OURS

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Introducing OURS

Who are we?

OURS is a campaign run by students in conjunction with North-West news outlet the Northern Quota. It is a project looking to highlight the issues of climate change on a local and national scale.

The aim is to showcase individuals that are doing their bit to help maintain and give back to our environment. We hope by giving exposure to eco-friendly examples that it will aid the challenge to raise awareness to the important environmental concerns facing our planet.

Climate change is a serious matter that effects 100% of the population, yet it is also a subject that is often brushed to the side and regarded as unimportant by most of us. We are all culpable of possessing a lack of mindfulness when it comes to taking care of the environment we find ourselves living in.

However, through the OURS campaign, we are looking to shine a light on the efforts of pro-active individuals and organisations that are conducive in the attempts to aid our environment.

Why are we doing it?

The OURS campaign has been set-up by students that are passionate about looking after and giving back to our environment and have been so from an early age but never really knew how to attempt to make a difference.

Through our partnership with the Northern Quota however, we now have a platform to release our articles and an audience that our stories will connect with – which is fantastic. We also believe that the campaign is timely, as the past twelve months have been fairly polarising when it comes to climate change in the UK.

We want to change the tone by show-casing the brilliant, positive events and projects that are happening throughout are community and also across the country. Granted, we can’t change the universal views on global warming but we can definitely try to do our bit locally.

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OURS: A passing comment

“Dunno” – is how I’d describe 2016 in terms of what the years events mean for our planet’s future. So many major global changes have happened, yet, I’m none the wiser as to what the implications may be.

Amidst the hazy confusion of Trump presidencies and EU policies – one thing that has remained undeniably clear is our continued need to tackle climate change.

This was highlighted when scientists recorded that parts of the Arctic reice-capsgion were an average of 11 degrees Celsius warmer than they were in the late 20th century.

Describing the rapid change, the scientists observed bleakly: “Before long, we may need to redefine ‘glacial’ to mean something that is rapidly diminishing or employ a different adjective” and that the changes are happening so fast that they are “outpacing our ability to understand and explain.”

It certainly isn’t looking great for the Arctic region and the deterioration will inevitably impact the rest of the world, with sea levels predicted to rise up to 2m by 2100. This will undoubtedly have dire consequences for coastal cities, increasing the likelihood of flooding.

paris-agreementDespite this, it’s not all doom and gloom as this year saw the world’s nations come together to sign the ‘Accord de Paris’ – a treaty that aims to keep tabs on the world’s carbon emissions before the output becomes irreversible.

I “dunno” how it will all pan out but one thing I do know is that if we come together and all pull our weight, we will be alright.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A truly co-operative grocery

In an age of hyper-consumerism and immediacy, supermarkets like Tesco, Asda and Morrisons have all led the way in the competition to provide shoppers with the most affordable groceries.

This has in turn led to the production of food on an industrial scale; with the need to make sales and generate revenue often placing higher in importance than creating an environmentally sustainable business.

Unicorn Grocery in Manchester however have been bucking the trend since it’s creation in 1996 and have established themselves as one of the country’s best independent wholefood retailers.

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A spokesperson for the grocers, Leah de Quattro explained how the shop has grown: “I think the premise is quite simple: we sell decent, tasty, affordable food. Of course if you unpick all those things it gets trickier”

“To be affordable we buy direct and in bulk, and keep margins low with efficient procedures, minimal handling, etc”

“To be delicious, well, otherwise what’s the point? We are quite choosey in our quality control – our veg team for example have really high standards and our produce looks and tastes beautiful, it’s always been a big draw.”

On top of selling organic and locally sourced food, the shop is always looking to explore further methods of enhancing their sustainability – recently conducting research into the use of palm oil in food products.

The mass production of palm oil has led to plantations roughly twice the size of Belgium being created – completely annihilating Indonesian wildlife and rain-forests in the process.

de Quattro added: “We also constantly evaluate new information about different packaging materials, transport options, the ethics of selling particular commodities at all, or certain foods out of season.”

The progressive and eco-centric thinking of Unicorn Grocery was demonstrated further in 2007 when the shop’s 825 square metre flat roofing was converted into a ‘living-roof’ – the first of it’s kind in the UK.

Not only does the roof provide insulation for the building during the winter, it has also created a number of habitats:

The decision to proceed with the installation of a living-roof was a “no brainer in the end” – with de Quattro adding: “In 2006 the majority of the building was completely uninsulated and we were freezing – hats and gloves at the till, etc”

“We learned that the primary cost of insulation was re-tarmacking over the top to hold the insulation down – or, for about the same cost, a green roof could hold the insulation down!”

“We worked within the structural limitations of the existing building, and we were particularly excited to be able to include the pond. Not just because we get to see the odd duckling family or count damselflies on our tea break, but wetlands arcustomere particularly threatened habitats in the UK”

“It turned out much simpler than we thought once you have the basics in place, it is maddening you don’t see more green roofs on flat roofs in cities.”

Unicorn Grocery seem to tick all the boxes when it comes to demonstrating how a grocers should operate and their efforts are valued greatly by their customers.

