Tackling food waste is an important step in reducing our carbon footprint and at the bottom of this page we have listed some helpful resources for steps we can take as individuals. But first, we want to share information on local schemes. Working together we can achieve so much more.
Community Fridges and Supermarkets
Community fridges are generally run by volunteers and work with local supermarkets and food suppliers to collect surplus food. The food is then sold on at low cost, or for voluntary contributions.
Seaford: Community fridge at the SEA Climate hub is coming soon to 3,4,5 Clinton Place, Seaford.
Food partnerships are being set up in cities, towns and communities across the UK. They aim to start conversations about local food issues and bring people together to share skills and build better food systems and food security for all.
If you have an allotment and find you have produced more food than you can use, there may be local schemes that you can share your food with:
Eastbourne: You can take surplus produce to Gorringe Road allotment site office and it ill be picked up by the local foodbank.
In Willingdon and many other areas, residents are sharing surplus produce from their front gardens. picture
Community composting & home composting
When food that is no longer edible, a community compost is a great solution for people without a garden or space for compost bins. It reduces the amount of waste going to the incinerator and provides free compost without taking up space in your garden.
The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership supports nearly 40 community composts.
How it works
A set of compost bins are placed in a park or green space. People sign up to join a scheme where they’re given the code to a lock on the bins where they can add their vegetable scraps and plant waste. Training is given about what can go in the bins. Monitors look after the bins and the compost can be taken or used by nearby community gardens.
Pledge idea: Have you thought about setting up a compost bin in your community?
If you have a garden, home composting is the most environment-friendly way to dispose of your kitchen and garden waste. There are many different types of compost systems but they will fall into one of two groups.
Traditional garden composter: suitable only for garden trimmings, raw fruit and vegetable, nuts, tea bags, coffee grounds, paper and cardboard
With a Bokashi bin, your food waste ferments through an anaerobic process. Virtually all the carbon, energy and nutrients go straight into the soil without releasing greenhouse gases. See a Willingdon residents journey with Bokashi bins on The Willing website.
For traditional garden composting, tt is better to have two compost bins. You could build them out of old pallets to fit a space or buy plastic bins cheaply from the council or second hand. Fill one up, cover over and leave to turn into compost while you fill the other bin. It is better to turn the rotting compost over with a garden fork once in a while to help it rot down.
Cuts down on waste in your bin which means less waste burned in the incinerator.
Food waste makes your bin smell.
Saves buying compost for your garden which saves money, plastic and transporting goods.
At the moment, most shop bought compost contains peat. Digging up peat destroys our
Compost gives plants nutrients to help them grow strong and healthy.
Compost improves your soil which also means less watering is needed.
Eco features: Solar Thermal + Solar PV + Well insulated
Andrew and Fiona live in a 4 bedroomed house in Pevensey.
Approximately ten years ago they had 16 solar PV panels installed to generate electricity. The solar PV panels provide enough electricity to run an electric car, an electric bike and an electric cooker as well as other household items.
Three years ago they had two solar thermal panels installed on their roof to heat their hot water.
The Kit: Two 2m2 Wagner flat plate solar collectors, with pump to transfer the heat to the hot water cylinder, plus expansion chambers. The collectors have a dark anodized coating on an aluminium frame which gives them the appearance of skylights.
The total cost:£3735 (includes all fixtures and fitting)
This cost excludes the hot water cylinder which was needed to store water collected.
Outcomes: The solar thermal system supplies all their hot water needs throughout the summer, and partially heats water during the winter. The estimated energy supplied by this system annually is 1654 kWh
Grants: Solar thermal systems are eligible for repayments under the Renewable Heating Incentive Scheme. This works out at £331.80 a year for seven years, or a total of £2322.55. This goes a long way to offset the original outlay and is in addition to the savings they make through reduced energy bills. The RHI scheme is open for new applications until March 2022.
Andrew talks about his experience with their solar thermal system in the video below.
The hot water storage cylinder with expansion chambers and pipework.
Solar PV panels
They have 16 solar PV panels: Eight on the front roof and eight on a South West facing roof.
The solar panels have a capacity to provide a maximum of 3.7KWh of electricity at any one time, (the amount generated depends upon the amount of sunlight, the angle of sunlight, time of day and year.)
