Squeaky-clean future for Morrish Solicitors

Over recent years many businesses have been negotiating the economic landscape with stretched profit margins, lean budgets and a keen focus on survival. Investment in the green agenda has, perhaps understandably, taken a back seat for many and its resurgence is surely a sign of recovery.  One business making serious strides in this area is Morrish Solicitors.

A recent office move by Morrish Solicitors saw the introduction of low energy lighting, recycling of old hardware from the previous site and company policies refreshed to acknowledge the environment. Perhaps the biggest move towards a greener operation though, is evident in the practice’s print and copy strategy.

Recently Morrish renewed a contract with Arena Group Ltd to replace its printers and copiers with upgraded machines. New Toshiba models were chosen for their low energy consumption and for the fact that they are carbon offset. This means that the CO2 produced in their manufacture and transport, and the estimated print and copy output for the contract period, has been offset with a contribution towards a carbon reduction initiative.  In this case, it funds energy efficient cooking stoves in Africa under a scheme coordinated by carbon offsetting expert, co2balance. Through this process, the emissions are balanced to become “Carbon Zero” with no detrimental effect on the environment. Morrish went a step further, purchasing additional credits from co2balance to carbon neutralise its Kyocera machines under the same scheme.

Looking even further, Morrish are currently considering an environmental audit of its entire operation with a view to reducing its carbon footprint even further.

What is a carbon footprint and how do you offset it?

We are offsetting our carbon emissions by taking part in a project introduced by co2balance and Toshiba. But what is a carbon footprint and how do you offset it?

Every time we drive, fly, turn on the TV, there are emissions from our cars, this is called a carbon footprint.  You can live and work more efficiently, such as using tele-conferencing equipment in work instead of driving to clients to reduce the carbon footprint, but it will always be there – a residual carbon footprint.  We offset to balance the carbon footprint, so on one hand we create it by using electricity for printing, etc and on the other we balance it and take part in carbon saving projects, such as the African Energy Efficient Stove Project, which prevents the release of carbon dioxide by building energy saving cooking stoves for families on the Kenyan coast south of Mombasa.

The stoves replace fuel intensive open fires (similar to camp fires) and reduce the amount of firewood needed for cooking by 50% – this in turn prevents the release of carbon dioxide emissions through the reduction of burning firewood. The project is being extended into India and neighbouring Kenyan countries.

What is the African Energy Efficient Stove Project?

We are taking part in the African Energy Efficient Stove Project, which builds energy saving cooking stoves for villages in Kenya.

The premise of the project is simple. Across the developing world and specifically sub Saharan Africa many people still cook in a traditional way on what is called a three stone fire.

This is exactly as it sounds; three rocks with a pan sat on top of an open fire.  This method is very inefficient as much of the heat is wasted as it escapes around the pan.  It also produces a great deal of smoke from the wood being burnt and as the majority of people cook indoors, this enclosed smoke is a major cause of health issues. The World Health Authority cited in a study that “1.5 million African people die each year from the effects of smoke from an unregulated (no chimney) three stone fire”. Also that “living in a house with such a fire is the equivalent of smoking 2 packets of cigarettes per day”.

In addition to health benefits and carbon prevention, it also provides families with a cost and time effective method to cook with. The reduced need for firewood helps to prevent deforestation, creating knock on benefits to the wildlife in terms of habitat and flood prevention. The reduction in fuel also produces substantial community benefits. In remote areas the collection of firewood is usually a role for the children and young women. This exposes them to risk and exploitation away from their villages. Time spent gathering fuel is also time that cannot be given to either their studies or to simple play activities. In more urban, but still poor areas, the amount of household income that has to be spent on wood is halved enabling people to save or spend on other vital resources.

The Toshiba and co2balance project has resulted in numerous impacts to local communities in the Aberdares Range and Shimba Hills areas of Kenya. Further impact details are shown below:

Environment  CO2 Prevented 75,890 tonnes
Wood Saved 61,075 tonnes
Area Protected 189.7 hectares
Social No. of Stoves Built 3,377
Time Saved 40,529 days
Young Poeple Impacted 6,755
Old People Impacted 3,377
Total Poeple Impacted 12,834
Economic Working Time Saved 324,230 hours p.a
Money Saved per Household 12 days wages p.a
Health Impacts Respiratory Illness 4,492
(likely reduced cases from project support) Asthma 4,728
Serious Ear, Nose, Throat Irritation 3,546

The health impacts figure seems very high in relation to the number of households supported. However, the Aberdares area has the highest incidence of respiratory illness per head in Kenya. The climate is cooler at altitude and families spend a good deal of time indoors exposed to smoke, so the opportunity for improvement from smoke reduction is very high in this area.

Mamma Mzee’s Story

mammaRosemary Mwazinge is a Data Collector (they help co2balance calculate the savings in firewood use). Both Rosemary and her mother were given stoves by co2balance. On a visit by co2balance, Rosemary took them to meet her grandmother. Mamma Mzee (“Old Mama”), as she is affectionately called, is 89 years old, with seemingly limitless energy.  Mamma Mzee still cooks for her twelve grandchildren, but the stove has made her life so much easier for her.

“I am very happy and thankful for my stove. It is a very good stove. It can cook much better than my old stove and it is very much quicker. When all of my children and all of their children come home, I can put the stove on and when they are finished with their chores and their talking, the food is already finished. So quickly! And the food is very good and very hot. I can feed them all with so little firewood. They are happy and they are not hungry. And I am happy too.”

Where are the African stoves and how did we help the Friends Corner Cafe?

MapThere are numerous project locations with the African Energy Efficient Stove Project, but the ones that Toshiba, co2balance and Morrish Solicitors have taken part in are the Aberdares and Shimba Hills projects.

The Aberdares Range is a 160km long mountain range of upland, north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi and just south of the Equator with an everage elevation of 3,500 metres. It forms a section of the eastern rim of the Great Rift Valley. The lower slopes are lush fertile farmed, whilst higher areas are known for their wildlife. This rich habitat is home to numerous species of plants and animals including the rare Black Rhino.

The Shimba Hills is an area of coastal rainforest, woodland and grassland. It is an important area for plant diversity – over 50% of the 159 rare plants in Kenya are found in the Shimba Hills, including some endangered species. It is also a nationally important site for birds and butterflies. The communities that live there are amongst the poorest rural people in Kenya. Surviving on less than a dollar a day, they rely on the dwindling forest resources to sustain daily life. This project eases their workload and protects vital natural resources from over exploitation.

Friend Corner Cafe Story

Ruphence Malenkeba started a little café called Friends Corner Café. Her new energy efficient stove has allowed her to prepare more food in less time, allowing her to meet the demands of her customers. She says that since she received the new stove, she has been able to take more orders, make more food and earn more money.

“This is a great stove. It works very good and very fast. Now I only use 2 of charcoal when I was using 5. I can cook my beans and my ugali very quickly, so there is always food ready and none of my customers have to wait. They are all saying that Ruphence has the best café here and they are right. I have a good stove and I love it very much. I hope that I can get another one because then I can make this place bigger. It is a very very good project. I want to say Asante sana (thank you very much).”