About us.....

Abingdon Carbon Cutters is a Community Action Group formed to help reduce the carbon footprint of Abingdon in response to climate change, and to promote a sustainable and resilient lifestyle for our town as fossil fuel stocks decline. We meet on the third Wednesday of each month at St Ethelwold's House, which is here.

At some meetings, we have guest speakers to present various topics, and at others we discuss our own personal actions to address climate change. The group has a focus on encouragement, both of one another, and of the town community.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Age of Stupid.

"Age of Stupid", the new award winning British Documentary starring the Oscar Nominated Pete Postlethwaite opens in cinemas across the UK for one week commencing 20th March 2009.
The film will premiere in London on 15th March
This is a unique opportunity for local transition, low carbon, sustainable community groups to showcase what is happening in their area.

Why not consider organising a themed event to coincide with the screenings? Hold a quiz night, panel discussion, a ladies night, student night - whatever you can think of to make sure that all cinema goers leave the Chapter cinema knowing that there are things they can do as an individual and in their community to reduce carbon emissions and learn to live a fulfilling and rewarding low carbon life. If you would be interested in holding an event or would consider co-ordinating events during the screening weeks, please let me know. Together with Spanner films and the cinemas we are doing our best to ensure that every venue opens their doors to local community groups and uses the cinema space and building to accommodate local groups during the run of Age of Stupid. We are also looking for people who would be willing to speak at community events in all parts of the UK about their personal actions to reduce carbon emissions. at screenings of Age of Stupid, particularly London , Belfast , North East England , South East and Lancs.

Stop Climate Chaos, Women's Environment Network and People and Planet are all keen to get involved in events at all cinemas.

If you haven't heard of Age of Stupid take a look at www.ageofstupid.net If you have seen the film (at Climate Camp, Transition Towns Conference or at one of the preview screenings), take your friends, families, neighbours and help us make this the most successful British Documentary of 2009.

If you would be interested in co-ordinating cinema events in your area or spekaing after a screening please get in touch as soon as possible.

The Low Carbon Communities Network is a membership organisation made up of low carbon and transition groups in all parts of the UK.To stay in touch with the LCCN visit our website and sign up for email alerts http://lowcarboncommunities.net/ or follow us on twitter http://twitter.com/lowcarbondiary

Tracey Todhunter
Policy and Campaigns Manager
Low Carbon Communities Network
1st Floor Ashton Hayes Post Office
Kelsall Road
Ashton Hayes
01829 752 147
07595 291 504
twitter: lowcarbondiary
email: info@lowcarboncommunities.net
... Read this ...

Friday, February 20, 2009

BTCV Community Group Gathering

On Saturday 14th March 2009, BTCV is hosting a Community Group Gathering as part of "Every Action Counts". The focus of this event is to encourage all local community groups, clubs, societies and associations to take action to help protect the environment, create a fairer world and improve quality of life for everyone.

The gathering is taking place from 10:30am to 3:30pm at Amersham & Wycombe College, Stanley Hill, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7 9HN. The venue is not far from Amersham Station (Chiltern Railways and London Underground).

Attendance is FREE and a buffet lunch will be provided. Places are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment. The event is open to everyone, but we are especially keen for people from Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and West London to come along.

This event is being funded by Every Action Counts (EAC), a national initiative delivered by a partnership of 17 organisations, to support and encourage groups to take action in five areas - Save Energy, Travel Wisely, Save Our Resources, Shop Ethically and Care For Your Area. It is being run especially for local group co-ordinators and activists. It may also be of interest to people who work with networks of local groups and have an interest in sustainability. It aims to encourage a range of groups to take part in EAC and will provide easy access to the support and materials to do so.

Emma Barnett (Compost Advisor) will be giving a talk and running a workshop on the importance of composting and how to produce good compost. She will also introduce the new WRAP campaign Love Food Hate Waste and give hints and tips on how to reduce food waste.

John Allan (Tring Transition Town Movement) will deliver a talk and workshop on Transition Towns and concerns related to unsustainable living such as ‘peak oil’ and ‘climate change’. John will be joined by Naomi Hirst who is considering setting up this movement in Chalfont St Peter, and Rob Craig who is helping with the initial stages of making Chesham a Transition Town.

A number of EAC Community Champions will also be attending this event. These are volunteers who have been specially trained to inspire, inform and advise groups. During the day groups will be able to explore the EAC website, sign up to the initiative and link up with a Community Champion.

To book online now, please use this link.

For further details please contact Oonagh Kelleher on 0118 947 5049

BTCV’s role within the partnership with the Every Action Counts consortium is to train and support over 1,000 Community Champions across England to work with community groups, clubs and societies, to highlight small actions that each group can take to make a real difference now and in the future.
... Read this ...

