Not so sustainable Tesco

For some years now the major supermarkets have been making grand claims about their sustainability as they vie to be ‘greener’ than their competitors. And while much of their effort is focused on energy because they don’t want to perform badly in league tables, there are other sustainability issues to be considered.

For example, I went to Tesco this morning and was presented with a print out that was just under 1 metre long. The itemised till receipt accounted for 30% of this. The rest was special offers – extra points on this, £5 off that etc. – and I’m certainly not going to buy Kung Fu Panda for 50 extra points.

In contrast, on a trip to Sainsbury the other day I received a very small receipt, printed on both sides to save paper. Admittedly Tesco does have a standard message on the back, reminding me that ‘every little helps’ and saying several times how this long roll of paper was produced from ‘well-managed forests and other controlled sources’ – wasting even more ink.

The point is that every piece of printed paper has environmental impact, so any superfluous printing is unnecessarily damaging the environment. Not just the carbon footprint of producing and transporting the paper and ink, there’s also the extra energy to print these longer receipts,and recycling paper also has a carbon footprint.

OK, it’s a very small piece of paper compared to global consumption but spread that across millions of transactions and the figures start to add up. So perhaps someone should remind Tesco that ‘every little helps’!

Paul Haddlesey

Scrapping BSF schemes places many schools in quandary

By guest blogger Lee Vines of PKL

The news that 719 planned Building Schools for the Future (BSF) schemes are to be scrapped puts many schools in something of a quandary when it comes to maintaining catering standards.

“Many of these projects would have included essential upgrades to kitchens, so schools will now have to look for alternatives. And with other capital budgets also being squeezed there is a very strong case for considering capital-free alternatives such as long-term hire of equipment or entire kitchens. Using the contract hire option to procure new kitchen buildings or to replace or upgrade a current kitchen estate provides a viable alternative to capital purchase.

PKL offers a wide choice of hire options, ranging from the ability to specify a complete kitchen equipment estate with inclusive service and maintenance, to permanent modular kitchen buildings that can be designed and configured to end user choice. The company will also work with schools to evaluate their needs, identify the best solution and explore the options that are open to them.

More information regarding the contract hire of catering equipment or permanent modular buildings can be found by clicking on the links below:

Contract hire

Permanent modular kitchen hire

If you would like to discuss any hire or rental options with PKL, you can do so by either by phoning 0845 840 42 42 or emailing

Is water the new energy?

The threat of hosepipe bans in the UK, despite the huge amounts of precipitation during the winter months, simply reinforces the importance of water as a natural resource. And the likelihood that global water distribution will be altered by climate change. So conserving water could soon become as important as saving energy – if it isn’t already.

Also, conserving water also reduces the energy required to pump it around the country and around buildings. It also reduces the environmental impact of treating water after it’s been used.

But saving water isn’t just good for the environment; it also makes sound business sense. In fact, a survey by Ethical Corporation indicates that water conservation is set to become a top priority for businesses and governments in the next 5-10 years.

For businesses, though, there is still a need to develop a business case for investment in water-saving measure to get the go-ahead from the financial director. So they need to understand how much water they’re consuming and how much suitable measures might save them in order to make a return on investment calculation.

However, that is clearly worth doing. For example, by understanding its water consumption and taking appropriate measures, Sainsbury has saved around £1.6m since fixing leaks, installing sensors on urinals, and reducing toilet water capacity.

Any such improvement inevitably requires some investment and having the right figures to hand is a key part of making a return on investment calculation. However, where there are many buildings there is lots of data to deal with, often residing in different systems in a variety of formats. And gathering and analysing that data can be very time consuming. In fact, it can take so long that the information is out of date by the time it’s ready.

That’s why it’s also important to make use of IT tools that will help in the harvesting, validation, analysis and reporting of sustainability data. One such tool is Sustainability iQ, and I would recommend that anyone involved in managing sustainability take a look at this innovative online product.

Paul Haddlesey

Eats shoots and leaves

There is a worrying tendency in some companies to think that using correct grammar and punctuation in their literature and on their websites doesn’t matter. What they need to realise is that there are many people who will, at least partially, judge them on this attention to detail.

This is evidenced by the popularity of the excellent book Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, which points out the importance of punctuation. It may not be a majority that worry about this kind of stuff, but there’s a sizeable minority of us pedants out there.

For example, I was recently asked to proof read a website for a company and was able to point out some errors and help them get it right. These ranged from incomplete contact details to incorrect use of apostrophes. The company’s response was that the latter, incorrect use of apostrophes and other punctuation marks wasn’t really that important. They did acknowledge that incomplete contact details were a major boo-boo though.

They are missing a key point. Literature, websites, sales letters and emails are all important interfaces between a company and its existing and prospective customers. If sloppy proof reading creates a negative perception with just 25% of those prospective customers, that could be a hell of a lot of lost business.

So, yes it does matter if you talk about your customer’s requirements rather than your customers’ requirements, and the plural of DVD is DVDs not DVD’s. And if you haven’t got the in-house resources to get it right, it really is worth investing in some specialist help.

Tougher regs for energy saving products

In a previous Blog I mentioned my concern about the plethora of so-called ‘energy saving’ products entering the market. I recently spoke to Alan O’ Brien, CEO of Sabien Technology, who has similar concerns. This is what he said:

“Businesses know they need to step up to meet these tough new carbon reduction proposals but they are quite literally ‘fatigued’ by propositions from companies who are promising more than they can actually deliver.

“Measuring energy efficiency is more complex than many people realise, and we need an independent ‘enforcement agency’ to audit and verify suppliers’ claims and differentiate between ‘low-carbon’ and ‘cowboy-carbon’ products. In particular, it’s important to measure changes in energy consumption over longer periods, using tools such as the Carbon Trust-approved CUSUM (Cumulative Sum) analysis method.

