June 2010 Newsletter

In this month’s newsletter:

Cambridge Carbon Footprint Events

Visit to the Green Backyard, Peterborough

Saturday 12th June:

The Green Backyard is a community growing project set in two acres of previously derelict land in Peterborough. We will travel there by train, meeting at Cambridge Station. Bring a picnic.

To book, call 01223 971353 or email info@cambridgecarbonfootprint.org

Eco-renovation Question Time & Open Eco Houses launch

Tuesday June 15th 7.30 pm

Venue: St Luke’s Church Centre, Victoria Road, CB4 3DZ.

Meet the experts, find out about our Open Eco Houses days and ask questions about how to turn your house into a climate-friendly home. There’s a panel of experts from different areas: Anne Cooper (sustainable architect), Andy Brown (sustainable construction consultant), Tim Acheson (green builder) and Justin Smith (Council officer and grants specialist). In the chair: Sian Reid, former Executive Councillor for Climate Change & Growth and now Leader of Cambridge City Council. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free and donations are welcome. To book your place, email info@cambridgecarbonfootprint.org

Cambridge Open Eco Houses

June 20th and June 26th

15 houses in and around Cambridge will open their doors to show best examples of how you can renovate your home to make it truly climate-friendly. Find practical and inspiring ideas for eco-renovation and energy efficiency, whether you’re wanting to upgrade your old house, or contemplating a new-build project. More info about the days will appear on the CCF website shortly. There will be 30-minute tours at 11.00, 12.00, 2.00 and 3.00. Booking is essential – bookings go live on Monday 17 May – 07837 183271.

Live the future today

Monday June 21st 7.30 – 9.30pm

Venue: The Barn, St Barnabas Church, Mill Road, CB1 2BD

An opportunity to meet Cambridge Carbon Footprint. Find out how our practical and inspiring projects can help you prepare for a low carbon future.

Snacks and drinks will be served. Meet our members, staff and volunteers and find out how to get involved.

Admission free; donations welcome.

Wicken Fen and the Wicken Fen Vision

Wednesday 23rd June

Wednesday 23 June 7.30, Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane.

Talk and slide show by Chris Soans of the National Trust. Wicken Fen is one of Europe’s most important wetland sites for biodiversity. Chris Soans will explain the Wicken Fen Vision, a 100-year project to safeguard the existing biodiversity of the site.

Admission free, donations welcome. To book: 01223 971353 or info@cambridgecarbonfootprint.org

Other Local Events

Cambridge Climate Change Charter workplace emissions reduction workshop

The Cambridge Climate Change Charter can help your workplace reduce its carbon footprint. You may be doing everything you can at home to reduce your emissions, but how about your workplace? The Cambridge Climate Change Charter Practical Help programme was set up to help organisations do more to address climate change issues. If you are able to raise these issues to do with climate change at work, or in any community groups you are part of, then email amy.tillson@carltd.com if you are interested. CCCC runs events and a support network at www.cambridgeclimatechangecharter.org.uk

The next event is a workshop designed to help organisations calculate baseline emissions:


10th June 2010, 5:30-7:30 pm Impington Village College
Bring your organisation’s energy bills along, and they will help you turn them into CO2 emissions data. Participants are invited to bring electricity and gas bills, ideally for the last 12 months, and whatever information they have about fuel use for travel. Previous participants have found the session very useful. Sign up at: http://cambridgeclimatechangecharter.org.uk/events/first-steps-baselining-2

They are also running an awards scheme to celebrate those businesses and organisations which are leading the way with climate change action. If you think your workplace or community group deserves an award, then email 200 words explaining why to amy.tillson@carltd.com.

The Awards Ceremony will be held on 16th June, 6 – 8pm at the Cambridge Central Library.

Smart Grids and Cleanpower 2010 Conference

24th-25th June 2010, 10am – 5.30pm

Venue: Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

Details of this interesting event are at http://www.cambridgeinvestmentresearch.com/events/cleanpower

Green Enterprise Community Meeting

What can green entrepreneurs expect from our new government? Talk from Julian Huppert MP.

