The idea which was pitched was around sharing the sort of ideas and information which the Centre for Alternative Technology do around living off the grid, or at least using less energy. This could be done by having a building which is off the grid, and using it as an educational resource. It is much easier to build something new to be energy efficient and sustainable, but the majority of people in Wolverhampton live in older, existing buildings, so it would be important to show people what they can do with existing buildings or homes. There are networks of people who open their own homes on occasion to show the measures they have taken, such as Bristol Green Doors. (I also found this Ecohome showroom in Bristol on the web.)
Such a resource could show people how they can grow their own food, as well as how to be energy efficient.
People felt there could be a nice connection to another of the ideas shared at Make:Shift today around self build housing.
Concerns were raised around people being affected by hypothermia or similar in cooler homes. Conversely there are a lot of public buildings, schools, businesses etc. who don’t know how to use heating systems to manage the ambient temperature and energy efficiency.
Fuel poverty is pressing concern – the hard choices people are making around heating or eating.
Ideas around using food which goes to waste could be spread. Here are some exciting projects which I’ve heard about through Tessy Britton and the Community Lovers Guide to the Universe: Abundance (harvesting unwanted fruit in Sheffield), Urban Harvest in Birmingham, and Brixton People’s Kitchen (cooking feasts with surplus food from shops)
Northfield EcoCentre (Birmingham) was suggested as a source of inspiration and learning.
Energy (and money) saving improvements
One participant is a Green Deal advisor and responded to questions about the scheme – it doesn’t work for everyone, and there are cheaper ways of making energy saving improvements, such as re-mortgaging. Also some very simple, low cost measures can be taken in many homes which significantly reduce energy bills. Energy Assessors report on physical things in place, not whether they work well or not. It was suggested that Public Health work around fuel poverty could include assessments which consider the reality – e.g. does the draught excluder work, have radiators been bled, is heat escaping between floors and skirting and so on.