able to save an estimated 136.4 tonnes of CO2e through the introduction of low carbon or more efficient technology, heating, etc. This is the equivalent of powering 42 houses or taking 64 cars off the road for a year.

Overall Impacts

This is only a snapshot that highlights some of the great work individuals, communities, and businesses have achieved, with the support from PECT. Combined, these projects have helped realise an estimated total saving of 11,230 tonnes of CO2e. This is equivalent to powering 3,425 houses or taking 5237 cars off the road for a year.

It is vital, however, that this number continues to increase and that more and more people consider their impacts and start making changes to improve them, whether working through PECT’s support or alongside. Together, we must all make every effort we can to reduce our carbon footprint and help to limit the impact of climate change to only 1.5°C.

Come and join PECT in helping to make that difference. Sign up to our newsletter and find out more about how you can support our work here.

If you’re a business looking to make an impactful change and improve your sustainability, contact Investors in the Environment to find out how you can get started.