Thursday, 30 September 2010

Mike installs the wood stove that's burning his own wood

plumbing in our wood stove
The story so far: three years ago Mike Pepler, our UK Awards Manager, and his wife Tracy, bought an eight-acre wood. This year they bought a house. Now they are going to heat the house with the logs from the wood.

Mike explains here how he and Tracy plan to be almost entirely self-sufficient in space and water heating. In a series of other posts, that appear on his own blog, Mike also gives step-by-step descriptions about how to insulate the cavity walls, sweep the chimney and install the stove.

In this latest instalment of his guide of eco-refurbishment, Mike writes about the plumbing and testing of the wood stove.

It was, he says, "quite an involved job". What it involved, exactly, was:

- removing the gas boiler

- connecting up the wood stove

- running the pipes from the wood stove to the connection to the hot water cylinder and the radiators (the gas boiler was on the other side of the house...)

- replacing the cold water tank and the feed and expansion tank in the loft (they were very old)

- and replacing the hot water cylinder for one that could take solar input as well as the wood stove.

Full details and photos.

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Andrew Marr says "We are three weeks away from a crucial conference"

Last night there was an excellent debate at the British Museum titled Conserving Biodiversity. Whose money? Whose rules?

Tonight our Senior Advisor, Anne Wheldon, gives a talk titled Stoking up a cookstove revolution: The secret weapon against poverty and climate change.

It's not hard to see the link between the two.

A significant driver of deforestation is the amount of trees cut down for open fire cooking. This leads to loss of habitat for animals, loss of native plants and soil erosion that increases risk of flooding.

2010 is the international year of biodiversity. Yesterday a report was released that said one in five of the world's plants are under threat of extinction.

The issues of biodiversity, poverty, renewable energy and climate change are all bound up in the idea of sustainability. What's fascinating about hearing this debate at the British Museum is seeing sustainability treated - quite rightly - as both an environmental and a cultural issue.

Last night's discussion, part of the South Africa Landscape events programme (a joint venture with Kew), was chaired by the BBC's Andrew Marr.

"This is as big, if not bigger, than climate change," he said, reminding the audience that "We are three weeks away from a crucial conference in Japan."

Next month officials from 193 countries are meeting in Nagoya, Japan for the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity. They will be taking vital decisions about the future of biodiversity in the world.

He added, "Up till now this issue hasn't had its Al Gore."

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cookstoves: "secret weapon against poverty and climate change"

Anne Wheldon, Senior Advisor for the Ashden Awards, will be giving a talk in central London tomorrow evening: 'Stoking up a cookstove revolution: The secret weapon against poverty and climate change'.

The event will be held at: The Carpenters Arms Pub, 12 Seymour Place (Marylebone), London, W1H 7NA Time: 18.30-20.30 Admission is free. The event is hosted by HEDON's London RIG. More information.

See also on this blog:

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Blog Action Day announces 'water' as this year's topic

Early this morning, Blog Action Day announced that the topic for October 15 is 'water'. (Last year it was climate change; the year before it was poverty.) The Ashden Awards blog is one of nearly 800 blogs that have signed up to write about water that Friday.

Blog Action Day brings together bloggers from around the world to post about the same issue on the same day "with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action".

Last year 13,606 bloggers from 156 countries joined in the conversation about climate change.

We'll be blogging news on October 15 about Ashden Awards winners, such as: IDEI, CRELUZ, Practical Action and AIDFI (currently nominated for World Challenge award).

As Mary Robinson said in New York last week: "Water is the oil of the 21st century and waste is the gold." Maybe waste will be next year's topic.

From 2009: We've signed up, have you? and Svati Bhogle, from TIDE, a 2008 Ashden Award winner, writes on last year's Blog Action Day about "the efficient use of energy, use as different from abuse in the developed world and misuse in the developing world."

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

In 2050 most common type of British home will be 100 years old

Ashden's Senior Advisor, Dr Anne Wheldon, attended two talks on buildings and energy efficiency, at the Royal Academy of Engineering, as part of the London Design Festival. Anne reports:

"It’s often mentioned that most existing buildings will still be around in 2050, but Peter Bonfield, CEO of the Building Research Establishment put this in a way that I had not heard before.

He said that in 2050 the most common type of home will be 100 years old (from the 1950s) and the second most common type will be 150 years old (late-Victorian).

