In the spring of 2018, we became the first major provider in the UK’s private care home sector to begin a group-wide reduction of single-use plastic. Residents, families and team members all fed in ideas for our ‘Caring without Plastic’ campaign.
A year on, we have managed to replace a huge amount of non-recyclable plastic with environmentally friendly alternatives. Now we are widening the focus from the avoidable use of plastic to try to reduce our overall carbon footprint.
We asked Director and co-founder of the Colten Group, John Colwell (pictured), to tell us more.
Having targeted avoidable plastic, why is there now a wider focus on the environment?
JC: Because the threat to the planet from climate change and global warming is real and urgent – and it’s not only about plastic. We’re taking radical steps in our operations so we can do our bit to make a positive difference. Our residents, team members and suppliers have the same concerns about the environment as anyone else and we want to do right by the communities in which we operate.
What successes have you had in the Caring without Plastic campaign so far?
JC: There are many. For example, we’ve eliminated the use of some 365,000 plastic bin bags that previously would have gone into landfill. Instead, we’ve switched to re-usable cloth bags for removing rubbish and waste.
A different approach to the storage and dispensing of cleaning liquid has eliminated the need for around 19,000 plastic bottles.
On the nutrition side, we have removed all single-use plastic straws from our catering services, replacing them with ones that are fully biodegradable. This will save around 480,000 pieces of plastic a year.
Other initiatives include replacing disposable plastic water cups by water coolers with recyclable paper ones, changing the coffee supply packaging used in foyer coffee machines to a non-plastic alternative, and laundry staff replacing disposable latex gloves with washable, re-usable ones.
What measures have you been taking at Colten Care head office to help the environment?
JC: We are reducing energy consumption and what we do use is increasingly being generated by solar power. In 2018, solar accounted for 12% of consumption. We’re aiming for 41% in 2019/20. Most head office energy is used in heating, air conditioning, lighting, fridges and computers. We’re reducing consumption by more time control and powering down of systems and appliances, and by setting temperature parameters.
In 2018, we consumed 160,000 kilowatts of energy, equating to 77 tons of CO2 emissions or 17 return flights to Perth, Australia. In 2019/20, we expect to have reduced that by 50 tons while still maintaining a comfortable working environment for head office staff.
What other plans are there across the group for this year?
JC: All departments are involved. For example, we’re looking at more environmentally-friendly fuel for our garden strimmers; we continue to reduce the use of chemicals and pesticides in our gardens; we’re working with our suppliers to lower the carbon footprint involved in sourcing uniforms and materials, and we’re building more energy efficiency into our home refurbishments.
We’ll continue recycling glass, plastics and cardboard. The paper involved in the Colten Chronicle, Talking Care and printed newsletters will continue to come from sustainable forests. In line with our move from targeting single-use plastic to a wider focus on the environment, we’ll be updating our campaign with a new logo in due course.
For more campaign information in the meantime, visit www.coltencare.co.uk/Caring-without-plastic