Ponthafren Association is a user led Mental Health Resource Centre, which serves the community in and around the very rural area of North Powys. It offers a service to anyone with mental health issues or who is socially isolated or excluded and works on an 'open door' policy, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Its members number approximately 250, with an outreach centre in Welshpool and an outreach group in Newtown. Please see their website.
The Association won the Network Wales Green Award in 2008 and were runners up in 2010, encouraged by this we have made continuous efforts to build on this success. We now have PVP panels installed on the Centre's roof - the energy generated is helping us to reduce our fuel bills with the surplus feeding into the national grid. We have a panel in the hallway of the building which shows how much energy we are producing and using. We check our electricity usage with an OWL monitor, which is part of a pilot project that we are taking part in with the WCVA. Having these panels in the hallway raises members’ awareness of our energy usage and many have now bought their own monitors, after seeing how much energy boiling a kettle can use!
We have also introduced simple measures such as using energy saving light bulbs, and recycling waste materials, including our ink cartridges. Grants had been obtained to double glaze windows and install loft insulation. We are reducing ozone damaging emissions by staff and members car sharing to get to meetings and events.
We have also worked in partnership with the Household Energy Service; where they held weekly surgery in the Centre for our members to bring their energy bills and information that enables them to have a home energy survey. This survey helped them look at their energy usage and find ways of reducing it. Many of our members are on benefits so being able to save money is very important. Members had invited volunteers from the Household Energy Service to give talks at their members’ meetings in order to raise awareness of reducing their carbon footprint. They can also ask questions about any issues they may have with their energy provider and gain advice on switching providers. Sadly due to volunteer capacity HES have not been able to sustain this service.
We have also worked with Grass Roots Group UK Limited, who work with energy companies to help them meet their carbon emissions reduction targets as required by Ofgem. They offer free energy saving gadgets to people and we are encouraging our members to apply for Lime energy saving plugs and water widgets, which helps them reduce their own carbon footprint. For every person on benefits who applies for the energy saving gadgets, Ponthafren receives 5p.
We've further extended our energy saving drive into the garden. Members have just completed a garden design course and have put theory into practice totally transforming our organic garden, with raised beds and compost bins. Our wormery provides natural fertiliser for our fruit and vegetable plants and we collect the rainwater (living in Wales we are never short of that!) in our water butts, so we are able to water the garden without the use of hosepipes. Fresh fruit and veg from our garden is used by our volunteers when they cook Sunday lunches for our members.
The Association is now part of a local food co-operative. Members are able to purchase fruit and veg bags that are delivered once a week to the Centre at a reduced cost. The produce, wherever possible, is locally grown and seasonal, reducing food miles.
Our volunteer gardeners have recently received funding from Environment Wales and have further extended their garden project. The project involved creating a circular biodiversity walk from the main garden, down to the river. It included a solar-powered waterfalls taking advantage of the drop in height, ponds and a wet/ bog land area adjoining the river.
This project has turned part of our garden that was not fully utilized into an ideal wildlife and biodiversity corridor linking our seating area with the adjoining sensory garden, the river and woodland. It has provided extra interest for the people of Newtown who walk over the river bridge alongside the centre. The garden can be seen from there and many people come into the centre after seeing the garden giving us the opportunity to tell them about all the services we offer.
We have used recycled and locally sourced materials e.g. timber for the hard landscaping thus avoiding unsustainable wood production and emissions from transport etc. Over 90% of our members walk to the centre or use public transport, cutting our CO2 emissions even further. Future visitors and members will be encouraged to do the same ensuring the centre's carbon footprint continues to reduce.
Finally Ponthafren has recently received a wood burner, as part of the LEAF project with LightFoot enterprises, this again will enable us to reduce our carbon emissions, as we had a coal burning fire previous to this.