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VISIT OUR WEBSITE Here at U Energy we pride ourselves on bringing ng you the most sustainable and efficient solar power systems. stems. PV,, w e we As an accredited installer and supplier of solarr PV guarantee a high quality of service. tactting g us us Request your free, no obligation quote by contacting on 033 33 55 1000 or see our website.

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U Energy makes the case for solar power A

S householders and businesses face ever-soaring energy bills, more people are considering their options.

British Gas is the latest supplier to report price hikes this month – with gas prices to rise by an average of 18% and electricity bills by an average of 16% from August 18 – adding £190 a year to the average dual energy bill. Scottish Power announced a 19% rise in gas prices and a 10% hike in electricity last month and energy analysts are predicting that the rest of the “big six” companies will follow suit over coming weeks. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of people have seen the light by recognising the benefits of solar power as a way to reduce their energy bills. And the case for solar is made even more powerful given the financial incentives being offered under the Government’s Feed-In Tariff to reward homeowners and businesses installing “green” energy generation systems. Under the Feed-in Tariff, anyone who installs an eligible solar photovoltaic (PV) system receives a guaranteed fixed payment for all the electricity they generate, including what they use, for a period of 25 years. They also get an additional payment for any electricity they don’t use that they feed back into the National Grid. The payments are intended to give the customer a percentage return each year based on the initial cost of their system. The tariffs are paid through the customer’s electricity supplier and are given either as a direct payment into the customer’s bank account or as a credit line to the customer’s energy bills. Under the Feed-In Tariff, the current rate of payment for an eligible 4KW system installed in an existing residence, for example, is 43.3p per KW payable through a 25-year period. One company helping to bring the solar revolution to the UK is Lindley-based U Energy. Director Simon Wibberley said: “Solar is becoming a big market. People are looking to reduce their energy bills and the Government is seeking to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint. “The Feed-In Tariff means that consumers can not only save money, they can make money.” U Energy is committed to helping customers make the right choice when it comes to investing in solar energy. The company offers some of the latest solar technology available, including systems made by A-Sun, which have already been tried and tested in mainland Europe. “A-Sun is proving really popular at the moment as they offer all black panels as well as being competitively priced,” said Mr Wibberley. The cost of an installation can range in price from almost £7,000 to over £13,000 depending on the desired size and roof space– but the first installation carried out by the company was for a small bungalow in Skelmanthorpe, demonstrating that solar is not just an option for those with big houses. The company has its own in-house design team who advise householders on the issues surrounding solar power and the suitability of their property. For customers worried about the aesthetics, they can even mock-up a computer image to show how the panels will look once they have been installed on their property. U Energy’s installation teams include qualified and experienced engineers, electricians and roofers who can often complete an installation in four hours, including wiring the system to the property’s power supply. The latest solar systems can allow the homeowner to constantly monitor the amount of energy being generated – and provide an early alert to any reduction in performance due to panels becoming shaded by trees or becoming dirty. Mr Wibberley said solar energy was particularly

■ LET IT SHINE: An increasing number of people are recognising the benefits of solar power as a way to reduce their energy bills

■ POWER: Small properties can share in the benefits of solar energy attractive to commercial properties – ranging from nursing homes to offices, warehouses and factories on business parks. Agricultural buildings such as barns and sheds which offer large roof space or land for ground-based solar systems are also well-suited. Mr Wibberley added: “Farmers who are being squeezed on price by the supermarkets could find solar offers a useful source of additional income.” And solar panels aren’t just for pitched roofs. Specially-mounted, they can be used on flat roofs as well. Most properties are suitable for solar. The roof needs to be structurally sound and unshaded with at least 12sq metres of available space. The most appropriate roofs are those facing South

■ OPTIONS: Solar panels can be fitted to outbuildings and garages

West or East and at a 30 degree angle to get the greatest benefit – but East or West facing roofs will still produce 85% of what the output would be under perfect conditions. U Energy is accredited to the Microgeneration Certificate Scheme and the Renewable Energy Association. Home systems have to be installed by an MCS installer to be eligible for the Feed-In Tariff. Mr Wibberley said: “People are becoming more aware of the potential for solar as a way to generate cheaper energy and as fuel prices are rising, people know they need to look at the alternatives. “Renewable energy is the way forward both to tackle climate change and for sound financial reasons.”

