Devon is known for its cream teas, small coastal communities and rolling green hills, but within this tranquil setting, small enterprises are taking action on climate change.
The Low Carbon Devon project received funding from the European Regional Development Fund to help Devon enterprises make the transition to the low carbon economy.
They have been working with a range of enterprises that are shifting to sustainable practices and filling gaps in emerging green markets.
Trim Plants, based near Honiton, are getting ready to supply a gap in the market when peat is banned from compost by creating a new BioChar growth medium produced from green waste.
They are formulating different mixes and, with support from the Low Carbon Devon project, analysing which mixes best support plant performance.
The enterprise is interested in sustainable ways to grow plants and is looking at new opportunities, such as the need to replace peat in compost and a future green walls market. They are researching how to devise their soil’s composition to maximise water retention and thermal insulative properties to enhance its performance in green walls.
They are working to position themselves as an innovative supplier in a growing green wall market – their new BioChar product stores carbon and is made from green waste via a low-energy process.
Sharing ideas in the Creative Sector
From low carbon soils to a low carbon creative sector, Devon has a strong creative sector and with nature and traditional skills often central to people’s work, they tend to be conscious of the impact they leave on the planet.
Many within the sector are sole traders and yet they are finding the time and the inspiration to adapt their practices to reduce their environmental impact.
The Low Carbon Devon project has been supporting these environmental ambitions, by joining enterprises together within the Green Maker Initiative to share low carbon ideas and best practices.
Some of the ideas shared within the creative community are brilliantly simple; such as ceramicists developing stacking systems in kilns for the most efficient use and dyers using sunlight to fix natural dyes made from plants.
The changes help to reduce energy and pollutants whilst meeting demand for environmentally conscious suppliers.
As well as sole traders, the Low Carbon Devon project has been working with enterprises on the frontiers of low carbon technology development. Newton Abbot-based Ecomotus Ltd has designed a retrofit system that enables hydrogen to be added to an existing combustion engine, significantly reducing its carbon emissions.
They are responding to a growing market looking for an alternative to diesel-powered machinery within industry, now that the subsidy of red diesel has been removed and batteries fail to meet the power needs of heavy-duty machinery.
Their technology offers a welcome alternative to keep machines running with lower costs and reduced emissions. Low Carbon Devon supported Ecomotus with the installation of the technology on a dockside front loader in Plymouth, creating a remote monitoring system for the technology.
Traditional cob buildings
Exeter-based business Barry Honeysett Consulting Structural & Civil Engineers are also capitalising on the growing interest in low carbon practices.
They intend to increase the viability of building houses using the ultra-low carbon cob technique by analysing Devon soils for suitability for this type of construction.
The Low Carbon Devon project has connected the company with expertise within the University of Plymouth to assist with the structural analysis of subsoil and fibre mixes. This research will inform a map of Devon’s potential earth-building hotspots, helping to accelerate the growth of this low carbon building method.
The skills and knowledge of the next generation
There is expertise and energy within the student population who understandably feel the weight of the climate crisis on their generation. The Low Carbon Devon Internship and Leadership programme – Future Shift – has been connecting students and graduates with a Devon enterprise to deliver a low carbon project during a 3-month internship.
Recent graduate Erin Browne used her scientific skill set to develop a camera system that monitored bees’ communication for Plymouth-based Pollenize.
The company was founded by two friends as an unassuming initiative to create better access to beekeeping equipment and local honey. It soon became apparent to them how serious pollinator decline had become and they felt a duty to use Pollenize to raise awareness about this critical issue.
Erin’s camera system recorded the bees’ communication which helped them to understand floral gaps in the local environment so that they could distribute seed packets via schools to help fill those gaps.
Another Devon enterprise that has benefited from an internship is Two Drifters, a carbon negative rum distillery based near Exeter. They have an ambitious protocol to remove more carbon than they emit during the entire process, from rum production on site, to transporting the product to the customer.
Their intern, Ellie Dunklee, helped to inform part of this process by writing a report on the carbon footprint of equipment within their distillery.
The work of the Low Carbon Devon project illustrates a movement of climate action within Devon’s business community. People are driven by a desire for a better future. Using innovation, knowledge and passion to build a low carbon future.
The Low Carbon Devon project is nearing the end of its funded period, however, to register your interest in working with the project and help inform future funding applications, please complete the Expression of Interest form on the Low Carbon Devon webpage.