We must stop bargaining with climate change action, and actually act

How many times have you heard these points when talking about climate change?  ‘The government needs to take the lead’, ‘if only we had an international agreement’, ‘What are China doing’, ‘ it’s more expensive’, ‘Technology will sort it out’. 

I’ve heard them over and over again and I’ve even been that person. I’ve wanted to think that climate change isn’t my responsibility. ‘If only I could get others to take action then I’d properly take action myself.’ That was my one.

This is bargaining with climate change – it’s just the same when we’re dealing with trauma. What we’re trying to avoid is helplessness. The evidence points to this being the main cause of inaction on climate change.  And understandably – people actively avoid feelings of despair. This is why climate change has been a taboo subject for so many years.

By externalising the issue we are bargaining for our own responsibility.  That is being extended through companies, insurers, investment companies corporations, local government and even national government. They are bargaining because the action needed is likely to be painful. And we’re doing the same at an individual level.

And that totally makes sense. This is a global issue so how can it be our responsibility?

The fact of the matter is all of us need to take action to cut the unnecessary carbon we’re producing. If we bargain by establishing increasingly complex criteria for our engagement, climate change will be beyond our control in 10-20 years’ time.

Have you ever wondered why there is a major difference between young and old on the issue? It isn’t because young people are ideologists. It’s because middle-aged and older (like me) feel we have to compromise, and therefore we bargain.

Younger people have no other reality, they know there is nothing to bargain with. They just want to see action. It could be argued that when they get older they bargain with for example with a more expensive bill to replace their heating system. But I think for them, it will simply be a morally indefensible trade off, like choosing to fly or not.

It is the perfect recipe for inaction to push a problem onto another party. We’re in that cycle again with the summit on climate change COP. Everyone remains on the edge of their seats to find out if we’ll form an international agreement. Will it matter? Does it mean that we’ll halve global emissions by 2030 to overt runaway climate change? 

My answer may surprise – ‘No – it won’t’. We can’t wait for the machinery of government, business and finance in this timescale, we must take this responsibility into our own hearts and decarbonise our lives.

And let’s be honest. A global agreement won’t make the slightest difference to whether you cut meat consumption, choose active, public or electric transport or install renewable systems in your house. What will make the difference is if we all stopped bargaining about when or if, and simply acted.

Most of us feel helpless when we decide to engage. Knowing a little about climate change it’s terrifying.  You simply don’t want to know more. This is part of bargaining. Most of us dive into the global issue and feel bewildered, lost, perplexed, paralysed by the reality of it. We react by closing down our research, deciding it’s someone else’s problem.

I’ve got to tell you when you do engage, when you decide to make positive changes, the reality is you don’t feel powerless. It’s quite the opposite.

For me I have felt empowered with new knowledge, thinking and understanding of the issue.  I am lucky enough to now see the solutions in my own home, community, food and transport. I have a plan to decarbonise my heating and vehicle. I have solar panels and mostly cycle. I get excited about the technology which can transform my life to be low carbon, and I like it better this way.  I want to tell others.

I’m doing what I can. My life is no longer part of the problem, I am (or people like me) are the solution. That goes a very long way to tackling helplessness. Even I feel that internationally, nationally or locally there is not enough action. But now instead of despair I feel helpful – people simply need to catch up, and I can assist them.

And it does make it a lot easier that we can talk about climate change openly. People genuinely want to learn more – they don’t see it as green nonesense anymore. People don’t walk away or shut down the conversation they actually engage. That is refreshing but people are still bargaining.

I might be a fool for taking action when it’s not the most economic decision at the time,  but that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that I’m a citizen of the world and that I’m responding to the global problem in the most practical way I know how – in my own life.

I encourage you to stop bargaining. You can move beyond despair quickly, and make some changes. Don’t look over your shoulder but look forward – find more things you can do. Before long you will be talking about life with pride and encouraging others to do the same. You will think tackling climate change is feasible as you will know what the solutions are and like me you will be empowered. 

Tom Beckett is the founder of Better Century and has written numerous other articles about sustainability – see his profile on Better Century and consider joining to get help on create a low carbon, low impact trajectory in your own life. 

A blueprint of what citizens need to do in the next ten years to help prevent a 2°C rise in global temperatures

Ever wondered how much you need to cut your carbon emissions so you can do your bit to prevent further catastrophic impacts of climate change? Here we provide you with an answer. Learn what the average UK carbon footprint is and what you can do about it. Our short infographic tells you where we are and what we need to do to tackle climate change on an individual level, as well as giving you some useful tips.

The average UK Carbon Footprint stated above was determined through nationally reported emissions and estimated imported carbon emissions. Average Global Citizen emissions were set using the UN Carbon Footprint Gap analysis. Proportions of emissions from different areas were determined using a Carbon Trust report that calculating bottom up emissions from numerous participants.

Why do carbon emissions matter?

At some point between 2025 and 2040 the average global temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees celsius, and could be a lot higher.  A 2-degree rise is likely to cause run-away climate change.  Within the next 10 to 30 years if we carry on as we are severe weather events will cause major food shortages and will disrupt entire economies.  This is called climate breakdown.

