Is burning wood for fuel carbon neutral and sustainable – or dirty energy?

Forests for Fuel?  Wed 21st Jan 7.15pm Fleetville Community Centre

Is burning wood for fuel carbon neutral and sustainable – or is this a modern myth and dirty energy? Join Transition St Albans for a lively event – with two expert speakers on Wed 21st Jan 7.15pm Fleetville Community Centre – free

orangutans

Dr Ian Shield – Rothamsted Research Institute, and Duncan Law Biofuelwatch present different perspectives on this active debate.

Our meeting in January explores Biomass and Bio-crops with two fascinating expert speakers, who will present different perspectives on the debate.

Wood burning (biomass) stoves are considered to be a cheap and low carbon energy source for households – see Energy Saving Trust click here.

Biomass is also a key pillar of the government’s renewable energy strategy which proposes to use biomass to provide up to 11% of the UK’s total primary energy demand by 2020 – see DECC click here

But there is an active debate about whether we should be encouraging the burning of wood or other crops to produce energy. Is it really a sustainable and carbon negative strategy?

Duncan Law from Biofuelwatch presents the case against the use of wood for energy:

‘As fossil energy becomes more expensive biomass burning is set to grow exponentially and it is simply not possible for global forests to supply this increasing demand. 80-90% of UK demand will have to be imported currently from the US and Canada but increasingly from S America and Africa.’

Dr Ian Shields from Rothamsted Research Institute will talk about the carbon cropping theme of their scientific strategy to optimise carbon capture by grasslands and perennial energy crops, such as Willow, to help underpin the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

The aim of their research is to provide renewable and sustainable alternatives for fossil fuel-based products and to translate these into robust technologies and practices that can be used by policymakers, agribusinesses and energy companies to help energy security and mitigation of global climate change.   The research focuses on optimising the sustainable yield and biomass composition of perennial non-food crops (especially willows) for bioenergy, biofuels and other industrial products, within the constraints of low-input cropping systems and land-use scenarios that minimise conflicts with food production, ecological and environmental impacts.

Note:

At the start of the meeting on 21st January at 7.15pm there will be a short Emergency General Meeting to amend the TSA constitution regarding the timing of AGMs. This is so that we can hold the AGM a bit later than usual this year.

The theory of everything: addicted to plastic and the joy of the Oxfam bookshop.

Well, I have survived the Christmas break for another year! It’s not that I want to sound mean spirited – I love the opportunity to be with friends and family, take time to eat and drink with others, dress up and celebrate, and share a few gifts. I especially love the card thing with loads of brilliant images to look at; the home-made ones have a special place, and there’s always one or two very beautiful pictures, but I love them all; the santas, the snow, the trees and the reindeer! And we always like to celebrate New Year with a few friends, a drink or two and a loud out of tune rendition of Auld Lang Syne – ‘we’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet’…

But I keep forgetting that I mean to tell family members months before the season arrives, that I don’t want any presents this year, thank-you. No more soaps, special shampoos or bath oils (I don’t even have a bath!). Please don’t buy another set of gloves and scarves, nor biscuits or chocolates wrapped in foil and plastic (that I don’t eat). Please don’t waste your money on things that I neither want nor do I want to encourage the making of them in the first place.

Chinasmoke

Two men walk through smoke from burning plastic waste in Beijing on January 11, 2012. Photograph: Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images

Plastic. Oh, my giddy aunt the amount of plastic that is thrown out, spat out, chewed up and shoved in the bins…only to start its long journey on huge container ships over to the recycling mountains in China…to become what?!

At the weekend I lingered at the supermarket, slightly drowsy from the New Year celebrations, and I hovered by the foil, parchment and cling film aisle. Like a magnet I found myself drawn to the cling film, and heard a voice, much like the devil sitting on my shoulder, saying…You could really use some cling-film for the kitchen. Think of all the left-over food that needs wrapping up carefully for a few extra days life…oh, look! Bio-degradable cling film – that would do the trick!

The difference between Baco BioWrap and normal Clingfilm is that Baco BioWrap is made from a controlled-life, oxo-biodegradable polyethylene and a natural prodegradant is added to the product which means that micro-organisms can consume the low molecular mass products as a food source’

But one quick search on the internet tells me that even if I can believe this story, the challenges of sorting this type of plastic within our waste collections, is so complex that it’s just not worth it. There remains a debate within the EU about whether these kinds of biodegradable plastics are the way forwards or not - see this article here

 Plastic Oceans tells us that ‘The facts are that we are changing our environment as we subject our planet to a tidal wave of plastic waste. We have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than we did in the whole of the last century and this plastic production is having a huge impact. It is using vast amounts of precious oil reserves; approximately 8% which equates to the amount used by the whole of Africa. Almost half of the plastic we use is used just once and is then thrown away – the problem is that there is no “away”. The impact on wildlife, the environment and the potential harm to human health are only now becoming clear. The facts are that we have to do something and do it now.’

