Sustainability: it’s a much abused word. We could never claim to be sustainable, not in the true sense of having a neutral environmental impact, and we are unlikely to achieve this state. The depressing truth is that in the short-term it would be very challenging for most people to live truly sustainable lives without completely revoking the lifestyles we are all to a lesser or greater extent locked in to (whether we like it or not). Moreover, the public- and private-sector services we rely on make up a large proportion of our unsustainable environmental footprint - this part is largely outside of our direct control. The growing human population is another factor - the more of us there are, the fewer resources there are to go around. If there were only a million people on Earth we could all live like kings sustainably!
That said, at home and at work it is only right and proper that we aim to reduce our environmental impact as far as we reasonably can - not only does this help us to understand how much is achievable in practice, it also gives us the opportunity to try some of the latest products and technologies. We also feel that the best way to learn is to “practice as we preach” - in this way we can better understand the challenges we all face in trying to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, and better be able to understand issues from the client’s perspective.
Andy’s end-of-terrace home and office is naturally being made as energy-efficient as possible - on top of comprehensive insulation and modern double-glazing, solar PV technology generates twice as much electricity (3400kWh) as is used (around 1700kWh) and a wood-burning stove helps to keep central heating requirements to a minimum (around 1000-2000kWh per annum). Energy-efficient lighting includes the latest LED technology, and modern kitchen appliances also help to minimise electricity consumption.
Food and garden waste (and even old cotton and wool clothing) is composted to help nourish the vegetable patches, and rainwater is captured for watering the garden in drier spells. Everything that can be is reused, repaired, given away to friends, Freecycled or recycled, helping to keep waste to a minimum.
Business travel is kept to a minimum. We use public transport and walk whenever practical - it is easy to work on a train with modern technology, and a bit of exercise keeps us trim! Unfortunately it is inevitable that sometimes a car is the only practical way of reaching more remote locations, but we hire an electric car where practical, and average over 50mpg by using efficient driving techniques and driving a petrol car (Seat Leon) that runs only on two cylinders around half of the time to save fuel.
Much travel can be eliminated altogether by using electronic communication - we sometimes use Skype teleconferencing to avoid the need to travel to a meeting, and of course we use more familiar technology like email and the internet to run our business day in, day out.
This website is hosted on servers in a solar-powered data centre based in the US.
The energy embedded in IT equipment is shocking, so we keep our kit going as long as practical, and buy second-hand where possible. In recognition of the huge environmental impact of manufacturing IT kit, all Pcs, laptops and phones were bought secondhand.
The manufacture of paper has a large environmental impact, so we aim to keep printing to a minimum. In practice this means we concentrate on exploiting IT for our business activities - reports are sent out electronically, and most marketing is carried out online. The paper we do need to use is made from recycled material where possible, and of course recycled itself at the end of its life.
Having said all this, there’s still a lot we can (and need to) do to improve our own environmental credentials even further. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you over the coming months and years - if you’re interested in reading more then we regularly contribute to the blog on Winchester Action on Climate Change’s website.