Climate change is caused by man-made carbon emissions.  We have disrupted the carbon cycle by burning millions of years old carbon from coal, oil, and gas, and by farming intensively.  This causes the release of carbon-based gases which sit in the atmosphere.   They absorb energy from the sun and act like a thermal blanket around the earth.  

As more carbon based gases are released, the concentration increases, thickening the blanket and storing energy.  This energy results in an increase in temperature and severe weather events.  

Can I really make a difference?

There are 7.67 billion people.  Each one of us has a responsibility to stop climate breakdown.  Our choices make a difference.  Over 70% of all carbon emissions occur directly because of our choices.

Trying to influence people to tackle climate change? – Stop talking about consequences, give positive solutions

If you, like me, have been trying to get people to take action on climate change at home, in the workplace or through communications sent out to customers or members, then this is for you.  I summarise sociological studies that have analysed concern for climate change as well as barriers of engagement.  I conclude by providing some of the best ways to communicate climate action.  

It is very apparent why we need to take action on climate change as well as biodiversity loss.  We have witnessed and taken notice of the severe weather events, climatic anomalies, the numerous protests that raise awareness of future catastrophic impacts, as well as governments actively pursuing agreements that will limit temperature rise.  We know it’s serious.  

Although this is the case, people aren’t making change at scale.  Even organisations are dawdling in delivering real net zero plans.  And although governments are making commitments, evidence shows they are falling behind these short lived public statements.

This is after 30 years of communications efforts have been made to tackle climate change.  So what’s missing?  Why are people turning off to the idea of taking action?  

It turns out that people work hard to avoid acknowledging disturbing information.  They don’t want to feel emotions of fear, guilt, or helplessness.  Where possible, people simply want to follow cultural norms and maintain positive conceptions of individual and national identity.  When climate change is mentioned there is an in-built instinct to protect oneself, to move the subject on, or to simply walk away. 

Some of the other trends are also useful in noting.  Concern for climate change is higher in poorer countries even when they have been exposed to less information.  In wealthier countries, it appears that people turn off their concern for climate change in part to protect their cultural norms.  Outrageously people with a higher level of knowledge about climate change, tend to show less concern.  All of this is due to the sense of helplessness and frustration.  

“Informing the public of the problems can increase frustration and apathy rather than build support. Our research suggests that what the public is most skeptical about is not the existence of problems but our ability to solve them. What will make the public invest energy in these issues is not the conviction that the problems are real, but that we can do something about them.” (Immerwah, J. 2009)

So what gives?  The more we inform people the more they switch off?

Climate denial is not just stimulated by creating doubt about climate change – a widespread phenomenon in the U.S. particularly in the 90s and 00s.  Societies develop and reinforce a whole repertoire of techniques for ignoring disturbing problems.  They do this to maintain coherent meaning systems, desirable emotional states, to maintain belief that they can succeed, and in order to follow norms of attention, emotion and conversation.  In other words we pull the wool over our eyes so we can maintain our collective illusion that everything is fine, so we can all ‘live the dream’. 

Powerlessness and guilt were also found as being major means of avoiding taking action.  Studies found a consistent expression that this is not an individual’s problem, or that carrying the guilt is simply too much to bear.  What is tied to this is the impact taking action has on individual and national identity.  A respondent of one of the studies sums this up well:

“We shouldn’t consume so many resources, drive so much, or travel so much by air. We know that it is bad because it increases CO2 levels. And creates a worse situation. But at the same time of course we want to go on vacation, we want to go to the South, we want to, well, live a normal life for today. So many times I have a guilty conscience because I know that I should do something, or do it less. But at the same time there is the social pressure. And I want for my children and for my wife to be able to experience the same positive things that are normal in their community of friends and in this society.” (Interview with Eric, Norgaard, 2009)

If climate change switches people off, how do we enable change?

What is consistently found through studies is that people do care about climate change, and want to do the right thing.  This is counter to the belief that people don’t care and are selfish.  So as a starting point it is a consistent recommendation to not assume people are selfish in communication, which frames the tone of voice being used.

However, the interplay with the systems of denial that protect the self from guilt, powerlessness, and alienation from societal norms, needs careful consideration.  

To avoid denial, messages need to be non-threatening and frame a positive view of self.  And to avoid negative emotions realistic opportunities need presenting that allow people to participate in positive action.  Where possible these need to counter alienation, by allowing people to participate in community collective action with a positive framing.  

What is also important is to convey the message that a difference can be made now through personal action, and where possible to highlight the immediate economic benefits of a decision.  An atmosphere needs to be created for people to experience positive emotions and positive views of the self, through real opportunities for change.

To counter-cultural norms community movements need to be started which represent a view of parts of society.  An example of this is Fridays for Future, started by Greta Thurnburg, or flight shaming, a phenomenon in Sweden.  Both of these movements have galvanised a certain spectrum of society to reconsider what should be the cultural norm, whilst also shifting national perspective.

