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Grass roots

 
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Pippa
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Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Posts: 687
Location: Cambridgeshire

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 10:16 am    Post subject: Grass roots Reply with quote

You can read all you like, understand the enormity of the problems that we face but the hardest thing for me has been getting to grips with what I can personally do about it. Yer, yer, yer, I can learn new tricks, get fit, start gardening, invest in gold, move, buy a stove, wire the house for low energy light bulbs, get solar panels, buy a bike, but I have to say all that stuff is stuff (and the reason we have got in this mess in the first place). Is it going to help my children for their future - strikes me its about as effective long term as putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg. I'll do the things I am advised to do (of course I will - you've got to be in it to win it after all). I definately am going to do my best to hang around and live, so I don't want to find myself mentally trashed by debt, chucked out of my house by my mortgage lender, unable to get about, hungry or waterless. Yes, I am starting to prepare. But what else? What about my job and how can I personally help others in my community prepare for what we (us peak oil freaks) know is coming?


We build extentions for people in our locality. We are small time builders. We help people achieve their dreams by throwing hugh amounts of energy and limited resources about and creating loads of extra space for people that they don't really need. We help them load up with ridiculous amounts of debt (which I haven't a clue how they will repay). All this work then forces them out to the shops to buy heaps of new carpets and furniture and paint and stuff and increases their annual consumption of electricity and heating fuel. Of course, this is bad but if I don't do it then I get thrown out of my house! (no thank you).

So this is what I did yesterday

We went to a prospective customer to quote for an extention. He is a farmer and has a herd of cows as well as arable land. As we were talking about his plans it came to light that they had a big problem with water pressure. The problem was worse when the cows were thirsty because as their troughs refilled it effected the water coming to the house! I noticed that he had hugh barns for his cattle and alot of sloping concrete around the sheds. He wanted a new bathroom and a power shower. Now, that could well have started me off, power showers bad, new stuff bad etc but I am beginning to learn to keep my mouth shut and in any case I need his money! So, when I got back to the office I pulled out a little leaflet that I had kept from our water authority, the ones that look like lifestyle magazines and usually go straight in the bin! It contains some pretty crucial information dressed up to look like nothing -

"As one of the biggest energy users in the region, Anglian Water is faced with a massive ?40 million bill each year. Complying with water industry legislation and higher fuel costs means this amount is set to increase. These rising energy costs need to be tackled urgently - but how?" (oh dear, what is that figure going to look like as the new energy costs get factored in)

Then they have a new pie chart depicting how your money is spent - now I can't reproduce that but here are the numbers

33.7% - operating costs - includes the cost of running our business
such as energy, equipment, raw materials, staff and office
costs

6.5% - Dividend

17% - Asset enhancement laying of new pipes and sewers

22.9% - Interest

1.5% - Taxation

18.4% - Asset maintenance - Maintaining pipes, water and wastewater
treatment works


Wow - several things stuck me particularly - only 1.5% paid in tax - these guys are definately not profitable - breaking even is a nightmare for them

22.9% on borrowing - yikes - this is a problem as energy costs spiral and if interest rates go up

17% on new pipes and 18.4% on maintenance - strikes me that although we know that there is a lot of new house building in our area, new houses are a tiny proportion of our total housing stock - in other words heres monetary proof that our water company is not maintaining our infrastructure sufficiently

Anyhow, I rung up our new prospect and asked him about his water pressure. I pointed out that energy costs were rising - no doubt he was all too well aware of that from his own bills - he agreed
I asked him whether he was on a water meter - yes he is
I asked him whether he had ever considered collecting the water off his roofs - funny you should mention that he said - cause I have thought about it
Well, I said, I am very interested in the subject of water - (a general conversation was then entered into regarding annual rainfall, rising costs, I read out excepts from our Anglian Water leaflets and pointed out hjust how much energy was required to get water to his tap, which completely floored him , he had previously had no idea). I told him that I had been reading up on rainwater collection and in actual fact it isn't that difficult or expensive to install. He was getting more and more interested. I then said that I would like to help him. I could supply him with alot of information that I had learnt (which I would do for nothing - because I would be learning myself).He could do the actual work himself in quiet periods on the farm. He said, OK that sounds great!

My message is that we can help in a positive way - we may feel that we aren't experts and therefore don't know enough to advise but really we have to get out of the specialist mentally as quickly as possible - lets learn to diversify - and get doing!
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Joe



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 596
Location: Leeds

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stuff. This is exactly the kind of community mentality that we're going to need. Keep it up.

As for the business side of things, you could look at shifting the focus of your building business to "eco-renovations" as the market moves in that direction - I reckon plenty of people would be happy to pay someone else to procure & install cavity wall insulation, PV roofing tiles, solar hot water panels, ground source heat pumps etc. CAT do week-long courses in all these kinds of things that are going to be growth areas as energy prices continue upwards.
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snow hope



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 4101
Location: outside Belfast, N Ireland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, well done Pippa. Your enthusiasm is infectious and has got me thinking again about my wind turbine interests. It would be great to be able to help people and also make it part of your way of earning a living. Smile

Anybody else got ideas of what they can do to help others in this manner?
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 6760
Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's exactly the sort of stuff we need going on. I think it is starting, slowly but surely.

On Saturday night, we were just settling down to watch a film, when there was a knock at the door. It was a guy who I helped to get solar hot water installed when I used to work for the Council in my area. He had come to ask me some stuff because he is thinking of getting solar PV and wind power too.

We chatted for an hour or so, I was really pleased to be able to chat with someone about all this. I explained to him my new PV system with batteries.

There are so few people I can talk to about this stuff - especially face-to-face - that just an hour's conversation was like a breath of fresh air. It's the kind of community feeling that makes life worth living.

Roll on more of this! It is coming - slowly, but surely.

Very Happy
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Andy Hunt
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snow hope



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 4101
Location: outside Belfast, N Ireland

PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 10:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations are due to you too Andy, as it is people like you who have the guts to go spend your money and do what a lot of us are still just talking about. Folks like you are laying the path for us to follow! So a big thanks.! Very Happy Cool
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Andy Hunt



Joined: 24 Nov 2005
Posts: 6760
Location: Bury, Lancashire, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very Happy

No worries!

It's not always about spending money, though - on the weekend I made a waist-height lean-to greenhouse out of some old copper pipes I had left over from my wood stove installation, plus a few extra fixings from B&Q and a sheet of polythene. The whole lot must have cost me about ?20 - and it's a great little greenhouse!

I will have to see how it fares in the winter gales though - they might rip it to shreds yet. If that happens, I might look at getting some perspex for it next year.

I'll get a photo of it, and post it up . . .


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Andy Hunt
http://greencottage.burysolarclub.net
Eternal Sunshine wrote:

I wouldn't want to worry you with the truth. Rolling Eyes
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