We've been using the clean self renewing power of water since the mill was built in the mid 18th century, a time when water powered mills across Cumbria not just to mill flour and oatmeal but to make bobbins and gunpowder. Now all businesses are doing their best to reduce their carbon foot print and use less energy. Here are some of the ways in which we are addressing the challenge :
· specialising in organic and biodynamic British grains, unlike most UK mills, which use a significant proportion of imported grain (mostly from Eastern Europe, and North America) in the grist. Using home-grown grain hugely reduces food miles related energy. Northwest England’s climate is not ideal for growing bread-making quality grain, so we buy as close as we can consistent with our quality criteria – including the East Midlands, East Anglia, and Kent, where we have been buying from the same farms for many years now, as we very much value the personal contact with each farm and farmer.
· using renewable energy (waterpower). The waterwheels are being used for milling for around 30 hours each week, and generate around 4 hp or 3kw power, so around 90Kw hours/ week or 4,500Kw hours p/a; saving at least that amount in non-eco electrical generation, and probably significantly more as the conversion efficiency is higher for milling than generating.
· specialising in vegetarian food in the tearoom – as much as possible locally sourced.Lord Stern, author of the Stern Report on Climate Change, confirms that "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better," The more grain is grown for humans, and the less humans consume meat from grain-fed animals, the easier and cheaper it is to both feed the world and reduce our carbon footprint.
· encouraging fuel-efficient driving skills and utilising existing supply-chain carriers wherever possible (eg Suma Wholefoods deliver inward goods and collect flour products at the same time, mail order reduces individual consumer shopping journeys and maximises carrier space and journey efficiencies.)
· using renewable and sustainable wood grown on our land, wherever and whenever practicable.
· installing low-energy lighting wherever practicable, producing an estimate saving of 1KW/hr during normal opening hours, or 30% of previous lighting power usage.
· specialising in organically and biodynamically grown UK grain. Organic and biodynamic farming in the UK is estimated to “produce 28% higher soil carbon levels than non-organic farming in Northern Europe” and it is estimated that “the widespread adoption of organic farming practices in the UK would offset at least 23% of UK agriculture’s current official greenhouse gas emissions” (both quotes from Headline Findings, p4, from the report Soil carbon and organic farming, A review of the evidence of agriculture’s potential to combat climate change, published by the Soil Association, 2009.
· Sales of our popular “Harvest” flour, specially formulated for bread-machines includes a contribution to the Tourism Conservation Partnership’s programme of sustainable and green developments in Cumbria (currently planting junipers on the northern fells to prevent excessive soil erosion).
· All organic and biodynamic products contribute to reducing carbon emissions. Soil Association research findings (see above for details) indicate that :
o if all UK farmland was converted to organic farming, at least 3.2 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year - the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road.
o widespread adoption of organic farming practices in the UK would offset 23% of UK agricultural emissions through soil carbon sequestration alone.
· Lancaster University Engineering Department’s Product Development Unit undertook a Carbon Footprint Report for The Watermill in 2008. This concluded that our “total greenhouse gas emissions in a year were approximately 96 Tonnes or 48500 m3 CO2e [Government figures rate the average 4-bedropom house at c13tonnes]. This is about the same volume as 17 hot air balloons and is equivalent to the emissions released by about 24 average cars driving for a year. Considering the quantity of food being produced and processed throughout the year, the emissions are quite low.”
· The same report reckoned that the production of a kilo of flour uses about 0.5kg of CO2. That sounds quite a lot, but it’s a lot less than the average packet of crisps, which can produce about 2.2Kg of CO2 per kilo.