To achieve pan societal change, movements need to occur through all parts of society where people associate their identity; workplaces, gyms, churches, political parties, clubs, and societies.  Movements needn’t be big, they can simply be a regular conversation or communication that support collective action.   This could occur through groups talking about what they could do, emails that simply outline what can be done to live more sustainably, and through public declaration of the club/society to take action on climate change. All delivered within a positive framing.

Great ideas, but how do I put them in action?

If you are trying to encourage your family or friends, the best way is not to expose them to your feelings of guilt or powerlessness or encourage that within them.  One needs to be a source of helpful, positive information on the subject, which can be practically put in action.  That could be health benefits of a new diet, positive gains from the use of low carbon technology, or benefits of using a bike.  There should be some challenge on carbon-causing choices, like flying, but these need to be framed as being counter-cultural.

If you’re in a workplace and you are trying to achieve change, then forming a group is a great start.  Finding small things that can be done to improve the office, like plants, recycling, or purchase of recycled paper, as well as forums to exchange means of living sustainably, bring a sense of community around the issue.  Once this baseline enthusiasm is initiated, company-wide declarations may be made.  The important thing is to build a positive community around change.

If your organisation is trying to get your customer base or membership to take action, it would be a great thing to have a well-respected member of that community to outline what they had done, and how it had made a difference to them.  To go further community-wide actions may be called for whereby aa community-wide carbon reduction targets are achieved.

It’s important to remember that the most recent survey conducted by the government found 80% of people were fairly concerned (45%) or very concerned (35%) about climate change.  You are pushing at an open door so why not use this information to galvanise change!

Got your own views on the subject or need more help?

If you have ways to build upon this thinking or need help in engaging your friends, family, or club/society, we have a community at Better Century which is bringing together useful information for people, with a positive framing. You can get input or get help from our digital community.  Simply sign up. 

If you’re trying to get members of your organisation to make a change this can be more challenging.  You may want to join a new group on our community site to get support from people like you – click here to sign up.

If you’re working to make a declaration to be a carbon-neutral or net-zero organisation, you are likely to need some consultancy support in assessing baseline carbon emissions and setting trajectories to net zero.  Our consultancy can help you with this – click here for more information.

If you are trying to galvanise action on climate change through your customer base or membership, we can help by writing tailored communications with tips on personal action with a positive framing.  We can also provide digital tools that help your community take collective action with a joint goal.  If you’re interested in this then set up a call with me to discuss how we could help.

Thanks and further research

I want to give a special thanks to Kari Marie Norgaard, who wrote the paper Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change, Background Paper to the 2010 World Development Report, to which much of the information shared here may be attributed. This paper may be found online if you want to learn more.

Go to the next page to learn more about other references used.

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Best Ethical Business Bank Accounts

Starting or running a business and want to give a good impression to customers and your staff? Picking the right business bank account is a great way to start. Read on to learn more.

Why does Ethical Business Banking Matter?

Banks collateralize debt and use money in your account to make investments. Many banks invest in fossil fuels, arms and companies with unethical practices, some solely invest in ethical businesses and renewable energy.

By extension, your bank reflects your business ethos, as your money will be used for varying purposes according to who you bank with. Some may even consider banking within Scope 3 carbon emissions, as money invested does have a carbon factor, especially if invested in fossil fuels.

Your bank appears on your invoices and maybe tracked through your payments. Increasingly the public is becoming aware of banks with poor environmental and ethical investment practices, and although this may not stop someone from doing business with you, it may become a subconcious consideration.

Checking a business bank account is ethical

If you’re running a business you’ve probably already got an account, if you’re looking then these tips will help you make a good decision from the get-go.

Here are some markers you may want to consider in your search:

  1. Investments in the extraction or burning of fossil fuel (e.g. coal mining/power, arctic drilling, tar sands, fracking)
  2. Investments in arms or military activities.
  3. Have they made a declaration of a climate (and ecological) emergency? If so – what actions are they taking?

To save you time on the fossil fuel question there is a brilliant report produced from Bank Track which details level of investment from banks in 2019 into fossil fuels. Barclays, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Santander, RBS as well as many others have billiosn invested in fossil fuels.

You will probably want to ask your bank directly about arms and military activities. Declarations are usually a very public thing so either this will be searchable online or it will be a very simple question for an employee to answer.

The Best Ethical Business Accounts

1. Triodos Bank Business Account

Triodos started in 1980 and only uses money in ways that benefit people and the environment. They do not invest in fossil fuels or arms or military activity, and have recognised the climate emergency, with CEO Bevis Watts signing a letter in support of Extinction Rebellion last year.

The great thing about the bank account at Triodos is there is no standing charge, only charges for transfers and payments in/out of the account. Limitations include only online banking services, and very few high street locations. Cash payments can be made through a post office though and if you need a card for your business a credit card from a seperate provider can be used and put on automated payment.