So it's crucial that we develop really effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of these buildings, and that we get on with doing it now."

Northwards Housing, one of our 2010 UK Award winners, is putting this into practice and has already overhauled 12,500 local authority homes. Find out more about the work of all our UK winners.

pic: 1950s housing in Leacroft, Derbyshire

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Merci pour le retweet

Our tweet last week - saying that applications were open for the 2011 Ashden Awards - was kindly retweeted by @Futerra, @GreenSolitaire, @GreenFutures, @EnergySvgTrust, @Societas_, @Greengamma and others.

Special thanks to @Mediaterre for retweeting it in French:

Prix internationaux d'Ashden 2011: Envoyez vos manifestations d'intérêt avant le 19 octobre 2010!... #Durable #Energie

Apply for a 2011 International Ashden Award
Apply for a 2011 UK Ashden Award

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Monday, 27 September 2010

Mrs Chevy Chase launches eco-schools programme in US

One of the bright ideas launched at last week's Clinton Global Initiative - along, of course, with Hillary's $50 million for clean cookstoves - was the Energy Efficient Schools Initiative. The plan, reports the New York Times, is:

to install super-efficient windows, digital environmental sensors and smart thermostats in 500 schools by 2012, involving students and teachers in the effort.

The first school districts that are participating will be on Long Island and in New York City. One of the lead organisers, Jayni Chase (pic), wife of US comedian Chevy Chase, and a longtime promoter of eco-education, says:

We involve the kids in modelling all the energy that's being used in the schools and how we fix it and how we make it better.

Let's hope the schools in Long Island and New York City make contact with some of the UK schools that have been Ashden Award winners. The teachers and pupils on the East Coast can always check out the activities page. Or watch the five-minute films. Or get some ideas for taking action.

The 10 Ashden award-winning schools are: St Columb Minor School, Okehampton College, Currie Community High School, Ashley Primary School, Sandhills Primary School, Ringmer Community College, Seaton Primary School, Woodheys Primary School, Eastchurch Primary School and Cassop Primary School.

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Friday, 24 September 2010

The Economist welcomes Clinton's $50m for clean cookstoves (just don't give them away)

This week's Economist welcomes Hillary Clinton's $50m for clean cookstoves but quotes US stove specialist Kirk Smith saying in the past too much emphasis has gone on technology and talking to people at the top, too little to consulting the women who actually do the cooking.

The Economist also welcomes "a new-found awareness of market forces" in government and within the UN. It reports Mrs Clinton saying the new stoves "must not be given away".

That will come as good news to the small army of entrepreneurs in the developing world now coming up with novel business models to sell and service the cooking stoves. One such innovator is Suraj Wahab of Toyola [pictured above], a start-up selling some 60,000 stoves a year in Ghana by offering micro-credit. His advice to the new UN coalition is “please don’t offer handouts and don’t give away stoves.”

One of the investors in Toyola is E+Co, which has also invested in Ashden Award winners Tecnosol (2010), Ecami (2009), Zara Solar (2007) and SELCO-India (2005 and 2007).

For a detailed assessment of the issues surrounding clean cookstoves, read the Ashden Awards report Stoking up a cookstove revolution.

For more on "the small army of entrepreneurs" see, for instance: Clean, green energy future " holds huge promise for Indian business"

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Mike aims to be self-sufficient in space and water heating

Three years ago Mike Pepler, our UK Awards Manager, and his wife Tracy, bought an eight-acre wood. This year they bought a house. Now they are going to heat the house with the logs from the wood.

Below, Mike explains how he and Tracy plan to be almost entirely self-sufficient in space and water heating.

In a series of posts, appearing on his own blog, Mike also gives step-by-step descriptions about how to insulate the cavity walls, sweep the chimney and install the stove.

"Tracy and I bought our eight-acre woodland in 2007, as it seemed like a good investment with energy prices rising, and the property price bubble had put us off buying a house at that point. Since then we've been managing the woodland to produce logs and have been selling them to friends, but now we've finally bought our own house, the first priority was to make changes so we could heat it using our own logs.

Our goals in doing this are two-fold: becoming more self-sufficient in the energy we use at home, and reducing CO2 emissions. Supplying some of our own energy needs is important to us, as we believe energy prices will continue to rise over the coming years as supplies struggle to meet demand, and the UK's energy security cannot be taken for granted. Reducing CO2 emissions is also important, as the threat of climate change affects everyone.

