After winning the Green Business Award at St Albans Chamber of Commerce Community Business Awards in October 2019, we are exploring what makes Electric Blue a “green business”. Each month, we’ll be highlighting one of the important factors which helps us work to achieve our goal as an environmentally-conscious business. In practices and principles, we invite you to join us as we examine our impact.
Growing our impact with Trees for Cities
We’re delighted to announce how we’re working with Trees for Cities to increase our climate positive action. Read more about how we are supporting tree planting activities in urban environments.
Working For The Environment
Caring for our planet, and considering our impact on the local (and wider) environment is a topic which concerns all aspects of life - including work. We’ve been considering our individual impacts, as well as steps to take as a business, in order to ensure we are creating the best possible work environment, for both our team and the planet.
Covid has seen a new rise in working from home and flexible working patterns, which are practices Electric Blue has been utilising for a while. As restrictions are beginning to lift, our office will be re-opening, but only for those members of our team who are unable to work from home, and for a limited number of staff at any one time. The majority of our team will continue to work from home, arrange meetings online, and host and attend webinars, instead of in-person events.
But what did our office look like prior to this? Prior to closing our office under lockdown safety measures, five of our full-time team worked remotely from home. Additionally, six part-time team members also worked from home. Across the rest of the team, those who were routinely office-based also enjoyed the flexibility of working from a different location where possible, and when needed. Working from home is a fantastic option for those jobs which don’t require in-person contact, and where a suitable home-working situation is possible.
A reduced carbon footprint thanks to less commuting, lower financial commitments for office space, and less time wasted on travelling - just a few of the working-from-home perks we’ve all been enjoying! But that doesn’t mean that home-working is automatically more environmentally-friendly.
Bringing Work Home
When based at home, how are you best able to create a working environment, which supports the natural environment? Now your office waste is merging with that of your home, are you sure you are recycling properly? Check your local recycling dos and don’ts, as recyclable items vary between local authorities. Your council website should have detailed information. Of course, recycling should be the last option - so before you condemn it to the recycling bin, can you reuse or repurpose it?
While online shopping may seem like the perfect solution for purchasing and practising social distancing - are all of those purchases truly necessary? And if they are, are you able to purchase them from local suppliers? Are those suppliers sourcing or making their products with sustainable resources and ethical business practices?
Consider your energy consumption - now you’re at home, chances are your electricity consumption will increase. Now is a great time to switch to a renewable energy supplier, often easily done online. And make sure you switch off at the end of your working day. Not only to prevent unnecessary energy usage, but to make sure you switch off from work too! It’s all too easy to “just send one more email” when your new desk is also the kitchen table.
If you will be returning to your usual workplace, are there any changes which could be brought back to the office with you? Can you encourage your colleagues to recycle more, and waste less? Find out where your office supplies are sourced from, and consider bulk buying to reduce packaging and shipping emissions. Make the move away from single use, and adopt reusable items, especially in the office kitchen.
And of course, now we are all well practised in hosting or attending meetings virtually, even as workplaces begin to open up again, could you keep meetings online? Online meetings save time spent travelling (read: sat in traffic) and remove harmful emissions from already-polluted air space. If the meeting does need to be held in person, can you travel there via public, or shared transport? Even better if the transport option is zero emission!
Searching for Sustainability
The wealth of the world’s knowledge is available at just the tap of a few keys, and the click of a button. But can something as benign as an internet search actually impact on our environment? With Ecosia, climate positive action is possible, even whilst searching for your lunch inspiration, or virtually planning your next holiday.
In fact, due to Ecosia’s tree-planting carbon-negative search engine, each search removes 1kg of carbon from the air. This is thanks to their carbon-offsetting through tree-planting, plus their own solar plants which power the servers, and additionally replaces fossil fuels being delivered to the grid. Win, win.
Users are also supported in making a more ethical choice from results lists, thanks to the “green leaf” highlight. Ecosia uses this symbol to mark those results which demonstrate environmentally-friendly business practices, or supply sustainable products and services.
We encourage all Electric Blue team members to use Ecosia whilst at work and at home (and of course, to spread the word to their loved ones as well!), so that we are contributing to green-ing our planet, with every internet search we make.
