Kate Harrison's story
Our village, Ashton Hayes, set out to become the UK's first carbon-neutral village just over a year ago. A few residents organised a launch in the local school. It got a massive response - 75% of the adults in the village turned up. It gave people ideas, and encouraged them to believe that the small things do add up. The project makes you start thinking green across the board - that it is stupid buying prepacked veg when you can grow them yourself. We've started a vegetable bed this year. My brother-in-law is building an extension using green methods, the school has a solar panel and people are changing to energy-saving light bulbs.
When I got a letter from my energy supplier asking if I'd like cavity wall insulation and my loft insulation topped up to the maximum for £50 a go, I thought I'd be mad not to. They drill holes in your wall at head height, blow all this fluffy stuff inside, fill the holes and, bingo, it's done. We've also got more stingy at home. We turn down the heating, turn things off, get more careful about lights. Sometimes I do feel like Scrooge, and sometimes we get a bit cold. It sounds dead nerdy, doesn't it, but I did a spreadsheet, and over the year it worked out as 52% less energy used.
There's a positive social aspect to the project as well. I do the quiz in the pub, and we laugh because I have a special "environmental question of the week". The lads in the football team are all into it, and they've all got eco-friendly team shirts. I have conversations with people I used to know only by sight. Groups in the village interact a bit better: the WI, the gardening club, the church, the school. Although English village life can be thought of as competitive, I've never heard anyone bragging or being smug about what they've done. Maybe you're more likely to be a bit apologetic for things such as booking flights. We're all more aware. I hate recycling, but I can't not do it now.
See kate's latest energy use figures - impressive reductions in both gas and electricity.