Since we started tackling our CO2 emissions with the switch on of Eigg Electric in 2008, we’ve achieved a lot. Here are just a few of our highlights.
Big Green Challenge
In September 2008 the Isle of Eigg became the only Scottish finalist in NESTA’s £1million competition, Big Green Challenge. Ten finalists have 12 months to slash CO2 emissions in their local communities – proving that communities can work together to develop new approaches to saving energy. The competition – the largest prize fund of its type – was launched in response to NESTA’s concern that the onus for a “miracle cure” to solve climate change is too heavily focused on science and technology, whereas individuals and community groups may hold the answers.
Eigg’s programme of work is being driven and delivered by a team of volunteers, supported by a part-time project manager. Participation and commitment to the project is high, with 75% of households directly involved in delivering the project in some way.
We divided up the projects we’re working on into three main areas:
- Reducing CO2 through using less fossil fuels to power and heat our homes and water, and in our transport
- Energy Efficiency
- Education and Outreach
FOSSIL FUEL REDUCTION
Every household was given the opportunity to put their household forward to be entered into a competition to win a solar panel. The solar panel draw was broken into 3 hats for each of the three fuels people currently heat their water with – wood, coal and kerosene. The 3 households have been monitoring their fuel usage before the installation of the solar panels and will continue to monitor for a following 6months to be able to then compare the difference. This evidence of the data will be made available to the community to decide if it would benefit them to install a solar panel.
Installing a solar panel onto An Laimhrig on the Pier Centre means the whole building to be far more fuel efficient, dramatically reducing the kerosene consumption. This will benefit the 3 businesses situated in the building cutting their fuel bills.
We are using wood instead of coal as much as possible to heat our homes and water. Coal often seems more convenient and burns hotter than wood, but dry wood produces nearly as much heat, is cheaper, cleaner, and you keep fit chopping it up!
In the future we hope we may have a wood fuel business based here on the island, and we’re doing a feasibility study this summer to test out what’s possible.
For our community vehicles, we make bio-diesel out of used chip oil; it works just as well as conventional fuel, is cheaper and produces no CO2 emissions.
Mainland Car Club
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust has received funding from the Climate Challenge Fund to research whether a car club serving Mallaig, Arisaig, Morar, and the Small Isles and Knoydart communities would be used by residents, and to test the practical and financial viability through a feasibility study.
The benefits of a car club include potential cash savings compared with buying and maintaining your own car, less hassle sorting out insurance, MOT and finding somewhere to park, and a reduced carbon footprint. It allows those who occasionally need access to a car, or second car, with a simple solution; rather than using their own, they book and use a car from the car club. In this way, car clubs reduce the total number of cars on the road, replacing them with a smaller number of low emission cars available.
Eigg Electric and the Traffic Light system
The aim of the traffic light system is to make islanders aware of when the renewable sources of the Eigg Electricity system are low. When they are low, and the batteries run below 50%, the two diesel back up generators come on automatically to recharge the batteries and so continue to provide power for all residents.
When the electricity team notice that renewable sources of wind, water, or sun are running low, a red notice is put up on community notice boards and an email is sent to everyone on the island asking them to be careful not to use electricity if they don’t have to. When the renewable sources are restored a green notice is put up and an email sent to everyone saying normal usage is back again.
Since October 2008, apart from short bursts to test them, the generators have only been on for a few hours. The real test will be in the summer months when rain and wind are in short supply, the island is full of visitors and there’s only the 10kW PV panel to charge the batteries up.
Green Travel Vouchers
All visitors who come to the island using public transport (train or bus) to get to Mallaig or Arisaig from their home and stay overnight get discount vouchers for businesses on the island
Composting and Waste Reduction
Every house on the island has a compost bin. This reduces the amount of waste that gets put into the waste skip and taken to mainland landfill. A programme of one to one masterclasses with householders to help them make the most of their composter is running over the summer.
We have a Swap Shop where islanders leave clothes and household goods they no longer need, so others can use them.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND SAVING
Small Green Grants
We have a simple grant scheme which offers islanders 50% of the costs (up to £300) towards items which reduce their CO2 emissions or help them live lighter on the planet’s resources. Insulation, polytunnels for home grown veg and salad, stand by switch off devices and thick curtains are just a few of the things people are doing.
Starting with the eight houses which the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust own, and then over the next two to three years expanding to all other properties on the island, we are gradually installing insulation and energy saving measures.
Here on Eigg our homes are a mixture of older, stone built properties and newer timber frame buildings. We’re at the start of a programme of work which will see all homes and community buildings on the island improved to be much more energy efficient; thus reducing CO2 while saving money for those who live there and making the houses warmer and much nicer places to be!
Laig Farmhouse is the first property we are retro-fitting, with insulation on all external walls and in the loft, along with new double glazing, external doors and floor insulation in the kitchen. When finished (should be end June) the CO2 emissions will have been reduced by 66.5% and save the occupants £1,400 a year on their heating costs.
Next up is Crow’s Nest (it’s the name of the house) It too will have external wall and loft insulation, double glazing and new doors. We are expecting similarly impressive results on CO2 reductions and on heating costs there too.