■ SAVINGS: U Energy director Simon Wibberley


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Be waterwise in the garden this summer AFTER one of the driest springs on record, it’s time to get water wise. We’ve had glorious sunshine and heavy showers this month, but beds, borders and pots are drying up .

The Royal Horticultural Society has come up with 10 tips to help save water this summer. 1. Use waste water from washing-up or rinsing vegetables for watering, as normal amounts of household soaps and detergents will not harm soil or plants. 2. Let your lawns go brown. They will recover when the rains return. Newly sown and turfed lawns will require a lot of watering to be successful, so leave sowing or turfing until the autumn. Lawn seed companies are breeding deeper rooted grasses that hopefully will stay green for longer. These will be worth considering, particularly in drier regions. 3. Vegetables need moist soils to give their best. Water them at key growth stages. The response to water is especially marked when sweetcorn, peas and beans begin to flower, when the edible part of lettuces begins to form and when potatoes show flower buds, which initiate plenty of tubers. 4. Mature trees, shrubs and climbers, hedges, fruit trees and bushes will not need watering during a drought. However, newly planted trees, shrubs and climbers are extremely vulnerable and it is difficult to ensure the water applied at the surface works its way down to the roots. 5. Fruit may remain small if not watered, but it should be sweet and well coloured. Cane fruit and strawberries will benefit by keeping the soil moist every two weeks. In future adding mulches in winter will help improve the soil and retain more moisture. 6. In sunny summers install greenhouse and conservatory shading and ventilation to limit overheating and invest in a min-max thermometer. 7. By grouping pots, ideally in clusters of similar size, watering is made easier and moisture loss reduced. Mass pots for mutual shading and use the largest pots possible. As days lengthen and the sun rises, more plants, especially large-leaved ones, can be gathered in shadier areas. A saucer beneath the pot to retain run-off helps. 8. Don’t dig new ground in summer if you can avoid it, as digging soil allows any remaining moisture to escape. Hoe off weeds as shallowly as you can, loosen soil with a fork and ’puddle’ plants into the soil, adding a little liquid fertiliser. 9. Establishing new plants in borders during dry times can be difficult. Instead, pot them into slightly bigger pots and keep well watered and fed in light shade until the autumn planting season arrives. 10. Early summer perennials, irises for example, will survive on moisture left in the soil from winter. Give late summer perennials such as phlox one good watering in the summer as plants begin to flower, which should be enough.

Why organic farm millions of people O

RGANIC farming makes sense. Food producers have been using crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control for generations – long before intensive farming was dreamed up.

But can these traditional methods feed the developing world? Increasingly, farmers in India are saying yes, they can. India is currently going through massive change. In rural areas, more and more people are turning to organic farming. It’s not a lifestyle choice – it’s the only way they have to feed their families. In a country with 1.2billion mouths to feed, farming is vital. The so-called ‘Green Revolution’ that started in the 1960s introduced high-input farming all over the country. In many regions it initially increased yields – but at a high cost. In the long term it caused erosion, severe water pollution, and ground water depletion. Now, the intensively farmed land lies barren, and people are having to find a new way. Or, as it happens, a much older one. Farmers are returning to traditional methods. But this requires education, and funding. Aid agency Christian Aid is helping to fund the Deccan Development Society (DDS), a small charity in the Andhra Pradesh region of southern India, which provides micro-loans and education for groups that wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. In Indian society, there was traditionally a caste system, which divided everyone into a hierarchy. At the bottom there is an underclass, the Dalits. While officially the caste system is now outlawed, Dalits are still excluded from many public places and no-one will loan them money – except DDS. “They cannot go into many shops and temples,” says PV Satheesh, the director of DDS. “They would never be allowed into people’s houses. In many areas they are not even permitted to make eye contact with someone from a higher caste. They would be expected to look at the floor while the other person walks past.” Satheesh started DDS to help the most marginalised people in society have a voice. “We looked at society, and the Dalits were the most marginalised group,” says Satheesh. “Then we looked and saw that those in rural areas were suffering more than those in the cities. And

It’s Our World writer JADE WRIGHT travelled to meet farmers in India who are proving that organic food production can feed the world.

