Ikea’s second-hand sales and York’s solar ‘living lab’: The sustainability success stories of the week

Published every week, this series charts how businesses and sustainability professionals are working to achieve their ‘Mission Possible’ across the campaign’s five key pillars – energy, resources, infrastructure, mobility and sustainability leadership.

Across the UK, leading businesses, cities, states and regions are turning environmental ambitions into action. Here, we round up five positive sustainability stories from this week.

ENERGY: Solar ‘living lab’ completed at the University of York


Last April, the University of York featured in this weekly round-up after announcing plans to host a solar ‘living lab’, comprising both ground-mounted and roof-mounted panels, including some innovative panels with sun-tracking functions to enhance efficacy.

Staff are this month celebrating the completion of the installation, which has been delivered in partnership with Siemens and is supported with UK Government funding. It covers more than 1,400 square metres.

The solar panels are expected to meet more than 80% of the daily energy demands of the University’s Institute for Safe Autonomy. Researchers will also harness data from the arrays to assess how best robotic technologies could be used to plan, construct, maintain and optimise solar panels.

Institute director professor Miles Elsden said: “Robotics, autonomous systems and AI have the potential to transform the way we live, travel and work in the future. Integrating them with the production of renewable energy will ultimately play a key role in the journey towards net-zero.”

The UK is aiming to host 70GW of solar generation capacity by 2035.

RESOURCES: Ikea to host more car boot sales


Ikea’s sustainability strategy includes a vision for the retailer to become ‘a circular business’ by 2030. It has offered furniture buy-back and resale options for several years and updated this offer in late 2020 in a bid to improve accessibility and increase uptake.

Now, the retailer is keen to advocate for products which aren’t necessarily its own to have a second life. Following a successful pilot event last year, Ikea will be hosting a string of car boot sales in its store car parks this spring.

Sales will be hosted at Ikea stores in Exeter (pictured), Cardiff, Milton Keynes over the weekend of 18-19 May. Sellers will be able to pitch up for free and are encouraged to sell unwanted home furnishings and decorations from both Ikea and other brands.

Ikea UK and Ireland’s chief commercial officer Michaela Quinlan  said: “We know that the way people shop is changing. The cost-of-living crisis and an increasing awareness of environmental issues is reshaping how customers value possessions.

“Having seen the success of  last year’s pilot, we’re happy to now be rolling out car boots across more of our stores. Giving people more opportunities to live and shop sustainably continues to be a focus for us at Ikea and we look forward to welcoming more people, so they can grab a bargain while ensuring quality pre-loved homeware has a chance at finding a new home.”

MOBILITY: Amazon launches e-cargo bike fleet in Belfast


According to PostTag, the ‘last mile’ part of deliveries in Europe can account for up to half of delivery-related emissions.

As it works towards a global 2040 net-zero target, e-commerce behemouth Amazon is investing £300m in decarbonising its transport network in the UK.

This week, the business opened a key project supported by that funding – its first micromobility hub in Northern Ireland, located in Belfast. Local delivery services provider Astral Fox is supporting Amazon with fleet adoption and management.

The hub, like more than 40 others across the UK and Europe, will facilitate parcel deliveries made using electric cargo bikes.

Amazon has said that “thousands” of parcels will be delivered using the Belfast-based e-cargo bikes every week.

Delivery station manager Jim Press said: “This is a proud moment for our team, and great news for customers across the city who will benefit from zero-emissions deliveries to their door.”

THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: GFI launches green mortgage training programme


The UK’s official climate advisors at the Climate Change Committee (CCC) have repeatedly warned that the slow pace of emissions reductions in homes could undermine the delivery of legally binding carbon budgets supporting the nation’s 2050 net-zero target.

Green mortgages, whereby home buyers access preferential terms for homes that meet high environmental standards, have the potential to be a key tool to involve the private sector in rectifying this trend.

The Green Finance Institute (GFI) has this week launched a new training scheme and certificate for mortgage professionals, designed to equip them with the skills they need to design and sell green mortgage products. This scheme provides trainees with a broad understanding of climate change and green policies relating to buildings, as well as more technical details, so they can advise clients on how to access grant funding, what their EPC means, and more.

“Our new CPD-accredited training programme will equip brokers with the core information and skills they need to develop a deep understanding of financing green home upgrades, and how to navigate and support customers as they seek to invest in home energy efficiency improvements enabling them to save money on energy bills,” said the GFI’s associate director for the built environment, Rachael Hunnisett.

The scheme was initially piloted with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP: Rebel Kitchen to support creation of more UK orchards


More than 5,200 organisations globally have pledged to donate 1% of their profits to environmental causes through the ‘1% for the Planet’ initiative, co-founded by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. Almost 7,000 environmental organisations have benefitted to date.

Now, plant-based drinks challenger brand Rebel Kitchen has joined this cohort of business and elected to make its donation to The Orchard Project – a charity creating and restoring orchards across the UK. It has helped to facilitate the creation of 540 community orchards in under-used urban spaces over the past 15 years.

Orchards can help to increase tree cover, boosting urban cooling and increasing biodiversity. They also provide a centre for members of the community to connect, and a means to offer education on land management.

Rebel Kitchen co-founder Ben Arbib said: “This is an exciting partnership with The Orchard Project, who are helping rebuild orcharding skills and knowledge in our communities. We share in the belief that orchards have the potential to build stronger communities by providing space and empowering people to contribute to reducing food miles.”

As well as funding, Rebel Kitchen, a certified B Corp, will provide staff volunteering to The Orchard Project.

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