The predicted total amount of energy generated during the year was 3,000 kWh per year. The actual output has been 32,000 kWh over 10 years, so better than predicted.
They bought their solar panels ten years ago when feed-in tariffs were at their peak. Under their FIT (feed in tariff) contract they get paid 55p per KWh generated and an extra 4p per kWh that is deemed surplus to their needs and gets automatically exported to the grid.
The house has cavity wall insulation and over the years Andrew and Fiona have been improving the insulation adding Celotex panels and rock wool into roof spaces and other voids. All their windows are now double-glazed and they have thick curtains to draw across their doors and windows on cold nights.
12:20 Community Energy Schemes – Chris Rowland, Ovesco
12:35 Renewable heat energy in your home: what are the options – Olly Healey, Ohm Energy
12:45 Q & A with panellists: Chris Rowland, Olly Healey, Jason Lindfield, Rachel Fryer, Becky and Roy Francombe.
If you’d like to ask our panel a question, we recommend you look at the relevant resources below first. You can ask your question at the live event, or you can send us your question in advance using the link below.
Information on grants and funding for renewable energy (see below)
If you are looking for a renewable energy solution for your home, doing your own research and getting independent advice before you begin is essential. The Energy Saving Trust is a great place to start as they provide free, easy to understand information on their website and they are not trying to sell you anything. They also have online energy tools and calculators to help you work out how whether solar energy or wind energy are good solutions for your home.
Grants and Funding available for renewable energy solutions
New heat pump grant from 2022
New grants for households replacing gas boilers with low carbon heat pumps were announced on 19th October. The grants/subsidies of £5000 towards the cost of the heat pump will be available from 2022, but the total amount of money set aside will only be enough for 90,000 households. More details to follow.
Renewable Heat Incentive
The RHI is a government scheme to support renewable heating systems like heat pumps and wood boilers. If you install a system that meets all the scheme requirements, you can be paid for every unit of renewable heat you produce for a number of years. There are two RHI schemes – the domestic RHI is for households with a renewable heating system just for the one home. The current RHI scheme is open to applications until March 2022. Find out more about RHI here.
Export tariffs are payments made when you sell surplus energy units back to your electricity supplier. The current rate is 5.24p per unit of electricity. There is usually a CAP on the amount of energy you can sell back to your supplier, but you can apply to have the level of the CAP increased.
Feed-in tariffs were closed to applications in April 2019. This government scheme was to encourage people to generate renewable energy.
The Green Homes Grant introduced September 2020 and scheduled to run until March 2022, was closed a year early in March 2021. This has left a funding hole, while we wait to see whether the government has anything planned to replace it. The Eastbourne Eco Action Network will continue to monitor information on new funding schemes. Meanwhile, it is worth doing your research and exploring your options, so you are ready to install as soon as new schemes are available.
Your Q and A panel
Chris Rowland: Director of OVESCO IPS, Ovesco CIC & Ovesco Sunny Solar Schools
Eco features: Air source heat pump + Solar PV + Whole house insulation + Air tightness + MHVR + Compost Toilet
Rachel and Adam live in a three bedroomed house in Newhaven with their seven year old daughter, Daisy.
When they bought their home two years ago they planned to extend it, at the same time as making it low carbon and as energy efficient as possible. Once they got started they found that some of the original walls needed rebuilding, so the first floor and roof were pulled down and rebuilt to high eco standards.
Insulation & (especially) airtightness need to be carefully designed for each individual house and have to be balanced against ventilation. Adam and Rachel installed MVHR systems alongside their insulation and air tight features. They recommend speaking to a specialist eco-architect for advice.
Two wood fibre insulating sheets (Steico Protect boards), one 6cm and one 8cm have been fixed to the external walls and rendered over with specialist lime render (Lime Green Prep-Bond WP render)
14cm wood fibre ‘wool’ insulation (Steico Flex) was built into the wall of the new dormers.
Air-tightness measures were designed into the structure of the house, including Intello Air-Tight membrane, Tescon Vana airtight tape and Blowerproof ‘liquid brush’ (an airtight paint).
A distributed mechanical ventilation and heat recovery (MVHR) system has been designed into the house, with two units set into external walls (one upstairs, one downstairs), and intelligent fans between different rooms.