■ HELPING RURAL AREAS: P V Satheesh, director of the Deccan Development Society at his home in Pastapur furthermore, Dalit women in rural areas were the most marginalised of all. So that is where we tried to help the most.” DDS work with groups of Dalit women in rural villages, and using money from Christian Aid donations, they provide education and micro-loans to help set up small organic farms and related small businesses. Laxmamma Begari, 45, was loaned money to buy two-and-a-half acres of land. After receiving training, she now works as the seed keeper for her village, Humnapur. “We had lost our traditional skills,” Laxmamma explains. “Generation after generation had passed down the knowledge of how to farm in the old ways. We passed down seeds from mother to daughter. My mother knew every seed and how to gather and keep it so it would germinate the next year. “But then the new methods came. We were encouraged to buy packet seeds (the plants from which do not produce seeds for the next year’s sowing) and chemical fertilisers. I worked as a

■ BASKETS FOR SEEDS: Jade Wright interviewing women at a basket labourer in those days, and the first year the harvest was good. Then years went on and it was worse. They were having to put more fertiliser on the land each year. It got to the point where they were having to use four times the original amount of fertiliser, and the prices were going up.” Laxmamma used to work as a casual labourer for farmers. As a single parent Dalit woman with two children and no land of her own, it was the only way to feed her family after her husband walked out. She would earn just two rupees a day (about three pence). “In those days I had nothing,” she says, looking down at the floor. “I was just

an agricultural labourer. I had no la and was a single woman living with mother. When the costs went up, th farmers couldn’t afford to pay me. “The green revolution told farmers only grow one or two crops. But if t weather wasn’t kind to that one cro if the rains were early or late – then they had nothing. There was a lot o shame. Some farmers committed suicide.” In the last 10 years in India 250,000 farmers have committed suicide. “Many were ruined,” she continues “People lost everything. As laboure we had nothing to lose, but we were hungry because there was no work


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ming can provide for around the world

t weaving co-operative in the Andhra Pradesh region of India. The villagers were helped by micro-loans and training from a small local charity backed by Christian Aid

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little food. The green revolution didn’t work. We had to go back to the old ways.” Gradually, with help from DDS, Laxmamma and the women in her village council (known as a Sangham) created a pool of seeds to use in the traditional method. Within two years they had gathered 82 varieties. They bought small patches of land to farm so they didn’t have to work for bigger landlords. Each of their seeds has a specific benefit – some will withstand heavy rainfall, some harvest early, some late, some withstand little water. As well as helping Laxmamma, the

DDS investment has helped the fragile local economy. The seeds are kept in special baskets to keep them safe and dry. These are made by Narsamma Erakololla, a grandmother and farmer in a nearby village. “Before this, nobody cared for us and nobody would give us a loan,” says Narsamma, 65, referring to the caste system. “Nobody trusted us, even in the village. There were 10 families like us and altogether we got a cash loan from DDS of 20,000 rupees (£275) between us to weave baskets and pay back the loan. “We have made so many grain baskets

to help women in the villages near here to store seeds. This means that we can send our children and grandchildren to school.” It’s physically demanding work, but Narsamma is pleased to be able to provide for her family. She can make four baskets a day. The materials cost 10 rupees (14p) and she sells them for 20 rupees (28p). Altogether, she makes about 50p a day, and from that, she is able to make repayments. In a country where 50p a day is a good wage, it’s easy to see how the money we put in those little red envelopes can go a long way. A loan of less than £30 to Narsamma’s family has made all the

difference. I feel ashamed, as I realise I probably waste that much every week on lunches and cups of coffee. “Because we were very regular with our loan repayments we got the loans without paying interest,” says Narsamma, proudly. “It would be too difficult to even imagine life without access to those loans. I cannot say thank you enough.” To donate to Christian Aid, see www.christianaid.org.uk, call 020 7523 2141 or send cheques, Postal Orders and charity vouchers to Christian Aid, Freepost, London, SE1 7YY (no stamp required) although please do not send cash by post.