Manchester Metropolitan University student Harriett Farrow said: “It’s wonderful to be able to buy such a wide range of food that you know is all locally sourced and made the right way.”

Setting a clear benchmark for any budding grocer and independent retailer, this Manchester-based shop’s efforts are admirable and hopefully the supermarket conglomerates will follow their business model.

 

 

 

 


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Sunshine in a rainy city

Using the power of the sun to create electricity through solar cells has been a viable renewable energy source since the 1950’s and is still a very relevant option in today’s society.

Community energy group GMCR notice this and look to take advantage of the sun through their solar panel and renewable energy projects.

The volunteer-led society was set-up to install solar panels on to the roofs of schools and community buildings across Greater Manchester.

ali-abbasDirector of GMCR, Ali Abbas explained how the project was devised: “We’d seen successful projects in other parts of the country and wanted to replicate them in Greater Manchester”

“Everyone we spoke to really liked the idea of installing solar panels on schools, as a way of cutting carbon, saving them money on their bills, and helping to educate children and the wider community about energy and climate change.”

So far GMCR has installed solar panels on to the roofs of three Greater Manchester primary schools: Fiddler’s Lane, Irlam and Primrose Hill. As well as community building The Fuse, in Partington.

Each primary school has around 110 panels installed on them and the community building has just under 200 – all funded by a community share offer which raised £186,000 this summer.

Irlam Primary School headteacher, Elaine Darwin said: “We are absolutely delighted with the solar panels, which were installed free of charge by GMCR”

“Renewable energy spans many aspects of the school curriculum and the solar installation helps to bring this to life – the pupils loved the assembly a couple of weeks ago when the installer explained how the panels were installed.”

When a volunteer-led project like GMCR receive such praise and admiration for their efforts, it highlights what individuals can do when they come together and get behind a project they care dearly about.

However it also begs the question: why can’t the government do more to back projects such as these? Instead, they have made cuts to the ‘Feed-In Tariff’ that aids the funding of renewable energy schemes.

Speaking on the changes, Mr. Abbas said: “We’re disappointed that the government chose to slash the Feed-In Tariff at the start of this year”

“We were lucky to lock in last years rate for our installations, but a number of community energy projects and solar installers have already fallen victims to the cuts.”

Time will tell as to whether or not the changes in the amount of financial backing that GMCR receives will be significant enough to affect future installations.

However, Mr. Abbas reassured: “We’d love to install community-owned solar panels on more schools and community buildings across Greater Manchester. We are now exploring how we can make the model work with the new Feed-In Tariff rates.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Stockport Hydro: a local effort

The past year or so has seen a number of turbulent global changes that have planted a seed of doubt into the minds of environmentalists, particularly when it comes to thinking about our planet’s constant struggle against climate change.

The international problems facing us often mean that the admirable, environmentally conscious work of people and groups in the local community often goes unnoticed and unheard – not here however.stockport-hydro-pic

Introducing Stockport Hydro: a community owned and volunteer run renewable energy venture and the first of it’s kind in Greater Manchester.

The project was launched in 2012 and generates electricity for up to 60 homes by harnessing the power of the River Goyt at Otterspool Weir in Stockport. The flow of the river turns the plant’s two Archimedes screws – nicknamed Thunder and Lightning – generating kinetic energy that powers the turbines.

Speaking on how the project was devised, Stockport Hydro spokesperson Patricia Spray explained:

“Once a local, high profile person took the reins to initiate involving the local community, it quickly gained local supporters and investors – as the potential to harness the power of the River Goyt was obvious.”

In fact, the Stockport Hydro project has directly fed 789294.65557.5 kWh in to the national grid since it’s October 2012 commission – which in simple terms, is enough electricity to power an average English home for 152 years.

stockport-hydro

Although the plant has received land from Stockport Council, they have had no financial backing. The project would not be operational if it wasn’t for the efforts of the local volunteers and investors who have worked tirelessly to keep the project up and running.

Speaking on how the project has been maintained, Ms. Spray explained: “We have had many problems and set-backs”

“Our team of volunteer engineers and directors can manage the majority of the issues but have encountered many difficult issues from flooding of the site to civil engineering problems.”

In 2014, the electricity output of the plant took a blow when generator Lightning was put out of action when the plinth supporting it broke away from it’s foundation – leaving Thunder to produce the plants electricity.

However, in March of 2016 the generator was recommissioned following the commendable efforts of the Stockport Hydro volunteers and civil engineers. The restoration has seen the plant return to it’s maximum electricity producing capability.

The success of Stockport Hydro has inspired the construction of another plant at Stringers Weir, Bredbury by a different company and there is also a similar community project up and running on the other side of Manchester, in Bury.

Stockport Hydro have recently revealed their ‘Hydro Environmental Challenge’ for 2017 – if you would like to find out more visit their site.


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Changing tides?

A new source of energy

Haven’t you always wondered why we haven’t looked to the world’s oceans as a source of power? After all, 71% of our beloved green and blue rock is made up of water, with the oceans themselves being accountable for 96.5%.

