Most people in Alford will probably be aware of the development of the Men’s Shed, the garden, the community polytunnel and the allotments. Not so many will be aware that much of what we are doing is funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund. We are now in the second year of that project.
We were awarded a grant over two years of just under £200,000 which has enabled us to reroof the building, convert to LED lighting throughout and this year we will be putting in double glazing. We have renewed much of the fencing, created 19 allotments and erected a polytunnel. All the raised beds are in use from which people are already picking produce. We have planted a community orchard which was generously supported by many people in the village.
Covid 19 intervened as we were about to run a number of events during North East Climate Week back in the spring. These events included information on insulating homes and about renewable heat systems. We will try to reschedule these later in the project.
One of the elements of our Climate Challenge Fund grant is to increase awareness of what households can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you are like me, persuaded that climate change is a threat, maybe it is a good time to think about what we might do to help reduce emissions. The effect of Covid 19 is thought to have reduced global emissions by around 17%, but it is highly likely that emissions will bounce back up, assuming the economy gets moving again.
So, when normal life resumes, what might we do to help reduce emissions? A recent study which received much attention on the BBC News (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52719662) from Leeds University suggests that there is actually quite a lot we can do. Nearly 7000 pieces of research were looked at to find out what actions would do most to reduce household emissions. The biggest saving in carbon is to go car free, which saves over 2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, but that is likely to be a challenge for rural residents with our rather limited public transport system. Using an electric car saves almost as much carbon dioxide. If you fly for leisure or business, one less long-haul flight will save 1.65 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. The fourth biggest saving comes by switching to renewable-only energy for you home. Other significant savings can be made from more use of public transport (not an option for many of us), home renovations that improve insulation and energy efficiency or installing renewable heating systems, such as heat pumps or biomass boilers. Dietary change to veganism also gives quite big savings, as does shifting from old cookers and cooking equipment to energy efficient equipment such as induction hobs. These are the biggest savings but there is a lot more we can do. Eating seasonal and local food can help and we will soon be putting a list of local food producers and suppliers on-line.
We have learnt quite a lot in the last few weeks about how much travel is unnecessary. Many of us have become better acquainted with Zoom or Skype for family or business meetings and many are working from home and enjoying not having to commute. Many more people seem to be walking on the footpaths and quiet roads around the village and enjoying the environment on their doorstep. I have lived here for 30 years but have seen some birds for the first time in the Vale on my varied walks from home. I now feel that I know my immediate surroundings better than ever before.
Climate change may not come upon us with quite the speed that Covid 19 did, but it almost certainly poses an even bigger threat. Let us not forget that fact and maybe, with a bit more time on your hands at present, it is a good time to be thinking about changes in behaviour that you could make.