Village heating scheme a winner A PIONEERING green energy scheme in Huddersfield has won national recognition. The project in the Fernside area of Almondbury won the public sector project of the year award and was runner up in the domestic installation category at the National Heat Pump Awards. The project involved Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) replacing inefficient electric storage heaters in 180 flats and bungalows with ground source heat pumps. The scheme is one of the biggest of its kind in the UK and a major way that KNH is supporting Kirklees Council’s carbon reduction and fuel poverty targets. Ground source heat pumps work by using the earth as a heat source to provide both heating and hot water. Bore holes were drilled down 80 metres below the Almondbury houses to capture this heat, where the temperature stays constant year round. The concentrated heat is distributed through the home via traditional radiators and hot water cylinders. Contractors Eon and Kirklees Building Services worked closely with KNH, representatives from the Almondbury South Tenants and Residents Association, tenants and ward councillors to help bring the project to fruition. The heat pumps are already paying off. as last winter, one of the coldest on record, residents saw their energy use fall by between a third and a half. Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for Investment and Housing, said: “This project is an important addition to the way we use renewable energy in Kirklees and provides a model for others to follow. I’m very pleased that the project has received this recognition. “The work of partners like KNH is vital to helping the council reduce its carbon footprint and tackle fuel poverty. Working together, we can make a real difference”.


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By JADE WRIGHT It’s Our World Correspondent editorial@examiner.co.uk

U

NLESS you've been living in a hole in the ground for the last few years, you'll know that using peat-based products in your garden is decimating peatlands throughout the UK and beyond. Peatlands provide vital habitats for wildlife, store greenhouse gases and release thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. However, peat is used in compost and soil improvers because it’s light, retains moisture and stores nutrients. It’s also very cheap. In an effort to raise awareness and encourage gardeners to choose peat-free alternatives, leading organic growing charity Garden Organic has launched its I Don't Dig Peat campaign, to put an end the 24 million wheelbarrows of peat which its experts estimate is being used unnecessarily by British gardeners each year. Gardeners’ World presenter Alys Fowler, who is fronting the campaign, says: “Whether people think peat is the best option depends on if they've experimented with going peat-free. “Increasingly, those who go peat-free and get hold of good quality compost find there's no argument. I don't use any peat-based compost and I see no difference. I grow fantastic vegetables. “If you were trying to grow peat bog plants, there’s an argument that growing them in peat is sensible, but the amount of people growing peat bog plants is tiny. What’s happening is that a lot of people are using peat – up to 70% peat in some multi-purpose composts – for growing, say, tomatoes. But tomatoes don’t need peat to grow.” Fowler uses her council’s green waste compost, called Care compost, sold at her local garden centre, along with peat-free multi-purposes from Carbon Gold, New Horizon and Vital Earth. “If your council is making green waste, phone their refuse department which should be able to tell you where to buy it. It’s incredibly cheap,” she suggests. Historically, peat-free composts have been criticised for being inferior for seed-sowing. A Which? Gardening report from the Consumers’ Association magazine noted earlier this year: “Our trial results show that peat-free composts still have a way to go to match the performance of peat for sowing seeds and growing on young plants – although the picture is rosier for container composts.” However, some peat-based composts are just as inferior as their peat-free counterparts, says Ceri Thomas, editor of Which? Gardening. “Gardeners shouldn’t assume that all compost is the same. Whether peat-free or peat-based, the quality of compost varies massively. “Our trials found that it is possible to buy a good quality peat-free compost that performs as well as the best peat-based compost. But there are also a number of peat-based and peat-free composts that simply don't match these high standards.” In its latest trial, Which? Gardening recommends New Horizon Organic & Peat Free Growbag for sowing seeds. Germination rates for basil were on a par with its Best Buy peat-based compost and the quality of the resulting seedlings was good. New Horizon Organic & Peat Free multi-purpose compost (£5.99 for 60 litres) was a Best Buy container compost for the second consecutive year, outperforming seven peat-based composts, including three specific container ones, to come joint top. Fowler says: “This campaign is saying, think about it. There's no need to dig up one part of the world to grow something in your back garden. “Many people are coming into gardening through the ‘grow your own’ trend, because of health and environmental reasons. It would be sad to take a step backwards by using composting material which is not sustainable,

