The Big Garden Birdwatch

Photo of several birds at Waltham Place Farm

The Big Garden Birdwatch is taking place from Friday 26th – Sunday 28th January. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in monitoring the health of the nation’s birds, simply by counting the birds that land in their garden or the patch outside their window. No knowledge is required as the RSPB provide a digital guide to identify the species you are likely to see. To sign up visit: https://www.rspb.org.uk/whats-happening/big-garden-birdwatch

Data from previous surveys shows that we have lost 38 million birds from UK skies in the last 60 years! And, whilst house sparrow numbers are currently going up the overall counts of house sparrows are still down by 57% compared to the first Birdwatch in 1979. Our birds provide huge ecosystem services to us, not least as pest controllers, seed-sowers, and as part of nature’s clean-up crew. Lend an hour of your time in thanks for their efforts and help the RSPB to monitor what’s going on with our garden birds and give them a voice.

With thanks to Niki McCann from Waltham Place for this excellent article, extracted from her monthly newsletter. For more information on Waltham Place and their program of events, visit What’s on (walthamplace.com)

Start your 2024 ECO Action Journey!

It’s the start of a new year – a good time to think about priorities and plans. Many people want to protect and conserve the natural resources we have and the world we live in, but the problem is they do not know where and how to start being eco-friendly. 

It can be hard to find out what to do next or understand what are the right steps to take. It’s not as difficult as some may think: You don’t have to change the whole world. Just start by making these small changes and make them a part of your lifestyle.

Your 10 Step ECO Action Plan

Here are 10 steps that you can build into a plan. You can take one step, take two, you may already be on your journey and have taken some already: have a look, make a plan and tell us about it. And don’t forget – ECO Action can help with your ECO Action Journey!

  1. USE RENEWABLE ENERGY: Switch to a renewable electricity supplier so all of your electricity is from renewable sources.
  2. LEAVE THE FOSSIL FUEL CAR AT HOME: Walk, cycle, take the bus or train It’s healthier, happier and helps reduce your carbon footprint.
  3. MAKE YOUR HOME MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT: Draft proof and insulate your home to reduce energy bills.
  4. EAT LESS MEAT AND DAIRY: Livestock creates 14% of all greenhouse gases globally according to UN data. Less meat & dairy saves money too.
  5. FLY LESS: Take the train & relax instead! Make getting there part of the holiday & reduce your carbon!
  6. CHOOSE ETHICAL FINANCE: Where possible make a choice for ethical banks, savings, pensions & investments.
  7. SHUN ALL SINGLE-USE PLASTIC: Almost one barrel of oil in every ten extracted now goes to creating new plastic.
  8. BUY LESS, SPEND LESS! Think before you buy. Can you refuse, reduce, refill, repair, or re-purpose? And save money!!
  9. MAKE YOUR SPACE & YOUR COMMUNITY MORE WILDLIFE FRIENDLY: Join a local ‘Wild’ group & enter the Wildlife Gardens Awards
  10. PLAN FOR INVESTMENTS: Plan for investment in more expensive items: electric cars, solar panels, and heat pumps.

What Next?

New Year Green Resolutions

May we help you to be GREENER in 2024? Here are 7 great ideas to help you have a greener cleaner 2024. Reduce your carbon, increase nature, and save money this year!

  1. Travel can be fun: Let the train take the strain and make your journey an enjoyable part of the holiday. Stop enroute and enjoy an interesting city. www.seat61.com has lots of advice about how to reach places quickly or scenically and how to book. www.railbookers.co.uk does it all for you!
  2. A walk in nature walks the soul back home: Spending more time in nature can benefit both your mental and physical well-being. Doing things like growing food or flowers, or exercising outdoors can have lots of positive effects. Join your local wildlife group to get more involved. Wild Maidenhead www.wildmaidenhead.org.uk or Wild Cookham www.wildcookham.org.uk or all the ‘Wilds’ are listed here.
  3. More joyful than ‘dry’ January! Veganuary is also much more worthwhile. www.veganuary.com will send you their celebrity cookbook, meal plans, recipes and lots more – all for free! If not for all January then try 1 more veggie or vegan meal than normal.
  4. Upskill to upcycle? Try something new and celebrate new skills – like upcycling your unwanted furniture? Pop into our ECO Action hub and look at the items on display by our two associates for inspiration! You can buy them too!
  5. Use that windowsill: A salad/ herb pot will give you fresh herbs for months. ECO Action will have seed and seedling swaps in the early Spring. Maidenhead Veg Growers Facebook site offers valuable help.
  6. ‘New’ Clothes are so ‘yesterday’: Pre loved sites like www.vinted.co.uk and local charity shops will make you an individual and save you money. The ECO Action Repair Cafe can help you make fabric repairs.
  7. Save parking costs! Discover your local cycle routes. Cycling makes you fitter and saves money on petrol (no parking costs either). Maidenhead Cycle Hub will service your bike or sell you a reconditioned one www.cyclehub.org.uk/workshop!

Here is a file to download of all of these if you want to have a keepsake: HERE

Choose one, choose two, … or more! Keep a track of them, come into the Hub and let us know how you are doing! And a Happy Green New Year to everyone from the ECO Action Hub WAM!

Learnings from Heat Pump Question Time (Dec 2nd)

Picture of people in the Hub at the Heat-pump event

Interest in heat pumps is soaring because of the UK’s need to get off fossil fuels; and the government are now offering a grant of £7500 if you swap your gas boiler a heat pump.

Heat pumps don’t make heat so much as move it, like the way that the pump in your fridge moves heat out of the fridge to the kitchen, but in reverse.

The pump uses expansion and contraction of a refrigerant to create a multiplier effect. So, for every unit of energy that drives the pump, it gives back 3 or 4 times that amount in the form of heat. This is several times more efficient than a fossil fuel boiler – and far less polluting now that so much grid electricity is renewable.

