Every year, on 22nd April, Earth Day raises public awareness of the impact of pollution on our planet, and the direct impact of pollution on public health. This year is no different, though with every year that passes it becomes more urgent that effective change is made to the way we live, work and do business.
The theme of Earth Day in 2022 is ‘Invest In Our Planet’ and we want to highlight some of the ways in which Safestore is investing in becoming a more sustainable, environmentally sound business.
The interesting history of Earth Day
This annual worldwide event started way back in 1970, after a huge oil spill off the coast of California led a US Senator to seek to rally public support for environmental change. The notion that the byproducts of industry, in the form of carbon emissions and other pollutants, was harmful to the environment had only really been in the public consciousness since around 1962, after the publication of a widely-read book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
Senator Gaylord Nelson felt that greater public awareness and a louder cry for change could be generated if he could mobilise the sort of passion seen in student anti-war protests of that decade. Accordingly, he declared 22nd April an annual Earth Day, intended to involve peaceful demands for change and education for the masses on the impact of air and water pollution.
Earth Day 2022
Fast-forward 52 years, and we’re still working on the problem of the damage done to our environment by individuals, companies and governments. Public awareness has never been higher - recent protests by Extinction Rebellion, impassioned speeches by Greta Thunberg, and national events such as the Big Power Switch Off have inspired change like never before. Visible and tangible impacts on our environment - wildfires, floods, other natural disasters, and unseasonable weather - have brought home just how quickly major change must be effected.
There are a number of events, both online and in person, across the UK and worldwide, and you can find all that you’d be interested in attending on the Earth Day website, here
What’s Safestore doing to Invest in Our Planet?
1. We’re eliminating gas use in our stores
Around 28% of our total energy consumption is used to provide heating and hot water for our colleagues and customers. In order to reduce our use of natural gas to generate that heat and hot water, we’re phasing out gas altogether in our UK stores. Only 38% of our UK stores used gas at all and, so far, we’ve eliminated gas in 11 (around a quarter) of those stores and we don’t install gas in any new build facilities.
Instead of gas heating and hot water systems, we’re installing high output, low energy electric heaters and conventional water heaters. These new heaters are far more efficient than water radiators.
Already, the reduction in gas usage has led to:
- Reduced CO2 output;
- No need for carbon monoxide detectors in gas-free stores;
- Reduced maintenance costs (as the new heaters are more reliable);
There’s also a ban on gas boilers in new homes, which is due to come into effect in 2025. When that happens, the cost of non-gas heating systems is likely to increase due to greater demand - by investing in these heaters now, we’re saving money further down the line.
2. Our electricity supply comes from 100% renewable energy sources
We use electricity generated entirely by renewable energy sources, including solar fields (such as Hook Valley in Somerset) and onshore wind farms (such as Kype Muir wind farm in Scotland). This has contributed to our reduced CO2 emissions, and overall we’re using 6.4% less electricity than last year, with that trend looking set to continue.
To further reduce our use of electricity, we’ve installed smart meters in 92% of our UK stores. Most of our electricity is used to light our stores, so we’ve invested heavily in LED lighting across our stores. LED lighting uses significantly less energy than traditional filament or fluorescent bulbs. What’s more, our lighting is linked to motion sensors, meaning that areas that are not used, are not lit.
3. We’ve decreased our overall energy usage considerably
We’re proud to be able to demonstrate an overall reduction in energy usage of 9% in our UK stores, and 6% in France since last year. This reduction has been made through the efforts of our colleagues to reduce energy usage in our stores, and our investment in renewable and more efficient heat and lighting systems.
We’ll continue to work at reducing our energy consumption, and will continually review new technologies as they become available, which may help us to further reduce our carbon footprint.
4. Our carbon emissions have decreased by 11% per square foot
All of our energy efficiency measures - reducing our use of gas, switching to renewable sources for our electricity and reducing our overall electricity consumption - have led to a considerable reduction in our carbon emissions. Compared to our 2013 baseline, our carbon emissions are down by 53% despite owning around 35% more floorspace. Like for like, our carbon emissions have decreased by 13% since 2021.
5. We’ve greatly reduced our water usage
Reducing water usage is important for a number of reasons. Most obviously, it reduces the use of water that would otherwise remain in our rivers and reservoirs, and keeps our waterways clean and healthy. Using less water also reduces the energy needed to pump and treat the water, and keeps the cost of treating wastewater down.
We’re therefore really proud to have reduced our water usage by 16.8% in the UK, and by 6% in France through various efficiency schemes.
What else are we doing?
- We’re also promoting recyclable packaging materials such as biodegradable bubblewrap to our customers.
- We produce relatively little waste, and we’re working on ways in which we can reduce that further still, through working closely with our waste business partner.
- This has been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions this year, which caused a reduction in waste separation, but we aim to continue to reduce our waste across our stores. For example, at our Battersea Park store, we swapped our general waste skip for a dry mixed recycling skip, and reduced general waste by 22 tonnes (28%).
- We support and promote the ‘Plastic-Free July’ campaign.
- We provide practical and promotional support to the WrapUp coat campaign across the UK to help those in need whilst recycling clothing that might otherwise have gone to landfill.
If you’re interested in reading more about our sustainability commitment and achievements to date, you can find our annual report here
What can you do?
As individuals, we can do a number of practical things to reduce our carbon footprints: walk short journeys rather than drive; recycle our waste; turn down our thermostats; eat less meat.
To effect wider change, though, we can all put pressure on businesses by choosing to give our custom to environmentally aware companies. We could also write to our MPs and ask for a unified recycling policy across all local authorities, for instance, so that companies can all switch to packaging and materials that can be recycled.
You can get many more ideas on how to do your part for our future by signing up to attend one or more Earth Day events.