Portsmouth Climate Action Board suggests five ways to green your lockdown

THE first lockdown of 2020 changed the pace of life for a lot of people.

Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 4:00 pm

With restrictions limiting where we could go and how often we could go out, we spent more time at home than ever before.

And by the end of June a total of 9.3m people were on furlough, with many more unemployed or working from home.

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Portsmouth sees highest drop in NO2 levels in England during lockdown

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Pocket parks have been set up around the city A pocket park in Victoria Street. Picture: Emma Loveridge

Among the uncertainty of the pandemic one thing became apparent - not just in the UK but in countries across the world - our behavioural changes had led to a drop in pollution as flights as well as cars became grounded

A study from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air suggested that improved air quality in April alone meant 11,000 fewer deaths across Europe.

And images emerged of crystal clear waters in the canals of Venice - something many of us had never seen before.

The same was true in Portsmouth as the city's once congested streets became eerily quiet.

Three pocket parks were set up around the city this year - but could there be more? Pictured: Pocket park at Sea Mill Gardens being created. Picture: Courtesy of Stephen Morgan

Portsmouth saw the largest drop in toxic nitrous dioxide (NO2) in the whole of England as levels more than halved.

Between March 17 and 24 this year an average of 13.7 NO2 micrograms per cubic metre was recorded at one of the city's busiest roads.

This was significantly down from readings taken in the same spot in Anglesea Road between March 19 and 26 last year, when NO2 levels were 37 - close to the EU permitted level' of 40.

Now the city has entered a second period of lockdown we are being asked to consider how we can make small changes to work towards a greener city.

The Portsmouth Climate Action Board is asking people to reconsider car use to reduce pollution. Pictured: Congestion on the M275 into Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs (142476-229)

Set up last year by the city council, the Portsmouth Climate Action Board aims to oversee the transformation of Portsmouth into a carbon neutral city. It will be launching its new strategy and website in January 2021.

But for now the board is suggesting five easy steps to 'green your lockdown' that go beyond simply cutting down on car use that could extend into a post-pandemic world.

Sustainability researcher and board member, Nick Sebley, said: 'The first lockdown was very stressful and disorientating. It also opened our eyes to what our cities could be like with fewer cars on the road, more time in green spaces, and a shift from consumerism to a more sharing community.

'This second lockdown could be an opportunity to build on some of those insights and make changes that are good for the planet but also for our bank balance and well being.’

Nick Sebley from the Portsmouth Climate Action Board. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (071219-8)

1. Green your diet

IT IS tempting while stuck at home, and especially in the winter, to turn to comfort food or fast food.

We all know most of it is not good for our health or our weight - but how many of us also consider its impact on the environment?

It is thought a vegan diet reduces your carbon footprint by 50 per cent. That's not to say we should all give up meat and other animal products for good but there are ways to help us reduce our intake - think of it as a sort of health kick for the planet.

Sam Calvert from the Vegan Society said: 'The global meat and dairy industry is responsible for as much greenhouse gases as all the direct emissions from all global transportation combined.

'Animal agriculture is destroying our environment. It causes up to 91 percent of Amazon deforestation. Growing vegan food uses 50 per cent less land than animal agriculture.

Southsea's first car club Enterprise Car Club was set up in September. Pictured is: Dave Coyle, Enterprise sales director for the South and Clare Seek, Wimbledon Park patch co-ordinator. Picture: Sarah Standing (070920-3508)

'And a meat and dairy diet is inherently wasteful. Bear in mind that for every 100 calories fed to animals, we receive back only 12 calories by consuming their flesh and milk. Feeding crops to people rather than farmed animals could feed three billion more people.'

Nick Sebley, from the Portsmouth Climate Action Board, added: ‘If you don’t feel ready to go vegan but want to reduce your meat and dairy intake visit reducetarian.org, for advice, recipes and support.

‘However, if you feel up for trying out full veganism the website challenge22.com allows you to join a Facebook group with other people, so you can all support each other for a three-week trial.’

2. Switch your energy supplier to a green tariff

WITH many more of us spending time at home and conducting our work, shopping and social life online which energy supplier we use has never made more of an impact.

According to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit energy suppliers amount for the second largest source of emissions in the UK - making up 26 per cent.

But there is a way to make a difference. With energy comparison sites such as Big Clean Switch devoted to highlighting which suppliers are best for the environment this has never been simpler.

