update from our friends at Solar Aid

Here's an update from our friends at Solar Aid, with whom we worked on our Off/On project.

Solar Aid managed to exceed their target for the year by getting over 400,000 lights into hands and homes by the end of March. We heard yesterday that as a result of their work to replace kerosene lanterns in East Africa with clean, affordable solar lights, they’ve been made a finalist for the 2013 International Ashden Award – which is fantastic news. The Ashden Awards recognise sustainable energy projects in the UK and developing countries that protect the environment and improve quality of life.

Solar aid

One of the biggest challenges in getting sustainable energy to the poor is getting to the ‘last mile’ – those remote rural areas where commercial distribution and retail networks simply don’t exist. SolarAid’s ingenious distribution methods are getting power to the people who need it the most.


Head Teacher Beatrice delivers some Solar Aid lamps.

With the audacious goal of eliminating the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020, SolarAid’s sales teams work with schools in rural areas of east Africa to promote good quality, affordable lights to families. The benefits are immeasurable: children are able to study in the evening, polluting and dangerous kerosene is avoided, while families save money.

Solar Aid's big focus for the next couple of months is finding the money to enable them to grow at the same rate that the demand for lights is escalating.

For more information on Solar Aid, see here.

This short video shows their solar lamps in action.

how solar-powered lights help Africa


Above is the S1 solar-powered light from d.light design, which was sent to me by Anna at Solar Aid, with whom we've done some work on our Off/ On Project.

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These lights are currently selling well in Africa. How come? At 6pm every night when the sun goes down across sub-Saharan Africa, most off-grid households, of which there around 110 million in Africa, opt for burning dirty, dangerous kerosene lamps in their homes. Or if they can't afford that, they sit in the dark. That's obviously not conducive to productive working, safe cooking, socialising, studying or reading. Not only that, it costs lives. The kerosene lamp contributes to indoor air pollution that kills more people in
the world than malaria.


The S1 solar light costs around $7 and after that it's free to run. Solar Aid's goal is to banish kerosene lamps from Africa by 2020, freeing people from the need for dirty, expensive kerosene.

For more information on Solar Aid and their work see…



And here's Elliott (in Islngton, not Africa) reading his Moshi Monsters comic by solar-powered light. He was amazed to learn it was charged just by leaving it near the window during the day.

Pause for building work

With the building refurb in full swing and deskless souls wandering round the office, we've decided to use this opportunity to pause the OFF-ON pilot for a few weeks and develop it further.    
We're going to work with the feedback we received from our UCL anthropologists and progress the tech side of things, with a plan to relaunch the project next month.
All being well, our ambition is to get the pilot up and running in other W+K offices in the near future.
In terms of our progress to date, we're doing pretty well.
Despite an increase of 50 staff over the past year, our electricity consumption is still significantly down. 
Here's a graph plotting our monthly bills during the pilot against monthly bills last year (with kWh up the y axis):

Any ideas on ways to develop this are, as always, very welcome.

We'll keep you posted on our progress.

9% energy reduction so far…

The bills are in and we're bang on target for project OFF-ON.

Over the past 3 months, we've reduced our electricity consumption by an average of 9%.

January saw the best average reduction of -12%, which we hope to keep up.

So we've now saved almost £700 for Cheryl's Children's Home and lit up almost 1 and a half classrooms.

Our "computers unplugged" campaign is working brilliantly, thanks to the efforts of John Kirkham. The number of computers left plugged in over night/on weekends has dropped from 37 to 5. 

As Tony D says "you've got to break some eggs on the way", and our first eggs to go were the eco kettles. Great for domestic use, but not ideal for 200 avid tea drinkers.

We've replaced them with a temporary alternative, marked with cup quantity measures. They'll be auctioned off for charity once we get our eco friendly wall kettles.

New bodum kettle

We've also been lucky enough to have Stefana Broadbent and two of her UCL MA tech anthropologists (Brian and Luiz) studying the project.

Stefana broadbent

Luiz and brian

They've been looking at the bits that are working, the bits that aren't and most importantly, why.

We'll keep you posted on the results over the next couple of weeks.

M&S Sustainability Conference – Sophie Presents Off-On

W+K planner Sophie Dollar today presented our project Off-On at the M&S Sustainability Conference at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in Westminster.

Off-On's key objective is to encourage employees to do more good by behaving in a more environmentally responsible way.

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Today's annual conference is part of M&S's commitment to corporate social responsibility and is part of 'Plan A' – an initiative the company launched in 2007 which has set out 180 commitments to achieve by 2015.  M&S's ultimate goal is to become the world's most sustainable, major retailer.

Sophie presented Off-On as part of the afternoon session: 'How to engage your employees' – and continued to spread the word that a democratic, simple and accessible idea is the key to sustainable behaviour change.

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Judging by the string of delegates queuing to congratulate her following her slot – people are certainly listening!


A good day for Cheryl’s

Today's been a good day.

Today we found out that we've managed to reduce our energy consumption over the last two weeks by a brilliant 14%, compared with January 2010.

Which means we've raised £181 in 14 days.

From just turning stuff off.

But we don't want to get complacent. We're still focusing people's efforts on unplugging computers after work, with new posters around the office and email reminders.

Plus, we've received some wonderful pictures from Cheryl's Children's Home that will hopefully help to remind people why their actions are so important.

There will be 5 solar installations in total at the orphanage (the one we're funding will happen last) and the first took place last month.

