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Let's Talk Green - A Candid Conversation with the Bedford Mayor

Following a visit to Midas, we recorded a candid conversation between Dave Hodgson MBE, Bedford Mayor, and Alan Rance, Midas MD.

Talking about going green and how Midas is leading the charge in Bedford after being approved as Carbon Neutral by the Carbon Trust.  Combined with a 5-year partnership between Midas and the Forest of Marston Vale, Midas has gone one step further and committed to mitigating all embodied carbon within the mouldings and associated tooling they make on-site.

Alan talks about the Green Initiative, the opportunities open to other businesses, and the why!

 

Click to play the interview, or scroll down to read the transcript.


So, thanks for coming to Midas today Dave, I really appreciate you coming along and looking at what we've done. We're really proud of our Green Initiative and it's really good to be able to share it with you and hopefully, you'll be able to tell other people what we're doing and maybe use us as an example.

Try and stop me! 

So, I think lots of great stuff. I think people think about the lighting, I mean it's just amazing how LED lighting has come on. I think the compressor stuff you told me about, adapting your boards so that if a job stops through the night it doesn't continue. 

Well, it just wants you to say you say, why wouldn't you do that?

And those are really good things. I think the thing that probably I want to know more about is your cardboard packing and the fact that that you use your old cardboard and get your shredding machine to make packaging. 

Well, that was one of those epiphany moments. 

At the time we were buying something like 40 large rolls of bubble wrap a month to package our mouldings in and when we looked at removing all single-use plastics, clearly packaging is the biggest use of single-use plastics. So, we thought, well we have so much cardboard coming into the business with the deliveries that we bring in, why don't we reprocess that and try and use that as a packaging material? 

So, we looked at the market, found that three-phase cardboard shredders were available and we chose one, got it on site, started to shred cardboard instantly realising that this would actually be a direct replacement for bubble wrap. And in essence, within two or three weeks we went from using 40 large rolls a month to none. That not only saved us obviously all of the cost of buying that bubble wrap, but it removed all of that bubble wrap from the environment.

A win-win from a climate change perspective and also from a profitability point of view so obvious, why wouldn't you do that?!

And the other thing wandering around, you said about the solar panels -  great to see so many solar panels and the difference between north and south facing which is considerable. I might be interested to see some figures about that sometime but I think you said you bought them on a financial plan over five years?

Absolutely right,

and they'll pay for themselves within five years and then go straight to the bottom line?

Exactly right, we were really lucky that the company that we decided to partner with had a really good model that they used, obviously to woo us, I guess you'd say. So, they basically took all our half-hour data away, prepared the model, and then came back to us with a series of examples. When we looked at the cost of financing the system through an HP agreement, the actual monthly payment was less than the saving that we would make! Now, in layman's terms, I'd call that self-financing.

We were making a profit from the day the system was turned on, so once again, why would you not do that?  The solar farm we have on our roofs provides us with 32% of our annual power consumption during the summer months we're self-sufficient, why would you not invest in a system like that when actually from day one it isn't costing the business a penny?     

Has it made you look at the weather forecast in a different way now? 

I'm obsessed with the interface, I'm obsessed with the weather, I love the fact that if there's one cloud in the sky it really affects the performance of the system because I'm willing the cloud away. (Check out the installation timelapse)

Yeah, it must be a different perspective now, the weather forecast. It must entirely change with that kind of volume because you're a reasonably heavy energy usage aren't you with some of the processes.

Yeah, we have our compressor system, that's our largest drawdown on power and of course, two factories. Even though led lights are low consumption, they still add up, there's still a usage there. Obviously, our CNC machines are running on compressed air and clearly, they're using compressed air so the machinery, the compressors, the CNC's, the lights, they do add up. On average and in the middle of the afternoon  - in this factory, about a hundred kilowatts an hour of consumption, next door slightly less but it's significant so of course when we get to those June, July, August September months, where our 217 000 kilowatt hours of production is more than we're using, then we're exporting. Obviously, the export not only provides us with an income stream, but it provides us with carbon credits that we can use to offset other aspects of the business, so again it's a win-win

And the compressor, did you get a new compressor?

We did and we partnered with a company called Anglian Compressors, they use Atlas Copco compressors. They did a survey on air consumption and even though we put a brand new system in 10 years ago that was financed through the carbon trust, those 10 years have seen huge advances in compressor technology. So, they were able to give us a demonstration that showed that we would achieve payback on a new high-efficiency system within 18 months!

Once again, why would you not do that?

