World’s biggest Repair Cafe

Article by Nicole Barton.

Repair Cafes. ‘What a jolly good idea’ is what I think Sir David Attenborough said to me as I introduced him to the concept in April. My recollection is blurred by endorphins and adrenalin - this was a huge, bucket list moment for me. I explained that Repair Cafe’s are free community events, matching experienced repairers with people needing stuff fixed. They are a significant part of the reason I recently disclosed to a friend that ‘I would probably go into work and do my job, even if I wasn’t paid’.

I work on lots of environmental initiatives and only recently realised why Repair Cafes are so special. It’s the kindness. Highly skilled, professional engineers and repairers share themselves and their tools to unreservedly help a stranger. The repairers talk through what they are doing and a brief relationship is struck up. Repair Cafés are the proper Big Society, helping in a small way to tackle poverty and isolation.

Repairer Chris Moller says he does it ‘Because the delight on peoples’ faces when you bring something back from the dead that they had totally given up on, is priceless’.  It seems generosity is infectious. Repair Cafes are springing up all over Cambridgeshire and the entire world –1,370 are registered and stretch from Chile to Japan and Norway. 

Kate Boursnell from Transition Cambridge is involved because ‘… they help people’s stuff last longer, so we use fewer resources and less energy to make new things.’ In terms of climate change, this is crucial.  Our consumption makes up 30-40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Per capita Britain is one of the top five nations creating electronic waste. The average Briton dumps 23.5kg of e-waste each year.

The Circular Cambridge Festival, supported by Mackays of Cambridge and Draper Tools on Sat 11th Nov is challenging repairers and the public to take part in the World’s Biggest Repair Cafe. Bring us your faulty, torn, wobbly, and malfunctioning items and together we’ll have a huge repair party. The whir of the drills, smell of solder, tapping of hammers and patter of sewing machines will be blended with talks, stalls and an amazing café. Full programme and booking available at www.circularcambridge.org /festival

A version of this blog post first appeared in the Cambridge Independent on the 18th October 2017.

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Homes Fit for the Future

Article by Tom Bragg

We all deserve a good home and Cambridge’s acute need for affordable housing has been well covered in this paper.  ‘Good’ homes are also energy-efficient, comfortable and affordable to heat. Well insulated, draught-free homes cost little more to build, later recovered through lower fuel bills.

A ‘draught-free’ home doesn’t means living in an air-tight box. Many new homes have ventilation with heat recovery, where the in-coming air is warmed by the out-going air in winter. The rooms have comfortable, fresh-air, which is transforming for people with asthma, as most allergens are filtered out. 

Cambridge has the highest density in the UK of really good quality ‘Code 5 for Sustainable Homes’, like those in Eddington and Virido in Great Kneighton.  But disastrously the government scrapped this whole building Code, along with ‘Zero Carbon Homes’. I fear much new building will be to minimum standards. And even the claimed standards aren’t met in many homes, as revealed by people trained and lent thermal imaging cameras by Cambridge Carbon Footprint through the winter.

I think the City Council’s ‘Cambridge Sustainable Housing Design Guide’ is an excellent description of sustainable new-build. It applies to housing on council owned land and new Greater Cambridge Housing Development Agency social housing in Cambridge. But although this guide has been ‘adopted’ by South Cambs and the County, it doesn’t seem to apply to their new homes!  Why not?  It’s vital to raise minimum standards for other builders too, which has to come from government.

Developers often oppose higher energy-efficiency standards, saying that not so many new homes would be built. But since 2015 Scotland has enforced considerably higher standards than the rest of the UK and their proportion of new-builds has not fallen as a result.

Let’s meet local housing need by all available means, while ensuring our new homes are fit for the future. We’re preparing for ‘Open Eco Homes’ in September, when householders will show visitors round their sustainable homes (including retro-fitted old ones), demonstrating a wide variety of practical solutions.   We find people are hungry for the right energy-saving measures in their homes.

A version of this blog post first appeared in the Cambridge Independent

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Keeping Cool in Heatwave

Article by Tom Bragg

With climate change we have to expect more extreme weather and this year we’ve already had a very wet spring followed by the heatwave and drought.