Here are some drawings of it:

Pic 1


Pic 2


Pic 3

And John's favourite

Pic 4

We're showing them in our L-Gallery Reception space.

Here's the latest edit that we shared with the agency this morning. A whistle stop tour of Cheryl's Children's Home:


3/4 of a classroom lit

The bills have arrived and the latest results for our OFF-ON pilot are in.

November: we reduced our energy use by 10% and saved a total of £239. Which isn't bad at all.

December: we only reduced our energy use by 6%. Which isn't stupendous.

It means we've now lit up 3/4 of a classroom at Cheryl's orphanage and saved a total of £368.

Looking at the figures, we found there was a surge of engagement during the first 2 weeks which started to drop, only to increase again after our 2nd agency meeting in which we showed our edit of Cheryl's Children's Home.

The learning? We need to talk to people more to keep it front of mind. We've also decided to focus on one thing, rather than asking too much of people.

So for the next 2 weeks we're holding a 'Computers Unplugged' campaign.

We've asked people to focus solely on unplugging their computers, giving them playful tannoy announcements, 'switch-off'-related theme tunes to be played sporadically throughout the day and surprise rewards.

Fingers crossed this will get us doing one thing really well, so we can then move onto the next task. Like turning off the lights.

We'll keep you posted on our results.

Here's our latest piece from Cheryl's which we shared with the agency yesterday.


OFF-ON: latest results just in.

Our OFF-ON pilot launched 4 weeks ago. Here are our latest results:

Prior to launch, our average energy consumption was 16,048 watts.

Over the past 4 weeks, our average consumption has been 14,083 watts.

Which is a decrease of 12.2%.

If we keep that up over the next year, we could save £3,600 – far more than the target required to light Cheryl's 4 classrooms and kitchen (£2,500), allowing us to light up their dormitories as well. 

Whilst things are definitely going in the right direction, there are a couple of things we haven't quite nailed:

1. Turning off lights in the main seating areas

It's hard to know which switch turns off which lights on the big blocks of switches, so we've put diagrams up next to the switches. Hopefully that'll make a bit of a difference.

2. Unplugging computers at the end of the day

Most laptops are left on and charging over night. Rather than installing a system that turns all computers off automatically at night, we're hoping that with a bit more work people will start doing it of their own accord. Things were looking up on Friday night, so maybe we're moving in the right direction.

We presented the results to-date and this short edit from our trip to Cheryl's at our all-agency meeting last week:


OFF-ON: a short film on the project

Here’s a piece we’ve made explaining different aspects of the OFF-ON project:


Quick update on the agency:

Since the launch, we’ve made a couple of changes to the agency to give people a nudge in the right direction.

Eco kettle
We’re now an eco kettle-only zone. They’ve taken a little while for people to get used to, but we’re all fully on-board now.


And we have a Warming-Up Wardrobe with OFF-ON branded hoodies, should anyone find they’ve dressed inadequately for the weather. Fan heaters have now left the building.
If anyone’s got any thoughts on other economical ways for us to save energy (other than lightbulbs), please let us know and we’ll give them a try.

how our OFF-ON system is helping Cheryl’s Children’s Home

We’ve been running our energy-swap system OFF-ON for two weeks now, so we thought it was time to update you on how things are progressing.

We’ve been running our energy-swap system OFF-ON for two weeks now, so we thought it was time to update you on how things are progressing.

We’ve been running our energy-swap system OFF-ON for two weeks now, so we thought it was time to update you on how things are progressing.

Results from first two weeks:

· Day after launch, we used nearly 3,000 watts less than the day before – that's a reduction of 16% in energy consumption

 · Last week was a little slower with energy levels going up (probably due to the cold weather), but it didn’t reach our base line, so all good.

· Our most efficient day was last Wednesday. We managed to reduce our energy by an impressive 24%

Major improvements?

· Turning off the toilet lights and toaster slots

Room for improvement?

· Turning off the meeting room lights and screens/computers. Hopefully our internal OFF-SQUAD can get on the case with this.

What we’re turning on Sophie’s trip to Cheryl’s Children’s Home in Nairobi:

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 I spent the day at Cheryl’s yesterday, on the way back from a trip to Africa.

When I went there I was expecting to have a conversation around the importance of light and electricity. But it seems that 'turning on' Cheryl's Children's Home with solar power is about much more than this.

Of course, electricity is essential for the place to run properly. It means homework and school prep gets done in the evenings, that teachers can use computers to plan class, that Geoffrey the cook can use a fridge to feed 280 mouths and most importantly that the children feel safe after dark – the home is on a dark track leading to Nairobi's Kibera slums on which car-jackings take place several times a week, which terrifies the kids.
At the moment they have limited electricity to keep things running. Often unexpected costs will come in during the month (illness, emergencies with foster parents, college fees for ex students etc.) which means they can't afford to pay the bills and the power company cuts them off. Equaling terrified kids and a poorly functioning school.

Solar power will mean no more blackouts.

But it will also enable the children's home to save the money they're currently spending on electricity for other essentials like:

· More food for the children (many are malnourished and when bills are high, the amount of food available diminishes)

· Medication for malaria and other common illnesses (the nurse is desperate for more medication as children are often sick in the night)

· Books and stationery

· Students’ college fees (the school pays these after the children have left when necessary)

· Powering a couple of donated computers for the children to learn on

So it's not just about turning on light.

As the principal put it:

“When we turn off, we are turning on the lives of the future in Kenya.”

Keep up the good work people

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