Here are a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to Sustaining Dunbar and some of the projects supported. Please check to see if your question is answered here, if not, feel free to get in touch and we will do our best to respond.

Why Sustaining Dunbar?

Sustaining Dunbar was launched in April 2008 to provide a means for people to get together to start planning and creating a positive and sustainable future for the Dunbar and East Linton area as we face up to the challenges of Peak Oil, Climate Change and the likely unravelling of the globalised economy. As we wean ourselves off our dependence on fossil fuels, how can we use this as an opportunity to build a better future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren?

What is Sustaining Dunbar?

Sustaining Dunbar is a network providing a structure to support individuals and groups in the Dunbar area to work towards creating a sustainable local economy. Some of these groups are run purely by volunteers while others have been supported to obtain funding to progress their projects.

Sustaining Dunbar is a charity run by a Board of volunteers elected from the membership. Membership is open to any resident in the Dunbar and East Linton ward who supports the aim of working together to build a strong local economy.

Sustaining Dunbar is part of the worldwide Transition Network and a member of the Development Trust Association Scotland.

What is Peak Oil?

‘Peak Oil’ refers to the maximum extraction rate of oil, after which the rate of extraction will decline. It has been found that the extraction of oil from any oil field always follows a more or less bell-shaped curve: first the oil is discovered and once it starts to be pumped out, the rate increases steadily until it reaches a peak, after which it becomes impossible to pump at the same rate and production goes into decline.

World discovery of oil peaked in 1964 and has been declining ever since, despite considerable improvements in technology, and there is no prospect of any significant large discoveries. We are currently consuming more than six barrels of oil for every one we discover. There is a growing consensus that we are now approaching, or are even at, the world oil peak. We will no longer be able to build our lifestyles and economy around the assumption of an ongoing cheap supply of this amazingly concentrated form of energy.

Furthermore, remaining oil reserves are going to need considerably more energy put in to get the oil out. The net energy (Energy Return on Energy Invested) available is therefore not as big as we might expect and the decline in energy produced could therefore be considerably steeper than the size of the remaining reserves might suggest. Add to this the fact that oil consumption in the major oil producing countries is itself increasing and within 20-30 years there may be little oil available to be traded on the global markets!

What projects have been supported?

Some examples include:

