With Gatwick airport just a couple of miles away, you can't look at the sky over Crawley without seeing a plane.
But judging by the council's first 10:10 results, a high-emitting next door neighbour is no barrier to carbon-cutting success.
Despite having picked much of the low-hanging fruit years ago, the council managed to bring its footprint down by 11% in its first 10:10 year, with projects worth at least another 5% already in progress. “For us, this year seems to be more about renewable energy”, says environment manager Brett Hagen. “We have solar PV, and even a wind turbine, proposed at several sites."
Brett works within the Sustainable Environment Action Team (SEAT), whose members are recruited from every corner of the council’s operations. Between them, they boast expertise in everything from waste and energy management to procurement and planning law. Having a council director at the helm also gives SEAT the high profile and executive clout it needs to get things done.
In hunting down potential energy savings, the team took a broad approach: council car parks are now lit with LEDs, updated vehicle purchasing rules prioritise fuel efficiency, and the town hall's venerable boiler has been fully refurbished.
These big-ticket items are already cutting the council's energy bills to the tune of £80,000 a year.
The council's hefty IT-related energy bill has been cut down to size too – the network now runs on virtual servers and individual desktop printers have been replaced with a few heavy-duty shared devices.
These achievements are a vindication of the council’s forward-looking approach; bigger-ticket items were paid for though a dedicated ‘invest to save’ fund, and these are already cutting energy bills to the tune of £80,000 a year.
In an ideal world, Brett would like to try more radical energy-saving measures for the town hall, but uncertainty around the future of the building has ruled out any significant investment. "We were supposed to have moved into a much more modern, energy-efficient town hall building by now, but that was put on hold when the recession hit. It's risky to invest in long-term improvements when you might be about to knock the whole thing down and start again."
On the whole though, Crawley's is a story of success, and they haven't been shy about sharing. The council’s green business programme has provided free energy audits and bespoke action plans to around 200 companies (and counting) in the area. The council’s own leisure contractor – responsible for running the energy-hungry K2 Crawley leisure centre – has also joined the effort with its own successful 10:10 programme.
There are some really nice electric cars coming onto the market this year, and we’re hoping our charging points will give people the confidence to take the plunge.
Crawley’s first 10:10 year also saw the introduction of two electric car charging points linked into a nationwide Oyster-style touch card system. While these aren’t expected to get much use at first, Brett hopes they’ll help to overcome the chicken and egg problem that’s held back electric vehicles for so many years. “There are some really nice electric cars coming onto the market this year, and we’re hoping our charging points will give people the confidence to take the plunge.”
The neon pink icing on this particular cake, however, comes in the form of a 10:10-branded recycling truck. When Brett says the truck’s attention-grabbing livery “got residents talking” about the project, you’re inclined to believe him.
With most of the easy wins now well behind them, the team in Crawley are increasingly preoccupied with the question of what comes next. Brett predicts that strong local targets will be vital in getting people on board for the more difficult next steps.
"Translating national climate policy into credible local targets would help me make a stronger case locally", he says, "as would setting annual goals for councils to cut their own emissions – 10% perhaps!”
When asked what’s needed to hit these targets, Brett doesn’t hesitate. “Expertise. You need a network of people throughout the organisation that understand how best to achieve carbon reduction within their own specific fields – IT, facilities and so on. It takes time to build this expertise within an organisation, but it’s the only way these ambitious carbon reductions can be feasible.”