Plastic Free July

Our intern Christie volunteers for Surfers Against Sewage, and can see first hand the impact that plastic pollution is having on the marine environment. Here she shares some tips on how you can reduce your plastic use and help prevent this problem.

As plastic pollution has become such a dire problem, there are lots of campaigns to help people reduce plastic and waste and live more ethically. Some of the tEC staff are currently taking part in Plastic Free July, a challenge to either reduce disposable plastic use or remove it from your lifestyle completely for a month, which will hopefully form changes that will continue long after July is over. If you are interested in curbing your plastic use, here are some tips on how to get started:

  1. BYO (bring your own) Reusables: Put together a plastic free kit of essentials that you can carry around with you such as a canvas bag for shopping, metal, glass or bamboo straws, refillable water bottle and travel mug.
  2. Make your own meals: Cooking from scratch can sound daunting but once you’ve learned a few meals you’ll never go back- it’s cheaper, healthier and tastier- plus there’s no plastic packaging!
  3. Switch up your wardrobe: Plastic microfibers from synthetic clothing find their way from the washing machine to the ocean and the water we drink! Try converting to items made from natural cotton, hemp or linen.
  4. Use bars of soap: Solid, unpackaged bars are becoming more popular for everything from dish soap and hand wash to shampoo and conditioner, they are often longer lasting and have no plastic packaging.
  5. Switch to recyclable/compostable items: Bamboo toothbrushes, stainless steel razor, natural bath sponges, so many items were around long before their plastic replacements and switching back to them stops the risk of them becoming more plastic pollution.

As reducing waste and plastic is given more and more attention, it’s becoming easier to find alternatives. To get started, search for your nearest ethical, zero-waste shop to buy plastic-free alternatives and package-free products.

Southampton Clean Air Zone (CAZ) consultation

Southampton City Council and New Forest District Council are consulting on their proposals for a Clean Air Zone. It’s time to have your say.

The closing date for feedback is Thursday 13th September. Paper copies of the consultation are available and there will be public drop-in events where you can find out more information or ask questions.

A Surfer’s Perspective

Our intern Christie volunteers for Surfers Against Sewage, here she tells us what that involves and how you can take part too.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an organisation started by a group of Cornish surfers almost 30 years ago as a national campaign to improve water quality. Since then it has expanded to become a national marine conservation charity focusing on protecting waves, oceans, beaches, marine wildlife and coastal communities. Currently, the organisation’s main focus is marine plastic pollution, but they also work in many other areas from mitigating climate change to designating natural surf breaks as heritage sites.

I first joined SAS after hearing about an autumn beach clean they were running at a local beach in my hometown and decided to volunteer as a cleaner. At first glance there was barely any litter on the stretch of beach but within minutes of raking just a few centimetres under the sand, the volunteers turned up swathes of rubbish that was choking the beach and sea. Each beach clean often removes several kilograms of litter, most of it made up of disposable plastic items such as bottles, packets and cutlery, as well as lots of discarded nylon fishing gear.

As someone who has grown up surfing and living right beside the ocean, I continually see first-hand just how important the ocean and beaches are to people and the planet. Since I first came across SAS almost 8 years ago, I’ve taken part in beach cleans all over the South Coast and Cornwall and I now organise several myself as a beach clean leader. The organisation has expanded hugely since 2012 and now has a nationwide network of regional reps made up of volunteers from all over the UK. Regional reps are the first point of contact for all campaigns and work in leading beach cleans, giving educational talks to local schools and communities, connecting with local councils and MPs, highlighting regional issues and promoting SAS’s national campaigns and initiatives.

The latest waste-reduction initiative, plastic free communities, has had over 300 towns pledge to cut their plastic waste and, as autumn comes along, there will be beach cleans all over the UK in need of passionate volunteers – it’s fun and easy to take part!

Keeping Cool This Summer

It’s been unusually hot these past few weeks, which comes as a welcome surprise to some while others can’t wait for it to cool down. The UK is facing a number of challenges as a result of the heatwave, with water shortage warnings from water companies, hosepipe bans and even rail service delays due to overheating tracks.

Apart from problems with infrastructure, heatwaves can pose serious risks to people’s health. Sustained heatwaves are associated with an increase in hospitalisations and even deaths, especially if temperatures don’t fall substantially in the evenings. Milder reactions to heat exposure, like heat rashes and muscle cramps, can be treated with rest, a cool environment and more water. But if you’re concerned about serious heat-related symptoms, call NHS 111 or 999 in an emergency.

We can provide tailored advice over the phone about ways to keep cool and well at home, so please call us on Freephone 0800 804 8601.

Want more tips to beat the heat?

