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.
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."
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
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 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
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SC037736). Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland | RNLI (Trading) Ltd - 01073377, RNLI (Sales) Ltd - 2202240, RNLI (Enterprises) Ltd - 1784500 and RNLI College Ltd - 7705470 are all companies registered at West Quay Road, Poole BH15 1HZ. Images & copyright © RNLI 2014.