2. Co-operative Bank

The Co-operative Bank bank has had a recently chequered history, but it has always remained committed to ethical practices. Although not quite a niche in how it limits it’s investments, it does not invest in fossil fuels or arms/military. Although there is not public record of the bank declaring a climate emergency it’s operation is carbon neutral and it has publicly supported the school strike.

For this account you get cards and good online banking and there are no charges for the first 30 months for small businesses, including for transfers/withdrawals. Payments can also be made through post offices, as well as the number of high street banks available.

3. Starling Bank

A relatively new player, which is quickly growing. It has been confirmed through curiouslyconcious that this bank does not invest in fossil fuels, arms or military activities. As a paperless, branchless bank hosted in the cloud their activities are pretty carbon neutral.

There are some great services with Starling including automated annual reports for HMRC and VAT returns, as well integration with Quickbooks. Their fees are pretty reasonable with no monthly charge for a basic account but charges for withdrawals/transfers. This is a great option for a small digitally aware business!

How to Switch Bank Account

Switching bank account is really straightforward and can happen in just 7 days. Simply start an account that then transfer funds.

What are the 5 Best Air Source Heat Pumps?

Air source heat pumps allow you to heat your home with just electricity.  That’s right; no more gas or oil, and you could even use 100% renewable electricity to power the system.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about air-to-water heat pumps, commonly known as air source heat pumps. We will share our recommendations of which ones are the best, and will tell you how to get started in getting one installed.

Why get an air-to-water heat pump?

Air-to-water heat pumps are the renewable heating solution for most urban home owners.  Rural home-owners may also consider ground or water source heat pumps – learn more here.  But why get a heat pump?

  1. Low-cost heating; installation costs are a lot more than traditional boilers, but running costs are much lower.  Heat pumps deliver 3-4 kilowatts of heat energy for every 1 kilowatt of electricity used, making them super-efficient.  If you heat your home using off-peak electricity you can cut bills by 40%.
  2. Longer lasting; many have 25-year warranties.  This means they have double the life of your traditional boiler.  
  3. Cooling and heating capabilities; as well as heating these units can be used to extract heat.  During a hot summer that can be very helpful!
  4. Government incentives; the government helps fund the installation cost of heat pumps through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  This grant is paid out over 7 years and allows you to recoup your installation cost.
  5. Cut carbon emissions; 15% of an average person’s carbon emissions come from heating their home.  Use 100% renewable energy to power your heat pump and you could slash your carbon footprint!

How does an air-to-water heat pump work?

Heat pumps transfer heat by circulating a substance called a refrigerant, as used in our fridges.  Air from outside your property is sucked up and pressurized, and is used to heat a refrigerant, which then heats water, which can be used in the house.  Hence air-to-water heat pumps.

The heat from ambient air, close to the house, is essentially condensed using electricity.  These systems therefore deliver three times as much heat energy as the electricity used, known as the Coefficient of performance (COP).  This is why you would use a heat pump instead of other electric heating solutions, and why heat pumps can still deliver effective heating with external temperatures of -25°C.  Thermal stores are used within these systems to ensure no loss of heat, but also to increase the heat of hot water used in the property through exchange units.

How does a heat pump affect existing heating infrastructure?

There are two components of the system.  A fan to pull in the air and heat the refrigerant and a thermal store.  The fan sits outside, and does create a little noise, but most with a well performing heat pump do not have sound issues.  The thermal store can become another floor standing kitchen unit, may be placed in a cupboard (to replace a water tank) or some manufacturers provide a unit the same size as a combi boiler to put on the wall.

You can get monobloc systems that heat water on demand, resulting in only a larger fan unit being used outside (and no thermal store), but these are best used for very efficient homes.   Low and high temperature systems can also be selected.  Low temperature systems deliver heat at around 55°C, and are largely more efficient, but are likely to need replacement of radiators, which need a larger surface area.  High temperature systems can deliver at 80°C, requiring no radiator replacement.

Heat pumps require a fairly energy efficient home without too much heat loss.  If your home has an energy efficiency rating below C, it’s likely to be better to improve energy efficiency first.  Learn more here.

Best air-to-water heat pumps?

We have read blogs, looked at reviews and have had our community comment on the heat pumps they’ve used.  This has helped us arrive at the best air source (air-to-water) heat pumps to recommend.

Alongside the manufacturer finding the right installer is incredibly important.  We have found across the board that poorly installed products perform very badly and attract incredibly bad reviews.  So take some tips on choosing the right installer below.

1. Mitsubishi Ecodan

Purchase price: £5,000 – £7,000
Benefits: Sound, reliability, maintenance, aesthetic, controls, range.
Downfalls: Internal thermal store size, reviews.

They’ve been delivering electrical devices for over a century, so they know what they’re doing.  This is why they are beating many on cost and have developed some very nice looking products, with good reliability and low cost maintenance, for all sizes of property.  What we particularly like are the advanced control systems that allow you to connect to solar panels, whilst optimising heat pump usage during low cost energy tariffs.  

The only downfall we can see is the lack of a wall mounted thermal store and that there isn’t a high temperature system, with all heat pumps delivering water at 55°C.  There have also been a few rough reviews online, which we attribute mainly to poor installation.