Achieving these two goals is not just about installing a wood stove though. Demand must be tackled first, which is why we're insulating the cavity walls and upgrading the loft insulation; the windows are already double-glazed. All the lights in the house are low energy, and we buy our electricity from Ashden Award winner Ecotricity. Because we've removed the gas boiler, we also needed an alternative for water heating in the summer, when it's too warm to light the wood stove. Rather than use the immersion heater, we're installing solar water heating to deal with this.

The end result will hopefully be that we are entirely self-sufficient in space and water heating, apart from the small amount of electricity for running water pumps, and that the only CO2 emissions will be the fuel used in our chainsaws and the vehicle to bring logs back from the wood, which is only five miles away. We'll be monitoring our savings on gas and electricity, and also the amount of wood we burn, so there'll be some results to report over the coming year."

coming soon:
- plumbing and commissioning the stove;
- solar water heating
- insulating the loft

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

SNV joins clean cookstoves alliance as founding partner

One of the Ashden Awards 2010 winners has joined the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves as a founding partner. PR Newswire reports

SNV pledges to contribute $250,000, as well as provide its extensive expertise in renewable energy, to help the Alliance meet its goal of deploying 100 million cookstoves by 2020.

Dirk Elsen, SNV Chief Executive, says,

The environment, renewable energy, and improved welfare of women and children are clearly defined SNV strategic concerns and each of our projects around the world is undertaken with them in consideration.

Watch SNV video.

Follow the coverage on Hillary Clinton's $50m for clean cookstoves
("This could be as transformative as bednets or even vaccines.")

See: Ashden Awards report Stoking up a cookstove revolution and Ashden award-winning stove projects: TWP/AHDESA, GERES Cambodia and Aprovecho/SSM.

See also: the Guardian's Madeleine Bunting on Clinton and cookstoves.

Update: Center for American Progress has this detailed summary: United States Joins Alliance to Promote Clean Cooking in Developing Countries (HT: ClimateProgress)

Pic: SNV's biogas project with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam, turns pig waste into cooking gas and fertiliser for crops

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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

UN speakers make the same points as the Ashden Awards

The streets round the United Nations have been cordoned off all week. The 175 guests going to last night’s 'Ending Energy Poverty’ went through four checkpoints and an airport security screening system. This special event was a dinner, hosted by the UN Foundation, the UN Development Programme, the UN Industrial Development Organization and the UN Environment Programme.

At last night's dinner in New York, Sarah Butler-Sloss (above), founder director of the Ashden Awards, heard distinguished speaker after distinguished speaker make exactly the same points as the Ashden Awards.

Sarah writes:

At the ‘Ending Energy Poverty’ event last night, I heard a series of really encouraging speeches by Ban Ki-Moon, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, President Wade of Senegal, Nobuo Tanaka, CEO of the International Energy Agency, Tim Wirth, head of the UN Foundation and Olav Kjorven of UNDP, Dr Pachauri and Mary Robinson and Tom Friedman from the New York Times.

What's so encouraging (for all of us on the Ashden team) was that each of the speakers was saying the kind of thing that the Ashden Awards has been saying for 10 years.

That is: there are 1.4 billion people in the world who don't have any electricity and 2.7 billion people (latest stats from the International Energy Agency) who lack access to clean cookstoves. It is this question of energy access, or to put it simply, providing energy to the poor, that is key for getting people out of poverty.

Without energy access, each speaker was saying, it is not possible to reduce poverty. And if we can’t provide energy to the poor, we can't achieve the Millenium Development Goals. What was also very important about last night was that these speakers were giving just as much prominence to cookstoves as they were to energy access.

The UN says it is committed to making energy access universal by 2030, ie bringing power to those 1.4 billion people who are without energy access and cookstoves to 100 million people by 2020. All of the speakers spoke passionately about the link between poverty and energy and all supported this aim of the UN.

These are some notes from the dinner:

- Meles Zenawi, the PM of Ethiopia has a target that by 2025 his country will have zero emissions, ie be carbon neutral and energy independent by using the power of water = hydropower, geothermal, and biomass and solar. In the next five years they plan to increase energy access from 40% to 75% of the rural population.

- President Fischer of Austria said it was a 'moral imperative to bring energy access to the poor'.

