This #earthday we have caught up with Danny Bonnett here at WT, about the business's future plans and his personal journey to carbon-neutral living. ​

What are we doing at Wood Thilsted?

Here at Wood Thilsted, our leading role in designing the global energy transition is important but just as important is the way that we as a business and our people work. ​ So, this Earth Day, as part of our commitment to protecting the planet, we are working with Treedom to plant a tree for every employee in the business - and a few more just because you can never do enough. We’ve carefully selected Treedom due to their strict standards, focus on biodiversity as well as social and community justice. ​ This is just the beginning for Wood Thilsted as between now and the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in November we will be working to put our plans in place supporting the wider global journey to carbon neutrality. I’ll be applying some of my personal experience to this work so keep your eyes open for updates throughout the year. ​

What have I and my family done?

Over the last 5 years my family of four have made a conscious effort to adapt our ways whilst obviously still making the most of life??– carbon free doesn’t mean fun free. Some of it is easy some of it is a little more difficult. I’m going to shamelessly steal the 10 areas New Civil Engineer broke this down into and surveyed for their August 2020 piece. ​

Live car free. Only 18% of people felt this was an easy task. My advice is take public transport whenever you can, especially when in close proximity to or in an urban area. We lived car-free in London for 5 years, but we do need one in the country. This is where no. 2 comes in.

Shift to an electric car. Again only 24% of people thought this was an easy switch but this is one area I would encourage more people to investigate. We made the switch five years ago, initially running an electric run-about in parallel with a slightly larger petrol car. We soon found this wasn’t necessary and upgraded our electric vehicle to a larger one, whilst trading in the petrol one. I am sure some of you will be raising cost, range anxiety and inconvenience. In response I’d respond and say you can now get hold of second-hand electric cars more and more easily, there are charging points at all major service stations in the UK, and from personal experience I can tell you for our local commutes we often go for a week between charges. When travelling further afield we plug-in every 2 and half hours (a 30mins charge normally gets us 75% full). This is something we all need to do for a rest, comfort break and/or drink. *
Take one less long-haul flight a year. Interestingly 50% of people felt this was relatively easy to do and it will have one of the biggest impacts on your carbon footprint. Our family gave up flying for leisure purposes in 2006. We use trains wherever possible, combined with our electric car, and we’ve holidayed in France, Spain, Denmark and Italy. I’m confident that as my children get older, they will find the joys of travel further afield through more sustainable means. *
Purchase or produce your own renewable energy. Slightly surprisingly, 53% of people felt this would be a difficult task. My message would be it just takes a few minutes to sort, and it really is a doddle. If you are live in the UK or parts of Europe you are lucky as we have some of the highest levels of renewable energy available (thanks in good part to offshore wind). Consumer demand drives energy markets so it’s important to play your part and switch through one of the many companies now available. You might even save money if you’re clever. We also undertook a home energy project which I’ll took a bit more about below. *
Use public transport more. I talked about this above. For those living in cities it’s pretty easy. In rural areas I would say cycle when you can, a lot of things are still only a few miles away and often as quick or only a little slower by bike. This is great for health and mental wellbeing. When travelling between areas, take a train where you can and of course when these aren’t convenient or don’t work you can fall back on your electric car. *
Refurbish/renovate your home to improve energy efficiency. This is one of biggest things we can now all start to think about as we look to put the squeeze on carbon. We undertook an energy project on our house a few years back, installing solar panels, a wind turbine, heat pump, energy efficient heating and very importantly for the UK, wood fibre board insulation with lime plaster. It sounds a lot but it just requires a little planning and some determination. Spread it out over time and enjoy the journey. Sounds expensive? It doesn’t have to be, but of course the costs and paybacks for the different aspects vary. You can implement it in parts, especially if the energy coming into your home is already from renewable sources. *
Switch to a vegan diet. Let’s be honest this isn’t going to be easy for everyone but we need to start looking at the amount of meat we eat. My advice would be start part-time and you’ll soon find that it’s not as tricky as you imagine. My daughter started by suggesting she did ‘Vegadvent’. Obviously cooking different meals for different people in a single household can be time consuming, so we decided we’d all give it a go as a family. It taught us the basic principles and although some people in the house are still meat eaters that’s normally saved for when we go out. Voila! Reduction in your carbon footprint while still getting to enjoy the things you like. *
Install a heat pump. Previous to starting on our home energy project, we had a pretty old-fashioned oil boiler. As we were off the UK gas grid, the options for heating were biomass or heat pumps. Heat pumps are amazing things as they generally give out 5 units of heat for every unit of electricity. They act as an energy multiplier and come in two main varieties; ground source which is the most efficient and air source which is similar to a reverse air conditioner. If you add solar panels or a wind turbine to a heat pump set up so the energy coming is produced onsite, then you are onto an absolute winner. However, even with renewable energy bought from the grid this will be a vast reduction in your footprint. We had the luxury of having solar panels, a wind turbine and the space to install a ground source pump, which takes more space but increases efficiency. This combination, hooked up to a battery, means we can draw energy directly at the start of the day and what we need at the end of the day from the battery. Any excess can be sold back to the grid. All neatly controlled and monitored from my phone app. *
Use more energy efficient appliances. This is a simple one for anyone. Pay attention to the energy labels and replace anything that is old or broken. It will actually be better for the environment. *
Shift to renewable based heating. I’ve pretty much covered this under heat pumps. The only piece to mention is biomass. It’s also an option, which we looked at, and can work well as it can be fairly closed loop but you do have to bear two things in mind. You still need to get the biomass delivered and store and it can have an impact on air quality. ​ Well, that’s my family’s journey. It takes a little time and thought and some money to set-up but you will really learn to understand the impact everything has on our environment and over time you will see more than a return on that investment. Importantly, it means you can enjoy the things you enjoy with less guilt, as you and your family will be doing your bit for the journey to carbon neutrality. If you have any questions about my journey towards carbon neutrality drop me a line and once more Happy Earth Day!
Danny Bonnett

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