Monday June 28th, 7.30 – 9.30pm

Venue: Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge

More information: www.green-enterprise.org

Sing for Water

Do you like singing? Join an environmental choir to perform at Sing and Swim for Water, the annual swimming/picnicking/singing event for children and adults at Jesus Green Pool, 6-8.30pm, Saturday 3rd July. This very popular event raises money for Water Aid and this year has an environmental theme with participation by Cambridge Carbon Footprint. Organised by Rowena Whitehead of Talking in Tune. There will be four choir meetings leading up to the event at St Andrew’s Centre, 7.30-9pm on Wednesdays June 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th. Cost £30 (concessionary rates available on request). This includes entry to the event on July 3rd.

Contact talkingintune@ntlworld.com or phone 01223 573288

Office Changes

You may have noticed a couple of new names in recent weeks, as there have been changes in the office. Sally Davis, our wonderful administrator, has finished her volunteer placement. We are lucky to have Dora Kalcicka to replace her for the next few months.Naima Islam, who was here on a Vodafone grant, has also finished her time with us for the time being.

Siobhan Mellon continues as Volunteers Co-ordinator, and works one day a week. Mary Geddes has been appointed to manage the office in the short term, as well as providing administrative support for several of our projects. If in doubt, Mary is the person to contact in the first instance. Her working hours are normally Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9am-5pm.

Politics and Campaigning: Our man in Malta – Tom Bragg

A delightful train and ferry journey has brought us to Malta for my son’s wedding next week. We already know Mel’s Mum & Dad and will soon meet other new Maltese in-laws. From what we’ve seen and heard, I worry for them and these beautiful, fragile islands.  Rising temperatures and reduced rainfall are expected, but with more flash floods. The same could be said of the UK, but this crowded Mediterranean island seems very vulnerable.

Boreholes have traditionally provided fresh water, but are expected to be too saline in 5-15 years. Already 57% of fresh water is produced from sea-water by reverse osmosis, which is energy intensive. All fuel is imported and renewables are rare. The government has just restricted its grants towards solar hot water systems. Christopher Ciantar, the minister responsible says that the people of Malta will want to see climate change impacts first before they are willing to spend money changing their lifestyles.

I don’t mean to be complacent about our own severe problems. Can you do better than the new government in cutting UK Carbon emissions?  Try with the excellent Guardian National Carbon Calculator: www.guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2010/apr/21/national-carbon-calculator.

Meantime, we’re going to celebrate!

Ro’s Reflections – Guilt and Biodiversity

The UN released its most recent report on biodiversity last month. (http://www.teebweb.org/) It concluded that unless radical and creative action is taken quickly, the natural systems that support our lives and livelihoods are at risk of collapsing. The cause of these problems is primarily people and their activities: consuming resources, altering habitats, causing pollution and climate change. These pressures are either constant or increasing in intensity.

Self- interest suggests that we should take notice and act: the report has been hailed as the ‘Stern report for biodiversity’, suggesting that the economic costs of acting now are smaller than the economic costs of delay.

But perhaps there are better reasons for paying attention to biodiversity. We might reflect on our psychological and emotional need for the rest of the natural world and our relationships to the creatures and environments that surround and support us.

A number of research articles show that closer connection to the natural world is beneficial for mental health. Some suggest that we may be genetically programmed to need a close connection with nature. One effect of exploitative relationships to nature however is that when people realise just how damaging their lives actually are to other species and habitats, then guilt and anxiety inevitably result. People may be inclined to deal with those uncomfortable feelings by turning away from closer experiences of nature, rather than seeking them out. Thus a vicious cycle is set up. Breaking that cycle involves opening oneself up, both to the generosity of the rest of the natural world and to one’s own capacities for reparation.

What is the Feed In Tariff and does it mean I should buy a solar panel? – Andy Brown

Feed In Tariff, or Energy Saving Cash Back is the scheme whereby electricity suppliers pay a generous premium to householders with ‘micro generation’ such as photo-voltaic (PV) solar  panels. The scheme is designed to ensure a decent rate of return on your investment, so if you are planning to stay in your house, it is worth considering. We have several examples in the Open Eco House days (20th and 26th June http://cambridgecarbonfootprint.org/blog/open-eco-houses/) and we can answer questions at the launch event on the 15th June.