Fighting the evil imp on my shoulder I am pleased to say that in the supermarket I bought myself a pack of parchment paper (hoping this was ok) and vowed never to buy cling-film again, bio-degradable or not. After all, if the next step in the Plastic War is to persuade us that some plastic is ok, it’s like saying that Silk Cut cigarettes are less harmful for you – the smoker would never give up! Plastic is just like an addiction for most of us; whether we persuade ourselves that just this one plastic bottle of water is ok – we need it for the long walk we are doing…or that we only forgot to pack our re-usable shopping bags this once, so we’ll just succumb only today to taking one or two of those free ‘disposable’ (sic) thin plastic bags from the supermarket till, just for now…  Or when we have to buy ourselves some new items of clothes, wrapped in plastic so proficiently by those low-paid women in the factories in Bangladesh… or ….when does it stop?

A BBC article in 2013 sums up some of the marine pollution associated with our ‘throw-away’ plastic culture.  ‘Last summer, when filming for a series to be broadcast next year, a team from the BBC’s Natural History Unit saw first-hand how discarded plastic can end up thousands of miles away from where people live when they visited French Frigate Shoals, an island north west of Hawaii. 

There they found turtles nesting amongst plastic bottles, cigarette lighters and toys. And they discovered dead and dying albatross chicks, unwittingly killed when their parents fed them plastic carried in as they foraged for food in the sea. ‘

On Christmas Eve clearing up the house to try and make it fit for the purpose of a Christmas Day meal, I finally took the two boxes of books which had been sitting by the front door for months along to be recyled/re-used to the Oxfam book shop in St Albans.

oxfam bookshopWhat a joy! I took my books in, and delivered them to the table in the back-room, and walked slowly back through the newly painted second-hand bookshop. It was my first visit to the shop since they had redecorated and made the area clean and inviting. I lingered over a few shelves, and was drawn to the children’s book area. Stunned, I pulled out three books for children on astronomy – perfect as my niece was being given a telescope from her mum and I hadn’t been able to find a decent book on the subject anywhere! Here it was: an introduction to astronomy – looked like new with a price-tag of £2. Encouraged, I looked further, and found an autobiography from Stephen Hawking – perfect gift for my partner who was keen to see the new film about the cosmologist ‘The Theory of Everything’.

In all I bought five books from the Oxfam Bookshop costing me a total of £11.50. And I remembered what Christmas used to feel like, when I bought presents that were useful, that didn’t contribute to the poisonous consumeritis of our age, and presents that suited my ever-decreasing pocket! It was a pleasure to shop! And, I fitted them all straight into my large shoulder-bag, walking out with a smug grin on my face. For once, I had done the right thing!

GJ

Biodomes, Community and coffee beans

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Big Lunch Extras is Cornwall’s  Eden Project opening it’s doors, all expenses paid, to hundreds of community movers and shakers up and down the country, with several events taking place over 2014/5.

This weekend I have joined the event for four days -meeting people from Northern Ireland, Scotland and across England to hear inspiring speakers, explore the amazing Eden Project landscape and share conversations with a range of extraordinary people involved in local community action.

Memorable was the community artist, Sue Hill, who has spent a lifetime transforming the way people express their love for the places they live in. She had worked with the residents of Port Talbot helping them to put on a Passion Play engaging memories and histories to express the power of the dispossessed community.

In war savaged Kosovo, her positive energy and thirst for learning from the people she worked with had led to a remarkable project with young refugees returning to their country to build a peace garden in their home town. To find out more about her work go to www.peteandsuehill.co.uk

Later, on a tour around the sweltering Eden Project tropical rainforest biodomes we learnt that each coffee bean fruit produced just two beans, and that your morning cup of coffee required over sixty of these beans! As the coffee beans on the plant ripen at different times it requires intensive labour to pick the beans at the optimal stage. If any of us needed persuading this was a strong argument to ensure we buy only Fairtrade coffee where pickers are paid decent money for their labour. How much effort would you put into picking fruit for your morning cuppa coffee?

Despite anticipating chilly December weather with everyone geared up with woolly hats and scarves we seem to have arrived on a sunny June day with the skies blue and the air still. It was warm enough to have a long lunch outside on the balcony overlooking the glistening white caps of the eerie biodomes.