Stay hydrated

  • Drink plenty of cold fluids, preferably without caffeine or alcohol
  • Eat fruit and veg with a high water content e.g. melons, cucumber, tomato, salad, citrus etc.

Cool your body

  • Run a cool bath, take a cool shower or wipe down with a wet washcloth
  • Slow down – try not to overexert yourself in the heat

Outdoors

  • Avoid the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm)
  • If you must go out, dress for the heat – wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and light, loose-fitting clothing minimises skin exposure and protects you from UV rays.

Cool your home

  • Shade the windows or use a reflective material
  • Ventilate when it’s cooler outside (typically at night)
  • Turn off appliances that aren’t being used. Standby power adds heat to your home. And it’s doubly important to turn off old-style incandescent bulbs if you have sufficient lighting otherwise since these give off most of their energy in the form of heat as opposed to light!
  • Though many people think of insulation to keep their home warm during the winter, insulation can also keep your home cool in summer. Contact us for more details about the different ways to insulate your home or about the schemes that could help with the cost of the work.

Still not cool enough? Find a library, community centre, shopping centre, place of worship or even a shaded park to cool off.

If you’re wondering when the heatwave will end, check out the Met Office website for updates on weather changes, including any hot weather alerts. And be sure to keep an eye out for family and friends who are more susceptible to the heat, like young children, older people or those with health conditions.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Margaret’s Story

Margaret contacted us as her combi boiler hadn’t been producing hot water for four months. Her occupational therapist provided her with an information leaflet about our Southampton Healthy Homes project and suggested she get in touch. Margaret has health problems that leave her unable to work and she recently lost her husband, leaving her unable to afford the cost of replacing her broken boiler.

A Southampton Healthy Homes advisor visited Margaret two days later and helped her get quotes from Buy With Confidence and Gas Safe registered heating engineers, as well as fill in an application for a grant to other charitable trusts. During the application process, Margaret’s boiler completely broke. A referral was made to the local welfare charity, for a utility top up voucher to help Margaret cover the higher electricity costs from temporary heaters, whilst awaiting the trusts’ decision.

In less than a month’s time, the trust agreed to fully fund the boiler replacement, giving Margaret heating and instant hot water again. The trust also decided to provide financial help her pay off debt from her husband’s funeral.

Margaret was very happy with her new boiler:

“Now I have again heating and hot water at all times.”

She was also very thankful for all the help she received:

“Like to thank everyone involved who helped me so much plus [the trust] for the grant and [the heating company] who installed the new boiler.”

As well as helping with the heating, the advisor helped Margaret apply for the Warm Home Discount, a government scheme that offers a discount of £140 off electricity bills.

If you know a friend, family member or client in a similar situation, please call the Southampton Healthy Homes team for advice and support on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com.

A Month of Clean Air

tEC staff have been getting involved in the exciting clean air events in Southampton this month. This year’s National Bike Week culminated in the Let’s Ride Southampton street festival, and these events prompted our newest staff member to begin riding to work. While she doesn’t own a bike, she was able to take advantage of the local bike share scheme and, along with thousands of others, participated in the 6km circular bike route around the city.

We also got involved in Clean Air Day, which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of clean air and ways people can improve the air quality around them. We made pledges in the lead-up to the event, ranging from using fewer nasty chemicals to clean our homes to switching to renewable energy providers. To celebrate Clean Air Day 2018, the Clean Air Network – a network of organisations from businesses and transport operators to charities and education institutions – hosted a festival with activities, performances, speakers and prizes. We were on hand to encourage passers-by to get involved, find out how to reduce and avoid air pollution and to provide feedback on Southampton City Council’s Clean Air Zone proposals. The consultation will remain open for the next 12 weeks.

The day ended with a number of great speakers as part of the University of Southampton’s Research Café highlighting their work with regards to air pollution, its impacts and potential solutions. The speakers gave us hope that we’re moving in the right direction and little steps can lead to big changes.

We finished the month by attending Clean Air Southampton’s Air Quality Monitoring Workshop to learn more about the current monitoring situation in the UK and how we can interpret and utilise this information locally. It was great to meet a wide range of campaigners, researchers and politicians from across the county who are all passionate about tackling air pollution.

tEC is committed to helping individuals, businesses and communities reduce their environmental impacts and cut carbon. If you would like to find out more about our projects, or want to become an Air Quality Champion, you can email cleanair@environmentcentre.com or call us on 02380 336172 (Mon-Fri 9-5).

Southampton Healthy Homes: Emma’s Story

Emma is an owner occupier living with her two teenage children and is her son’s full time carer. She was given our contact details from a local heating engineer as her boiler was condemned and it was not safe to use. The engineer had told her it was irreparable and that it had to be replaced, a cost that Emma couldn’t afford herself due to her limited income.