The MVHR kit
They used the Free Air system by Blu Martin, distributed in the UK by Paul Home Heat.
The MVHR cost: Total purchase cost £6k (not including installation). When running at full pelt (which it very rarely has to) the MVHR system uses about 200W energy – i.e. about the same amount as 3 old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs.
Outcome: a reasonably airtight house that is warm & airy throughout the year.
Watch the video below to find out more:
The Solar Panels
The Kit: 7 photovoltaic panels (LG 320 Neon) giving 2.3 kWp. Includes Solis 2.5 Multi inverter, all meters and wiring and fitting
The total cost: £4.5K plus 5% VAT
Outcomes: On most days during summer months, they are a net producer of energy (ie their solar array produces slightly more energy than they use). Their solar installation is not that big, but all the other energy-saving measures mean that their overall energy consumption is low. Their annual energy use is 4600 kWh and the total energy generated via Solar PV is 2080 kWh. Once FIT and RHI payments are taken into account, their annual energy expenditure is approx. £85, but see below for more detailed information on their energy use and costs.
The Air Source Heat Pump
The Kit: Mitsubishi Ecodan Ultra Quiet PUHZ-W85VHA2 air source heat pump plus Mitsubishi 210 litre hot water tank, under floor heating throughout the downstairs, 4 radiators upstairs.
The total cost: £11K plus VAT (includes all fixtures and fitting)
Outcomes: The heat pump serves underfloor heating, 4 radiators and their hot water requirements.
Rachel and Adam had their property disconnected from the gas main. This cost around £2k, and had to be done by engineers from SGN. Without doing this they would have been liable to keep paying a standing charge for gas, even though they had already had the gas supply cut off at the meter on their property.
The Kit: A Separett Villa 9000 urine separating toilet (£700) in the garage, and a Biolan Eco 220L composter (£820) in the garden.
“The toilet needs emptying once a week into the composter, which we find no more difficult or unpleasant than dealing with nappies – not a favourite job, but not a problem.
As well as getting great quality compost, it means we deal with all our toilet waste on-site. Our waste does not have to be piped away and purified using both mechanical & chemical processes, which add significantly to pollution & environmental degradation. Please read ‘The Humanure Handbook’ for more info.
By not flushing the toilet, we make significant savings on our metred water bills.”
As well as having the compost toilet system, Rachel and Adam try to use as little water as possible:
“We reuse bath/shower water, pre-soak washing up in old water etc. We also have a water-butt system for the garden which holds c 1000 litres rainwater. This has not run out at all since installation, including in the dry summer of 2021, so we have not needed any tap water to keep our veg beds happy.
All these measures save a considerable amount of water. Our metered water use comes to approx. 65 m3 per year, instead of the average for a 3 person household of 135 m3 per year. At current rates, we pay £320 per year for all our water costs, rather than the average of £580.
Our metered water use comes to about 65 m3 per annum.
Average water use for a detached UK house with 3 people is approx. 135 m3 per annum.”
Energy usage and costs
All their energy comes from electricity so there are no gas bills.
Total annual electricity use is 4600kWh = approx. £820 + £96 standing charge = £916
Total energy generated by solar PV is 2080 kWh which brings in approx. £80 generation tariff + £114 deemed export tariff. So the income from FIT (feed in tariff) payment = £194
So total annual energy payments = approx. £920 total annual receipts for FIT and RHI = approx. £835 which is a net annual expenditure of£85.
This energy use includes their house, heating, hot water and their electric car.
For reference, the average annual energy use for a family of 3 in a medium sized detached house is 12,500 kWh for gas and 3,100 kWh for electricity, with a total annual bill of £1163 (figures from Octopus Energy).
The table below shows their energy use across the year.
Energy use (KWh)
Energy generated (KWh)
Thanks to Adam for providing all this useful data.
Rachel’s Dos and Don’ts – Lessons learned from their whole house project
Thank you Rachel, for this very thorough and insightful list. It’s well worth a read if you are thinking of starting on a retrofit project.
Don’t do it ! Why put yourself through it!
