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Kevin Henry, mechanic at Aith lifeboat station standing next to Severn class lifeboat Charles Lidbury 17-14 ON 1232

At the RNLI, we aim to reduce energy consumption, which will improve our carbon footprint and reduce costs – making donations go further.  

Projects that reduce our impact on the environment include ground source heat pumps at new lifeboat stations, a wind turbine that powers Aith Lifeboat Station, and a variety of energy saving measures in our offices. 

Our long-term plan is to slow our carbon footprint expansion, reach a steady state, then achieve year-on-year reductions while still doing all we can to end preventable loss of life at sea.

Exmouth lifeboat station by night.

Traditionally, it's been difficult to heat lifeboat stations, because of the need for instant heat for cold and wet crews and casualties, and because their extreme locations often preclude access to gas for central heating.

In the past, electric convection heaters have been used to overcome these issues. However, there are now other forms of heating systems available that help us meet the sensitive balance between affordability, performance and being green.

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) work by extracting ambient temperature from the earth through a series of coiled pipes buried metres beneath the ground or, in our case, beneath the beach. The pipes are coiled to give maximum surface area. Liquid within the pipes absorbs the earth's warmth. The liquid is turned into gas, which is then compressed and concentrated to temperatures of 100˚C or more. At this stage, the heat is ready to do its job in the lifeboat station.

Ground source heat pumps are particularly effective when combined with under-floor heating systems, providing a consistent source of heat 24/7.

'The under-floor heating has proved to be one of the best assets of the new station. In the Winter I often arrive at the station on my motorbike cold and wet, so when I leave my kit on the floor while in a hurry to get the boat launched, it's all dry on my return!'

Exmouth Coxswain Tim Mock

"We have five ground source heat pumps around the RNLI. Each one saves us about £3,000 a year in energy production and Renewable Heat Incentive. For every unit of energy put into the ground source heat pump, we get four times more heat than we would from an electric convection heater. Because of these significant savings, ground source heat pumps will be fitted as standard where possible in new lifeboat stations in the future."

Sunderland crew cycling

If we're serious about reducing the RNLI's impact on the planet, we need buy-in from our volunteers and staff.

We hold an annual environmental awareness day, called E-Day, which encourages all our people to think about how their choices affect the environment, and what they can do, at work and at home, to live a greener life.

In 2011, E-Day fell on 10 June. One of the day's most popular activities was Smarter Driver Training. Road travel is one of the biggest contributors to the RNLI’s carbon footprint, and efficient driving techniques can help reduce this impact – as well as making financial savings. Driving efficiency increased by an average of 15.5% on the day. If participants carry on driving like that (and, with today's petrol prices, why wouldn't they?), the RNLI could see a 50-tonne saving of CO2 from car travel every year!

Other E-Day highlights:

  • alternative transport to work day

  • energy audit, to draw attention to overnight energy wastage

  • series of talks by guest speakers

  • green quiz

  • beach clean, in which more than 30 bags of rubbish were collected.

The level of awareness and engagement shown by RNLI volunteers and staff is reassuring for the future, as maximising our use of resources such as energy and materials will ultimately save the RNLI money, which can then be used to continue our core objective – saving lives at sea.​

Energy monitor

​Energy monitors at all RNLI lifeboat stations help our crews keep an eye on how much energy they're using. The monitors were donated by Current Cost, and show how much electricity is being used in the station at any one particular moment.

Users can also monitor their energy spend over a period of months to help them identify where savings can be made.

‘I am immensely pleased that we can support the RNLI using our energy monitor. It’s a device that will continually help them to save money and, of course, reduce their environmental impact.’

Martin Dix, Founder and Director, Current Cost

Heat pump map

Solar PV map

Wind turbine map

Solar hot water map

​Environmental Mission

We aim to be universally recognised as a charity that balances our vital lifesaving work with our environmental responsibilities.

Environmental Objective

Through the operation of our environmental management system, we will assess, monitor and document the significant environmental aspects and impacts of our operations. We will set objectives and/or targets and take action in order to continually improve our environmental performance and to reduce our carbon footprint, without compromising our operational effectiveness.

We will:

• commit to prevent pollution, to protect the habitats and biodiversity under our control, and to promote responsibility for the environment throughout all of our activities

• comply with all relevant environmental legislation and regulations

• strive to reduce the use of energy, water, fuel and other raw materials where practical

• increase the use of renewable energy sources where it is cost effective to do so

• minimise waste production and disposal by adopting the principles of the Waste Hierarchy: 'eliminate, reduce, reuse, recycle, recover, dispose'

• provide appropriate environmental training, advice and information for all RNLI people and encourage them to put forward ideas for improvement

• provide the appropriate authority, resources and support to enable all in the organisation to meet the commitments of this policy

• communicate and implement this policy at all levels throughout the RNLI and make it available to the public

• review this policy on a regular basis.