- Mary Robinson spoke about the global cookstove initiative and emphasised the importance of listening to the local experts and local communities. The keys for success, she said, are being innovative and listening to the women. Mary Robinson quoted the line, 'Water is the oil of the 21st century and waste is the gold'.

- Dr Pachauri spoke about the importance of local initiatives and low-interest finance. He said BP is going to spend $20 billion cleaning up after the Gulf of Mexico spill. It would only cost $5 billion to bring light (solar lanterns) to one billion people in India.

- Tim Wirth from UNF said that at Copenhagen $30 billion was put on the table from the developed countries to help finance Africa's low carbon industries. Africa is ready, but where is the money? None of it has been produced.

- Nobuo Tanaka, head of the International Energy Agency, gave us many stats from their new report on energy poverty. The killer stat was that people in New York State consume the same amount of energy as the whole of sub-saharan Africa. He stressed the importance of rural decentralised power and new models of delivering energy through local generation of renewable energy.

It was amazing for me to hear the argument we have been making for years being spoken and accepted at this level. Now we have to hope that they find the right solutions and the right models to bring this change about. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Ashden Awards to channel the learning and examples that have been provided by our winners into helping towards these solutions.

See also: To meet UN Millennium Development Goals, fight energy poverty, report says

Pic: Sarah Butler-Sloss at the Ashden Awards, July 2010

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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Follow the coverage on Clinton's $50m for clean cookstoves

"This could be as transformative as bednets or even vaccines."
Hillary Clinton, CGI, 21 Sept 2010.

Prospects Rise for Clean Cooking in Poor Places (New York Times)
Clinton unveils U.S. funds for clean cookstove push (Reuters)
Hillary on Fire About Clean Cookstoves (Daily Beast)
Secretary of State Clinton announces global cookstove initiative (Nature)
Hillary Clinton, cookstoves and "The Girl Effect". Watch a short film about why girls hold the key to transforming the world (Salon)
How Hillary Clinton's clean stoves will help African women (Guardian)

For more on stoves: Stoking up a cookstove revolution (Ashden Awards)
See also: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and Hillary Clinton calls clean cookstoves a "cross-cutting issue"
And for some Ashden award-winning stove projects, go to: TWP/AHDESA, GERES Cambodia and Aprovecho/SSM.

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SELCO gets the message across in New York

Sarah Butler-Sloss, founder director of the Ashden Awards, arrived in New York yesterday to participate in events surrounding the UN General Assembly and the Millenium Development Goals Summit. The first event Sarah attended celebrated the work of Ashden award-winner SELCO (pic). Sarah sent this short report back from last night's event in New York.

The SELCO event was excellent. SELCO is 15 years old now and is being hailed as an exemplary organisation for delivering clean energy to the poor. The event was hosted at the CitiBank Foundation offices and supported by the Lemelson Foundation, E+Co and the UN Foundation.

At the Clinton Global Initiative today, the UN Foundation is launching the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves which aims to end energy poverty by 2030. [See Clinton calls Cookstoves "a crosscutting issue".] As a senior member of the UN Foundation said, "We cannot achieve our Millenium Development Goals without providing access to modern forms of energy to the poor, it is essential for alleviating poverty."

The UN Foundation is very keen to promote the solutions - such as SELCO's - that bring clean reliable energy to the poor. The phrase 'energy access for the poor' seems to be on everyone's lips here.

One of the people at the SELCO event was the Indian Minister, Deepak Gupta, who was at our Ashden Awards conference in India, and who is in charge of India's Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). He remembered the Ashden Awards event and was proudly telling us that next year they will electrify 500 new villages through decentralised power and renewable energies.

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Hillary Clinton calls cookstoves a "cross-cutting issue"

Update: The Guardian columnist Madeleine Bunting writes about Clinton and cookstoves: "Finally, this huge story is percolating through to the mainstream ... This is a problem that does not require expensive technology. It is about using fuel efficiently. Watch this video."

The video link is to Ashden award-winner Aprovecho.

Escorts Foundation - 2004 Ashden Award winner
The New York Times reports that later this morning Hillary Clinton will announce $50 million in seed money for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Mrs. Clinton called the problem of indoor pollution from primitive cookstoves a “cross-cutting issue” that affects health, the environment and women’s status in much of the world.