UK-based renewable energy company  Tidal Lagoon Power are looking to do just that and have taken great strides towards producing a significant modern renewable energy source that could help cleanly power Britain for centuries to come.

The project plans to produce electricity by utilising the tidal energy from the coasts of the United Kingdom. If successful, it would be a worlds first in it’s field and a massive step in the direction of producing sustainable and clean electricity.

The following video demonstrates how the lagoon functions:

As you can see, the lagoon works similar to a wind-turbine but with the capability to produce far more energy. In fact, sea water is 832 times denser than air, meaning that a 5 knot ocean current has more kinetic energy than a 350 km/h gust of wind.

The project has untapped potential to create clean energy for 150,000 homes, a Tidal Lagoon Power spokesperson explained:

“Following a survey we sent out, we found that 86% of Swansea Bay backed the build – an unprecedented amount for a project like ours. Everybody supports us and it’s great to see that the locals recognise the threat of climate change”

“Tidal Lagoon Power has unusually received cross-party support as well which has definitely helped the project move forward so fast. This has led to the lagoons gaining traction globally too.”

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A brief look at the plans for Swansea Bay on the Tidal Lagoon website and it becomes clear that the lagoon promises to be more than just a power-plant, a spokesperson elaborated:

“The 6-mile long seawall will be open to the public and will have a playground, rock-pools etc for visitors. As well as being a place for people to visit we have plans to host sporting events like rowing and sailing”

“Opportunities to educate the younger generation through school and university visits to the lagoon is definitely a thing we are pushing for too and we already working with local schools.”

Although the lagoon has received nation-wide praise, there are a few concerns from a minority of the public regarding it’s construction. Local anglers are worried that the lagoon will damage the habitats of the fish they catch.

ceri-headshotIn a Channel 4 feature, fisherman Ceri Stevens stated: “They’re putting it directly over the winter fishing grounds. Where they’re building the lagoons is the spawning ground of the fish.”

The general worry from the fishermen is that they will have to travel further around the sea wall for them to only catch less fish as the natural habitats would be absent following the build.

The spokesperson for Tidal Lagoon Power responded saying: “One of the aims of the project is to help preserve the environment and a sea-wall creates the opportunity for more habitats to exist”

“The wall provides the space for the introduction of many different species. So we hope that the project will enhance marine life and we are sure that it will.”

Due to the project being potentially habitat-altering, the lagoon will face rigorous habitat regulation and environmental impact assessments throughout the stages of planning and construction.

The project has also faced parliamentary debate as to whether or not Tidal Lagoons are the most cost-effective form of producing energy.

With many comparisons being drawn between the lagoons and nuclear power, the Tidal Lagoon Power representative stated: “We understand the comparisons but our lagoons have a 120 year shelf-life – almost double that of a nuclear power-plant”

“Like we’ve already spoke about our lagoons are going to be much more than a power-plant. We as well as many other believe it’s a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to making the choice.”

Time will tell whether or not the U.K decide to fully commit to Tidal Lagoons but the early signs look promising.


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Climate Change: A Year In Summary

The past year has seen a number of significant global changes that could have both positive and negative implications when it comes to tackling climate change. To paint a picture as to why the OURS campaign has been launched, here is a timeline of key events that have occurred this year:

January – Arctic Temperature

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NASA recorded that temperatures had reached an average of up to 23°F above normal.

According to statistics found on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration site, the amount of sea ice found in the Arctic region would be 320,000 – 420,000 square miles below average.

To put that into scale, the amount of ice that was absent would equate to roughly seven times the size of England.


April – The Paris Agreement

The 22nd of April saw the world unite in the attempt to reduce global warming, as nations came together to sign the Accord de Paris. The consensus would be a step in the right direction of preventing hazardous and irreversible levels of climate change.

Here is a general overview of what the agreement demands:

  • Keep global temperatures below 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more to 1.5C
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, aiming to begin at some point between 2050 and 2100
  • To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge

Although voluntary, the agreement has been branded a “historic turning point” as it is one of the first times that the world’s nations have come together to do something about our planet’s future. A detailed summary can be found here.


June – Brexit

The United Kingdom – led by climate change sceptics Nigel Farage and Boris Johnsbrexit-staron – voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd and is now entering the unknown in terms of what the future beholds.

It is tough to forecast whether or not the UK will decide upon it’s own environmental laws once Article 50 has officially gone through or whether they will still remain compliant to the current EU law.


November – Trump Wins Election

The levels of uncertainty surrounding global policy on climate change were amplified late this year when the second-largest carbon emitters on the planet – thetrump-china-tweet United States – elected Donald Trump as their next president.

The multi-billionaire has very strong views on climate change and infamously tweeted his opinion on global warming in 2012.

During his campaign trail he also promised to withdraw from the aforementioned Paris agreement. This could potentially have dire consequences as the United States is a high-priority country when it comes to the need to reduce carbon emissions – only China rank higher when it comes to contributing to global warming.


It’s too early to predict whether these events will have a positive or negative impact in the task to stop global warming.

However, through the OURS campaign, we will be concentrating on showcasing the positive work that is being put in to help our environment.