“I was completely shocked and worried when my boiler was condemned and I had no idea how I was going to be able to pay for a new one.”


A Southampton Healthy Homes advisor visited Emma at her home to discuss potential funding options and help her fill in the project’s application form.

Emma’s application was approved for a local authority grant and, with a contribution from herself, she was able to have a brand new boiler installed.

“Without help, I would have really struggled getting a replacement boiler.”

She was also very pleased with all the help she received:

“Through the heating engineer passing on tEC’s details, my mind was put at rest straight away and before I knew it funding had been granted and a new boiler was fitted. I am incredibly grateful; such lovely people to deal with.”

Apart from support with the faulty boiler, Emma expressed her concern about her draughty back door for which the advisor provided a door brush to limit the problem.

If your home is cold and draughty, please call the Southampton Healthy Homes team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor about how you can keep warm and well.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Pat’s Story

Pat is an older widow living in her own property in Hampshire. Her combi boiler had failed, leaving her without heating or hot water, and her insurance wouldn’t cover the cost. She needed help and called us.

Because of her financial situation and serious health conditions, we were able to help her with the cost of installing a new boiler in addition to helping her apply for the Warm Home Discount. Her vulnerabilities made her eligible for the Priority Services Registers for her energy and water companies and we provided her with those details.

Pat was very happy with the Hitting the Cold Spots service and things have improved a lot for her and her property following our involvement. The replacement boiler and the new room thermostat location mean that,

“the house is now warmer than before the old boiler broke. I would have frozen to death if I had not done anything about the failed boiler.”

We were also able to help Pat get a significant discount on her water bill, including a surface water drainage rebate.

If staying warm and well is vital for your health, please call the Hitting the Cold Spots team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com for advice and support.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Jane’s Story

Jane and Tom are a young couple living with their baby daughter in their own home. They met with one of the Southampton Healthy Homes advisors during an event at their local Children’s Centre.

During the event, they were discussing home energy savings when they brought up an issue with their windows. Apart from them being single glazed, they also had cracks and holes that allowed cold air in. They said their,

“House was always cold, unsecure and very high energy bills”

A Southampton Healthy Homes advisor visited them at their home to assess the situation, discuss potential funding options, including the Warm Home Discount scheme, and help them fill in the application forms.The couple was able to secure a local authority grant to replace the defective windows. They were very happy with the outcome as they,

“couldn’t have afforded to replace the windows ourselves.”

Apart from support with the windows, the advisor also referred them to the government’s ECO scheme from which they managed to access funding for the installation of loft insulation.

If you or someone you know needs help applying for funding to keep warm and well, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: June’s Story

June and her young family lived in a concrete solid wall house with no wall insulation and only a small amount of loft insulation. Their house was heated by an old coal fired Rayburn with a back boiler for hot water, and a few portable electric heaters upstairs. June’s husband has diabetes and their youngest child has an autoimmune disease which causes frequent medical emergencies.

June was referred to Hitting the Cold Spots by her local council who were helping the family with a Disabled Facilities Grant to install a wet room, wheelchair access and modern high heat retention storage heaters, because their rural village is not on the gas network. However, due to very high heat loss through the walls, the house would be difficult to keep warm even with improved heating, and the Hitting the Cold Spots advisor suggested that the family would benefit from having external solid wall insulation.

Although June’s husband works, and they receive Child Tax Credits and disability benefits for their youngest child, the family were not able to afford the upfront costs of solid wall insulation. The Hitting the Cold Spots advisor arranged for a local insulation company to assess the property for external wall insulation and a loft insulation top-up. Due to the poor energy efficiency of the house and the family’s circumstances, they were able to access Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding for over half of the cost of works. An application was made for the funding shortfall from the Hitting the Cold Spots rural fund, and the family were successful. The Hitting the Cold Spots advisor also helped June apply for planning permission for the work.

With all of the energy efficiency works completed – external wall insulation, loft insulation top-up and high heat retention storage heaters – the home has improved from an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) very poor F rating to an above average C rating, which should save the family over £1200 on their annual energy bills. The biggest achievement for the family is the improved warmth and comfort of the home, and benefits for their health, June said:

“From having the work done our home is so much warmer. We have full use of the house now. It is also going to help with my daughter’s health problems.”

The family are also exploring the possibility of installing Solar PV panels through the recently re-opened Green Deal loans scheme – this further energy efficiency improvement would take their home’s EPC rating up to a B, far above the current national average.

If your home is difficult to heat there may be help available for you, please call the Hitting the Cold Spots team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to find out more.