2. Samsung EHS

Purchase price: £3,000 – £6,000
Benefits: Size, cost, reliability, controls, range
Downfalls: Aesthetic, limited range.

Samsung has extremely compact outdoor units, that claim to be 40% smaller than competitors, and they major on a unique refrigerant that is super environmentally friendly and efficient.  On top of all of this they provide a low cost solution, but do have a limited range of external products with only 16kw output and no low noise solutions.  Connectivity on their products is great though, so you can control them remotely, can optimise upon energy tariffs and sync with solar solutions.

We feel the big downfall of this product is the way it looks.  It does have nice internal units though and one good wall mounted one.  It also has very few negative reviews we can find, with only positive ones relating to suppliers.

3. Nibe F2040

Purchase price: £6,000 – £8,500
Benefits: Reliability, efficiency, controls, range, maintenance, aesthetic.
Downfalls: Cost, flexibility of internal units.

Nibe is a lesser known brand, which has built it’s reputation in Poland, Czech Republic and Scandinavia.  Their products are some of the most energy-efficient on the market and they have a great range, which variable outputs of heat up to 65°C, allowing a smaller demand on replacing radiators.  They have great controls, including an app that flags issues, and like most Scandanavian products are well made and require little maintenance.

Our only criticism is the lack of a wall mounted internal unit, and potentially the high initial outlay.  They do have some negative reviews but they are mostly installer related and are countered by may positives.

4. Viessman

Purchase price: £5,500 – £9,000
Benefits: Reliability, efficiency, range, aesthetics, maintenance.
Downfalls: Cost

Viessman is a German manufacturer that focuses on delivering efficiency in its range, which is extensive.  Delivering heat up to 65°C makes this again a super deliverer.  Internal units are also flexible and extensive.  Not much is posted on the controls of their units, but there is a flexible range of thermal stores.  We think their range is pretty aesthetically appealing as well.

5. Daikin Altherma

Purchase price: £6,000 – £8,000
Benefits: Heat output, range, maintenance.
Downfalls: Aesthetic, reviews.

Daikin, a Japenese firm, is a leading global supplier of air conditioning units.  It has a long history of providing climate control technology.  They are the only unit we can find that delivers heat at 80°C in their High Temperature heat pump, meaning these units can be installed in less efficient houses, using existing heating infrastructure.  They have a very good range and espouse low maintenance requirements.

The aesthetics of their units we don’t find that attractive, and unfortunately we’ve found some very negative reviews of their product support.  Saying this they are recommended time and time again from blogs from leading review sites in the heating world.

Finding a good installer

You can choose to either follow a manufacturer when you are sourcing an installer or seek the installer first.  The analysis of our reviews finds that manufacturers don’t necessarily screen their installers sufficiently, so when seeking a quote through that channel do also check on reviews of particular installers. 

You can also simply choose an installer.  We have a list on our renewable heating page, which have all been recommended by our community. 

Join our community and get more support 🙂

Join our community, and ask experts and those going through the same experience questions about how to reduce your environmental impact. Get into your inbox the most up to date information about living sustainably, and support others.

10 New Year’s Resolutions to Live More Sustainability in 2021

Our community has done so many things to live more sustainably, we thought we’d share 10 to inspire you for your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021.  And what better resolutions could there be than to be healthy, save money and the environment at the same time?  With some of these you can do all three!

Go back to work on a bike

You may have loved cycling during lockdown, now take it on your commute!  If you pledge to cycle to work you get health benefits but there are also incredible benefits to the environment.  Daily personal travel is 17% of your carbon footprint if you drive. 2021 could be the year that you prove your commitment to tackling climate change by getting out of the car and on the bike!

You can go electric with your choice of bike or just peddle every step of the way – check the links to get some great advice!

Start ethically investing

It’s all the rage.  Environmental, social and governance investments have shot through the roof in 2021 to over 1 trillion dollars.  The time is now to move your money to where your mouth is.  Afterall around 30% emissions are related to infrastructure and companies which only your money can affect.

Why not start by setting up an ethical ISA with Abundance or energize Africa through an investment with Ethex.  You could also move your pension to Impax or get advice from financial advisors that specialise in this space such as John Ditchfield or Hugo Sparks, members of Better Century.

Reduce consumption of meat/dairy 

Reducing meat and dairy are sure ways to cut your carbon footprint by a quarter, whilst also reducing the amount of growing space to feed you.  This environment win-win-win, which also reduces water consumption and tackles biodiversity loss, is heralded as one simple way is which everyone can help.

You needn’t be a vegetarian or vegan, you can just eat less meat and dairy.  That’s a habit but is massively affected by purchasing choices.  A good way to start is to pledge to cut meat out of a number of meals.  Think about getting a veg box and learn new recipes.  

Cut out single use plastic

With gyres collecting mile wide Islands of plastic waste in the ocean and with marine life being severely affected by plastic particulate in digestive systems, it’s time to cut down on single use plastic.  It was a hugely popular movement after Blue Planet so 2021 could be the time to reinvigorate change by making simple resolutions – to cut out single use plastics.

