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Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

This website is adapted from Going Greener Together, used under creative commons licence CC-BY-NC and is run by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. Find out more

Energy & buildings

Finding alternative ways of powering our lives and reducing our energy use is at the heart of tackling climate change.

If you own or have a long term let on a building, you should carry out a simple audit to help you identify the most effective options of energy efficiency improvements.

There are a range of low cost measures you can make as well as more expensive improvements that you could seek funding for. Changing the way in which people in the building use energy and controls can also make a big impact on energy use.

Practical improvements to buildings might include:

  • insulation and draughtproofing
  • upgrading heating systems
  • investing in energy efficient lighting
  • fitting heating controls
  • putting in water saving gadgets
  • changing to more efficient means of heating water.

Business Energy Scotland have a simple template you can use to audit your space, and offer a free assessment service which is open to charities as well as social enterprises. If you run a community building you can apply for funding from CARES to help with costs of more significant changes. See this case study of how funding helped Findon Village Hall install a heatpump and solar panel.

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A renewable energy tariff or plan means that some or all of your energy will come from renewable energy sources – like wind or solar energy. This causes less environmental harm than using energy from fossil fuels, which is a finite resource.

The energy will still be provided to you in the same way by your provider.

Some companies may provide green tariffs – this could mean that they are carbon offsetting, which is less beneficial than renewable energy because it still uses harmful fossil fuels and creates emissions that contribute to climate change.

Find out more:

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Make sure you aren't using more heating than you need in offices and premises by using a heating timer. You might want to measure the temperature in your office regularly to work out when you can reduce use of heaters.

You could make best use of any windows by placing desks in brighter spaces that get good sunlight, allowing you to turn off lights when they're not needed. You can also use timers to reduce lighting in areas that aren't used as regularly, like kitchens and meeting rooms. Make sure electrical items aren't left on standby as this wastes electricity. Encourage staff and volunteers to turn off laptops and PCs if they're not being used.

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Lighting is likely to be a large part of your organisation’s energy use and cost. Changing to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs is an easy way to reduce costs and energy use: they use less energy, they use energy more efficiently and they last for longer. Changing bulbs may have some costs at the beginning, but the savings and reductions in energy use make them a better long-term solution.

There are some grants and funding available to help you upgrade to energy efficient lightbulbs if you need some support to make the change. 

You should also look at the office equipment you’re using, from laptops to office chairs and cables, to help you understand the carbon impact of your office equipment.

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Do you know how much energy you’re using? Have you identified peak times for energy use, and reduced what you’re using for quieter times? Doing so could help you reduce energy use, cut your costs and generally make your planning more responsive to how you’re using the space.

You should also measure how much energy individual devices use - you may be surprised by which actually uses the most and it might not always be what you expect. One way to track this is by using an energy monitoring plug, which gives you an accurate measure. This will allow you to make decisions about how best to use equipment efficiently, and see if there’s anything you could replace with a more sustainable device. 

Think of ways to use electrical items less e.g. boil your office kettle less by using a vacuum flask to store hot water or only boil what you need, only run the dishwasher when it is full, where you can - use low energy or eco modes on appliances.

When buying new IT or other equipment consider the energy efficiency rating.

Also don't plug your laptop in when you are working, use up the battery and then recharge it - this will save energy and prolong the life of your laptop battery.

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If you rent your premises, you may not have direct control of energy efficiency in offices and premises. Getting your landlord onside is important, and can help you make spaces more sustainable even when you don’t have ultimate responsibility. And the more people ask this of landlords, the more they will see it as an important part of providing tenancy.

Your landlord could look at draught exclusion to save on the need to heat space, and minimising wasted energy. Other areas to look at include water use, recycling facilities, hand dryers, etc. 

The Green Lease toolkit from the Better Buildings Partnership is designed to help tenants and landlords work together to reduce energy consumption and waste which might help to move conversations forward.

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There are lots of way you can take steps to reduce your digital carbon footprint.

  • Don't use search engines as a way to reach regularly used websites - add them to your favourites or start typing in the name of the website into the web browser and it will find it from previous searches which use less energy
  • Don't live stream music or videos - download, watch and then delete.
  • Have a clear out of your emails, files and folders, the more you are storing (especially on the Cloud) the more energy you are using.

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Across Scotland hundreds of communities now generate their own renewable energy, and benefit financially from this. We are fortunate to have specialist organisations that can work with third sector groups to find funding, develop projects and deliver significant change. If you are interested in what might be possible the team at Community Energy Scotland can help, and can link you up with other organisations that have already taken action.

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Shared ownership is when community organisations such as development trusts or other bodies (i.e. not individuals) buy a share in a local renewable development, usually wind farms. There is a huge pipeline of new projects coming up, and whilst almost everyone is aware that developers should be offering community benefit funds, there’s a lot less awareness that they should also be offering shared ownership.

This can offer community organisations an important source of earned income which you can spend on local needs and priorities.

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Lots of organisations are now either entirely remote, or have staff working at home for a significant part of their contracted hours.

If you don't own or control the spaces where staff can work, you can still engage with people and encourage them to think about their home workspace. Energy use can be reduced in a variety of different ways such as using natural light, energy efficient heaters rather than using their central heating, introducing plants, LED light bulbs, remembering to turn off equipment when not in use.

Encourage every team member to carry out some actions to green their home working and to share what they've done to encourage others.

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