“This is how we have proved to many big businesses – including AVIVA, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, BT and 02 – that our M2G technology delivers real savings and we would like to see other technology providers stepping up to the mark,” he concluded.

Kitchen contingency plans are a must

Contingency planning is vital for any catering operation. A contingency plan helps to minimise the adverse effects of sudden closure or disruption, so that in the event of an emergency, appropriate plans can be implemented quickly and efficiently to restore service as soon as possible. Or a contingency plan may be put in place to help manage seasonal peaks in food production with maximum efficiency.

PKL’s Contingency Planning Guide builds on the company’s 20+ years experience of delivering emergency kitchens and catering equipment at short notice. It provides a contingency planning checklist, outlining key considerations and highlight factors that are often unanticipated. For example, if you need an emergency kitchen, will it be necessary to close roads or lift it over other buildings? Or do you know what items of equipment you would need to maintain service to customers?

PKL’s emergency response service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and regularly supplies emergency catering facilities to clients that have suffered unforeseen emergencies such as fire, floods or equipment breakdown. Solutions range from single items of catering equipment to complete kitchens and restaurant facilities, usually up and running with a few days of receiving the first emergency call (depending on the size of facility required).

In addition to the free Contingency Planning Guide, PKL can also provide bespoke contingency plans, tailored to each client’s exact requirements and business priorities.

District energy is the way forward

News of the formation of COFELY District Energy is excellent news for the environment as it will help to increase the use of low carbon district heating, cooling and power schemes through the UK.
The use of large scale Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant to generate electrical power and heat for heating and hot water is a very efficient route, taking advantage of the economies of scale. In the summer, when less heat is needed, the surplus heat can be used to drive and absorption chiller to produce chilled water for air conditioning.
The Southampton scheme managed by the company also uses geothermal energy and there are plans to introduce other low carbon technologies as well in various schemes. The other schemes in the company’s portfolio include MediaCity UK, the Olympic Park and a rapidly growing district energy scheme in Birmingham.
It makes so much sense to connect groups of buildings to such schemes that we can expect to see a lot more of this in the future.

Make do and mend

The current mantra of reduce – re-use – recycle could be considered as an updated version of the wartime ‘make do and mend’ creed that was designed to reduce waste and consumption of materials (not that I remember this from first hand experience).
Certainly, there is a pressing need to cut back on the use of materials, particularly those that require a lot of energy to produce them and therefore have a lot of embodied carbon. So this is a principle that we should be applying to building services systems in any way we can.
A case in point is the refurbishment of air handling units. Even units 20-30 years old can be effectively refurbished to deliver higher performance and improved energy efficiency while saving on materials and cost – as is clear from this press information.
Similarly, when a building changes its use there is a lot that can be done with the existing systems to adapt their configuration, without replacing the whole lot. Fan coil systems typify this. When a space changes there may be a different layout and/or changed occupant density, so the heating and cooling should also change. This can be done very cost-effectively by retrofitting pressure independent control valves controlled remotely through a building management system or BACnet system.
The result is that water flows can be adjusted remotely with no need to enter the ceiling void – creating a ‘continuous commissioning’ opportunity that ensures the systems can be easily reconfigured in line with the building, optimising energy efficiency and saving on installing a new system each time. Marflow Hydronics has pioneered this concept and more information can be found by clicking here.
And there are many more instances where these same principles can be applied. It’s just a matter of getting out of the ‘chuck away and replace’ mentality. As someone whose parents could only afford to clothe him from jumble sales I have this philosophy ingrained. Back then we thought it was poverty, now it’s sustainability.

Practice what you preach

Visiting the Sustainability Live exhibition last week I was struck by the wide range of awareness amongst companies. Some have clearly understood the sustainability imperative and have applied it to their own operations as well as to their product and service offerings. Others seem to be willing to make money out of the current focus on sustainability while ignoring their own environmental impact.

For example, there were quite a few companies that were preaching about sustainability yet there stands were festooned with glossy literature highlighted with energy-guzzling halogen lighting and seeking attention with extensive video walls emanating heat out of all proportion to the benefits.

On the other side of the coin there were quite a few companies, certainly more than in previous years, that had eschewed the traditional marketing approach and had either put their literature on CD or were offering to email it (that’s a very clever ploy to capture email addresses for marketing purposes incidentally).

However, those same companies that I’m praising for cutting down on paper consumption might be contributing to a really serious problem. Apparently, the reduction in use of high quality office stationery means that the quality of recycled paper is declining and this, in turn, may have an impact on the softness of toilet paper. What a pain in the arse!

Ash clouds may have a silver lining

Although the ash clouds from Iceland are clearly causing a great deal of inconvenience there is a chance that those people who were hoping to travel on business will have turned to more sustainable options, such as telephone or video conferencing. Consequently, they may find these alternatives are more effective than they realised.

One of the things that fuels (if you’ll excuse the pun) so much business travel is a belief, usually mistaken, that information can only be conveyed face-to-face in the same room.

I come across this a lot, as my work often involves interviewing people to get the information I need to write an article, case study, press release etc. I know that this can usually be done with a telephone conversation, or perhaps a teleconference, but I constantly come across people who demand a meeting. So I end up travelling unnecessarily just to satisfy their unwillingness to try something different.

Certainly there are occasions where it’s useful to see the other person but video conferencing can take care of this and business broadband speeds can make the whole process very slick.

So if anything good comes out of the Iceland’s rather grumpy volcano it may be that people are forced to look at alternatives to jetting around the world for unnecessary meetings. We can but hope.