Back for a good night’s sleep in the brand new cosy Snooze-boxes – courtesy of YHA – and waiting to see what surprises Sunday brings!

see more at Big Lunch Extras website click here and Big Lunch Extras  twitter #BLENovimage

Ideas on how to make the Local Plan a Sustainable Plan – have you responded?

Over 30 TSA members came together  to share and gather ideas on how to make the local plan a sustainable plan. You can find the results of this ‘collective conversation‘ by clicking items below. You can also find this information on http://www.sagba.org.uk/

(each doc is saved as both a  word doc (1)  and a pdf (1a) so you can open which one you prefer to use)

We hope you can use these ideas for stimulation to help you respond.We looked at the three areas of:

(1) Transport  (1a) Transport pdf

(2) Renewable and Low Carbon Energy  (2a) Renewable and Low Carbon Energy pdf

(3) Healthy and Sustainable Environment TSA  (3a) Healthy and Sustainable Environment pdf

Online Consultation – If you want to reply to the consultation you can either click here for online responses  – go directly to ‘Read and Comment on document’ or  individuals can send their response by email or post –
By email to: planningpolicy@stalbans.gov.uk (head your email up “SLP consultation response”); or
By post to: St Albans Council Offices, St Peters Street, St Albans, AL1 3JE

One thing to bear in mind is that any identical answers will be counted as one response so please use your own words where possible.

Also, a reminder that in most cases the default response on the agree / disagree box is “strongly agree” so you need to make sure you change this to what you want.

Don’t forget it will need to get there by the deadline to be counted! Deadline 5pm Sunday 23rd November

Tonight! Wed 19 Nov 7.30 Make the Local Plan a Sustainable Plan!

All welcome! Wed 19 Nov 7.30pm at Fleetville Community Centre

Help to make the local plan a sustainable plan- click here for more information: 

Refreshments available. If you havent been to a Transition St Albans event before you will find  a relaxed, informal atmosphere, with time for a cup of coffee/tea and a chat to others who are involved.

Make the Local Plan a Sustainable Plan

Transition St Albans Open Meeting on Wed 19th Nov 7.30pm at Fleetville Community Centre – all welcome

Make the Local Plan a Sustainable Plan – a collective conversation

 For more information see www.transitionstalbans.org/events/open-meetings/

We aim to put our heads together and make it easier for you to respond to the consultation.

Make the Local Plan a Sustainable Plan


It’s great that there is a council consultation on the Strategic Plan for the District. However it can be a challenge for individuals to contribute well. We need to make our voices heard so the council understands our concerns about having a sustainable future for the district.

TSA have arranged this meeting to help residents manage the process – with a specific focus on:
(i) transport
(ii) healthy and sustainable environment

Facilitated by Melvyn Teare – you will come away from the meeting with concrete ideas on what considerations are important for the council when planning for a sustainable future for the city.

You will also leave the meeting with clear guidelines for completing the consultation – which ends on Sunday 23rd November 5pm.

Melvyn is an ex-councillor with St Albans District Councillor with experience on planning committees and previous portfolio holder for the environment. He is also secretary to the St Albans Green Belt Society and on the committee for the Civic Society.

Refreshments will be available

 

Is Transition a great idea?

 Radio 4 invites you to tell them. Has Transition St Albans helped you change the way you live – in small ways – steps towards a more sustainable community?

be inspiredalangardenGetting to know new people? Growing your own food? Recycling more? Insulating your house? Putting solar panels up or changing the lightbulbs? Walking more leaving the car at home? Helped create a community growing project @FoodSmilesStA ? Have you found out more about environmentally sustainable issues?

Radio 4 is inviting listeners to tell them what they would like to hear on the Radio for Listeners Week: Get Involved.

In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg and guests discusses the history of ideas; but is there a topic that it’s missed? Let the programme team know about your big idea. Would you like to hear more about communities responding to climate change issues – through the Transition network and sustainable food initiatives?

Woman’s Hour offers a female perspective on the world, but what’s your perspective? Are you one of the many women in TSA who volunteer their time and effort in the community to help inspire others to make a difference towards living in a sustainable city.

Saturday Live is all about sharing listener’s extraordinary stories. So if something unusual or amazing has happened to you get in touch. Has your garden transformed into an edible paradise? Did your involvement in Transition Streets help build lasting friendships with neighbours?

Listener Week on Radio 4

Do you have a fantastic idea for Radio 4 which you’ve always wanted to hear on air? What’s the burning issue that is being overlooked? Listener Week is your chance to get involved. This November three programmes are giving you the chance to curate their content.