The Challenge of Being Green

  • Argyle Street Housing Co-operative (ASH) is a purpose-built, government-funded housing co-operative in Cambridge, set up in 1981. The co-op offers shared accommodation and consists of houses and flats, surrounding three communal gardens. There are currently 86 co-op members. Bryony Vickers is 31, a member of ASH and the Development Co-ordinator. She is responsible for looking at the co-op’s internal development in terms of improving the environmental impact of the existing buildings and the co-op’s policies. She is passionate about environmental issues and finished a degree in sustainability last year.

  • Her role in the housing co-op, and her passion for sustainability, meant that she was already trying to improve the housing co-op’s green credentials before signing up for Greener Together. “I was quite excited to hear about Greener Together”, she explains “and thought it could be something that ASH would like to be involved in, because we’re already quite green and because we’re already making moves in that direction”. Bryony was particularly interested in signing up to Greener Together because of its focus on behavioural change. “There’s a lot of work at ASH being done on infrastructure, and I think that’s really important, but I also think you need to have the two-pronged approach of addressing both the issues. I thought Greener Together would be a great way to encourage people to think about their behaviour, particularly in terms of energy use; it makes a massive difference.

  • “At ASH, we have been measuring the gas and electricity use of our four-person houses. All houses are identical in terms of structure; it’s the tenants and their lifestyles that differ. We found that the highest figure of carbon emissions was 100% larger than the lowest. This shows that within the home, purely through behaviour, it’s possible to cut carbon emissions by at least half”.

  • The housing co-op’s target was 30 pioneers, and Bryony got the first 15 people to sign up relatively easily. “After that, it became an uphill struggle. People seemed interested in the project, and thought it was a great idea, but to actually get people to commit to being involved was much harder”. ASH now has 27 people signed up. However, despite almost getting the required numbers, Bryony has also found it difficult to get those who’ve signed up to actually engage with the project. “The hardest thing is getting people to talk to me in the first place which is making it harder to find out what’s stopping them from being involved”. She suspects that it’s a combination of people being too busy, and a side-effect of the housing association being quite green to start with. “People already feel like they’re making a big effort and the idea of having to commit to making an extra effort or to do more seems like too much, or maybe even a bit unnecessary”.

  • Being green

  • Bryony is just about to start some new strategies to see if that improves participation. “I’ve decided to hold weekly surgeries and make a time every week when I’ll be available in the garden. It’ll be quite casual, so people can have a chat about green issues in general, as well as Greener Together. Perhaps making it wider and less formal might make it more appealing”. Bryony is determined to keep trying to make Greener Together a success, despite the challenges to date. “Even if I can get just a couple of people thinking about it more, it’s possible that things will disseminate further out amongst the people they know”.

  • Bryony has signed up to 9 pledges. “The ones within the home have been going well. I’ve nominated my daughter as the light monitor so she gets to tell us off for leaving the lights on. That’s been quite effective”. However, other pledges have been harder: “buying less packaging has been quite tricky, simply because of the amount in shops that’s out there”. Bryony’s greatest success is a new pledge that she’s made herself: to eat less meat. “I find it quite difficult cos I’m a real foodie and I like meat, even though I understand that it’s much less sustainable than other sources of protein.” She’s made a commitment to only eating meat three times a week and only buying it from local butchers that source it from local farms. “I’d had the idea of cutting down on meat for a while, but signing up for Greener Together has pushed me into actually doing it”. She hasn’t found it as hard as she expected. “I still have to remind myself when I’m out shopping, but once you’ve made the commitment to doing it, you start to change your mindset and it’s not actually too much of a problem”.

What They Say about new energy...

  • DECC Confirm Contingency Plan
  • New energy efficiency rating for homes highlights need for proper valuations of houses
  • Do you wish to harness an income from your land with solar panels?
    A call for commitment from the Government re: EU renewables target
    Government needs to do more to remind the public it has not killed the FIT
    The need for real data to prove renewable technology’s worth
    Feed-in-tariff is not dead!
    Pros & Cons of The Green Deal.
    The Green Deal is coming, but what does it mean?
    Time is running out for 50kwp solar systems at the top rate of feed in tariff


Events 2015

'Social enterprise and the environment' event June 25, 2016

Save Up To 80% On Your Household Bills

FREE Training - how will climate change affect your community? June 25, 2016
Greener Living Fund launch - first pictures June 25, 2016

Wood Energy
Greener Living Programme launched June 23, 2016
The third sector gave us the welfare state, can it give us the sustainable state? June 22, 2016
UK Climate Projections launched (significant!) June 18, 2016
Funding Central launched June 17, 2016
Third Sector Climate Change Declaration June 15, 2016
Real Help for Communities: Volunteers, Charities and Social Enterprises June 7, 2016
The sun is inexhaustible. It will never run out meaning free energy for you forever Film June 5, 2016


Comparing UK Solar Panel Installers could
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UK Solar PV Benefits & Savings

Solar PV Cost/Savings example

This example is based on a 50kwp system with 30 degree pitch in Swindon with no grid upgrades and straight forward access. (2010)

System size: 50 kW
System cost: £75,000 +VAT
Income from FiT: £225,822 (assuming 3% RPI increase on 15.2p/kWh tariff)
Energy Savings: £106,142 (assuming unit cost = 11p/kWh)
Export Tariff Income: £15,469 (assuming inflation of 5%)
Total Profit (exc. install cost): £272,433

Benefits of Solar PV systems

    • Lower electricity bills
    • Cut carbon emissions
    • Benefit from Feed-in-tariff for 25 years
    • Cut carbon emissions
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    Solar can help farmers reduce energy costs and generate income at the same time. A solar PV installation can substantially reduce energy costs, especially for farms running power-hungry equipment during daylight hours. Through the feed-in-tariff you can expect a return on investment of around 8% for a 25 year period, plus the savings on your electricity costs.

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Energy Saving

Impact of Participating

The difficulty of engaging with people has meant that Bryony isn’t sure how accurately they’re sticking to their pledges. “I’m hoping that the new scheme where you can make your own pledges will improve things” she says. “It’s a good move for this audience where people are probably already doing some of the standard pledges”. Pic

Wood Burning Energy?

Converting wood into energy

The renewable energy industry in Wales is providing the potential for new Wood Energy Businesses to be established by entrepreneurial individuals or co-operatives. A Wood Energy Business will need: 1. A guaranteed, local supply of wood or processed wood fuel 2.


Solar Power

The UK embraces Solar Power

The Government has set targets for the number of UK households that will have installed solar panels to their home. Contrary to popular believe the UK has over 65% of the radiation that Spain receives which is more than enough to guarantee a the function of a Solar PV system. With the Government's feed-in tariff in place that allows an income to be produced from installing solar energy the number of homes that rely soley on solar power is set to rise.Pic