Here’s a few of ways to stay comfortable in a heatwave:

  • Cool yourself with a water spray, damp towel or cold pack. Have regular cold drinks.
  • Shade your home on the sunny side with external blinds or awnings - drawing curtains or blinds helps too. 
  • Shut windows, vents and doors to keep out hot air, opening them to cool your home at night.
  • Avoid unwanted heating from appliances, lighting or hot pipes.
  • Insulation that helps keep your home warm in winter will also help it stay cool in summer. 
  • There’s more detailed advice on these points at CambridgeCarbonFootprint.org

Older people and young children are most at risk from over-heating, especially if their home is hot.  If you know people like this, and your home is fairly cool, can you be neighbourly and invite them to cool off or maybe offer practical help?

But some brand new homes still get uncomfortably hot:

Last year, one of our volunteers, who was trained and lent a thermal imaging camera, helped a friend with a lovely new sunny flat in Trumpington Meadows understand why her flat was unbearably hot. The over-heating was mainly caused by having large windows on the sunny side, without any external shading, and by not having any through-ventilation. Imaging revealed that it was made worse by many poorly insulated hot pipes that ran through the flat.  Our volunteer advised using blinds to keep the sun out and provided the thermal images to help get the developer to insulate the pipes properly. Sadly this remains an all too common example of a new home built without the design details keep it comfortable in heatwaves.  

The UK independent Committee on Climate Change says new homes must be designed and built to be prepared for a changing climate, and that this needs to be put into building regulations, along with effective enforcement of the standards.

See our free event on ‘Getting Your Home Ready for Climate Change’ at St Barnabas Church, Mill Rd, CB1 2BD on 15th October, openecohomes.org/events

A version of this blog post first appeared in the Cambridge Independent on the 18th July 2018

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Wood-burning – Inconvenient Truth, Part 2

Sadiq Khan asks for powers to control wood-burning

Part one of this blog was on the inconvenient truth that burning wood, especially in our cities, is a major contributor to particulate air-pollution that’s killing an estimated 29,000 people a year in the UK.

It describes how to be neighbourly and minimise your air-pollution:

In the 13 months since Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London, there have been 7 ‘red alert’ air pollution incidents, when Londoners were advised to stay indoors if possible.

Now he has called for only the least-polluting ecodesign woodstoves to be on sale after 2022 – and asked for powers in a revised Clean Air Act to set tighter controls on burning solid fuels from 2025.  If granted, this will probably enable any UK city to: Continue reading

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Wood-burning – Inconvenient Truth

There’s ever-growing  evidence that wood-burning is a big contributor to air pollution, especially in cities.

On January 22nd London had a major air pollution incident, with Camden, Westminster and The City hitting 10 out of 10 (worst) on the Air Quality Index.  “We think about half of the peak was from wood smoke” said Timothy Baker, air pollution expert at King’s College London.  Wood smoke pollution is most on cold evenings and weekends – this was a cold, still Sunday.  Small smoke particles have the worst health effects, especially PM2.5 (smaller than 2.5 micro-meter), which get deep into your lungs.    During that incident Cambridge levels of PM2.5 were  9/10 on the index. Domestic wood smoke contributes about a third of all UK PM2.5, which is  2.4 times more than traffic

UK government’s best estimate is that 29,000 extra deaths a year are caused by PM2.5   Public Health England estimates that 5% of mortality of people aged 30+  in Cambridgeshire is due to PM2.5 pollution. So this really is a major health problem, with wood smoke a significant contributor. Continue reading

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Thermal Imaging Guide

You can reveal where buildings are wasting heat with vivid thermal images… this guide shows how with lots of practical examples.

I’ve been testing the £200 Flir One smartphone add-on. It’s as good as CCF’s £1,800 thermal imaging cameras with smartphone advantages, although not so rugged.  Many more community groups and individuals can now afford to use thermal imaging to show poor insulation, draughts and other ways our homes loose heat.

Drawing on CCF’s experience of thermal imaging since 2009, this guide aims to help many others get started and to supplement our training sessions.

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DETRITUS TRANSFIGURED – essay by Philip Vann

view of parade costume by Ann Templar cropped

DETRITUS TRANSFIGURED: The Cambridge CirculART Trail – essay by Philip Vann

Over three days in June 2016 I set out on quite an adventure – exploring on foot fifteen of the charity shops on the CirculART Trail in near-central Cambridge. Here, displayed in both shop windows and retail interiors for one month, was a dynamically diverse array of artworks made by over two dozen local artists. All had been sourced out of everyday scraps and bits of detritus; also from once perhaps individually treasured yet now abandoned oddments. Continue reading

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Hempcrete workshop at Thoday Street

Today’s blog is another cross post from the Open Eco Homes blog. If this post gets you enthused about hempcrete make sure you check out the hempcrete workshop being offered at Thoday Street. At the time of writing there are two half price tickets up for grabs! 

