Is Sheffield really a green city? Apart from the trees, it’s only pale green, with promises of eco-improvements to come. Let’s face it, most of us live a far-from-green lifestyle, unless you live in the type of passivhaus planned for Little Kelham (see last month’s issue of Now Then). Many modern houses are poor quality, […]

Is Sheffield really a green city? Apart from the trees, it’s only pale green, with promises of eco-improvements to come. Let’s face it, most of us live a far-from-green lifestyle, unless you live in the type of passivhaus planned for Little Kelham (see last month’s issue of Now Then). Many modern houses are poor quality, and older ones built for coal fires can be draughty, freezing houses of horror. British homes are poor at energy efficiency, largely due to the penny-pinching construction industry and the scientific ignorance of politicians. Most leak valuable heat energy, are badly ventilated and expensive to keep warm.

Sheffield Climate Alliance’s 2013 conference heard Professor Andrew Gouldson talking about how to shift Sheffield to a low-carbon city. He showed that 13% of our GDP is spent on energy bills. This is money escaping our region like heat up a chimney. An investment of £3.7bn in low-carbon energy efficiency measures could pay for itself in five years, cutting energy costs and creating permanent jobs. If there was an investment like that from, say, Microsoft, he said, economic leaders would fall over themselves to win it. But there isn’t. It won’t happen.

How about an expert to inspect your particular home and tell you how to make improvements? For this, you could try the Government’s Green Deal. This gives homeowners and tenants an assessment of their property, with recommendations for improvement, then a second assessment on their behaviour. It’s not as scary as it sounds, just checking things like how you dry clothes and use thermostats. They check your fuel bills to calculate possible savings. If these are equal to or greater than the cost of installing energy-saving technology, then loans are available, with repayments added to your energy bills.

People on certain benefits or in difficult-to-treat properties may get free upgrades. For the rest, the Green Deal may not be such a good deal, but it’s the best you’re going to get from our coalition of the unwilling. David Garlovsky of Inno-Therm, a Sheffield activist for energy sustainability and efficiency, says that legislation could force equipment manufacturers to do far more, but instead everything is left to the consumer. He welcomes social media savvy collaborators in raising awareness and making change happen and wants to see a project helping the city’s students assess their energy usage.

So it seems it’s up to us. No one’s going to join the dots for us. There is no master-plan. There’s hardly even co-ordination at city level. Search the Council’s website and you’ll read that they’re committed to reducing fuel poverty and cutting CO2 emissions. In fact there is a lot of good advice there, but I couldn’t spot a link to South Yorkshire Energy Centre, a brilliant demonstration home in Heeley which offers real-world examples and advice on renewable energy, sustainable materials and building techniques. Just what you need.

You need to know what’s going on during April and May. A group of activists called Green Homes Sheffield are running ten open days in people’s homes to show what can be done. These are real people with real experience of looking into the science and retro-fitting their properties for energy efficiency. It’s one chance to ask questions about how to do it yourself. The hope must be that a domino effect ripples through the city, people pick up the idea and go for higher standards. Look out for details on alt-sheff.org or greenhomessheffield.net.

Caring about your home isn’t feathering your own nest at the expense of others. It’s helping to preserve resources. People working hard to promote this are fully aware of the bigger picture and usually also support campaigns like Sheffield Climate Alliance. Think of it like spring cleaning. It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science. The point is no one’s going to sort out your pad for you. It’s DIY time. Step out of your comfort zone. Here’s your chance to learn, improve, save money and cut your carbon footprint.

South Yorkshire Energy Centre
Green Homes Sheffield
Sheffield Climate Alliance
Alt-Sheff

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