Meeting Notes from 18.02.2009

The room in St Ethelwold's house that is used for Carbon Cutters was full to more than capacity for the talk about using Solar energy by Chris Jardine of the Oxford University Environmental Change institute.

Chris' group at the University focusses on small scale renewables, and Chris' main focus is the use of small scale photovoltaic solar systems.

Chris started his presentation with a background of Climate Change and its' implications. He moved on to cover the proportion of UK energy (electricity) that comes from each of the major sources, and the proportion of domestic energy that is used in each of several categories.

It was made clear that insulation and efficiency activities are an absolute must before embarking on any solar energy project.

In the UK, each square metre received around 1000kWh of solar energy each year. To put this in perspective, an "average" household uses something in the region of 4000kWh of energy per year. Chris showed a slide highlighting the drop off in incident energy for roofs that are not directly south facing. The drop off was less than many people had anticipated. In order to check the solar energy received by the roof of your building, you can check online here.

Chris explained that a "solar cell" for heating water is a combination of 2 basic principles of physics: 1: Black materials absorb heat. 2: Glass produces a greenhouse effect, trapping heat.

He described a typical domestic solar hot water system, and that 4square metres of solar collectors combined with a 200litre hot water tank can provide around 50% of the annual requirment of a family of 4's hot water needs (estimated 150 litres/day). Such a system would save 1.5tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions if it replaces electric heating, and 0.5tonnes if it replaces gas.

The type of tank required for a solar hot water system differs from a standard tank, in that there are 2 heating coils: one to add solar-energy to the water in the tank, and one to allow the boiler to add heat.

Chris described the 2 technologies of solar collectors for hot water systems, both the flat-plate type and the evacuated tube type. He reminded the group that planning consent is not usually required for a solar installation, unless the building is a listed building, or inside a conservation area.

A typical domestic system could well cost in the range £2k - £10k: a £400 grant is available through the Low Carbon Building Programme. This is increased to 50% for community, educational and charity buildings.

Such a system might provide cost-pacyback within 10-30 years - the quickest payback coming if the property currently has electrically heated hot water. The side benefits in terms of improved efficiency ratings under the new HIP scheme were also noted.

There proceeded some time for discussion, and through the questions that arose, Chris made some efforts to describe the pitfalls through a badly configured system. The input of heat energy from solar collectors is much more efficient when the contents of the hot water tank is cold. On this basis, an optimally configured system will provide any additional "top-up" heat required in to the hot water tank from a traditional boiler in the evening. The energy savings from a solar thermal system can be reduced by up to three quarters, if the boiler top-up is wrongly timed.

Typical combination boiler systems are not compatible with solar thermal systems. However, it was reported that there are 2 combi-boilers available which can accept preheated water in.

The second half of the evening was spent on the topic of solar photovoltaics (electrical solar cells). A no-maintenance system, it was commented that the only other household goods with a 25 year guarantee are cast iron saucepans!

There are three types of photovoltaic solar cells, Amorphous, Monocrystalline, and Polycrystalline. Chris spent a brief moment explaining the differences, both in cost of manufacture, and in operating efficiency. The Polycrystalline "middle-ground" is the most common cell design used in domestic installations.

In order to make some sens of the numberst that are discussed with regards solar PV systems, Chris explained that the value declared as "kW peak" for a system is the maximum electrical output in full direct sunlight. A system rated as 1kW would be expected to produce around 750kWh in a year. This compares with around 3000kWh/year as the average household energy consumption for "lighting and appliances"

Chris showed a number of photographs clarifying the installation procedure for pitched roof-mounted PV solar cells, and spoke briefly about some of the novel architectural possibilities that exist around the integration of a solar PV system in to a building.

The discussion then turned to financial and economic matters. There does exist (with the right tariffs) the opporunity to gain an income from the generation of solar electricity. SSE currently pay 18p for every unit of "green" electricity that is provided to them. This value has increased 9-fold in the last 5 years, and could well increase further with the proposed introduction of a more formalised "feed in tariff system" in 2010. Germany has such a system, which currently pays the equivalent of 30p per unit for domestically generated "green" electricity. The GoodEnergy supplier will pay 10p for every unit of solar energy that is generated, regardless of whether it is used at the point of generation, or exported to the grid.

The cost of the components and installation of systems was discussed, and Chris left the group with a challenging question: How come we need the calculations proven to the n't degree to confirm payback time of a system like this, but we spend money on cars, holidays and toys without the same level of analysis. Chris would like to see people moving away from installing solar energy systems for "sound financial reasons" and to be more directly motivated by "doing the right thing".

There was more said and more discussed than the brief notes here. The links below are sources of further information.

