On the 13th June we represented Millbank at a meeting of Cardiff Eco-schools at the G24innovations factory on the other side of the city.
It is a busy time of year with many of the older pupils sitting thier exams so we took some of the younger members.
Daryl from G24i told us a bit about the company and a bit about the amazing products that they produce. It is a third generation printed dye photovoltaic cell that works in the same way as photosynthesis does in a plant. It is not as effecient as the ones we see one houses but these ones can convert power in much lower light such as in doors and can be included on products such as bags and clothing. It is also a lot more eco friendly to produce than other photo electric cells.
Daryl told us about some fun projects they are working on using their technology. One was to print the cells onto the lining of solar blinds and curtains in a huge hotel on vegas which would then power a motor to open and close them. Another project was printing the cell onto a cardboard box so it could power an advertising jingle on a cereal box. Again it could work in doors.
We learnt a lot about the huge wind turbine that was only at the planning stages at our last visit. The blades are 82m in diameter and the mast is 79m high so that means it is 120m in total. It cost £4 million and is expected to last 20 years, over which time it will have generated 80 times more energy than was used in it's construction.
We were all supprised at how silent it was and we only heard a noise -we guessed was a motor turned it into the wind. Daryl told us that this was done by two computers one housed in Swindon the other in Germany which controlled the day to day running and maintenance of the turbine. The three blades turn in a clockwise direction and power a 2.3Mega watts an hour enough to power 1692 homes.
Another important issue we looked at was growing your own food and the very complicated issue of FOOD MILES. Flying apples from New Zealand whilst we let apples rot on the ground in Hereford -because they do not look as pretty- does seem wrong by anyone's standards. One of the most popular items on our Eco-Code is
We saw Kris who showed us his garden to one side of the G24i plot. He supplies the canteen with fresh food and he gets to grow stuff for himself too.
We took turns going inside his simple polytunnel, which reminded several of us of the Eden Project with the heat. Even though it has large vented doors and it's a Welsh Summer it was very hot inside and Kris told us that the Cucumbers, tomatoes and Chillies loved such conditions. Equally good was that slugs and snails shrivelled up in the heat before they got near his plants. There were lots of shrubs and flowers around that Kris kept so that lots of minibeast predators such as ladybird larvae etc would eat any pests such as aphids.
He told us that he particularly like growing different varieties of unusual crops. He has some blue salad potatoes growing outside and lots of different varieties of chillie. Last year he used them to make a 100 chillie sauce. Hr liked growing speciallity superhot chillies too
These are sold at the Riverside Food Market during the summer.
We visited a local producer of tomatoes who uses lots of sustainable practices.
We looked at a list of items and where they came from and then had to work out where it was on a map and how far the fruit and vegetables had to travel and by what methods. Car ship or plane.
As our partner school is in Kenya we are always very interested to learn about produce that comes from there. One of the issues is how crops such as green beans are grown low tech without tractors or lots of pesticides. It was said that a 6 mile trip to the supermarket uses more CO2 that flying the Green Beans to the UK. This is not an arguement against Air Miles or local produce, in fact it should hopefully make you think about the trip to the supermarket. Why not use local shops or the farmers market which will also help rebuild local communities. Use a bike or make sure the car is fuel efficient.
Best of all follow Kris's example and grow your own food.The children love cooking and having grown the food yourself we think makes it tastes even better.
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