The key ways our members have found to cut out single use plastics is to use new providers; like Milk and More who deliver milk and veg,  The Funky Soap Shop that provides awesome soaps, shampoos and conditioners, or Green People, who do all types of beauty products and reusable cups and the suchlike.  Why not pledge to reduce your single use plastic through our community pledge and get inspiration from dozens of others doing the same!

Switch energy supplier

Switching energy suppliers can (debatably) make a difference.  Around 10% of your carbon footprint comes from electricity usage – so if you move to 100% renewable then you can make that reduction?  Yes – if you pick the right supplier you are helping build renewable energy and are decarbonising our economy.

View our pages on renewable energy supply and learn about suppliers here.  There are also some great initiatives like Ripple Energy which allow you to invest in a wind farm and pay much reduced rates for energy, or Octopus Energy where you maximise upon flexible rate renewable energy tariffs – slashing bills to those with electric vehicles or heat pumps.

Decarbonise your home

Heating your home is 15% of the average carbon footprint.  Insulate it properly in the roof and put in some draught proofing, and you’ll save hundreds a year.  Go further and insulate walls and hot water systems, upgrade windows, and install thermostatic radiator valves, and you’ll save 40% on bills and footprint.  If you want to go the ‘whole hog’, then install a heat pump, and use just renewable electricity to heat your home, making it arguably zero carbon.

Whilst the Green Homes Grant will pay for two thirds of the bill of these measures, then it makes sense in 2021 to make this resolution.  To learn more about energy efficiency and renewable heating, click on the links!

Buy eco clothing

Sustainable fashion is becoming very fashionable!  It’s because of the incredible environmental impact fashion has through sourcing, processing and disposing of clothes.  An average pair of jeans uses 7,000 litres of water in production, 60% of clothes are made from synthetic materials and the majority of clothes get thrown away with an average use of 5 wears.

If you buy eco clothing, it’s cool, it lasts and it is made from recycled or renewable sources.  Why not just buy sustainable clothes in 2021!  Check out Vivobarefoot for shoes, Bamboo clothing or Lofte Sustainable Luxury Clothing.  There are loads of other community recommendations through our sustainable fashion tag.

Buy an electric car

Well, it’s the time isn’t it?  New Diesel and Petrol car sales will be banned by 2030, you don’t want to be behind the curve.  It’s time to trend set and buy a car that can dramatically reduce expenditure on motoring, whilst reducing carbon emissions.  If you’re an average driver you’ll save around £1,000 a year moving to electric, and if you drive a lot more, then that number just keeps on going up.

With loads of options for financing and leasing electric vehicles, and with such dramatic savings, 2021 could be the year it makes sense for you.  Read all you need to know on our eco resource, and find yourself a great vehicle for 2021!

Holiday without flying

Hopefully when we’ve all been vaccinated, we can move around freely once again.  Instead of joining all the holiday makers abroad why not continue to enjoy your country in 2021 or go to Europe in an electric vehicle?  There’s so many options available to you.

Check out EcoBnb for sustainable locations for staying in 2021, get a log cabin in the Cotswolds next to a lake, or check out Darwin Escapes across the UK.

Make your garden nature friendly

We’ve all loved our gardens during lockdown, now’s the time to make nature also love your garden, and for you to be surrounded by abundance of life!  Whatever size your garden you can encourage nature to come there, by taking some simple steps; growing pollinator friendly plants, putting up a bird feeder, composing, making a hole in the fence for hedgehogs or making a small water source.

Make a resolution to bring wildlife to your garden this year by doing something.  Here’s a great guide of things you can do to make your garden nature friendly!

How to Apply for the Green Homes Grant – All you need to know in six steps

This time-restricted grant scheme slashes the cost of installing measures that will save hundreds in bills every year.  Learn what you need to do in some simple steps to maximise upon this grant scheme.

Every homeowner or landlord is eligible to receive up to £5,000 to install insulation or a new heating system..  A third of the bill has to be covered by the owner, meaning you will receive £7,500 worth of improvements for a £2,500 spend.  

When you can save up to £700 in energy bills every year this is a pretty great deal

1. Know what you need

Surveyors can tell you what you need to do in your home, but all are being inundated with requests and often place an initial charge on doing a survey.  If you know what you need it can endear professional support and save your money.  A simple way of doing this is to look at your Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).  If you don’t want to dig through paperwork click here to use the government tool.  Check the video below to learn how to use it.  You may also want to check that your eligible for the grant – click this link and take the government test.

2. Choose insulation or heating system

To get the grant you have to install insulation or a new heating system (heat pump or solar thermal system).  If your EPC is below D a new heat pump will not be effective so you will need to insulate and/or install a solar thermal system to help heat hot water. If you are a C or above then getting a new heating system could be your best option, but will require some significant capital outlay.  Both of these options will add value to your property with measures that increase energy efficiency ratings improving property value by up to 10%.