As the scheme gains popularity, a small but significant contribution of the UK’s renewable electricity will be coming from our roof tops. If the scheme works, when the sun is shining millions of homes will combine to generate several gigawatts of electricity and a couple of power-stations will power down.

However, the contribution of PV to your personal carbon footprint is more complex. Most people size their PV installation so that over a year the panels generate a similar amount of electricity to their use.
Unfortunately, a lot of your demand is at times when the sun is not shining – at night and in winter. So in the summer and on sunny days a proportion of your solar electricity is exported to the grid and at night time and in the winter you have to buy it back.

Gardening in June – Biodiversity in action – Keith Jordan

‘Biodiversity’ is the theme for the 2010 Cambridge Environment Festival. Looking around our gardens and allotments there is so much biological variety – the different crops and the varieties we grow, the plants that arise naturally (weeds and those we tolerate), the animals that use the green space and feed or nest on, or under, the plants or in the compost heap.  Many insects and crop pests are very specific to the host plants they live on – gooseberry sawfly, raspberry beetle, strawberry aphid, lettuce aphid, onion white rot, pea and bean weevil, onion fly – affecting only a narrow range of plants.  Variety creates stability in the environment, ensuring that no species over-dominates the ecosystem (humans are an exception!).  We may need to reduce the numbers of some pests if they become too troublesome, but not eliminate them since every species plays a part in the ‘food web’. Commercial glasshouse growers even maintain or introduce pests before they add the biological control bugs, or the latter will quickly die of hunger.  It is all about balance – to reduce the level of pest damage to an acceptable level. If an insect is only lightly nibbling the edge of your pea leaves, just ‘live and let live’!

Slugs and snails are more of a problem, especially in wet periods, but only with the crops that they find more palatable. Just reduce the population of molluscs near to your more vulnerable veggies by removing some of their daytime hiding places. Avoid slug pellets and encourage snail-eating Song Thrushes as much as you can as they can polish off many molluscs each year.  I leave a bucket of mud in the garden during nesting period as they use it to line their nests.  One actually nested in an empty terracotta pot on a shelf in an open shed.  Another brood of great tits has just been raised in a neighbour’s old apple tree in a hole made previously by a beautiful great-spotted woodpecker. The tree produces huge Bramley apples, the great tits and woodpeckers eat numerous caterpillars and insects and are just great to watch.  Plant fruits trees this autumn to increase your local biodiversity and crop of fruits!

2010 Cambridge Environment Festival colour leaflet

A PDF copy of the full colour leaflet is available to download from www.cambridge.gov.uk/environmentfestival .

The colour leaflet will be available at schools, places of worship, cafes, libraries, Council offices, community centres, etc.

June Recipe – Elderflower Polenta Cake by Jacky Sutton-Adam

The recipe pages in this weekend’s press were full of elderflower recipes- the season is here and it is such a pleasurable pastime to gather the honey scented flowers that I thought I should follow suit! Hopefully everyone has a good eldeflower cordial recipe to follow: if not, do check out the recipe pages on my website for a foolproof one. Most sources say that the cordial will keep for up to 6 weeks or so; in practice I’ve found a couple of bottles stored in a cool dark cupboard are none the worse for wear some 12 months later….
Once you’ve made your cordial, try this fantastic cake which looks amazing if you scatter a few fresh flowers over the top before serving.

Elderflower Polenta Cake


300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
75g plain flour
4 eggs
225g fine ground polenta
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
2 heads of elderflowers


Preheat oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Butter the inside of a cake tin. Beat together the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and light. Stir in the flour little by little. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the polenta, lemon zest, baking powder, salt and cordial. Tip into the cake tin. Bake for 45 minutes, until cooked – test by sticking a knife into the middle: if it comes out clean, it’s cooked; if not, give it a little longer. Turn out on to a wire rack to cool.

Jacky Sutton-Adam
07913 085797
Wildfoodie on Twitter: http://twitter.com/wildfoodie1

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