The NYT says the Alliance has set itself the goal of providing 100 million clean-burning stoves to villages in Africa, Asia and South America by 2020.

Although the toxic smoke from the primitive stoves is one of the leading environmental causes of death and disease, and perhaps the second biggest contributor to global warming, after the industrial use of fossil fuels, it has long been neglected by governments and private aid organizations.

See also: Ashden Awards report Stoking up a cookstove revolution and Ashden award-winning stove projects: TWP/AHDESA, GERES Cambodia and Aprovecho/SSM.

More: Shell, UN to Back $100 Million Plan for Clean Energy Cookstoves
Ashden award-winner GERES Cambodia have sold their one millionth stove

Update: Anne Wheldon, Senior Adviser at the Ashden Awards, says:

This is something that need not cost much, but it has got to be done right, for the particular country and culture, and it must be what people who do the cooking actually want. I think Andrew Mitchell, the UK development minister, is arguing at the Millenium Development Goals conference for 'spend aid better' rather than 'spend more'. A lot can be achieved at a comparatively low cost provided that it is done in the right way.

pic: Escorts Foundation, Pakistan - Ashden winners 2004

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Shami Chakrabarti says 'small innovations make a massive difference'

Watch Shami Chakrabarti at the Ashden Awards 2010

I saw the great potential of taking ingenuity and compassion and putting them together. People are not just talking about problems of sustainability, they are doing something about it, and they're doing small things, things that seem so small, but like all true genius, these small innovations and inventions make a massive, massive difference to people's lives.

Shami Chakrabarti is director of Liberty.

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Mike visits The Recycled House

Mike Pepler, our UK Awards Manager, went to help out at an Old Home SuperHome open day. The programme is organised by the Sustainable Energy Academy, which won an Ashden Award in 2009, and includes over 50 homes open to visitors at various points during the year. The SuperHome that Mike helped at is The Recycled House, Camber, East Sussex.

The Recycled House has 2.1 kW of solar PV panels on the roof, feeding surplus electricity into the grid, and 7 m2 of solar thermal panels. The large amount of solar thermal is intended to provide a portion of the space heating during cold but sunny weather. It feeds into a 450 litre thermal store, up in the loft, which is also heated by an efficient woodburner.

The store supplies hot water and also runs underfloor heating on the ground floor. The upper floor has no heating - it is so well insulated, with external insulation as well as cavity wall insulation, that it should not need it - some heat will drift up from downstairs anyway.

Here's the owners, John and Helen:
They bought the house in January 2010, and have spent months since then renovating it. Their goal has been to create a practical and enjoyable living space, at the same time as reducing the environmental impact of the house as far as possible, and recycling all of the materials removed in the process - hence the name, "the Recycled House".

The weekend was busy, with almost 70 visitors over the days it was open, including neighbours, passers-by who saw the solar panels and the sign announcing the open day, and people who'd travelled specially to see what they'd done.

As each person left, they completed a survey to find out what they thought of the open day, and whether they were going to take action to reduce energy use in their own home as a result of visiting. This is one of the ways in which the Sustainable Energy Academy measures the impact of the programme.

There were some other visitors as well: a film crew from ITV Meridian News were doing a feature on "eco homes", which will go out in a couple of weeks. The cameraman took a range of still shots, including one of the woodburner:

and they also interviewed John and Helen to find out about their motivations and achievements.

To find out more about the Sustainable Energy Academy's Old Home SuperHome programme, visit the Ashden Awards website. To find out more about John and Helen's house, go to The Recycled House.

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Friday, 17 September 2010

Neil MacGregor says "more equal planet has to be more sustainable planet"

Watch Neil MacGregor at the Ashden Awards 2010

It was wonderful to see people in Vietnam, in Africa, in Central America, talking about how sustainable energy is changing their societies. If we are going to make our planet a more equal planet, then it actually also has to be a more sustainable planet.

(Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, presents Radio 4's A History of the World.)

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Friday round-up

Hillary Clinton to announce the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

New natural low-density insulation from award-winners Second Nature

British windfarms deliver record output

Now 64 Superhomes across the UK - up from 25 when SEA won its award

Watch video of Architype's bid to Technology Strategy Board for ecological community buildings

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Louis Theroux says the awards are "wonderful and refreshing"

Watch Louis Theroux at the Ashden Awards 2010

It feels almost like it's the Oscars of the green world. To have a place where instead of gloom and doom, you've got a chance to celebrate real achievements, and the great work that's being done, I think is wonderful and really refreshing.