FOR PEAT’S SAKE More gardeners go organic with natural green waste compost

when actually peat-free is getting better and better.” If you want to go peat-free, avoid buying and using soil improvers as most of these contain peat, Garden Organic advises. Use products such as manure and leafmould to improve your soil instead. Start making home compost and buy fewer bedding plants, switching to perennials which grow year after year, meaning you reduce the peat-grown plants you bring into the garden and the need to replant each year. Search online for nurseries or mail order stores selling peat-free plants and support their peat-free initiatives. Sometimes the good peat-free composts will be slightly pricier, Fowler concedes, but it’s a small price to pay for saving the earth. “It’s worth paying a couple of pennies more to ensure a much more secure future for our wider environment, biodiversity and habitat,” she says. For more information on the campaign and to pledge not to use peat, go to www.idontdigpeat.org.uk

■ WORD:

■ BEST FOR GROWING: Gardeners’ World presenter Alys Fowler says there’s no need to dig up areas rich in peat – such as Connemara in Ireland, inset – when a good quality peat-free compost can outperform a peat-based compost

Help Oxfam aid the starving Africa IF you’re in the mood to clear out the clutter, you could also help a good cause at the same time. Oxfam is calling on the people of Huddersfield to donate their unwanted goods for their biggest ever appeal in Africa. The call comes in response to a massive food crisis facing more than 12 million people across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. The agency needs £50 million to reach three million people in dire need of clean water, food and basic sanitation. “This is the worst food crisis of the 21st

Century and we are seriously concerned that large numbers of lives could soon be lost,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s Humanitarian Director. “Two successive poor rains, entrenched poverty and lack of investment in affected areas have pushed 12 million people into a fight for survival. People have already lost virtually everything and the crisis is only going to get worse over the coming months – we need funds to help us reach people with life-saving food and water.” The epicentre of the drought has hit the poorest people in the region in an area

straddling the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where families rely heavily on livestock for survival. In some parts of the region, up to 60 percent of their herds have already died while the remainder are either sick or dangerously underweight. The price of animals has plummeted while the cost of cereals has soared. In Somalia the price of a main staple sorghum has risen 240% since last year. To help, please drop your clean and saleable unwanted items to your local Oxfam shop. For details call 0300 200 1999.


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Designing new ways to cut costs and go green

P

ENNINE Home Improvements is continuing to lead the way in green window design.

■ CUTTING EDGE: Craig Hanson, at Pennine Home Improvements, one of the first local window installers to adhere to new environmental standards

The Aspley-based business is working hard to help homeowners cut their energy bills, their carbon emissions and so boost the environment. The company, headed by Craig Hanson, was one of the first in the local area to adhere to new environmental standards for double glazed windows. New Government regulations from October 1 last year dictate that double glazing installers must now fit, as standard, windows which achieve a category C rating. The new amendments apply to all replacement windows in domestic properties. Craig, who runs Pennine Home Improvements from its base at Lincoln Street, Aspley, says: “Our window profiles can also be upgraded to a category A by including the most energy efficient glass. I understand we were one of the first in Huddersfield to sign up to the new regulations and now fit category C as standard. “For the homeowner this means that they save on energy bills, therefore cutting down carbon emissions. It means their home is warmer with no draughts and they are doing their best to lead a greener lifestyle.”

The new regulations are all part of Britain’s commitment to the international Kyoto Protocol and is a major step in reducing carbon emissions and ensuring the UK becomes more energy efficient. New double glazed windows are now much more energy efficient and cost effective. Pennine uses the Advance 70 window profile which is at the forefront of window manufacture. Prior to October 1, window energy ratings ranged from A to G. New innovative window design incorporating five chambers in the window frame mean that C, B and A ratings are now easily achievable. Craig said: “People in Huddersfield can now reduce their heating costs, help the environment and make their home look more attractive.” Window energy ratings are calculated by looking at the solar gain and thermal loss. The resulting value is placed on an energy scale from A to G which gives consumers a simple way to compare one product with another. The Kyoto Protocol is the global agreement which sets targets for nearly 40 industrialised countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Gadgets to help you ditch the car – and ride to work Chance to scoop £10,000

