Devon Environmental Business Awards 2012

Ian introduces the Devon Environmental Business Initiative’s
2012 award for an innovative low carbon business

[by Ian] Last week it was the annual DEBI awards – the Devon Environmental Business Initiative Awards. Last year Wheatland Farm won the low carbon business category. This time I helped judge it.

The winners were east Devon eco business Carbon Compost.
They take someone-else’s waste product – donkeys’ waste from the Donkey Sanctury (yup, it’s not bullshit it’s….) – to grow trees to make charcoal. They use more donkey waste to create compost, mix the 2 to make Carbon Compost, and sell that as a great soil improver and fertiliser that locks up the carbon in the soil. A bag of their compost will offset a 100 mile car drive (something to think about when you’re coming to Devon on holiday?).

Us judges we were particularly impressed by Carbon Compost’s highly innovative charcoal retort, which the company has perfected and patented. It recirculates and burns woodgas that other systems vent to the atmosphere. This means their charcoal production is much cleaner, and nearly twice as efficient as the charcoal ring kilns normally in use.
They have also made these retorts mobile, so you take the machine to the wood rather than the other way round, saving a lot of energy.

Their partnership with the Devon Donkey Sanctuary creates a prefect closed loop. Liquid waste is filtered through SRC willow which is harvested to make the charcoal. Meanwhile, the solid waste is composted and then mixed with the charcoal. This produces the saleable product that helps both Carbon Compost and the Donkey Sanctuary. Everything gets used and it is all very local.

The business also manufactures the retorts locally for sale- and that could make local charcoal more competitive and lower the product’s carbon footprint.
 Here’s a bit more about the other finalists – all worthy contenders.

ATASS is a knowledge based Devon company with a core business (if I understood it right) of modelling outcomes for sporting events and providing this data to companies depending on these predictions.

Not necessarily a ‘obvious’ eco business but they take a very green approach to what they do.

ATASS provide top end bike sheds for their staff and a shower room heated by waste heat from their servers. Their headquarters has a BREEAM rating of ‘excellent’ (and that’s pretty hard to get).

The care and attention to detail here is amazing, and the Devon Environmental Business Initiative judges enjoyed a tour through an office that is light, warm, spacious yet low on demands from our planet.  It’s how all offices should be built but most don’t come near.  

ATASS also has a social enterprise company – ATASS Respect – that funds environmental research and sustainability projects.

Their commitment to reducing their carbon footprint is impressive, with company support for car-sharing, a ‘live local’ policy for staff and even an ‘empty carpark day’ once a year.

There is no doubt that if more companies followed this path we might start to hope that C02 levels might be tamed. Well done ATASS!
Bicton EaRTH

If anyone is considering any building work they should first pay a visit to Bicton EaRTH in east Devon.

The Bicton Environmental and renewable Technologies Hub is a fabulous example of how an old building can be converted and added to in a beautiful and sustainable way. The building invites the enquiring mind from the moment you walk in and stand on a glass floorplate exposing the underfloor insulation and heating system.

The build has turned redundant agricultural buildings into a low carbon, high comfort suite of classrooms and a stunning meeting room, flooded with light and yet warm and functional with a very low carbon footprint both in the build and operation.

Beyond the infrastructure, Bicton EaRTH provides a training centre for renewable technology engineers.
They aim to become a hub for all the students of Bicton college who will have time in the EaRTH as a part of their agricultural college courses. Greening the agricultural sector must be a good thing!

Philip Dennis Foodservice

Easy to find – the 500kW wind turbine gives away the location of Philip Dennis Foodservices. That’s a tad bigger than the 11kW one at Wheatland Farm!

It was great to see serious carbon reduction taking place in an industry not known for is green credentials.

The company now supplies 60% of its £170,000 electricity requirements from its own renewables.

But they have done more. Their trucks deliver foodstuffs all over Devon, the South West and beyond, and are equipped with the latest efficient refrigeration units. They use the new aerodynamic body shaped to increase fuel efficiency, and the company is fitting Euro 5 spec engines to their newer vehicles, ensuring they minimise fuel consumption.

By gaining green credentials, this green Devon business now find it is gaining customers, who want to be able to trace their own eco actions back through supply chains. There’s a wider lesson for all here.