Grow Your Love for the NHS
For the month of May, Ecosia partnered with Trees for Cities and The NHS Forest to double up the Thursday appreciation efforts across the UK. For all searches by UK users on Thursday, throughout the month, Ecosia donated 100% of its revenue to plant trees at NHS sites.
With 248 NHS hospitals, including two of the biggest children’s hospitals, in areas where air pollution is above the World Health Organisation’s limit for fine particulate matter, this initiative can help to directly remove harmful emissions from healthcare environments - resulting in cleaner air for staff, patients and visitors.
Trees are carbon sinks - meaning that leafy, forested areas are natural storage facilities for carbon dioxide, locking away this greenhouse gas in their roots, wood, and leaves. As well as combating climate change, trees are crucial protectors against soil erosion, storm water runoff, contamination from chemicals, and even abate noise pollution. Of course, we can’t forget that trees are home to a multitude of species and support our richly biodiverse natural environment.
Why is ethical searching important?
If tree planting and carbon sequestration aren’t reason enough, check out these additional reasons why ethical searching is more than just a click of a button! Impartial search results, transparent financial reporting, increasing diversity in tech, and supporting grassroots organisations - all reasons for considering the wider impact of our internet usage, and using our online presence to create a fairer and more sustainable world for all.
Our commitment to Net Zero
Legislation to reach net zero emissions by 2050 was passed in June of last year. Whilst the UK was the first major economy to make this commitment, there was immediate outcry from various environmental groups and organisations - that, once again, this was not an ambitious enough goal. It seems that the government is taking heed, with consultation under way to bring the deadline further forward to end sales of all petrol and diesel cars, from the current 2035 target.
Net Zero by 2050 has prompted us to consider our own impact, and how we can work towards this collective goal. Whilst we truly believe that global improvement of carbon emissions needs to be led by a grand industrial shift towards sustainability, it is through individual actions that we can achieve widespread change.
What Net Zero means for us
What Net Zero means for us: the setting of an ambitious goal to create a society where we do not produce emissions. Or, for those that are currently unavoidable, then we have off-set an equal, if not greater, amount of emissions. Net Zero must be clearly defined to avoid any attempts to squeeze ‘lower carbon’ technologies, and wherever possible, zero emission technologies should be prioritised.
Our own goals in relation to Net Zero are to work with our partners to create zero emission cities. Our focus is on electrifying vehicles and integrating renewable energy (wind and solar). To achieve this ambitious goal will require the installation of charging infrastructure, supported by storage and load management systems.
Equally, it will require the adoption of innovative commercial models for using electric vehicles, for example car clubs. We are already working with partners to provide EVs for target markets. Zero emission cities also require the introduction of smart technologies, connected vehicles and IoT platforms. Some of our projects are tracking vehicle fleets and monitoring charging bays. Finally, we are working with a range of stakeholders to create collaborative partnerships to raise awareness, educate drivers and fleets, and create incentives to change. An example of this is working with partners to use their buying power, in order to electrify their supply chains.
Climate concern and Net Zero awareness
Following the latest BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker, conducted in March 2020, most people were unaware of the concept of Net Zero, with 64% saying they had not heard of it. What does this mean for the success of a piece of legislation, which is meant to be a key turning point for our approach towards, and our action against, devastating climate change?
While 76% of the public questioned were either very concerned or fairly concerned about climate change, this concern clearly isn’t translating into awareness of our government’s policy surrounding the issue. Despite genuine concern about climate change, limited understanding of net zero means that there is not enough knowledge on the measures taken to tackle it, and perhaps therefore, a reduced engagement at a social and public level.
“Only six per cent said they [sic] drove an electric car, but half of those that did said they did so mainly to help limit climate change.” This reflection highlights that although people are aware of the issues we are facing, nationally and globally, they still haven’t grasped the full extent of what is being done in contra to this. Does this mean too, that they are less likely to adopt alternative technologies, favour sustainable fuels, or transition to an electric vehicle?
According to a survey by Centrica Business Solutions, investment in adopting electric vehicles is set to increase to £12bn over the next two years, with UK businesses spending an average of 4.5% of annual turnover on EV adoption. However, two thirds of the survey respondents suggested that the government should introduce more tax subsidies and grants in order to encourage greater EV uptake.