Alex Jelly installing wood-fibre insulation 2This years Open Eco Homes features Thoday Street, a house where the emphasis is firmly on natural building materials. Alex Jelly (pictured here with her Cob pizza oven and installing wood fibre insulation) and partner Mike are determined to make their eco-renovation affordable and natural, and want to help others do the same. As Alex points out in her case study “indoor air pollution is generally far higher than outdoors (a fact that shocked me when I first found out)”.

Turning to natural materials reduces the potential for ‘off-gassing’ from more common synthetic insulation materials, and also allows for complete return to the natural environment once the material is no longer required. Affordability prevents many people taking on an eco-renovation but learning a DIY solution like Hempcrete can make a real difference to price, and bring it within the reach of more people. Continue reading

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Does your Combie fire up at odd times?

Today’s blog is a cross post from the Open Eco Homes blog. Written by Anne Miller, a former Eco Homes host this blog post is a great example of the sort of detailed advice you get on an Open Eco Homes tour. Bookings are now open for tours on September 18th and 24th.

Eltisley Av 150x150About a month ago, after we’d had a few plumbing jobs done, we noticed that our Combie boiler was turning itself on every time we used a cold tap. Or more precisely, the boiler turned itself on briefly, a few seconds after we turned a cold tap off.

This seemed very odd! The whole point of a Combie is that it only heats up the hot water when you need it. It was also very annoying, because we try hard to keep our energy usage and carbon emissions to a minimum, and this was clearly wasting energy. We subsequently estimated that it had increased our summer gas usage by about 10%. Continue reading

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Brexit and our Environment

Please ask your MP to support the Environment Pledge.

The Brexit negotiations pose many threats and opportunities for UK environmental protection and our urgent transition into a low-carbon nation.

If red-tape slashing vested interests get the upper hand, vital protections for our wild life, countryside  and seas will be swept aside. Also support for changing our industries, energy supplies, homes and lifestyles into the low-carbon future we need to avoid dangerous climate change.

There are opportunities to improve on EU regulations with better ones appropriate to the UK. For example the Common Agricultural Policy could be replaced with support for landowners and farmers, especially smaller ones, with the right incentives to take good care of the wildlife and land they know so well, as well as growing the food we love.  A majority of British public support environmental protection at least as strong as current EU rules. Continue reading

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Climate Rising

climate_rising_teaser2A couple of weeks ago, just under 1,000 climate change activists (including 3 intrepid members of Cambridge Carbon Footprint!) met in London at the Climate Rising event to discuss what to do next following the Paris climate change talks. Continue reading

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Vacancy: Open Eco Homes

dream job

Open Eco Homes Project Worker?

Open Eco Homes (OEH) arranges for householders to show and explain to visitors on 2 weekends in September how they save home energy by their home’s design, retro-fitted improvements, smart behaviour, etc. Continue reading

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Seville Orange Marmalade

P1040028 (1024x574)Home made marmalade tastes fantastic: far better than anything you can buy in the shops. Not only is it lower carbon it’s also much cheaper, and it really doesn’t take long to make. Continue reading

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CCF office closure

CCF Christmas (Medium)

Well, it’s been quite a 2015! Here at CCF we’ve run many well attended events, had a run away success with our WWII Rationing Challenge, and had good fun at a good many stalls. All of which we could not have done without the help of our many wonderful volunteers. After such a busy year, it’s time we all took a rest! With that in mind the CCF office will be closed over the holiday period. We’ll be shut Monday 21st December 2015 to Friday 1st January 2016 inclusive. We look forward to catching up with you all in the new year.

Alana Sinclair
CCF Co-ordinator

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The Paris deal: a day to celebrate, but…

CoP21 Negotiators(640x360)

In what I think is genuinely a day to celebrate, we have a legally binding climate deal from the Paris COP21 negotiations.

The French did a great job on running the incredibly complex negotiations, resulting in an agreement that is stronger than anyone dared hope two weeks ago. The process was transparent, democratic and flexible and these values seem to have continued into the final text.

It is the first time in history rich, poor and emerging economies have made a joint commitment to tackle climate change, aiming to limit warming to “well below 2C”. There’s also the aspirational goal of limiting it to the safer 1.5C. Continue reading

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