Zero Carbon Luton
Just when we thought spring was properly underway in Luton, with the first green buds on the trees, it turned cold again. More predictably, here’s the third of our monthly newsletters for 2022, as we track our town’s progress towards a low carbon future.
This month, here are a handful of things we’d like to talk about:
Luton’s big LED switch
Action on idling cars
The wild future of Bradgers Hill
Last chance to feedback on airport expansion
A quiet revolution in street lighting
With bills rising dramatically, there’s been a lot of interest in ways to save energy recently. Replacing old light bulbs with LEDs is a common piece of advice. But what if you could do that with a whole town? That would be quite a saving.
Luton has in fact just done that. Over the last few years over 18,500 street lights have been switched over to LEDs, with the transformation very nearly complete. Perhaps you’ve noticed them where you are.
There are multiple benefits to LED (Light Emitting Diode) street lights. For a start, they consume a fraction of the energy. As more and more streetlights have been switched over, the council is now saving a million pounds a year on its electricity bills.
There’s obviously a saving in carbon emissions too. Emissions from lighting have been cut by 80% since the beginning of the transition.
An added benefit is that LED bulbs are very reliable and require almost no maintenance. With nothing but a routine inspection from time to time, they should light the streets for 20+ years without needing a bulb change.
The LED streetlights are also better for wildlife, because they are designed to point downwards, reducing the light pollution that can affect birds and insects. Local star-gazers will hopefully notice a reduction in ‘sky glow’ as well.
There is still a little work to do to get the last few streetlights replaced, with some further savings expected from replacing the control mechanisms. Overall though, the patient work of switching over Luton’s streetlights has delivered safer streets, lower emissions and cheaper electricity bills for the town.
Is your home part of the LED revolution? If you haven’t switched your bulbs yet, check out this guide to lighting from the Energy Saving Trust.
Action on idling cars and air pollution
Luton Council has voted to bring in new powers to fine drivers who do not switch off their engines while parked, in order to reduce air pollution from idling.
Idling is when a car’s engine is left running while it isn’t moving. In a town with high rates of air pollution for its size, the contribution from stationary vehicles is an obvious place to reduce fumes. It’s important because idling happens in places where drivers are waiting, often resulting in pollution hot-spots outside schools - and children are more vulnerable to air pollution.
Idling is not usually illegal, but councils can choose to issue £20 fines to those who do not switch off their engines when asked to do so. This will be a last resort, and there will be exceptions - for example if you were defrosting the windscreen on a cold day. While not all drivers will welcome the threat of fines, idling wastes fuel and costs money at a time of rising prices, so drivers benefit from switching off their engines too.
Fines provide a back-up for more straight-forward approaches to stopping idling, and the broader goal is to raise awareness. We will be able to make best use of fines if they are accompanied by other measures to let people know about the pollution from idling, and politely ask them to switch off.
Want to get involved? Living Streets have a guide to running anti-idling campaigns, with a toolkit of ideas for taking action on your street or near your school. Let us know if you’re tackling idling where you are, and we’ll share your story in a future newsletter.
The wild future of Bradgers Hill
Conservation volunteer Nivan Hammond shares his experience of growing up near one of Luton’s wilder spaces, and the opportunities to care for Bradgers Hill today.
I have had a long relationship with Bradgers Hill. Whether it’s going for a walk on a Sunday or losing myself in the natural beauty on days that I feel down, there has always been a reason for me to climb up those wooden steps.
As I grew older Bradgers Hill became a place to go hang out with my mates, go for walks when family or my girlfriend came over. During winter I relived excitement of sledging down ‘Killer Hill’. It became the place to escape when life got hard - sitting up there for hours watching the butterflies and the birds. It became my secret spot.
Throughout my university studies, I would go on Saturday afternoon butterfly surveys and we would look for Slow worms or Common Lizards, having put down roofing felt tiles for them to shelter under. These surveys are still taking place and extra volunteers are often needed.
We change, and the way we used it changed, but the Hill remained a constant. Recently I have started leading groups of volunteers on Saturdays to carry out butterfly surveys and path clearances.
Volunteering with the Wildlife Trust and Friends of Bradger’s Hill (FOBH) has been my way of making a difference in the local area. This project has made me feel a part of something bigger whilst giving me vital additions to my CV and job applications. I have built up my skills, but also my relationship with the environment and the people around me. I particularly enjoy the cheery faces and the personalities I come across whilst volunteering.
As a young person attending meetings, leading community volunteer groups and reporting back are all practical experiences that I will certainly need later in life. I have developed my leadership skills and feel confident in my ability to lead groups to carry out specific tasks. Alongside this, being able to use my experience to answer questions in job interviews has given me confidence in myself and my abilities.
Volunteering is a fantastic way of getting experience in the environmental sector and could eventually lead to job opportunities. Both groups are looking for people to get involved at all levels of ability and I couldn’t recommend it more.
More from Nivan Hammond at the Zero Carbon Luton website.
Have you been to Bradgers Hill? Find out more about it and how to visit at Friends of Bradgers Hill.
Last chance to feed back on airport
A quick reminder that you have until April 4th to feed back to the statutory consultation on the airport’s plans to add a second terminal and increase passenger numbers to 32 million. All the plans are available on the Luton Rising website, with full details on the many ways to respond to the consultation. Well worth a quarter of an hour of your time, given the significant and multi-faceted impact on our town and beyond.
In other news…
Islamic Relief highlight 11 ways to practice a greener Ramadan.
Friends of the Earth are hosting the council’s Principle Climate Change Officer, Dylan Katuwawala, on the evening of the 7th of April. Come and find out all about the climate action plans for Luton. Details here.
The Body Shop in the Mall has launched a new refill station for hand soap, shampoo, etc. Pop in next time you’re down there and see what you can pick up to reduce your plastic use.
Michael Gove, currently the Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has called in Luton Airport’s plans to raise passenger numbers to 19 million for review. (A different a smaller expansion to the current consultation.)
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Send in your stories
Thank you to the Wildlife Trust BCN for contributing a story this month. Who else has a story to share? I want to hear from businesses, schools, community projects, places of worship - what are you up to? Let’s celebrate your good work in the April newsletter, and support you where we can as we work towards a low carbon Luton.
Send your stories and questions to Jeremy Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next newsletter will be out at the end of April. In the meantime, you can check for updates at zerocarbonluton.org