21 February 2023
Foresters Friendly‘s journey to becoming a carbon neutral organisation
Told by our Office Manager, Lorraine
I’m delighted to announce that Foresters Friendly Society was certified as a Carbon Neutral organisation for 2021 and 2022; a true testament to the efforts taken to protect the environment and reduce our carbon footprint.
Here’s a snapshot of the steps taken to reduce our carbon emissions:
- In 2021, the onset of home working helped us to improve processes and go paperless – confidential waste was collected for secure shredding, which amounted to over 408 ten-kilogram bags; the equivalent of over 4 tonnes in 2021 alone!
- Our move to smaller office premises allowed us to recycle, upcycle and donate furniture and other items to local schools, businesses, and charities.
- Following our office move, our Board approved the appointment of a Carbon Neutral Certifying company to undertake a review of our carbon emission levels.
- Whilst reducing our carbon footprint, we also opted to offset our Carbon footprint, balancing out the emissions that have already been caused or cannot be reduced by funding projects around the world that create an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere.
- After careful consideration, we selected two schemes to offset our 2021 emissions, Up Energy Improved Cookstoves Programme in Uganda and Energy Efficient Cook Stove Implementation in India.
- In 2022, we were able to reduce our emissions by 20% compared to the previous year.
- To offset the carbon emissions that we couldn’t reduce in 2022, we chose to fund the Northern Ethiopia Community Safe Water project.
- We’re delighted to announce that through our carbon offsets, we have been recognised as a carbon neutral organisation for 2021 and 2022!
- As a Society, we are continuing our work to maintain our carbon neutral status and look forward to our 2023 results once the full year’s emissions have been calculated (January-December).
The beginning of our journey
I started my role as Office Manager for Foresters Friendly Society in February 2020. My primary role was to look after Health & Safety ensuring that the office environment ran smoothly in our Southampton and Tunstall locations.
Within a month of starting at Foresters, the UK was hit by the global pandemic Coronavirus, which we now all know as Covid-19. The Government announced that everyone, where possible, should work from home and avoid non-essential contact. After an accelerated procurement of laptops, the majority of staff were successfully working from home by the beginning of April 2020.
The beginning of operation office move
Although devastating to public health across the UK, the pandemic proved that hybrid working could be done successfully. Discussions took place about whether we still needed a large office and, following a staff survey to gauge preferences on working arrangements, we began our search for a smaller property. It quickly became apparent that this could also be a cost-saving exercise, as our office, Foresters House, was becoming increasingly expensive to repair and maintain.
Recycling, upcycling & donations
An e-mail to Southampton Council recycling department regarding what to do with thousands of empty lever arch files soon became a complete office upcycling project. I know from personal experience how short on budget schools are and it became apparent that desks, chairs and filing cabinets were in high demand. With the help of Southampton County Council, I got in touch with many schools and fabulous people who all needed office supplies and equipment. We re-homed as much as we physically could, from fridge-freezers, sofas and kettles to kitchen stools, office stationery and filing cabinets.
Looking after our world
The onset of home working helped us to improve a lot of processes and necessitated a steep learning curve from paper-based routines. Procedures were literally changed overnight, alleviating the need for printing documents. We enlisted the help of Premier Shredding, who collected confidential waste for secure shredding. This amounted to over 408 ten-kilogram bags; the equivalent of over 4 tonnes! To put this into perspective, one ton alone of recycled office paper saves 4,100 Kwh of energy, 9 barrels of oil, 54 million BTU’s of energy, 60 pounds of air pollutants from being released, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. Wow!
And this was just in 2021. In 2022 we securely disposed of another one to two tonnes.
What’s more, all the paper used for our brochures, letterheads and compliment slips is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which is the world’s most respected and widespread forest certification system dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world’s forests.
There were other items that had been collecting dust, deep down in the basement – redundant IT equipment, printers, screens, keyboards, mice (not the squeaking type thankfully!) and metre upon metre of cables. If these couldn’t be given to schools they were donated to a company called Jamie’s Computers in Southampton. The charity provides a range of supported living services across Hampshire and support for those experiencing homelessness, problematic alcohol or substance misuse and mental health problems. So far, we have passed on approximately £2,000 worth of equipment, once refurbished and resold, which has helped them to pass on a total of £155,000 to the parent charity.
There came a time when there was nothing left to recycle/upcycle. Everything remaining at Foresters House had been appropriately labelled ready for the big move to our new home; the 3rd Floor of Enterprise House in Ocean Village, Southampton. I had only been at Foresters House for less than 2 years, but many staff were sad to leave, having been there the majority of their working lives, with many memories and stories to tell.
We were lucky to have 3 meeting rooms in our new office, which all required names for booking purposes. Following another staff survey, we settled on the ‘Malcolm Hall Room’ as our Board Room, in memory of an extremely sad, tragic death of a valued and much-loved member of staff, Malcolm Hall.
Following a refurbishment exercise, we moved in on Monday 31st January 2022, celebrating with a ‘house-warming’ party in April; the first real staff get together in a long time.
Our Carbon Footprint
Following the move, our Board approved the appointment of a Carbon Neutral Certifying company to undertake a review of our carbon emission levels. The company appointed required a full year of data, so we agreed to report on the 2021 calendar year for the initial assessment for both Foresters House in Southampton and Station Chambers, our other office based in Staffordshire. This allowed us to easily monitor the benefit of moving to new premises as well as the impact of hybrid working.
We looked at many day-to-day operations including our energy consumption (Gas and Electric), commuting distances and methods of transport, waste production, removal and so forth. This created the total figure of our carbon footprint.
We are working hard to look at ways to reduce our Carbon Footprint, and in the meantime, we have opted to offset our Carbon footprint. Carbon offsetting is the process of balancing out the emissions that have already been caused or cannot be reduced, by funding projects around the world that create an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere, such as decarbonising electricity grids, reducing deforestation, improving energy efficiency, sequestering carbon, and more.
After careful consideration, we selected two schemes to offset our 2021 emissions:
Up Energy Improved Cookstoves Programme in Uganda
UpEnergy’s stoves replace primarily the traditional three-stone fires. Since it was founded, UpEnergy has served over 125,000 Ugandans. The environmental impact is considerable, with 30,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided and over 120,000 trees saved thus far. What’s more, the project saves families £72 per year in fuel costs and creates income generating opportunities for stove sales agents and retailers, helping to transform their lives.
Energy Efficient Cook Stove Implementation in India
The project involves providing improved cooking stoves (ICS) to socially deprived communities in India. The project provides households with clean cooking solutions; by replacing the less efficient traditional stoves from the kitchen with more efficient stoves. Replacement of the traditional less efficient cooking stoves with the new more efficient ones will reduce the exposure of the family members, specifically women, to the indoor air pollution and therefore result in saving of health-related expenses.
We’re delighted to announce that in 2022 we reduced our emissions by 20% compared to 2021. What’s more, through our carbon offsets, we have been recognised as a carbon neutral organisation for the second consecutive year.
For 2022 we chose to fund the Northern Ethiopia Community Safe Water project to offset the carbon emissions that we couldn’t reduce. The project supports the provision of safe water to hundreds of households within the Amhara National Regional State (ANRS), Ethiopia. By providing safe water, the project will ensure that households consume less firewood during the process of water purification, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion process.
At the time of writing, unfortunately there were no UK schemes available, however we will continue to look at other projects which create solutions to climate change in the future.
As a Society, we are continuing our work to maintain our carbon neutral status and look forward to our 2023 results once the full year’s emissions have been calculated (January-December).