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World Bank's Clean Energy Czar calls for "spectrum" of technologies

Last week the World Bank announced the appointment of Daniel Kammen (left) as its ‘clean energy czar’. Kammen is currently the head of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at University of California, Berkeley.

This week Kammen gave an interview to the New York Times in which he stressed the importance of a spectrum of technologies that “fit lots and lots of different local situations”.

One big hurdle, he says, is getting economists to recognise the value of externalities.

Our economy is fixated on one metric, money ... we need to put a value on the quality of our energy systems, the ability to preserve nature, to preserve the oceans and the rivers.

In the interview he also praises the large-scale use of distributed energy in parts of East Africa.

Kenya, for example, has more solar installed per capita than any other country. That’s a remarkable thing for a poor nation.

pic: ScienceWatch

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

How Ellen MacArthur learnt about sustainability

This week the round-the-world yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur spoke at the Rye Arts Festival. Mike Pepler, our UK Awards Manager, went along to hear her discuss her new book, sustainability and the 'circular economy'.

Full Circle tells the story of how Ellen MacArthur dreamed of sailing round the world since she was a little girl, and eventually achieved this goal in 2001 and became famous - which was not what she was seeking at all. She carried on sailing and competing, and set a new record time for circumnavigating the globe single-handed in 2005.

During her ocean journeys she often passed deserted islands in the Southern Ocean, and was surprised to see how much life there was there, despite the harsh conditions. In 2005 she joined a project on South Georgia for two months to monitor the albatross population on the islands, and found it a life-changing experience. While there, she saw the abandoned whaling stations, which had operated from the early 1900s to about 1960. Many thousands of whales were processed there, mainly for oil, which was an important industrial feedstock. With the increase in mineral oil supplies, and the decline in the whale population, the industry eventually ceased to operate.

Ellen was struck by the way people had come in to take a resource with no thought to whether it could be sustained, and then abandoned the towns and industry on South Georgia when they were done with it. She started to research how different kinds of resources were being exploited across the world, and quickly realised that many of them were going to be in short supply soon, just as happened with whale oil many years ago. She also realised that in the same way she had to conserve her supplies while on a long sailing trip, the world as a whole had to conserve its own resources, as there is no resupply vessel on the way.

In 2009 she gave up competitive sailing, so she could focus on what she saw as the bigger challenge of encouraging the world to move to a sustainable footing. The key idea she is pushing is that we need a 'circular economy', where resources are reused and recycled, and energy is supplied from renewable sources. In order to campaign for this, she has recently launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which is well worth a visit.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Two Johns and Dale make the Guardian list

Last week the Guardian published a list of top green pioneers and two of them were Ashden Award winners: John Doggart, chairman of the Sustainable Energy Academy, and John Booth, director of Eigg Electric.

This week, it was the readers' turn to write in and suggest names. The short list of 10 included another Ashden Award winner: Dale Vince from Ecotricity. The reader said Dale was a hero:

for actually getting off his rear and changing the way our power is generated without being forced to through regulation. Oh, and also for not selling out and refusing to have shareholders

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Monday, 13 September 2010

Mike retrofits his new home: first up, cavity wall insulation

Over the last few weeks, Mike Pepler, our UK Awards Manager, has begun retrofitting his new home to impressive eco-standards. He’s just installed cavity wall insulation and has a great detailed account of it in his blog ... next, he's installing solar thermal panels and a wood gas stove with a back boiler. What's most inspiring about the work that Mike's doing is that, because he logs and sources all his own wood, he’ll be almost self-sufficient in heating his home and and will have paid back his outlays, including the plumbing work, in less than 10 years.

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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Top of the agenda

The Guardian: What problem do you hope scientists will have solved by the end of the century?

David Attenborough: The production of energy without any deleterious effects.


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Friday, 10 September 2010

Ashden winners at the garden party with a difference

Today Prince Charles visits A Garden Party To Make A Difference in his own gardens at Clarence House, together with his neighbours’ gardens at Lancaster House and Marlborough House.

The Garden Party is part of Start, an initiative launched by the Prince's Charities Foundation, to promote and celebrate sustainable living and to show what a more energy efficient, cleaner and healthier future could look like.