By JADE WRIGHT It’s Our World Correspondent editorial@examiner.co.uk

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ITCHING the car on short journeys can save you a fortune – and increase your fitness. Families in Huddersfield are walking and cycling their way to healthier, greener lives this summer– and saving money with every step and pedal. As well as helping the environment by cutting congestion and the amount of fumes emitted from cars, a 20-minute cycle to work can burn around 100 calories and help you start the day energised and alert. But if you’re bored of your bike, maybe it’s time to enhance your ride. We're not talking paint jobs or go-faster stripes, but half-a-dozen on-bike gadgets that will improve your cycling experience. Sat upon the saddle you’re not only getting trim but saving cash and, of course, being eco-friendly, so there's little not to like about ditching other modes of transport for the bike. And our collection of great gadgets could offer that additional incentive to take to two-wheels more often. Key Indicator – LED Bike Signals – £24.95 from www.amazon.co.uk With this LED-based indicator system strapped on to your bike, you use the handlebar-attached control unit to tell those behind you which way you’re about to turn. It means you can safely cycle with both hands where they should be. The indicators also feature a hazard light function in addition to a beeping sound. Bright Lights – Knog Frog Strobe Lights – £11.99 each from

■ CLOCKING ON: The iPhone Live Rider, £62.99, above, records and stores your journey data and is available from www.firebox.com; the Angel Bicycle Helmet, £44.95, right, also lights up so you will be seen – from www.iwantoneofthose.com www.firebox.com Illuminators are a legal requirement at night-time and they’re vital for letting other road users know that you are there. Ideally you want lights that will not take up too much space on your frame, yet offer sufficient power – step up the Knog Frog Lights. Waterproof, durable and featuring a multitude of light settings that can be seen up to 600 metres away, they are easy to attach and remove too. Information Overload – iPhone Live Rider – £62.99 from www.firebox.com Those gym-based exercise cycles offer a range of information to let you know what you’re burning and at what rate, so why not welcome some of this techno wizardry on to your bike? Information from your journey is sent to your handlebar-mounted iPhone from sensors fitted on the rear

wheel, giving you a real-time update of your progress. You can also store your journey data for next time to compete against your personal best. Halo There – Angel Bicycle Helmet – £44.95 from www.iwantoneofthose.com A fair amount of cyclists don’t bother with any headgear, so this helmet, with its dual-purpose, may well entice more to don this crucial safety piece. A halo of LEDs, which can be set in flashing and non-flashing modes, ensure you'll be seen from any angle. It is also 100% waterproof and features an in-built retractable USB charger. It's one of the most talented helmets we've seen. Hold All – Spiderpodium – £14.90 from www.thesatnavwarehouse.com This head-slappingly simple concept is executed perfectly to form one of

the most multi-purpose go-anywhere grippers we’ve seen. The bendable limbs allow for almost any gadget to be gripped securely while leaving enough spare to attach to the handlebars of your bike. So, satnavs, MP3 players, digital cameras, mobiles and more can be transported with ease and fully utilised on your journey. Park Anywhere – Topeak Bikamper – £130.83 from www.activesport.co.uk This kit is small enough to be carried on the handlebars, but when unravelled forms a sleeping space for cycle adventurers. Remove your front wheel to form one end of the tent frame and your bike holds the other end of this clever shelter in place. It’ll certainly have others on site stopping to stare.

THERE is a final chance for people to enter a competition to win thousands to fund an environmental holiday or sustainable work in the community. The deadline for the 5th Future Friendly Awards is at midnight on Sunday, July 24. Future Friendly is a consumer education programme, supported by leading sustainability experts the Energy Saving Trust, Waste Watch and Waterwise. It seeks to inspire and enable people around the country to contribute to a better tomorrow. The organisation wants to reward local community projects who are championing green initiatives to enter. Shortlisted winners from 12 regions of the UK and Ireland will each receive £1,000, from which one national winner will be awarded a £10,000 bursary to help support their efforts. Little and Big Heroes, aged under and over 18 respectively, are also being recognised for their sustainable efforts too. An overall winner in each category will receive a sustainable holiday for five worth £1,000. Past community winners have ranged from an online ‘swap shop’ for baby equipment and an invention to help measure water consumption. To enter the awards, simply submit your short entry of no more than 500 words, together with your name and email address, at www.futurefriendly.co.uk


It's Our World Summer 2011