3. Insulate and get the best bang for buck

Think top to bottom when you’re thinking about insulation – heat rises right!  Most houses need more insulation in the roof and draught proofing.  If you’ve got uninsulated cavity walls (many houses built 1945 – 1980), then go for bead blow insulation.   Pipes and hot water tanks, alongside heat control systems are next on the list.  If you need to upgrade windows get roof insulation and then double/triple glazing as a secondary measure.  You can go as far as external or internal wall insulation but that’s expensive.

Here’s come combinations to consider but do read more on energy efficiency here.

Primary MeasureSecondary MeasuresCost to youGrant PayoutAnnual Savings
Roof insulationPipe and water tank insulation, and draught proofing £650 £1,350£250
Roof and Cavity Wall InsulationPipe and water tank insulation, and draught proofing £1,000£2,000£700
Roof insulationUpgrade windows to double/triple glazing£2,500 £5,000£550
Roof and Underfloor insulationPipe and water tank insulation, and draught proofing £1,200£3,600£500
Solid Wall InsulationDraught Proofing£2,500 – £7,000£5,000£450
Learn more through this useful table of measures on our community site.

4. Get the right heating system for your home

A heat pump or solar thermal system can be installed under the grant scheme as a primary measure, but conditions need to be right for their installation.  Both of these systems are also eligible for another grant called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which pays out over a 7 year period.

Solar thermal will heat your hot water, with a heat pump offering an alternative to combi boilers.  Both systems take heat from the external environment and condense it to heat your water internally.  Solar thermal will work on any house but you need to have room for an additional tank.  Heat pumps will function on well insulated houses.  To learn more read about Renewable Heating Systems on our Eco Resource.   

A solar thermal system will cost around £1,200 (£2,400 from grant), giving £200 saving a year as it heats about 60% of all your hot water.  An air source heat pump will cost around £2,500 (£5,000 from grant), with savings of around £400 a year and payment of £300 a year from RHI.

5. Find a supplier

Once you’ve chosen what you want to install then you need to source a supplier to deliver the measures.  Most by now will be registered with TrustMark (for energy efficiency measures) or will be registered with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) (heating systems).   Better Century lists recommended suppliers on our Energy Efficiency and Renewable Heating System pages – this is a great place to start!

You need quotes from these suppliers to claim the voucher for the grant, which will be time consuming.  Each will need to visit to give a quote and you will need a quote for each measure to claim your voucher.

6. Claiming the grant and commissioning the work

Pick one supplier for each of the measures you wish to have installed.  Then make an application for the voucher using this government application system with the quotes provided.  You will then receive the voucher by email, which has to be claimed in 3 months and can only be used with the suppliers selected, so make sure you make friends!

Once the work is complete to your satisfaction you need to redeem the voucher using this system.  The supplier is paid for their part directly from the government and you then need to pay the remainder of the invoice.  

You will now have a nice warm home, which will save you money year on year!

Need more help?

Check out community discussions on energy efficiency and renewable heating.

Contact Tom if you need practical support to identify measures and arrange suppliers by emailing tom@bettercentury.org.

How to raise the money to #BuildBackBetter

Fundraising is successful with clear messaging and confident asking.  It is about belief in your organisation, your values, your ability to deliver, but above all your donors willingness to connect with your mission.

To #BuildBackBetter charities need to restore their belief in what they can achieve, and now be prepared to go out and deliver big fundraising campaigns that can make a massive difference.  

2021 is going to be about restoring hope in the future.  Charities make that happen by giving a funnel by which people and organisations can make that happen, through an act of giving.

If you agree that this is the year you want to turn it around, here’s how we can help.

Strategic advice

Deciding on what the next campaign should be or the level of ambition, can be difficult.  Or you may simply have a great idea in mind but just don’t know how to deliver it.  We give strategic support for organisations in this place. 

Fundraising messaging

Need to condense your message into something wonderfully attractive to inspire belief?  We help distil thinking into something which your audience and everyone internally can get behind.  Get this right and you’ll raise the money if you ask enough.

Structured asking

A wonderful idea doesn’t get funded because it is inspirational.  It gets the money because the right people are asked in the right way.  We’ll write fundraising applications for you, will coach major donor fundraisers, and will create mass giving mechanisms to deliver million-pound campaigns.  Get us involved and worry not about hitting your target.

Our consultants have tripled income for organisations, have run million pound fundraising campaigns and support some of the best funding approaches to corporates, trusts, grants and individual major donors.  

Want to learn more – book a non-obligatory meeting with us to discuss. Email Tom on tom@bettercentury.org.

Tips on hosting an excellent digital event

Events have key components including presentations, panel sessions, Q&A, networking and sometimes workshops.  Digital events can replicate all of these very effectively if the right platform is chosen.  However, platforms do have a particular niche.  This blog will save you time by offering simple solutions tailored to your event needs, giving you cost-saving advice, whilst giving important insights on platforms that could be used.

If you like what you read and want some support Better Century helps organisations like Low Carbon Homes deliver amazing events.

Single Stage

Single stage events include presentations, panel sessions, Q&A and networking.   Other considerations should also be about branding and associated sponsorship. 