Homes all vary, so the essential first step in thinking about getting a heat pump is to have a heat loss survey; this will tell you how much energy your home needs to be comfortable. It is wise to ensure that all reasonable insulating has been done – draughts, loft insulation, double-glazing etc – but heat pump homes do not need to be super-insulated.

Heat pumps send water round your radiators like a conventional boiler, but at lower temperatures (45-50 degrees compared to 65-75 degrees). This means it takes longer to heat up the whole house but the thermal comfort is steadier than with a boiler. With boilers we are used to instant heat which we then turn off at night; heat pumps work in a slow and steady way – including at night on the “setback” temperature. The radiators usually feel only slightly warm, even tepid.

There are heat pumps available now which use water at higher temperatures. This can allow a simpler swap-out-swap-in installation process (with lower associated costs), although they don’t offer the same efficiency as lower temperature pump systems.

Heat pumps vary, and can be designed for certain weather conditions. The heat pumps which are so popular in Nordic countries are specified differently from UK ones.

One point to bear in mind is that the moment your boiler breaks down is a bad time to think about getting a heat pump, especially in colder weather. It’s not a moment when people want to spend time researching new technologies and assessing heat loss – they just want to be warm, so they tend to just get a new boiler.

Video recording of the event is HERE

“Chris Packham: Is It Time To Break The Law?”

REVIEW BY ANDREW INGRAM

The recent illegal tactics adopted by Just Stop Oil and other such groups have split public opinion and sent news media like the Daily Mail into a proper ragin’ fury. Continual photos of long traffic queues on the M25 were accompanied by stories of key workers such as nurses who were unable to get to hospitals, relatives who could not attend funerals etc.

There is no doubt these activities caught the public’s notice, but left many feeling alienated from the cause because of the seeming unfairness of the results.

Photo: Proper Content

Intelligently, Chris Packham does not start by taking sides in the debate. He just asks the question: in the ever-worsening environmental crisis is it time to go beyond lawful protest into civil disobedience and illegal activities?

The resulting programme is more of a think-piece than a documentary. If the legal and governmental structures we have are proving unresponsive to the climate crisis, there is a case to consider more direct action. As we know, it can work (suffragettes) but it doesn’t always (anti-abortion protests in US).

Tragically, Packham partly blames himself for the current situation: as a high profile conservationist and spokesperson on environmental issues, he has failed to bring about the changes needed.

One of the most anguished parts of the programme is Chris Packham talking about his intense disappointment when attending COP 26 in Glasgow – the only truly global mechanism for dealing with these challenges. There, despite consistent and alarming evidence about the climate emergency, decisions were ducked, agreements were botched and national financial interest constantly put ahead of global responsibility – encouraged by the highly-paid and persuasive voices in the fossil fuel lobby. So we wait and watch to see what comes out of COP 27.

We rate this programme very highly and encourage you watch it if you haven’t already (link here). Not everyone liked it, with the Daily Mail reporting “Suella Braverman slams Chris Packham”. Well, that’s that sorted out then.

RBWM Sustainability SPD Consultation “How To” Guide: MORE HELP!

We recently posted about the RBWM’s Sustainability SPD Consultation (here). If you just want to provide a quick response, we suggest you use our handy “How To” guide (here).

For those with more time and interest in how the SPD can be made better we’ve now got more detailed responses linked here to help you shape your feedback to RBWM! This edition has a particular focus on Energy Efficiency, Climate Adaptation and Sustainable Construction.

If you are short on time then you can simply copy and paste the last three columns of the table in the document (Section, Para, Suggested Text) into Box 5 of the Representation Form and email to planning.consultation@rbwm.gov.uk. Those items where ‘Push for change’ is highlighted in red are our priorities.

It would be really great if you can complete the submissions using the forms and information we’ve provided. The more RBWM hear from all of us as residents, the better informed they will be to make sound decisions.

To see all our posts about the Sustainability SPD please click here.

Thank you for your submissions!

Sustainability in action graphics

“We must now look at the world through a new lens”

The BBC’s Planet Earth III is now on television and iPlayer.

Presented by Sir David Attenborough it’s a fascinating journey to the far reaches of our planet. It follows some of the world’s most amazing species, telling extraordinary stories that are dramatic, thrilling, funny and sometimes heart-breaking, but always full of hope.

For anyone who cares about the climate and biodiversity … it’s a must-watch!

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0gjwxhv

Sir David Attenborough

RBWM Sustainability SPD Consultation “How To” Guide

We posted last week about the RBWM’s Sustainability SPD Consultation. (See here).

For any of our supporters (YOU!) that are keen to respond but are short of time, here is a detailed “How To” guide. Helping you to make best use of your time and respond in what we consider a most appropriate fashion to get to desired outcomes within RBWM!

Here’s a summary of what you will find there:

  • Why Engage: We want to live in a Borough that is zero carbon and rich in nature. When developments take place, we want them to help us achieve this. The Sustainability SPD will direct and guide planners and developers towards this.
  • What Best Informs: The SPD needs to include: clear Intent (a sense of urgency & confidence the SPD will deliver RBWM targets), meaningful Content (the SPD needs to remain current and relevant in our changing world). And must be Ambitious (to ensure the Borough’s critical climate goals are reached and the SPD delivers)
  • How to make a difference: Experience shows we are more successful in achieving change when we clearly target specific sections of the document subject to consultation. It is also just as important to support those sections of the draft SPD that show true ambition.

We will be providing specific guidance on the Eco Action website in the next fortnight to help you to do this. Deadline for your response to the consultation is 27th November 2023.

Here again is the link to the “How To” guide. Thank you.

Sustainability: People, Energy, Planet.