Trust yourself: While the detail of designing and building houses is complicated, a lot of the broad ideas aren’t. Everyone is learning along the way and can and will make some mistakes
If you want to do an eco project make sure your architects really understand green issues – one thing we did get right! And try to make sure that their green priorities are the same as yours (no oil products / only local products as far as possible etc)
Try to find an architect and builder who have worked together. If you’re lucky enough to achieve this then get the builder’s input as soon as plans start to be drawn up so they can advise on costings before you have elaborate gold-plated plans
If you’re doing major renovation consider pulling the whole thing down – especially if it’s detached. Maybe not the greenest thing in some ways but it means you can do everything as you want from the beginning and you’ll save a fortune on VAT.
Consider how to project manage it. If you’re not a builder but know a builder you can trust, who you’re not using, who is willing to act as a consultant and do inspections every week or two, this will be well worth the money. This is probably the best thing as they’ll understand the practical challenges better than an architect but also be on your side and not want you to be ripped off
If you can project manage it, consider hiring specialists for jobs which need specialist skills such as plumbing, electrics, carpentry. The downside is everyone will blame everyone else for why it’s hard for them to do their jobs in the way they would like but we found working directly with specialists was much easier than depending on general builders and their subcontractors. It may take longer but save money.
Use specialist installers for marmoleum and MVHR
Think twice before installing marmoleum – it’s hard to find experienced installers and extra hassle putting it over under-floor heating
If you have bought a property and are paying rent elsewhere is it worth moving in while you wait to get planning permission and find builders you’re happy with? This can take the financial pressure off getting everything done as quickly as possible. It may be cheaper to do this and move out for 6 months later and get your stuff put into storage
Liaise with an airtightness specialist early on, get them to build things into the plans with your architect and check your builders are happy to consult with them in problem areas such as making holes in the house! Airtightness is as important as insulation but seems to be less well understood.
Make sure you withhold payment or part-payment until jobs are complete – you want to incentivise people coming to finish off the job
If possible seek advice on maximising solar potential before design and structural calculations are done
Check where the solar inverter and heat pumps are going to go before / during the design stage (not after the house has been built as we did!) – Well we did this but it still didn’t work out as planned!
Specify Suppliers and precise products – if we did it again we’d use the Green Building Store for all external doors and windows– it’s much cheaper but has a long lead-in time so you need to order early. It’s better to over-specify then you can negotiate with the builders if they have a reason to want to change anything
Specify U and G values for windows / doors – and pay to get an estimate of airtightness so you can hold the builders to that
If you want to have a compost toilet inside an airtight house it’s possible but you need advice from a specialist on how to do this
Consider how much you want to be dependent on Wi-Fi for appliances like thermostats and burglar / fire alarms, and weigh that up against having more cables coming in and out of your house which can impact airtightness
Read up on principles of green building. Even if you don’t understand the detail or the application, understanding the concepts will be invaluable.
Ask your builders to work to full-size hard copy plans and have them on display at the site. Some contractor’s staff tended to look at plans on their phones and we suspect that’s the reason they missed some important details.
Visit the site often. Don’t be pushy but don’t be shy of talking to the builders in details.
“Money spent getting a job done well is never wasted – the costs of repairing poor work can be high. It’s probably worth getting a PHPP calculation done (this tells you how close to PassivHaus you can get, taking into account airtightness and insulation etc) at the design stage, even if you’re not aiming to build to PassivHaus / Enerphit standard. That will give you leverage if the builders fail to build to a high enough green standard.”
What we got right
Architects whose design we mostly trusted and who understood what we wanted
Happy with most of the materials they recommended – steico wood fibre insulation, lime render
Happy with Earthborn paints
But despite that fairly short list, we’ve got a very energy efficient, warm house. Even if it could have been more energy efficient, more airtight, with more solar, it’s still pretty damn good. Now we’ve been here for a year and we’re settling into the house and how it works. In the middle of November, we haven’t had to turn on the under-floor heating. Our energy use is around 1/3 of the UK average for a house of this size (and that includes charging our electric car) and we’re generating a good proportion of our own electricity. Our water use is tiny and we have a great source of compost for the garden 😉
The house project has been fascinating at times, utterly hellish at times, and all-consuming for nearly two years. But we’ve now got a wonderful home which is truly our own.