With figures like these on the rise, and pressure on the government mounting, we are more determined than ever to keep accelerating the change, and providing turnkey solutions for local authorities, businesses, and individuals to join the journey to a net zero emission future.
Will you join us?
Tailored Solutions for Sustainable Change
Working to bring about widespread change doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. And creating a new, sustainable normal definitely doesn’t. That is why tailored solutions are at the core of our product and service offerings. Promoting the most effective, efficient, or environmentally-friendly answers includes ensuring that our solutions are truly going to correspond with the problems and meet the requirements of our clients. For this reason, we tailor all of our solutions to the needs of the communities, businesses, and individuals who require them - ensuring greater sustainability and continuing air quality improvement.
It is common to see products which are pedalled to fit the entire market, when realistically that might not be the best solution. We don’t believe in selling for the sake of selling, and certainly won’t attempt to instill a solution, or install a charger, if it isn’t appropriate.
This is how we work to ensure that our solutions are sustainable, and implementable…
Our work alongside Oxford City Council is encouraging local taxi drivers to transition to low-emission vehicles. This project is in line with the Council’s plans for Hackney taxis to adopt a phased approach to zero-emission capable vehicles between 2020 and 2025. Electric Blue is providing demonstration vehicles for drivers to trial as part of a “try before you buy scheme”; and open drop-in sessions, to ensure that drivers are informed and educated about the possibilities of low or zero emission vehicles.(This project is currently on hold in line with government advice due to Covid-19).
We know the importance of working directly with local authorities and key local players to ensure that any solution implemented is appropriate, practical, and accessible to those who most need it. We also believe that local authorities are in a prime position to demonstrate their commitment to cleaner air, by adopting low-emission vehicles into their own fleets, and we work closely with many councils across the country to enable this transition to occur smoothly (and silently, of course!).
We have three separate charger installation projects within Welsh colleges - providing on-site charging for college staff. Coleg Cambria has had eight fast chargers installed on their Deeside Campus, we have recently completed installation of one twin socket charger at Coleg Gwent, and are in the process of installing four twin-socket chargers at Coleg Llandrillo and Menai. The variation in these projects shows that it isn’t just a one-size-fits-all solution. Our recommendations, and therefore installations, are based on the necessity of those who will use the chargers - who, how often, when, and which vehicles, are all questions we ask before tailoring our solutions to our clients’ needs.
Educational institutions, businesses, healthcare trusts, and all organisations in between, who want to improve their impact on the local environment, or boost their green credentials, can make a positive contribution by demonstrating their commitment to lower emission transport. By tailoring our services, we ensure that each journey towards low emission transport is achievable, and helps us all work towards the target of a net zero future.
Electric Blue vehicles: How we drive
With emissions from road transport a key contributor to greenhouse gases, global warming, and the resulting climate change, our journey to a zero-emissions future (particularly on the road) is more crucial than ever. That’s why, we don’t only recommend low-emissions vehicles to other drivers, but we drive them ourselves. Every one of the Electric Blue company cars is fully electric; where possible we promote the use of public transport, and there’s even one electric moped in the fleet!
Driving an electric vehicle is an enjoyable, efficient experience, but what makes it different to that of driving a petrol or diesel vehicle? Trevor Watt, Senior EV Solution Specialist says,“I love the quietness of the vehicle, and I really enjoy not buying or burning fossil fuels for my journeys.”
Keeley Walsh, Project Manager, also confirms that a zero-emission journey is more pleasant, “I love driving an EV. It’s smoother and quieter[than a combustion-engine vehicle]and it’s good to know that I am doing my bit for the environment!”
And, whilst driving an EV a few years ago may have been less accessible, now the industry is beginning to accelerate, we are seeing rapid changes on the zero emission journey,“Five years ago it was challenging, but now it is rewarding to see the pace of change.” Alex Calnan, Managing Director
We all know that transitioning to an electric vehicle can raise a few concerns, and our team were no different when they made the switch to electric. Common apprehensions include range anxiety…
“Doing 7 miles home the first time I drove an EV was rather worrying, given that the range said 38 miles left, is petrol warning light territory! But when I got home with a range of 42 I realised that 7 miles actually wasn’t that far!” Edward Carman, Senior Project Manager
…and whether it will be possible to charge en route, particularly with long journeys,
“There’s no getting away from the fact that you have to plan the whole round trip for long journeys. You have to allow more time for your long journeys, check the appropriate app and ensure the charger you plan to stop at during your journey is working and operational.”
