Environmental Impact Part 2

At our AGM we shared our hopes and dreams that our community building will become greener, more sustainable and an even better place for our community and our planet! 

From David's Blog:

A Big Local Eco-Hub for Whitley Bay

In November 2021 the Whitley Bay Big Local  board approved a proposal that will set our community centre on a path to become a low carbon Eco-Hub. The roadmap and decisions that we need to take in the days, weeks, months and years ahead will lead us on a very interesting and I’m sure, at times, challenging journey.

Working in partnership is what we do here at Whitley Bay Big Local and the idea to create an Eco-Hub has very much been done in the spirit of partnership. The idea was brought to us by a representative from the local branch of Friends of the Earth, who has been interested in developing a sustainable resource hub for many years. We know of and work with many local environmental groups in the area and we know from informal conversation that an environment led hub would be an inviting and attractive space for public meetings and get togethers.

The Community Centre is a three storey building. Built in the 1980s, it was originally a print shop, with manufacturing space on the ground floor, and offices on the first and second. After the print shop moved on, the property was refurbished as a Job Centre, which continued for 25 years. Trustees of Whitley Bay Big Local took on the lease in 2019. It still bears many of the hallmarks of the Job Centre. It has suspended ceilings, strip lights, Formica cupboards and offices leading from communal areas. It has a small garden area, which has been converted into a space for nature. Heating is provided via modern radiators and a gas boiler that has been in place for 40 years. To describe it as a fit for purpose community centre would be a stretch and an Eco-Hub even more so, though most people can see the ‘potential’ of the building. We are now in advanced stages of purchase, after which we will be able to invest time, money and resources into improving the fabric of the building.

Initial ideals for the centre are to strive for carbon neutrality, to provide information and inspiration, to encourage local leadership and to be a financially sustainable hub that survives for generations to come. These ideals are obviously long-term, but there are things that we will be doing (or not doing) immediately in order to increase our carbon efficiency.

The first thing we’re doing is replacing the gas boiler; an action which, on the face of it might not seem the most sensible suggestion, given that gas is clearly a fossil fuel. The long-term aim is to install a hybrid heating system which uses air source heat pumps to heat water to 55 degrees and a gas boiler boosting the system to at least 72 degrees for optimum efficiency. Therefore, the air source heat pumps will provide the majority of the heating for the building, but the gas powered boiler will still be necessary on colder days. The replacement gas boiler will save 6.7 tonnes of CO2 per annum compared to the current boiler and will have a return on investment of 2.1 years. As part of a soon-to-be hybrid heating system the replacement gas boiler is a highly sustainable option. Today we have agreed the installation and renovation of the central heating system and look forward to a winter of slightly more environmentally friendly heating.

The other thing we’re doing immediately is reviewing our own behaviours and practices to see how we can make simple changes to reduce our impact on the environment. We have ordered some refillable cleaning products and will be using local suppliers as much as possible, where previously we might have relied on Amazon and other delivery companies. We’ll be keeping the the conversation going with a series of consultation events to allow local people to contribute to and develop our future as a sustainable hub. We’re seeking the funding to make the vision of an eco-hub a reality.

If you would like to be part of our journey, send us an email: hello@whitleybaybiglocal.org or become a Whitley Bay Big Local Member

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Young people are particularly interested in and affected by climate change. I wanted to reflect on the contribution of a 17 year old artist in Whitley Bay, who created an inspiring stop motion animation using her own imagination to consider how our community building might become an eco-hub. The video involved an unbelievable amount of work, hand drawing each individual frame and I think the outcome is truly inspiring. Please, if you have a spare 30 seconds, follow the link to the video.