May 2010 Newsletter

In this month’s newsletter:

Cambridge Carbon Footprint Events

Breaking Barriers – equality, inclusion and climate change

Monday 17th May, a CCF communication workshop

Climate change messages are frequently of the ‘one-size fits all’ variety. How does it feel if you don’t fit the assumptions? How can we make sure we take account of everyone in the way we speak and the solutions we offer?  Kirsty Wayland  is passionate about climate change and is also a wheelchair user. She is Cambridge University’s Disability Equality Training Officer and a facilitator of Carbon Conversations groups.

7.30 – 9.30, Ross St Community Centre. Please book if possible:  01223 971353/

As part of Cambridge Environment Festival, CCF are organising a number of 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

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, Executive Councillor for Climate Change & Growth. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free and donations are welcome.  To book your place, email

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.

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

Other Local Events

Compost Awareness Week

Learn about composting, bring a sack to get free natural soil improver. Event near ASDA, at the Beehive Centre Friday 7th May, 10am – 3pm.

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 if you are interested. CCCC runs events and a support network at

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:

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

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

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 or phone 01223 573288

Politics and Campaigning: ClimateGate – Tom Bragg

The stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit of UEA, Norwich, published just before the UN Copenhagen conference, damaged the negotiations and public faith in climate science.   They enabled Saudi Arabia’s lead negotiator to claim:  “It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change… and as a result, governments would not be prepared to countenance agreeing anything that would affect economic growth for many years, until “new evidence” settled the scientific picture”

There are several “ClimateGate” enquiries and the most significant, the independent Science Assessment Panel, finally reported on April 14th:

“Whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly… [with] absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever”.  If the beleaguered climate scientists had a weakness, it was in their statistics, but their conclusions were unaffected.

But this has been much less reported than the original scandal.

When you get the chance, please spread the word on this. A useful resource on climate science arguments is :

Ro’s Reflections – Spills, Subterfuge and Comfort

The recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is referred to in the press as an oil ‘spill’. We spill milk and wipe it up. Children spill out of school. A spill is an accident, easily rectified, or exuberance that shouldn’t be contained. The language suggests that we should not be too worried. A spill is a mild occurrence. There is no need to cry over it.

The use of language to disguise is well known in the military where ‘collateral damage’ mean dead civilians, ‘body count’ stands in for the number of people killed and ‘neutralise’ is a euphemism for kill. The bland bureaucratic words provide distance from the reality and a screen for those responsible to hide behind.

Euphemisms allow taboo subjects – death, bodily functions, sex – to be spoken of but hide the true import. In environmental matters many of the typical euphemisms are also comforting. They speak to our need to feel that all will be well, and that someone is taking care. The ‘change’ in climate change suggests not disaster but something natural or even positive. The ‘warming’ in global warming, has connotations of comfort rather than drought and hardship.

The idea that we should not cry over spilt milk or in this case spilt oil is mistaken. We should weep. Not because there is nothing else to be done, but for the loss of precious habitat and ecosystem. And because collectively, as members of Western society, we are implicated in the accident. The oil that was being extracted from increasingly dangerous depths was being extracted for us. Without grief and sorrow there can be no reparation and no change. Weep with me. And then, order that insulation, write that letter to BP, leave the car at home.

What makes an Eco House? – Andy Brown

While Liz is assembling a stunning list of homes to visit for the Open Eco House event, many of you have been asking what it takes for a home to be called an Eco-House.

For new houses, there are two standards that builders can follow. PassivHaus is a demanding standard for a highly insulated and airtight construction. UK building regulations are based on the Code for Sustainable Homes, and the highest standard (Code 6) is probably not as demanding as Passivhaus, but does require some attention to other environmental issues, such as the selection of materials and water use. These standards are brought together by the AECB’s ( Carbonlite programme ( which provides training and advice for designers and builders.

To renovate an existing building to these standards is a challenge. It will probably involve substantial levels of insulation for the walls and floors, as well as the roof, high performance windows and doors, a new heating system and a new strategy for the ventilation, but if we are serious about 80% or 90% reductions in our emissions, we have to start planning for this now.
At the same time, we should be thinking about water saving, the plumbing and sanitary ware in the house, taking care to choose sustainable materials and replacing appliances with the most efficient available.

Few of us can afford to do all this at once, but it is essential to have a grand design. With a good picture of your cosy, sustainable home of the future in mind, organising each upgrade will feel more exciting.

At the Eco-Renovation Question Time event on the 15th June, we will be re-launching the eco-renovation club, a chance to meet others and discuss possibilities with the experts.

Gardening in May – prepare to fill up your compost bins – Keith Jordan

The huge amount of growth that started in April continues into May – hopefully your crops, but also weeds. As part of this process, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is being extracted by plants and converted to make carbon-rich sugars and starch (contained in fruits, tubers, stems and roots).  It’s good practice to hoe or pull up weeds well before they set seed – every dandelion plant this month will be producing hundreds of seeds! Weeds can also be suppressed using deep mulches (bulky organic matter or straw) laid on top of cardboard.  Mulches also help retain soil moisture, especially important in a dry spell.  Many crops are ‘biennials’ – perpetual spinach, swiss chard, parsnips, leeks, carrots, broccoli.  Sown now, the plants will grow for several months, then start to flower and ‘go to seed’ next spring after which they generally die.  We eat the immature flowers of cauliflower and sprouting broccoli but most other biennial crops like leeks are not very palatable when they start to ‘bolt’ (the flowering stem develops), so pull them up now and add to your compost bins along with all the other weeds and compostable material. Composting transforms your garden waste into nutrient rich food for your plants – another stage in the natural carbon cycle. Cambridgeshire residents can obtain reasonably priced compost bins made from 100% recycled materials via or call 0844 571 4444.

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