Tony Mazzone, Operations Director
Overcoming concerns, or adapting to them
“My main concern was whether I could go about my daily driving without too much change from using a petrol/diesel vehicle. However, I can drive as I did previously, just with a little more planning; I have to think about the mileage and where the next charger is, I will park in places that have chargers over those that don’t, and I will make sure there are some rapid chargers en route, just in case.” Trevor Watt, Senior EV Solution Specialist
“Range anxiety - I think this will be a thing of the past in a few years. Range has increased dramatically, including the new Renault ZOE, and charging infrastructure has developed significantly.”
“My main concern was running out of charge and not having a nearby chargepoint, but having driven an EV for about 5 years now, I realise that all it takes on a long journey is a little planning as to where and when I would need to stop.” Keeley Walsh, Project Manager
Straight from the drivers’ mouths
So if you’re still unsure about whether an electric vehicle is for you, or if you’re new to zero-emission driving, here’s a round-up of our top tips:
“Familiarise yourself with the motorway network and plan your route.” Tony Mazzone, Operations Director
“Know where you are going to charge first: Home, Work, Motorways. And have a plan B!” Matt Bull, Senior EV Solution Specialist
“Figure out your daily, weekly and monthly mileage, before purchasing the vehicle. If you are only doing 20 miles a day, and can charge from home, you will never have an issue with range anxiety. However, if you are doing 100 plus miles a day, then you might want to consider getting a vehicle that has a slightly longer range.” Trevor Watt, Senior EV Solution Specialist
“You don’t have to buy one today, or tomorrow, and it doesn’t have to be your ‘main car’. With households today owning multiple cars, by all means keep a ‘normal one’ to drive down to Cornwall on your holidays, but there’s no reason why the rest couldn’t be electric. Even 50 miles a day can be easily done in the oldest 24kWh Nissan Leaf, and will certainly be cheaper in the long run.” Ed Carman, Senior Project Manager
“Approach the decision from the point of ‘What would I have to do differently to be able to drive an EV?’ For me, it came down to just doing a bit more planning before some journeys.” Alex Calnan, Managing Director
Renewable Energy - Clean, Green Power
Whilst zero emission vehicles do much for decreasing the impact of tailpipe emissions on air quality, particularly within urban environments, there is still some concern around the energy used to power them. That is why, where Electric Blue provides energy to a charger, we commit to providing energy from 100% renewable sources.
It is one of the core principles of Electric Blue’s Green Business ethos - simply removing the tailpipe emissions from our streets isn’t enough. Shifting the emissions further up the supply chain isn’t a compromise we are willing to take; we believe that if the vehicles are going to be less harmful for the environment, then so too should be the electricity that powers them.
In the third quarter of 2019, renewable energy sources overtook fossil fuels in providing electricity to homes in the UK for the first time. This surpassing of fossil fuels has been helped by the construction of a number of offshore wind farms. In fact, wind power is the largest contributor to UK electricity as a renewable source - providing 19.0% thanks to the recent investments in major wind farms over the last few years.
With the now legislated target for net-zero emissions by 2050, continued growth in the renewable energy market is crucial. According to new research, renewable energy is the top choice of investors this year, surpassing technology and property. On top of increasing commitments to wind power, the government has also committed to funding four biofuel projects, which provide a more planet-friendly alternative to petrol and diesel fuels.
The UK was the first major economy to legislate for the net-zero target, and the Net Zero Review, expected in the autumn of 2020, will layout exactly how the government plans to reach it. Importantly, plans must display that we are not simply exporting our emissions elsewhere, but instead cutting our own emissions to successfully achieve net-zero. Much like Electric Blue’s strategy of removing emissions from the supply chain, the UK must also consider appropriate solutions and practices to ensure that we are, as a country, moving away from carbon-reliant sources, and not shifting the responsibility for our carbon output onto other countries.