611 low income families in Cornwall have taken action to save energy and money through an innovative energy efficiency project based around slow cooking workshops.
Over the past year, the local energy charity Community Energy Plus has delivered slow cooking workshops across the length and breadth of the county. The focus on energy efficient cooking has provided a stepping stone to encourage people to learn about ways to save energy throughout the home and highlight how lots of small changes can add up to big savings on energy bills. Community Energy Plus’ Energy Fit Kitchens project was funded by a grant of £47,333 from the ScottishPower Energy People Trust to deliver the workshops.
The project delivered its final workshop earlier this summer but it’s already clear that the lessons learned in the slow cooking workshops have been taken on board by the project’s participants in their own homes. An incredible 92% of those responding to the energy charity’s evaluation survey said that they had changed their behaviour and reduced their energy use as a consequence of taking part in the project.
Dr Tim Jones, Chief Executive of Community Energy Plus, explained the significance of the project: “As energy bills are one of a household’s major expenses, equipping parents with the skills to reduce their energy costs and cook healthy meals for their family on a budget is resulting in some profound and long lasting impacts on family life. The pioneering approach to delivering energy efficiency advice through slow cooking workshops has proved to be extremely successful and has enabled us to work with some people who may not otherwise have sought our advice and help. Our next challenge is to extend the reach of the project to engage and support many more people who are struggling with their energy bills.”
Slow cookers are incredibly energy efficient, using only a fraction of the energy of a hob or oven to cook a family meal. While the main purpose of the project was to help families cut their energy bills, several additional benefits have been highlighted by the project’s new slow cooking enthusiasts. Many project participants use their new slow cookers at least once a week to prepare meals for their family, helping parents to enjoy less time in the kitchen and more time with their children after school.
Ann Loughrey, Company Secretary and Trustee of the ScottishPower Energy People Trust, said: “The Trust is delighted to have been able to support the work Community Energy Plus does. Not only is the Energy Fit Kitchens project helping local families increase their energy efficiency, but it’s also enabling parents to prepare healthy, cost-efficient meals without having to be tied to the kitchen for hours at a time.”
Cold homes are prone to the growth of mould which can be damaging to people’s health, with children being particularly vulnerable. The workshops included advice on reducing humidity within the home and the importance of ventilation which has proven to be effective in helping parents taking part in the project to reduce damp and mould to enjoy healthier homes.
During the delivery of the project, Community Energy Plus utilised its position within Cornwall’s Winter Wellbeing network to provide applications to the Winter Wellbeing Emergency Fund and provided referrals to other support agencies. This helped those facing the direst of financial situations to access funds to pay for key-meter top-ups, deliveries of heating oil and repairs to broken heating systems and the clearance of fuel debt.
Workshop participant, Teresa from Bodmin, said: “I’m really glad that I found out about the project and took part. It’s really helped my family and this type of thing should be available more widely as it’s a great way to encourage families to eat better and save energy as well as money.”