Branching out into self sufficiency in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 10:52 21 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:54 20 February 2013
Claire Graves asks, just how green is the National Trust?
Claire Graves asks, just how green is the National Trust?
For the National Trust, green issues remain on the top of our agenda. Last year we set out stretching targets to reduce overall energy use by 20 percent, and consumption of fossil fuels by 50 percent, by 2020. So the clock is ticking and everyone in the organisation is tasked with making sure we reach that goal.
Simple energy efficiency measures, such as turning off lights and computer equipment and insulating as much as possible, are great steps along the way, and we are all doing our bit.
To reach the 50 per cent target we will also need to look at energy generation on a bigger scale, considering using renewable fuels such as biomass for heat and photovoltaics panels to generate power. Self sufficiency has to be the way forward, but also a return to how our great estates would have been run during their historical heydays.
Miranda Campbell is the National Trusts environmental practices adviser in the East of England.
A 38 year old mother of 19-month-old Isla, Miranda lives in Fressingfield, having moved to Suffolk over four years ago when her husband Alans job was relocated. Three years into her job with the National Trust, Miranda now works part time, juggling motherhood with her career.
I love village life here, particularly having moved from very urban Coventry. I grew up in a village in Hertfordshire, so its good to return to the countryside. It sounds a bit trite but it feels like a privilege to live here the visibility of the stars still amazes me and being able to regularly see wildlife like hares or barn owls is wonderful. We try and take quite an active role in village life, there an extremely strong community spirit in Fressingfield, which you appreciate particularly with a young family.
Initially when we moved here, I continued working at home for my former company for a year before getting this job with the National Trust. As soon as I saw it advertised, I knew it was the role for me. We were members of the National Trust at the time anyway, and had visited many properties, including Orford Ness, so it seemed familiar territory. The National Trust embodies a lot of the principles which I uphold, and is a very unique organisation.
In a nutshell, my work is trying to reduce the environmental impact of the National Trusts own operations. In reality, my role is incredibly diverse and varies from day to day. My focus currently is preventing pollution, and trying to reduce our use of energy and water.
It has taken some time to understand what our baseline is in terms of the resources we consume. Based on this, Ive helped to develop an energy strategy for the region which establishes the priorities for reaching our ambitious energy targets. I feel it is crucial to be realistic about what can be achieved.
The very nature of the places we look after is a challenge in itself. The buildings were certainly not designed for the hundreds of thousands of people who now come to visit. Listings on buildings come with their own special requirements, as do the designations which protect our parks, reserves, coastline and forests. Trying to make improvements can often be far from easy but I think that makes it more interesting.
Everyone is working to reduce energy use, but we are focusing our attention on the six largest places in the region. Between them, they use nearly 70 per cent of all the energy we use as a region, so its here that we can make the biggest difference. Once measures have been put in place, well share the learning and help others to follow suit.
Taking the long view, our wish is to make our estates more self sufficient, so we are introducing renewable forms of energy wherever possible. The benefits for the National Trust are clear: using resources we already have, many of which can be linked back to the traditional ways our estates would have been managed producing fuel from estate woodlands or water courses to run houses, and in some cases the tenanted properties too. Food also ties in very strongly with this, so youll often see produce grown in our gardens served in our restaurants and cafes.
In essence, we need to rely on ourselves rather than others to produce energy we need.
What were also trying to do is demonstrate the benefits of a more sustainable lifestyle. Showing others by doing rather than telling is very important to me, as I dont believe in preaching to people. We give a far stronger message by demonstrating to people in a fun and enjoyable way that the National Trust is using its resources wisely in every sense.
Sharing the work we are doing also gives us the chance to share elements of running our estates which people probably havent seen before what goes on behind the scenes and often find fascinating.
In Suffolk, there is no single National Trust place which is the model, but many elements of sustainability exist across our portfolio, where practices are already in place. There is lots of potential to share ideas as each place becomes an inspiration for others.
At a regional level, we are doing our bit to lead by example. The regional office just outside Bury St Edmunds is heated by a boiler which uses woodchips supplied from the neighbouring Ickworth estate.
Property manager Martin Atkinson, has stated his aspiration for Sutton Hoo to become carbon neutral. Were supporting this, looking at all options to ensure we really are addressing the main environmental impacts.
Highs and lows
What I love best about my job is the diversity. One day I could be dealing with a problem with a septic tank, the next day advising on a new visitor facility. I might be visiting one of our mansions to review their lighting, looking in their bins to see what waste were producing, and discussing ways to communicate to visitors what we're doing and why.
And the worst part? Probably meters getting to the bottom of issues with meter reads, trouble-shooting and quality control of our data. I find it a bit tedious, but of course really important as any householder knows.
The National Trust cares for some of the most beautiful places in Britain and when you become a member they are all yours to visit free. For further information call 0870 4584000 or visit the website at www.nationaltrust.org/join