Solar Trade Association – lists accredited installers

Vale Energy Team – general information and links about energy saving

Energy Saving Trust

Low Carbon Buildings Programme – gives Micro-generation Certification Scheme recognised installers and information about grant applications and conditions

Directgov site

Blewbury Energy Initiative

Reasonably Local Installers

Ardenham Energy Ltd
01296 331362

Heelas Heating and Renewables
01865 739788 / 0844 8001682

JHS Power Solutions
01295 786262

JOJU Ltd – PV only
0207 275 0176

Oxford Solar Ltd
07740 929305 / 0845 217 8970

Race Energy
01296 771045 / 0800 298 9336

01932 784848

Solar Solutions Direct
01865 884261
... Read this ...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Making a World of Difference

Could you go to a workshop on Thursday March 19th in London on behalf of Carbon Cutters?

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMK) would like to invite you to an exciting one-day workshop for environmental campaigners.

If you are just starting out in campaigning and want to take your work to the next level, this FREE workshop is for you.

The workshop is taking place on Thursday 19th March, from 10am to 5pm at Which?, 2 Marylebone Rd , London NW1 4DF .

SMK will carry out preparation work with each participant in advance of the workshop in order to best understand your needs and and where possible try to incorporate these into the workshop. In addition they will offer follow-up support to each participant, in the form of one-to-one surgery sessions that will reinforce and move forward some of the key learning of the day and where appropriate make links to relevant organisations to encourage alliance building.

The workshop will be facilitated by Tim Helweg-Larsen, Director of the Public Interest Research Centre, and speakers will include:
Dan Glass, Campaigner, Plane Stupid Scotland
Joss Garman, Climate Campaigner, Greenpeace
Sarah Lewis, Freelance Environmental Journalist

Do please forward this email on to environmental campaigners you know and publicise it through any appropriate networks. I have included a poster about the workshop, as well as the draft agenda for the day and a registration form.

Demand is expected to be high so please book your place as soon as possible. The workshop and associated support is FREE of charge.

I hope you are able to attend.

Kind regards

Ruby Coote
Project Assistant
The Sheila McKechnie Foundation
2 Marylebone Road
London NW1 4DF
020 7770 7852
... Read this ...

Remember to Respond

In the notes from the last Carbon Cutters meeting, it was mentioned that there exists the opportunity to respond to the Vale of the White Horse document "Core Strategy - preferred options" outlining development plans for the year 2026.

Don't forget to send your comments either to Sophie, for inclusion in to a Carbon Cuttters response, or direct to the Vale of the White Horse.
... Read this ...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Climate Change Impacts ..... in Uganda and Malawi

The United Nations Association are holding a talk on Tuesday 17 February, 1-2 pm.

John Magrath, a Programme Researcher from Oxfam will be speaking on "Climate Change Impacts in Uganda and Malawi"

The talk is to be held at Wesley Memorial Church on New Inn Hall Street in the centre of Oxford.

Refreshments will be available from 12.30 pm.

For more details contact Neville Shepherd by email or on 01865 761630)
... Read this ...

E-Gov consultation on nuclear power

Dear Carbon Cutter, please look at this consultation on new nuclear power stations and let them know what you think.

I wanted to post a comment in the name of Abingdon Carbon Cutters to ask whether the money ear-marked for nuclear power could be switched to renewables, small-scale schemes, insulation, etc but thought it best to make a personal comment and let you do the same.
... Read this ...

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Great Fair Trade Debate

Is trade justice a lost cause? Have you heard of the Great Fair Trade Debate which is taking place on 23rd of February at Oxford Town Hall?

There may be space for a few extras at the reception which take place at 6:00pm. The main event starts at 7:00pm. It is necessary to register to attend this free event - see the contact details at the end of this post.

Confirmed speakers include:

Harriet Lamb, Executive Director, Fairtrade Foundation;

John Hilary, Director, War on Want

Andrew Mitchell, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Edwin Laurent, Former Special Envoy to the EU for the Windward Islands

Venue Address:
Town Hall
St Aldate's
click here for details on the venue.

Contact: Fairtrade Foundation
Email: debate@fairtrade.org.uk
Phone: 020 7405 5942
... Read this ...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Energy Monitor in Lidl stores

There is an energy monitor for sale in Lidl stores at the moment. Reportedly it costs £6.84.

More details can be found here.
... Read this ...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"Special Projects" money

As a CAG we can apply for small amounts of money for "special projects". We decided at the last meeting to apply for money for a Smart meter to loan out to members.
Is there anything else along these lines that you have heard of and think would be useful to have to loan out?
Please share any ideas you might have by adding a comment to this blog post.
... Read this ...

Hope for Planet Earth.

There is a roadshow called "Hope for Planet Earth", which will be touring in Feb/March. It is about
climate change, and the general message is that it is very serious but there is hope if we take action. They normally do a schools presentation in the afternoon and a general one in the evening. I know one of the speakers. The web site is:
However the nearest they come to here is Reading on 6 March.
... Read this ...