Prince Charles is also, of course, patron of the Ashden Awards, and the Ashden Awards has a strong presence in the Commonwealth Pavilion, where UK winners and winners from Commonwealth countries are demonstrating the very practical steps that can be taken towards a sustainable future.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

Call for tighter regulation on domestic heat pumps

A report from the Energy Saving Trust says domestic heat pumps need to be subject to tighter regulations in order for them to deliver widespread energy saving.

The report was welcomed by David MacKay, chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change:

"Heat pumps will be a crucial component of our low-carbon future, provided they perform well. It is therefore essential to conduct trials to establish best practice and perfect this technology for use in buildings throughout the UK."

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Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Architype up for another prize

Architype - 2009 Ashden Award winner
The architectural firm, Architype, was an Ashden award winner in 2009. This year the firm has been shortlisted for the RIBA Sorrell Foundation Schools Award for St. Luke's CE Primary School in Wolverhampton (above).

St. Luke's is the first primary school in Britain to achieve BREEAM Excellent status.

The winner of the RIBA Sorrell Foundation Schools Award will be announced on 2 October 2010.

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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

CNN reports on two of our winners

CNN's recent report on solar energy bringing power to Africa focussed on two of this year's Ashden award-winners, Rural Energy Foundation and D.light Design. CNN reporter Catriona Davies writes: "In rural communities of Africa - where more than 95 percent of homes have no access to electricity -- solar energy has the power to transform lives." Her report also quotes Willem Nolens, director of Rural Energy Foundation, "Lack of access to energy is a cause of poverty, not just a result of poverty."

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Monday, 6 September 2010

Term starts for St Columb's with International Visitors

Ashden award-winner St Columb Minor School is starting off the academic year with a great opportunity to share its experiences and expertise. Tomorrow 12 international visitors from Poland, Germany, Spain, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Bulgaria and Turkey will be visiting the school.
The focus for the visit is to find out how to use the environment to inspire learning. The visit has been organised by Carnyorth Environmental Education Centre. They have chosen St Columb following the school's recognition as an Eco-School, for achieving the Green Flag, and as an Ashden award-winner.

The school's Business Manager Gill Harper says the visit by head teachers, teachers and education consultants to Cornwall is to learn how to use the Eco–schools programme and the international primary curriculum to teach sustainability throughout the school.

"We will explain how gaining International Schools Award and the Ashden Award has impacted on the wider community. The visit will provide a unique opportunity to share experience, skills, expertise and explore best practice across Europe."

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Friday, 3 September 2010

Award-winner SolarCentury joins signatories warning Chris Huhne to protect microgeneration incentives

Solarcentury: 2007 Ashden Award winner
Solar PV roof, Boatemah Walk social housing development, Lambeth, London

A coalition of green, countryside and housing groups, including Ashden Award winner SolarCentury, has written to Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy. The signatories urge the secretary of state to rethink the idea of slashing budgets for decentralised renewable energy incentives, such as the feed-in-tariff and renewable heat incentive.

They warn that reducing funding for the decentralised generation of sustainable energy will put both jobs and energy security at risk. There has been a recent upsurge in the numbers of microgeneration technologies installed, and, as Germany has shown, market forces reduce the costs of these technologies in the long run. Axing such a stimulus now, the letter warns, will be regressive.

As an alternative, this wide-ranging group of signatories (from the National Farmers' Union to the TUC) recommends energy efficiency measures be pursued to offset the costs of installations.

More about the work of SolarCentury can be found on our website.

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Thursday, 2 September 2010

A trip to the Isle of Eigg

A weir on the island is used to generate hydro-elecricity

In February this year, our UK Awards Manager, Mike Pepler visited the Isle of Eigg, off the North West of Scotland, to assess the island as an applicant for the Ashden Awards. Five months later the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust won the overall UK Gold Award prize for its outstanding achievement "in cutting energy consumption and devising a unique electricity capping system, dramatically reducing household carbon emissions by nearly 50 percent".

Mike has now posted some wonderful photos from his trip in February on his own blog. There are dozens of photos, so he's divided them into three posts. The first deals with the trip to the Isle of Eigg. The second captures some of the magnificent scenery on and around the island. The third shows how the islanders are generating renewable energy, cutting energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions. Well worth a look.

More on previous Ashden award winners can be found on our website and a film on the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust can be downloaded here.

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