Zero Carbon Luton
It might not seem very autumnal at the moment, given the unseasonably warm weather. But it’s the end of October, and time for the 10th Zero Carbon Luton newsletter of the year. In this month’s edition:
DART delayed again
Earth & Wheat’s food waste solution
What is Luton 2040?
The Mall’s first honey harvest
DART to open in 2023
Luton’s Direct Air to Rail Transit (DART) link to Luton Airport has been delayed again. Originally due to open in 2021, the project was first set back a year by the pandemic. Plans to open in 2022 have now been reset to 2023, after teething issues with ticketing and other systems.
“Testing of the system is significantly advanced,” says Luton Rising CEO Graham Olver, “but there remain several important tasks that we are working to complete with our partners, which relate mostly to complexities of the communications infrastructure and enabling works. This will also allow us more time to complete all the regulatory, operational and health and safety testing.”
Once up and running, the DART should make a significant contribution to Luton’s net zero plans, which include the airport. With quicker connections, more people are likely to choose to take the train to the airport rather than drive. That will reduce traffic, local air pollution and carbon emissions. While there are no easy ways to cut carbon emissions from flying itself, the DART is a major infrastructure project for sustainable ground operations for the airport and for Luton.
While we wait for an opening date, Luton Rising have also put out a call for local people to audition to be the ‘voice of the DART’. If you fancy telling passengers to “mind the closing doors”, you can apply with a short video.
Earth & Wheat’s food waste solution
You’ve probably heard of ‘wonky’ fruit and veg schemes that sell on mis-shapen fresh food that’s been rejected by the supermarkets. What if you could do the same thing with baked goods? That’s what Earth & Wheat do, and it’s a world first.
The company was set up in 2021 by business student James Eid. A fourth generation baker at the country’s largest producer of flatbreads, he had seen the amount of perfectly edible wasted items that the factory created. This is common across the industry, with 16% of food waste occurring at the point of production. So Eid developed a side business for dealing with bakery waste. Customers can sign up for ‘wonky bread’ boxes and receive deliveries of bread, crumpets, wraps and so forth.
Earth & Wheat is based in Dunstable, which is local enough to feature their pioneering idea in our Luton based newsletter. Saving food waste cuts greenhouse gases from waste, and also saves the energy that’s gone into the growing and production of the food in the first place. Why not give Earth & Wheat’s subscription scheme a go?
Interview: What is Luton 2040?
If you’re at all involved in social or environmental projects in Luton, then you will have come across Luton 2040. I spoke to Jane Malcolm, who heads up the Luton 2040 team, to find out more:
In your own words, what is the Luton 2040 vision?
“The Luton 2040 vision is an ambition to make Luton a fair, healthy and sustainable town where everyone can thrive and nobody lives in poverty. To put that in context, we’ve had some data come out recently that shows that 42% of our households live below a decent standard of living, and that’s projected to rise to 52% between now and April. That’s preliminary data and we need to be careful with it, but it gives you an idea of the scale of the problem – and therefore the scale of the ambition.
We seek to tackle these problems through five key priorities:
Build an inclusive economy – that includes welcoming investment from outside Luton, and developing entrepreneurship within Luton as well so that there’s a space for smaller business to set up and grow.
A healthy and safe population, with equality of health across society. There’s a significant gap in life expectancy between wards in Luton, it’s completely wrong that people die young from poverty in our town.
Net zero by 2040 – everything we do across the system has to be sustainable, so that our net carbon impact is zero by 2040. It’s also about creating a wonderful environment for people to live in, where everyone can benefit from parks and trees and green spaces.
A town built on fairness, ensuring that all our growth is available to everyone. We have such a diverse community in Luton, and people don’t always have the same opportunities.
And finally, a child friendly town, based on a UNICEF model to create a town of safety and welcome.”
How do these things work together?
“They all have to impact each other. We can only become net zero if we grow our economy in a sustainable way. We can only create a healthy population if we create a healthy environment for that population to live in. It’s proven that if people have accessible green space, they have better wellbeing. Similarly with a child friendly town - children need a safe environment to grow up in, and if we don’t manage the impacts of climate change in Luton, it won’t be a safe environment.
You can look at each priority through the lens of the others, and that’s what we need to do more and more.”
A vision like this can only work if people really get behind it, so how are you building partnerships and how can ordinary people get involved?
“It’s a partnership because what we’re asking is for people to tell us their vision for Luton for the future, and then we find the points of connection and that’s our shared vision. I think it’s wide enough that there isn’t anyone who wouldn’t want to say ‘yes, let’s do this.’ The next question is to look at how we strategise together, where do we see synergies and where we can do shared delivery. No single organisation can deliver this on its own, and we need the collective strength of everyone.
For Luton residents who want to get involved, the best way is through the Fairness Taskforce, which happens bi-monthly and is open to everyone. We want as many people as possible to come along to that and to help shape the future of Luton.”
The Mall’s first honey harvest
In 2021 The Mall installed a beehive on the roof, swiftly followed by a second one and a pollinator garden. In September this year they extracted their first honey harvest and sold it to shoppers, raising £680 for Luton Foodbank.
Two members of staff have volunteered as trainee beekeepers, who removed 30 frames from the bee hives and processed them in the kitchen. 75lbs of honey was collected and packed in jars for resale. Having sold most of the harvest to shoppers, the team kept some back for Bedfordshire Beekeepers Centenary Honey Show.
“We were so excited for the installation of our rooftop hive back in 2021,” says Tracey Bateman, Business Manager and one of The Mall’s trainee beekeepers. “It’s been so rewarding finally reaping the rewards of our (and the bees!) hard work. We are so grateful that shoppers were as excited as we were to buy jars of our delicious honey. All proceeds will go such a long way for Luton Foodbank, a charity very close to our hearts. Hopefully we will have many more jars to come in future seasons!”
The bee hives on the roof are part of the Mall’s environmental pledge, which includes recycling, and reducing water and energy use.
At Zero Carbon Luton we are interested in good use of rooftops – whether that is for rooftop gardens, solar, rainwater harvesting, or other uses. If you know of any other rooftop projects we should know about, tell us about it in the comments.
In other news…
Libraries, places of worship and other public venues are opening as ‘warm hubs’ to help with the coming winter. Could your building be one? Some guidelines to consider.
The council’s ‘Engines Off’ campaign, which I reported on in March, has so far requested that 400 drivers switch off their engines while idling. The council is able to give out fines, but these are being used as a last resort if people don’t switch off. The scheme aims to reduce air pollution from idling cars, particularly around schools.
Luton’s recycling was struck a blow this month after a fire at the Kingsway recycling depot. It is unclear at the time of writing how serious the damage is and what the implications will be for the town’s recycling.
Tree planting season returns at this time of year. Look up the Queen’s Green Canopy for opportunities to plant trees locally in memory of the queen, and the Woodland Trust if you need advice.
As always, please send in your climate stories to firstname.lastname@example.org - I’d like to hear more from businesses, schools and local organisations. And please forward this email to anyone you know who might be interested in regular news updates on climate action in Luton.
And if you’re reading the newsletter for the first time because someone forwarded it to you, great! Make sure you subscribe to catch the next issue, which will be out at the end of November.