In November I will have the pleasure of attending the House of Commons to receive on behalf of the Council the Green Apple Award from the Green Organisation - an independent environmental group which recognises and promotes environmental best practice for the Council's 'Looking for Carbon' initiative.
Details of the Southend project will also be published in an international reference book, to help others follow the Council's example.
'Looking for Carbon' was launched to help the Council reduce its overall carbon emissions, become more energy efficient and help tackle climate change. It has so far led to a huge range of changes, savings and achievements, including:
· Running the first national conference on the UK's transition to the low-carbon economy, called 'Funding a Green Future' held this year in Southend. Due to its success the event is due to be repeated in March 2012
· Identifying £20,000 annual savings in the Civic Centre. A new lighting system, expected to save another £1,000 per year, has also just been installed.
· An energy audit conducted by the Green Staff Forum - formed through the 'Looking for Carbon' project - helped reduce the Council's overnight energy use by 67 per cent.
· The Council's IT department recently introduced 'thin client', a new computer terminal which can reduce energy consumption by up to 90 per cent.
· The Council has started to ensure that renewable energy technologies are used in new builds and refurbishment work. Examples include:
(i) Futures Community College - ground source heat pumps and energy efficient lighting
(ii) Southend Pier - solar voltaic panels
(iii) Shoebury Connection - solar thermal and air source heat pump
(iv) Chalkwell Hall - Metal - wind turbines, solar voltaic and a woodchip boiler
(v) North Road Chapel - a European funding project that provided Southend with its most energy efficient building.
· The Council recently gave 48 schools free water-saving technologies, saving each one an estimated 1,000 cubic metres of water per year.
· The Council has just bought an electric street sweeper, which has zero emissions and saves the equivalent carbon output of 40 cars. It operates on lithium batteries which can work for up to eight hours at a time.
This award is very well-deserved indeed. The 'Looking for Carbon' initiative is prompting a whole range of activities within and beyond the Council which not only help reduce carbon emissions, but are also saving considerable sums of money too.
Staff at all levels throughout the Council have contributed to this achievement, through the Green Staff Forum and through the Carbon Reduction Group and the Climate Change Group These feed directly to senior management and Councillors - which helps keep climate change, sustainability and carbon reduction issues high on the Council agenda.