Meeting notes from 21.01.2009

There were fewer people at Carbon Cutters last night than at some of the pre-Christmas meetings, but the discussion was lively and useful nonetheless. This blog isn't intended to be a set of minutes of the meeting, but hopefully the record and the internet links contained within it might be useful.

The meeting started with a brief introduction from everyone, and then we covered the upcoming events.

  • The next CC meeting (3rd Wednesday in February) will have a speaker on Thermal Solar panels.
  • There are swapshops on 7th March, at both the Long Furlong Community Centre and at the South Abingdon Family Centre. Small handouts are to be prepared to remind swapshop visitors as to the value and impact of swapping )as an alternative to landfilling/buying new/travelling further afield to shop.
  • On 24th February, the film "An Inconvenient Truth" will be shown at Abingdon Baptist Church. A 2-sided handout is being prepared for presentation after the film.
  • This will be followed up by a screening of "The Power of Community" at All Saints' Methodist Church.

Daniel spoke about a scheme he developped some years back, called "Green Cred" which is similar in some ways to the more widely marketed (and more funded) Global Action Plan.

  • His scheme is one whereby individuals (encouraged through belonging to a school, a road, or other definable entity) acquire green credits for various practical or lifestyle changes they make. The scheme's milestones have been developped such that when all possible credits are aquired, the residence under examination is approximately a one tonne house - which is to say that annual CO2 emissions are approximately 1 tonne.
  • At various stages through the credit accumulation stage, awards are made, with the intention that they be displayed by the relevant front door.
  • The programme has been run with Drayton Primary school, and the idea has been passed to other local schools, but Daniel wonders if now is the time for the scheme to be pursued by other community groups. He feels that Churches are particularly engaged in responding to the global warming crisis and this could well be a route forward. Discussions have already started with the vicar of Drayton Parish Church.

The group then discussed a variety of other topics. A number of the group have had some involvement with the small devices that measure electrical loads, and "Smart Meters" that add a remote display of instantaneous power consumption for a property. Some concern was raised that such devices can be percieved as overly complex or just plain difficult. This was refuted by those within the group that have used such gadgets, but does highlight an area of work that the group might be involved with.

The opportunity to use external consultants to audit properties was discussed - as was the seemingly high cost of this. The possibility that Carbon Cutters might become a centre of expertise to offer the required information to Abingdon residents on a not-for-profit basis was mooted.

St Ethelwold's house had an energy consumption audit funded by their insurance company - "Naturesave" and their policy premium was significantly reduced on the basis of the results

A brief time was spent revisiting the purpose of Carbon Cutters - to move Abingdon towards Transition Town status. Originally the group had operated on the basis of encouraging one another to action - in a similar format to Weightwatchers.

We were reminded that it is National Bikeweek from June13th to 21st this year. There is some clarification required as to using the market square on the first Saturday, as the Morris Dancers will be electing their "Ock Street Mayor" that day. To date, there is a hope to have the Police around to postcode bicycles, some involvement from the two bike shops in the town and input from Sustrans. There was a discussion around Carbon Cutters encouraging and supporting a Cycling Proficiency course specifically targetted at Adults who may not have been on two wheels for a number of years. There is to be a one hour brainstorm in the coming weeks (time & place tbc) for anyone interested in having an input in to the direction of Carbon Cutters involvement with National Bikeweek.

The Vale of the White Horse document "Core Strategy - preferred options" outlining development plans for the year 2026 was discussed. A formal response will be given from Carbon Cutters - all input to Sophie. Individual responses are also important (by 27.02.2009). Concern was raised that one of the main developments was the proposed additional river crossing. While this concept may reduce traffic density within the town centre, the document was not considered to focus sufficiently on the provision and development of more sustainable transport methods.

With the recent news that Lidl are attempting to open a store on the fairacres site, there was discussion around town centre habits and the influence of out-of-town retail developments. Daniel spoke briefly about his support of the concept of applying a levy on parking space use at out-of-town developments. It is believed that there is a covenant on the use of the retail units at Fairacres, which prevents a food retailer opening there. There will doubtless be some "interesting" discussions to come.

Before the meeting closed, we read together, the four character types reported in the book "Carbon Detox" by George Marshall. It was surprisingly easy to identify ourselves as one specific character type, and straightfoward to categorise our close friends. As Carbon Cutters moves to "outreach" activities to encourage, share good practise, and provide information, it was agreed that acknowledging the personality types we might come across was useful. There was some discussion that maybe a series of four cards could be prepared, with the character type on one side, and suggested actions on the reverse.

Sally is ordering more copies of the "Carbon Detox" book which will be available at all upcoming CarbonCutters events/

The details of all swap-shops in Oxfordshire are on the CAG website: http://www.cagoxfordshire.org.uk/findswapshops.htm ... Read this ...