A Tale of Two Cities* (Woking and Ashton Hayes)


I recently turned on the radio, and serendipitously caught a BBC program, called 'One Planet', discussing all sorts of Climate Neutral programs. Two were UK based. The Woking Borough Council, for example, has been running a 200 kWe hydrogen fuel cell (PDF) as a combined heat and power (CHP) system for four years now, to heat and power the city's leisure centre and park. "Excess heat produced in the summer can also be used to power the centre's air conditioning, cooling and dehumidification requirements ...". The fuel cell is on public view, via a information centre to educate how such technology can generate "50% more electricity than the conventional equivalent without burning any fuel." In the case of Woking they use phosphoric acid for the electrolyte, natural gas to form the hydrogen, while extracting oxygen directly from the air. The leisure park is self sufficient in electricity, and exports its surplus to other council venues. The fuel cell is but one of Woking's many green initatives to help its 90,000 residents live more sustainably. They are looking to have a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.* Though not exactly a city, the 1,000 strong population of the English village Ashton Hayes, seem nethertheless to have embraced the idea of 'going carbon neutral'. They are "aiming to to become the first small community in England to achieve carbon neutral status. We want our children and future generations to know that we tried to do our bit to stem global warming and also encourage other communities to follow suit." A full 40% of the population turned up for the programs launch in January (or maybe they were just there for the free British champagne and apple pie!). The first major endeavour is to establish a village carbon sink, creating a local plant stock of 16,000 trees — 16 for each inhabitant (apparently the number needed to make the average person carbon neutral). Plans also include encouraging local farmers to plant elephant grass (aka Miscanthus) as a bio-energy crop, installing solar panels on community buildings and providing free eco-driving classes. The village has made available for loan Brennenstuhl current/wattage meters, so residents can check the power consumption and running costs of their electrical items. And we love their plain language environmental education campaign "The average house in Cheshire produces 1.5 tonnes of waste every year — that's like putting a baby elephant in your dustbin."

Ain't it cool that ordinary people keep trying to prove Margaret Mead right: "Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Via ::BBC One Planet