If you go with zoom (£32 a month for 100 attendees) you face problems around branding and live management of the event such as screen sharing, preparing panel sessions and muting, with there being very little opportunity for networking.  There are more professional platforms that alleviate these problems such as Hopin ($99 (£74) a month for 100 attendees) which offer branding, sponsorship space, networking, multiple rooms, speed networking and even support the use of recorded sessions.

An alternative is to stream your event.  This is done through OBS which allows for a technician to take zoom inputs and place them onto a branding background, and then control what is on screen.  You can even cast directly to a youtube channel or your own website and save money on zoom webinar.  

The Hopin Guide to Virtual Events | Hopin

More sophisticated platforms such as SwapCard, HeySummit, Crowdcomms and Brella use this type of technology alongside networking and Q&A integration.  As you can also stream recorded sessions, you therefore have a virtual green room through zoom, making this the gold standard for single stage events. 

Our recommendation is to properly plan your event and move away from zoom into either a streamed system onto a system like Hopin.  The investment of time will allow you to brand and take away glitches, giving better audience engagement.

Virtual Engagement Spaces

Having a virtual space can make people feel like they’re attending a real event.  Engagements can happen during an event and then you will be disrupted by an activity.  Breaking up presentations and panel sessions and allowing people to have a conversation with one another about the content is natural, and gives events a proper conferencing and networking opportunities in the context of the event topic.

There are platforms that support this type of virtual space whilst also giving a stage for engagement as well.  They all offer uploading of recorded content and the ability to manage speakers behind close doors.  Here’s two platforms which could help you:

Remo is a pricey option at $1,200 per annum but gives great table interactions alongside a good virtual stage and whiteboard function for joint working.  Branding and ability to tailor the platform is amazing, and it even can be integrated into our spaces.

How to use Remo Conference as an attendee - YouTube

Airmeet is an amazingly low priced option with there even being capacity to use the system for up to 100 attendees without payment, $99 a month is the next step up with up to 1,000 attendees.  We’ve looked into this system and it provides really cool virtual engagement and is very easy to manage, but isn’t quite as brandable.

The alternative to these systems is Zoom, through break-out rooms, but we feel these platforms really offer a step up in terms of engagement and branding.  For little or no additional money your organisation can get a great experience for users!

Need some help in setting up an amazing event?

Look no further – Better Century can help.  We’ve got a great team of consultants that can help you plan, market and deliver your event.  Get in touch with Tom through tom@bettercentury.org to set up a non obligatory meeting.

Three steps for a council to deliver its climate emergency quickly

Over 400 councils and local authorities have declared a climate (and ecological) emergency, but many are struggling to figure out how they enact that declaration.  That’s because it’s complex and it takes many different players to help enact it, but it’s also an enormous opportunity for the council to find new revenue sources, whilst tackling some of the biggest issues.  

This headache can be turned into a stimulus.  It can revive an area to be one of the most thriving and forward-looking, providing more jobs, enabling stronger communities and becoming more financially stable.  The right people just need to be brought into the room to tackle the problem of the council for them.

There are three stages to delivering an emergency.

1. Determine Scope and Stakeholders

The council’s declarations often don’t consider the scope of being ‘carbon neutral’ by 2030.  Is this the entire council area and its inhabitants or the councils own buildings and fleet, does it include the contractors and supply chain?  These questions need to be considered before you get started and be within the plan of works.

The other area councils often don’t consider is who are the stakeholders who can help this emergency.  They put the ownership on themselves and feel the mountain is too high and steep to climb. 

Getting the right people to organise this work at the onset is paramount.

2. Stakeholder Policy Delivery

The right stakeholders need to come into a room to consider how the council may deliver its policy. Facilitation is needed to unearth opportunities for joint working and income generation. 

The meeting needs to consider the scale of the problem and the potential solutions.  By getting all the right people in the room, months of head-scratching and frustrating discussions can be saved.

The council needs to act as the facilitator and coordinator for developing the answers.  That way they are no longer the owner of the problem. Project teams are created with timelines and they’ll provide papers to the council for consideration. 

Imaginations across specialisms will be tapped into and exceptional ideas will be born, which will open up opportunities for investment in the area.

3. Change Management

Education will be critical for council staff and councillors about the ideas presented. The solution to these issues is often radical.  Most of the time having an outside body to support the provision of condensed material in the form of short papers and edited videos of workshops will help make this easier.

Ideas will come in the form of; regulation, taxation, organisation creation or policy creation.  Filtering these ideas to make a potential a road map for internal stakeholders to consider will help identify the types of resources needed to push forward with the project areas. 

Raising money through new investment sources such as Municipal Investment Bonds, or the creation of investable organisations owned by the council such as Development Corporations, needs to be part of the thinking to ensure money isn’t a barrier. Sometimes this will mean new organisations need creating.

Now is the time for councils to go about delivering on their climate and ecological emergency. Many are struggling to find the right people to support. Let them know Better Century is here to help – with all the experience needed!

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