Birkenhead SMEs offered free support to cut carbon footprint and combat energy crisis

Businesses and charities in Birkenhead are being offered free support to measure and reduce their carbon footprint, cut energy bills and accelerate growth.

The Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory (LCEI), is a business support programme which gives SMEs in the Liverpool city region free access to world-leading academic expertise and cutting-edge resources.

Lancaster University, one of the delivery partners of the scheme, provides student interns to help research, evaluate and benchmark the current greenhouse gas emissions of businesses and organisations across Liverpool.

This could involve analysis of the impact of energy, buildings, vehicles, travel and logistics, as well as materials and supply chain, which is used to create a carbon reduction plan with potential actions, changes and investments that would help the environment and also reduce costs.

Wired Aerial Theatre, a Liverpool-based theatre and dance organisation, are transitioning to a more sustainable business model after capitalising on the fully funded support from LCEI.

Before the pandemic, a student intern reviewed the environmental impact of their rehearsal space and international touring productions and proposed new approaches to reduce carbon. 

But before being able to activate their plans, covid restrictions plunged the company into crisis. It was forced to make cuts to survive, reducing its core staff from seven to three, and giving up its rehearsal space and offices.

Now Wired, which has garnered international acclaim for its signature bungee-assisted dance productions, is rebuilding, putting efficient use of resources, sustainable delivery of its unique show and collaboration at the heart of its recovery.

Jamie Ogilvie, Wired’s Founder and Technical Director, said, “Without any income and an uncertain future our core funding couldn’t sustain us, and we had to make some difficult decisions. But we survived, and now it has given us the opportunity to reset as an organisation.”

Home working and sharing rehearsal space has reduced energy use from pre-pandemic levels from seven tonnes of CO2e to 428kg – a staggering 94% reduction.

By reusing set equipment and costumes, and by removing paper-based processes and deploying digital approaches to its work, the amount of CO2e generated by waste has halved to one tonne per year.

Wired has also taken steps towards reducing the carbon footprint of travel and accommodation, almost eliminating the use of high carbon rated hotels in favour of house shares and rentals. 

“While things are starting to return to a level of normality again, we cannot go back to the way things were, Jamie explained. “There is a substantial amount of work to be done, but we have a plan, thanks to LCEI, and have taken that important first step.”

Wired is one of 24 companies that have so far collaborated with Lancaster University as part of LCEI with a variety of aims such as testing a new product, delivering market research, reviewing a business process or analysing the carbon footprint. 

Collectively, these businesses have saved more than 170 tonnes of greenhouse gases – more than two-thirds of the programme’s target. And with up to 25 fully funded internship projects available to the next batch of sustainability-driven SMEs, more is to come.

Carolyn Hayes, LCEI Project Manager at Lancaster University, said, “One of the biggest challenges small businesses and charities have is the lack of resources, such as personnel, knowledge and time, to devote to starting their net zero journey. 

“The LCEI programme is offering access to the skills and expertise of undergraduates, postgraduates and world-renowned academics, leveraging our plethora of world-class facilities, to identify a bespoke course of action.

“Our fully funded short term projects are designed to deliver quick turnaround support for an organisation, enabling them to understand their current position and proposing some viable suggestions for ways it can improve and do things differently. In many cases, activities to reduce emissions can also reduce costs and overheads.

“Our programme is helping businesses to rethink their carbon footprint and energy consumption, and encourage them to be prepared for situations like our current energy crisis.

“I would encourage leaders of SMEs in the private and third sectors to get in touch. Time is of the essence as the programme concludes in June 2023, so please act now.”

LCEI is a business R&D consortium, backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and led by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) alongside partners Lancaster University and the University of Liverpool.

Since its launch in 2015, the Low Carbon Eco-Innovatory has supported 350 businesses in the Liverpool City Region on projects which have saved 10,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

For more information visit www.lancaster.ac.uk/global-eco-innovation/business/lcei/ or contact Philippa Chapman via email p.chapman1@lancaster.ac.uk

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