That investment in hardware, combined with the technology that we fitted to our CNC machines to cut off waste air when it wasn't needed, has seen us achieve something like a 60 percent decrease in the energy consumption that our compressor set up as a whole use  -  phenomenal savings.

I think we've seen the same the council, so, a number of years ago the technology changed for the cooling-heating system for the computer suite. For these quite big machines. I think when payback was under a year I just realized how quickly technology is moving, you can do things that actually heat exchange, rather than actually air conditioning  - it's so much better. But likewise in the lighting, you know we've moved to much better lighting and controls in terms of movement sensors but also light sensors. So, in my office, I've got four different lights and they all work independently, not quite randomly, it's actually when it's bright. So, the one nearest the window hardly ever goes on, it's got to be really dark. The one near the door is more frequently on and actually some of that clever technology that's around now that you can really reduce your energy usage. You've got to look out in the market as there are some amazing products around.

And the thing not to forget is all of these things are fantastic for the planet but they're great for the bottom line too. That's the thing that people don't seem to realize in greening your business and being a responsible manufacturer. You don't just help to save the planet, but you reduce your costs. Well, what business wouldn't want to do that whether they are green-minded or not? 

You know, it's so simple. And as we were walking around, we asked you about what your customers are thinking and what they're saying. A variety I suspect, some of them are really engaged and some of them are not?

There are obviously all different levels but ultimately, it's really obvious to me that as businesses are forced to become green, rather than doing it out of choice as we've done they're going to be forced to partner with companies that have good solid green credentials. So, when you look at Midas - carbon-neutral, certificated by the Carbon Trust, obviously a carbon net-zero business as a result of our partnership with the Forest of Marston Vale and we're moving forward on putting in place ISO 14,001 accreditation. Our green credentials are impeccable.

Why wouldn't a blue-chip company want to partner with a business that not only provides the very best polyurethane mouldings on the market but does it from a totally responsible place...

And that's the bottom line, it's where you get your business because of your product and how it looks. When we're walking around it's about the quality of the product and you also use green as well, so you'll get the work from that. 

I was going to ask you a really difficult question about what kind of trees are you planting and see whether you really know your trees, so I'm not going to do that because it will probably whatever James that Marston Forest tells you you're planting So, why this sort of partnership with Marston Vale Forest then?

Well, that's the key question, and I'm really glad you've asked that. As a business, it's absolutely incumbent on us to be responsible as a manufacturer, so achieving carbon neutrality in process is a fundamental principle for a green business going forward. Obviously, all of the carbon that we generate, that we create in our process, is our responsibility and we take that really seriously. Obviously, we've achieved carbon neutrality now but the product that we sell to our customers, the embodied carbon within that product is the customer's responsibility, but as we currently stand and with the climate emergency being so critical right now, I felt that we couldn't rely on our customer base to take responsibility for that embedded carbon quickly enough, so I decided to do that ourselves.

So, the only way we can achieve that is to put in place a carbon offsetting scheme that will obviously negate the embodied carbon in our product. Well, I'm not one for spending our hard-earned money on systems and organisations that I can't see, I can't visit and I can't audit.

So, I looked as locally as I could and I think you probably agree that three miles down the road, which is where the Forest of Marston Vale is, is about as local as you're going to get.

We were able to create a partnership - we've signed a five-year contract with the Forest of Marston Vale from which we will buy our pending issuance units which enable us to offset 100% of the carbon in all products that we sell, with effect from the 1st of January this year. I think if that doesn't show the intent of this business, I don't know what does. We are carbon net-zero as of 1st of January and I think when you look at our customers and our suppliers and our employees, you really can't work with or for a company that is doing more right now than we are to show true green responsibility. The partnership with the Forest of Marston Vale is the key to achieving that so I'm really proud of the fact that we have that relationship in place

Very good, impressive. I've got two questions, please

The first thing is will you come and talk to the Climate Change Committee at the council about what you've done. To share some of your experiences? 

I'd be delighted to and let me tell you why. It's all very well us all doing these things, putting these investments in place, making these changes, creating a climate for carbon footprint reduction but it's only half the story. For me, the key is spreading the word, building momentum, and encouraging other people, other companies, other businesses to do the same or to do everything that they can and so the opportunity to take another platform and to encourage people to change positively is key.

I know you've led me on a pathway to my second question. So, I just wonder, along with our filmmaker RANCEfilm if you would do a 30-second video once a month. The Midas top tip of the month.

I'd be delighted to, I'd be delighted to and I'm, I'm sure RANCEfilm would be pleased to support.

Thanks very much.

No, that's lovely. It's been really good talking to you today, thanks very much.

END
 

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Let's Talk Green - A Candid Conversation with the Bedford Mayor