Nick Sebley said: 'One of the downsides of lockdown is that our carbon footprint from domestic electricity use is growing.

‘An easy way to tackle this is to switch your electricity supplier to a 100 per cent renewable tariff.

‘Big Clean Switch is a green energy price comparison site that shows the cheapest deals in your area.

‘However, all tariffs are not made equal: some companies like Good Energy, Ecotricity and Octopus invest their profits into building new solar and wind farms, whilst for others like EDF their tariffs involve simply buying a certificate on the energy market.

‘To be truly green choose one of those three.'

Visit bigcleanswitch.org to find out more.

3. Insulate your home - for free

THIS second lockdown has a vital difference to the first - the cold weather.

Now we are well into the winter months many of us will have already started turning the heating on to stay warm.

Around 60 per cent of our energy bills and domestic carbon footprint come just from heating our homes.

However, much of this heat is lost through draughts and leaky walls, roofs and windows. Proper insulation can reduce both your bills and your carbon emissions.

Under the Green Homes Grant that was announced in August, the government can fund two thirds of the cost of home improvements up to £10,000. This can be spent on under-floor, wall or roof insulation, air/ground source heat pumps, solar thermal and double or triple glazing.

And if you are on certain benefits or a low income the government ECO scheme can also offer grants for this.

Energy Savings Trust chief executive, Mike Thornton, said: 'The Green Homes Grant scheme is a great opportunity to get a grant to cut energy bills.

'Now the website is live, we urge people to go online to create a personalised plan for energy efficiency in their home as a first step to getting their grant.'

You must redeem the voucher and ensure improvements are completed by March 31, 2021.

Visit gov.uk/check-eligible-green-homes-grant and myecohome.org to find out more.

4. Join a car club

THERE'S no denying that during the first lockdown there were less cars on the road.

Now the Portsmouth Climate Action Board is asking people to rethink whether they still need a second or even first car.

Luckily in Portsmouth there is an alternative to public transport or cycling if you find yourself without a car.

Car rental firm Enterprise has established two car clubs in the city, which allow members to rent vehicles for a specified period via an app - cutting the need to pay for insurance, MOT, or road tax - as well as contest with the struggle to find parking.

Community group co-ordinator Clare Seek helped set up the Southsea car club - which is based in the car park of the Wimbledon Park Sport Centre. Since September 12 people have joined the club but there are hopes it will expand.

She said: 'The main benefit is financial for people. A lot of people have cars but whether they've been furloughed, or working from home or in the worst case scenario they've been made redundant as more and more people have the car is just sitting there and costing them money.

'This way you don't have the financial responsibility of a car but can still have access to one when it's needed. Obviously it also means there are less cars on the road and less congestion. And we all know parking is difficult in Portsmouth as well.'

Enterprise is offering their first year's membership for £10 rather than the normal price of £60 by using the promo code PORTSMOUTH10.

For more information see enterprisecarclub.co.uk

5. Create a Pocket Park

AT A time when we have to be indoors more often than we would perhaps like, our connection to green space is vital.

However, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 14 per cent of dwellings - including flats - in the city do not have access to a garden, placing it as 312th out of 370 council areas in Great Britain.

And for some the nearest park might not be close enough to visit regularly.

So the Portsmouth Climate Action Board is encouraging people to consider creating their own 'pocket parks.' These are small green spaces - maybe a patch of grass in an estate or a verge - that could be transformed with fruit bushes, trees, benches or play areas.

This year three pocket parks were successfully set up in Portsmouth by community members - in Portsea and Charles Dickens ward - using a government fund.

Emma Loveridge, from Southsea, was the project co-ordinator. She said: 'Greening where we live is part of the solution to climate change. It's how we can increase biodiversity and reduce our carbon footprint on food transportation.

'It is something we can all get involved in, even on a small scale and it's proven to help us feel better too.'

Nick Sebley, from the board, said: 'Green spaces have been a lifesaver during lockdown. However, not all communities in Portsmouth enjoy easy access to them. We want to change that.

‘The first step is to identify a small patch of grass or urban land in your neighbourhood that looks underused or unloved, then get in touch with us, and we will help you turn it into a green oasis.'

If you are interested in setting up a pocket park in your area contact the action board via [email protected]

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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