Transition Town Llandeilo

Llandeilo has been grabbing headlines recently with talk of launching its own currency under the banner of being the first transition town in Wales. The transition town movement concerns itself with tackling two major challenges, Peak Oil and Climate Change. The approach to tackling these challenges is by broadly applying permaculture principles, considering energy efficiency and methods for local self sufficiency in food, waste disposal and manufacturing. The goals are to reduce the carbon footprint of transition communities and to prepare them to be better disposed to weather any negative effects of a future impacted by reduced availability of oil and oil based products.

The Llandeilo project began in Spring 2007 and has since spawned a number of sub-groups:

* Allotments
* Food and Farming
* Renewable Energy
* Permaculture
* Afallon Teilo – a project to encourage the local production of apples
* ‘Heart and Soul’ – the psychology of Energy Descent
* Diwylliant a Iaith – (Welsh) culture and language

In terms of analogy and comparison, Jonathan Dawson in an article for the New Statesman draws an elegant branch on the family tree of sustainable communities between small transitional communities (ecovillages to use Jonathan’s terminology) and medieval monasteries.

Interesting times and interesting opportunities.

Peak Oil ~ what is it & what bearing does it have on green building?

Peak Oil is a notional point in time. It is reached when the rate of global oil production hits its maximum level from which the only way is down. In these terms downs means escalating costs of extraction & production, restricted supply, unfulfilled demand and increasing prices.

The foundations of the peak oil concept lie in the Hubbert peak theory of Marion King Hubbert that accurately predicted that United States oil production would peak in the early 1970’s. The term Peak Oil currently usually used in relation to world oil production as a whole. Conservative estimates place the date at which Peak Oil is reached at between 2020 & 2030, whilst more pessimistic commentators will suggest that the point has already been passed.

Whilst much of the comment and speculation around the subject reads like Princess Di or JFK conspiracy theorists letting their imaginations run wild, there are tracts of thought that can help us in consideration of designing our homes and living environments sustainably.

So what has this got to do with barn conversions?
Most obviously, restricted oil supplies lead to expensive energy. We are already being subjected to soaring energy costs and uncertainty (whether or not this is related to Peak Oil I’ll leave to you to decide). Under these conditions sustainable, self-contained energy solutions become attractive not just from a isolationist perspective, but also a financial one.

We must also consider the wider impact of oil supply as it extends its tendrils into so many other aspects of modern life. The plastics, chemical fertiliser & pharmaceuticals industries all rely heavily on oil. What alternatives are there and how can we insulate ourselves from the impacts of change? This question when coupled with the challenges of climate change has lead to the transition town movement.

A Transition Initiative is a community working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

Paid to recycle

Love him or hate him or just find him amusing, I read with interest that Boris Johnson is advocating a positive encouragement to recycling in the environmental manifesto that is a part of his candidature for election as mayor of London.

He is inspired by schemes such as that run by RecycleBank in the USA that offer financial rewards for recyclers rather than forcing recycling through fining, charging and taxing. It seems to me that the current policy of the UK government to encourage recycling mainly through financial penalties is woefully negative. To be positively encouraged, rather than threatened with punishment would make a refreshing change.

Whilst the need to increase levels of recycling is obvious to all who think about it, I’m certain (but without evidence) that those people who are likely to recycle without (dis)incentives already do and that therefore the only way forward is to provide incentives. If schemes like these can be made to work, then to me, a positive approach is better than a negative one every time.

Thanks Boris for bringing such incentives onto the agenda … just shame you’re as hopping mad as a box of frogs!

The Greener Homes & Buildings Show ~ Builth Wells, 8th & 9th March 2008

As I write the The Greener Homes & Buildings Show ‘trade and professionals day’ will be in full swing at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, Powys.

On Saturday and Sunday (8th and 9th) the show is open to the public and there looks to be excellent attendance from the sustainable & green building industry from both Wales and the wider world.

As well as meeting suppliers, ogling products and finding out more about the services available out there, there are some really interesting seminars on offer at no additional cost. My only worry is that they’ll be too busy for me to get into!

I’ll be attending with Rounded Developments who have a stand, See you there on Sunday!