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Eco Up North

by Jim Coulson

AS WE LOOK TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE, LET US CELEBRATE THOSE ECO-FRIENDLY ORGANISATIONS IN THE NORTH THAT ARE HELPING MAKE THE WORLD WE LIVE IN THAT LITTLE BIT MORE GREEN

The COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in the autumn of 2021 really focused the eyes of the world on how far we have come in our efforts to avert a catastrophic rise in world temperatures, and how far we still have to go. There is no doubt that there is a huge task ahead, especially if the UK is to cut its greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050, as planned. However, businesses and enterprises small and large are pulling together to do their bit, and nowhere is this more evident than in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Sheffield is known for having been an industrial titan, with the city’s factories and steel works dominating the skyline and providing a hive of activity at all hours of the day in the 19th and 20th centuries. Britain grew because of the products created in what was West Riding and is now South Yorkshire, but that came with a cost. The River Don ran black through the city, often setting on fire due to the extraordinary amounts of oil on top of the water. The air quality was abysmal, until the mid 1900s, when pioneering local officials took on the big polluting firms and implemented legislation that led to Sheffield becoming known as “the cleanest industrial city in Europe.”
Indeed, although there are still air quality issues like you would expect in any big city, Sheffield has been branded the most sustainable city in the UK.
George Orwell said of the place in 1936 that “in whichever direction you look you see the same landscape of monstrous chimneys pouring forth smoke.” However, he would be impressed with the Sheffield of today. University of Southampton researchers found that the city had successfully pivoted towards creating renewable energy and is now the second biggest producer of green energy production.

Start changing the small things and see where it leads you

When added to the fact that Sheffield boasts a multitude of green spaces, such as Norfolk Heritage Park and Crookes Valley Park, and a high percentage of electric vehicle use, it is easy to see why it received the accolade. There is even a Sheffield Sustainability Network, which was founded by three local business owners who had begun meeting regularly to exchange ideas on more sustainable ways of working. They now advise businesses and non-profits in the city on how to be more sustainable in the future.

Renewable Energy Sources

With Sheffield being the second biggest city for renewable energy production, you might be wondering which place holds the top spot. We are delighted to reveal that it is another fine Yorkshire city – Hull. This is largely due to the expansion of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy’s wind turbine blade manufacturing site in the area. The £82 million upgrade will see two new facilities built and an upgrade given to the existing factory.

The firm has delivered 1,500 blades to customers since setting up in Hull in 2016, and now it will be able to create additional capacity to continue its key work in the renewables industry. But it is not just on an industrial scale where renewable energy is gaining traction. The government recently announced grants to help consumers install heat pumps in their homes. These green devices replace gas boilers, which contribute to carbon in the atmosphere, as well as to the dent in the household budget with recent price hikes.

Air source heat pumps take the heat out of the air, whilst ground source heat pumps take it from the ground, and both use that to heat your radiators and hot water or alternatively to blow warm air around your home. Jon Broadbent, director of West Yorkshire-based heat pump specialist Clever Energy Boilers, says “a heat pump can drastically reduce your carbon footprint in the home. With sustainability on everyone’s minds, this is clearly the future of heating homes. The fact that it can also save you more than 35% per annum in energy costs too is an added bonus.”

In Lancashire, Burnley College is supporting the installation of these devices with funding from its Low Carbon Hub. The initiative advises employers on how to reduce their carbon footprint, as well as investing in upskilling the construction industry to prepare it for green energy projects in the future.

Sustainable Shopping

You probably remember a time when refill shops ruled the high street. You would go in with your Tupperware and dig down into the massive barrels of washing powder, flour or peanuts (not all in the same container) to replenish your stores. They died out as their unique selling point – cheapness – was buried by an increasingly fierce supermarket price war.
But they are back. And this time, the onus is on reducing packaging. With plastic pollution in the oceans at critical levels and the tide turning against the carbon-heavy production of mountains of single-use plastics every day, one solution is simple. Take your containers to the shop. Fill them full of goodies and pay by weight. Take home, consume, clean the container and return. These minimal waste shops are springing up all over the north, from Padiham to Preston, Huddersfield to Harrogate. They offer sustainable products and rely on as little wasteful packaging as possible, making your shopping trip a more environmentally friendly experience all round.
Charlotte Kitching owns Waste Not, which has branches in Ilkley and Burley-in-Wharfedale in West Yorkshire. She told Northern Life that cutting down on waste doesn’t mean you have to change the way you live overnight. She recommends easing yourself into this more sustainable way of living. “Any change (big or small) that you can make will make a difference,” she says, “even switching to a reusable coffee cup or water bottle eliminates lots of waste over a year. Start changing the small things and see where it leads you!”

Once again, the north leads the way in making this country greener and preparing it for the future.