An Laimhrig, the Pier Centre, will see loft insulation, new double glazed window units, draught excluding and other improvements to make it a more comfortable place for users and cheaper to run. The other six Trust houses will have modest eco/energy efficiency alterations as, unlike Laig and Crows Nest, they have all been renovated in recent years. Their CO2 and cash savings will also be measured.
One of Eigg’s residents, Simon Helliwell, has written a computer programme which can calculate any building’s SAP rating, CO2 emissions and its heating/power running costs. This tool will be invaluable, as it will help us decide what insulation or other energy saving methods are going to be the most cost and ‘eco’ effective to do in both existing and new houses.
You can do what we did initially and get a Home Energy Check from the Energy Savings Trust. This provides some basic information on how much CO2 and money you could save by taking various energy saving actions like insulation, and can also unlock some funding to help you to do it. But we found they didn’t provide us with enough information, hence Simon’s clever computer programme.
OUTREACH AND EDUCATION
Giants Footstep Family Festival
The 2nd & 3rd May 2009 was a celebration of all things green. Named after a geological feature on Eigg, the first Giant’s Footstep Family Festival showcased the island’s renewable electricity scheme and included talks, workshops, music, theatre, and a range of experts answering questions on what individuals and communities can do to tackle climate change.
There was something to satisfy everyone’s eco curiosity.
- A family workshop – Community Climate Change Challenge
- Talks about the community renewable electricity generation schemes on Eigg and at Findhorn
- Composting and recycling workshop
- Recycled art and weaving workshops
- Music, circus skills, and fun in the forest with a green mud man workshops
- Eco Drama, Scotland’s only eco theatre company, premiered their new play The Isle of Egg
- Transition Town Scotland talk
- Comrie’s Street by Street insulation project
- Visits to a local tree nursery, organic croft, and Eigg Primary Eco-School
- Herbal medicine workshop
- Wildlife walks
- And last, but by no means least, a Saturday night ceilidh with the Belle Star Band, The Duplets and Sharon kind and Sunday afternoon music on the lawn from the Bevvy Sisters.
Freecycle Folk CD
The CD, which features musicians who all have strong links with Eigg, has 17 tracks including from Shooglenifty, Dàimh, Flook, Bevvy Sisters and more. The CD wallet includes a six page booklet that explains that Eigg is doing to reduce CO2 in the hope that it inspires others to do the same. Information and a link to IslandsGoingGreen is also included to actively engage people in making some of the same decisions and actions as we have.
You can order yours at a special Eigg price of £10 plus P&P by contacting us here
Interpretation – leaflet and information boards
The interpretation group have been working to create information for visitors who come to Eigg all about what we’re doing here and how they can do the same kind of thing when they get home to reduce CO2. The group have developed the following:
- A general information leaflet which includes information on what islanders are doing to reduce CO2, about the Electricity scheme, and about Islands Going Green with encouragement to go home and replicate what we’re doing on Eigg there.
- Welcome to Eigg boards at the end of each pier, the text of which reads:
BIG GREEN FOOTSTEPS small carbon footprint.
See how our island has adapted to a modern lifestyle in ways which benefit the environment and us!
- A series of information boards to go up at the Pier and at Earth Connections Centre which explain our electricity scheme, solar water panels, what fossil fuels and renewable fuels are, along with some energy saving tips for when people get home.
We also have a small demonstration solar panel so people can see just how much heat the sun can make to heat water.
OTHER BEST BITS
Eigg Electric was awarded Best Community Initiative at the 2008 Scottish Green Energy Awards and our unique concept and the environmental efficiency and sustainability of the project were recognised by the Scottish and Southern Energy Innovation and Energy Efficiency award 2009 at the Scottish Energy and Environment Conference 2009.
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust was short listed as one of Carnegie UK Trust’s Rural Sparks and won £100. We were not one of their five winners, but being short listed in their national search for excellence is a great honour.
The Scottish Green List is an initiative to celebrate individuals making Scotland a better and more sustainable place to live. It showcases those who deserve recognition for not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. Lucy Conway was one of 300 nominees and was listed as number 14 in the list as someone who has worked with her community to inspire change and action.
NESTA awarded the Isle of Eigg £20,000 for being one of the ten finalists in the Big Green Challenge, but we’re also had funding success with bids to the Climate Challenge Fund, Community Energy Scotland for our energy saving, CO2 busting and outreach and education initiatives. The Highland Council and First Scotrail helped out with the costs of the Giant’s Footstep Family Festival.
Rob Gibson MSP (SNP, Highlands & Islands) tabled the motion below in the Scottish Parliament on 1st May 2009.
Rob Gibson: Salute Eigg— That the Parliament congratulates the people of Eigg on holding the first Eigg Giant’s Footstep Family Festival on 2 and 3 May 2009, which will focus on the island’s renewable electricity scheme that powers most of the island’s homes and businesses; notes that the festival will include talks, workshops, music and theatre as well as a host of experts to provide advice and answer questions on what individuals and communities can do to tackle climate change; recognises the gigantic strides that the islanders of Eigg have made and are continuing to make since taking control of their island in 1997, and wishes every success to the island’s bid, as Scotland’s only finalist, to win the UK-wide NESTA Big Green Challenge competition.
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