  • Dunbar Community Bakery – This grew out of a group of volunteers who came together in 2009.  Sustaining Dunbar supported them to obtain funding for a feasibility study, market research and preparation of a business plan, helped them to set up as an independent, community-owned cooperative and to launch a community share issue. They eventually succeeded in opening a bakery and shop on Dunbar High Street in October 2011. This has created 8 (full-time equivalent) new jobs –including for several people who were previously long-term unemployed. www.thebakerydunbar.org
  • Energy Advice Service –  Since April 2009, Sustaining Dunbar has employed several trained energy auditors to provide impartial, personalised energy advice and support to householders. Over 1000 local homes have benefited from this service to date, saving an estimated £100,000+ in fuel bills per year. In addition, about 400 homes have received free (or heavily subsidised) cavity wall insulation or loft top-up insulation, 4 community halls have been upgraded and, wherever possible, fuel poor households have been assisted to access grants from the Scottish Government Energy Assistance Package. This would not have been possible without funding from CWP – the commercial operators of Aikengall Wind Farm) who enabled setting up BeGreen.
  • Dunbar 2025 – In April 2009, Sustaining Dunbar received funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) for a two year project to raise local awareness of the need to reduce our carbon emissions, to research the barriers we face in doing so and to lay the groundwork for the future structural changes in the local economy required to achieve substantial long-term carbon savings. 26 local facilitators were trained and employed to carry out door step interviews. Numerous public events were held and over 1500 people contributed their ideas and knowledge towards the development of Sustaining Dunbar’s ‘Local Resilience Action Plan’. This plan is now providing a guiding framework for Sustaining Dunbar’s future activities. Copies of the plan are available on-line at http://ourlocality.org/2025/ and in Dunbar and East Linton Libraries. A report of this CCF project, which also funded the energy audit team, is available here: http://ourlocality.org/dunbar2025/
  • Connecting Dunbar – This one year project from 2010-11 was awarded funding from from the Climate Challenge Fund, to research local travel patterns, identify the barriers to greater use of walking, cycling and public transport and to produce resources such as route maps and timetables. A report on this project is available here: http://ourlocality.org/connectingdunbar2011/
  • What’s Stopping You? – The What’s Stopping You? project was supported by Cycling Scotland’s Cycle Friendly Communities Fund and ran from 2011 until March 2012. It gave new and returning cyclists vouchers of £25 to spend at a local bike shop on a bike service or equipment that they needed to get their bike back on the road. Sustaining Dunbar can still help with the cost of equipment to allow you to replace car journeys with cycling ones, but this is now under the banner of our Household Canny Challenge, supported by the Climate Challenge Fund.
  • SpareWheels Car Club – Arising from a need identified by the Connecting Dunbar project, a group of volunteers was supported to establish an independent Community Interest Company. Thanks to support from the Scottish Government, they were able to launch in March 2011 with two community owned cars. Membership currently stands at about 90 and the have 4 cars, including an all-electric Nissan Leaf. SpareWheels is part of the Co-wheels network of community-led carsharing clubs. This gives members access to 67 cars all over the UK, from Dunbar to Portsmouth. www.sparewheels.org.uk/
  • Dr Bike and fix-your-own bike sessions – These ensure bikes are safe to ride and provide free ‘prescriptions’ for people to take to local bike shops for parts or maintenance required. www.ourlocality.org/drbikesblog
  • Cycle Friendly Dunbar – A scheme for local businesses to attract passing cyclists by offering a ‘bike first aid kit’ including a pump and puncture repair kit. www.ourlocality.org/cyclefriendlydunbar
  • Rural East Lothian Bus Users – Realising that public transport issues are larger than the ward area covered by Sustaining Dunbar, we made contacts with other individuals and groups across East Lothian to set up the RELBUS campaign group. Their aim is to improve the reliability and frequency of the local bus services, promote and encourage the use of the local buses and negotiate reasonable fares/season tickets/discount cards for local people by liaising with local bus companies and East Lothian Council. Sustaining Dunbar continues to be involved ensuring that Dunbar issues remain high on the group’s agenda www.relbus.org.uk
  • OurLocality Web Platform – The Dunbar 2025 project research highlighted the need for community groups and others to be easily able to set up their own websites and network with other local projects. Thanks to a small lottery grant, the OurLocality web platform was established in mid-2010 and currently hosts over 50 websites for local projects, businesses and individuals. http://ourlocality.org/
  • Nourish – Sustaining Dunbar hosted and helped to organise a national conference of Scottish Local Food Networks in October 2009. This led to the founding of Nourish (Scotland) which is working to support communities across Scotland to ‘produce more of what they eat and eat more of what they produce’. www.nourishscotland.org.uk/
  • East Lothian Environment Forum – Volunteers from Sustaining Dunbar and other community groups in East Lothian worked with East Lothian Council to set up this forum in 2008 as part of the East Lothian Community Planning Partnership. The forum produced the East Lothian Environment Strategy (available here) which has been adopted by East Lothian Council.  Sustaining Dunbar is now working with the successor Dunbar and East Linton Area Partnership to support the implementation of East Lothian Council’s Single Outcome Agreement 2011.
  • Dunbar Fairtrade Partnership – A volunteer run group initiated by Sustaining Dunbar which is working to achieve Fairtrade Town status for Dunbar and District. http://ourlocality.org/dunbarfairtrade/
  • Worms Work – A project working mainly with the five local primary schools to educate children in food waste reduction and encourage households to start making worm compost from food waste. http://ourlocality.org/wormswork/
  • Neighbours Together – A project which is helping households to easily access advice and support to reduce their energy bills and carbon footprint and to come together with others to share experience, plan neighbourhood actions, such as food growing and ‘living streets’ projects. http://neighbourstogether.org.uk/
  • Dunbar Community Energy Company – A group of volunteers set up this company as a trading subsidiary of Sustaining Dunbar to explore options for generating income for community projects across the Dunbar and East Linton area. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful in their efforts to secure a 500kW community owned wind turbine on Cocklaw which had the potential to create a profit of about £5M for local investment over the next 20 years and the company is currently not active. http://dunbarcommunityenergy.org.uk/
  • Friends of Dunbar Station – This group of volunteers looks after the platform gardens at Dunbar Station with the blessing of the managers, East Coast. Sustaining Dunbar was instrumental in bringing the group together in 2013 and has donated fruit and herb plants, a community noticeboard and book-swap as well as organising fund-raising and awareness-raising events at the station.
  • East Lothian Community Rail Partnership – Led by the UK Association of Community Rail Partnerships, and supported by the Scottish Government and SESTran, the East Lothian Community Rail Partnership is only the second such partnership in Scotland. Sustaining Dunbar has been involved from the start with the aim of attracting more people to use the train as an alternative to private car travel.
  • Events and Festivals – These have included the major ‘Gathering-In’ festivals in Autumn 2010 and 2013 which included a local produce and crafts market and gave community groups an opportunity to promote themselves to a wide public and to network with each other, two ‘Apple Day’ celebrations, four ‘Bikefest’ events and numerous other filmshows and workshops. See https://sustainingdunbar.org/ for regular updates on forthcoming events.

How many members does Sustaining Dunbar have?

There are currently 149 members of Sustaining Dunbar (Feb 2013). Several hundred more people participate in the projects that Sustaining Dunbar currently supports.  Anyone wishing to become an ‘official’ member can sign up here.

How much does Sustaining Dunbar spend on salaries?

Sustaining Dunbar only employs staff or consultants for projects for which it has succeeded in raising grant funding. Detailed budgets, including for salaries, are agreed in advance with funders. In the 2009/10 financial year a total of £115,504 was spent on employment costs of 8 staff and contractors (5 full time equivalent). This includes National Insurance payments.

How are staff recruited?

Any posts for which we have received funding are advertised locally and nationally with a full job description and person specification. The Board of Directors are responsible for appointing a recruitment panel who ensure a fair and transparent process. Sustaining Dunbar is keen to recruit the best qualified staff.

How do you avoid conflicts of interest? 

We are fully aware of potential conflicts of interest and follow good practice to ensure that these are dealt with in an open and fair way. Dunbar is a small community and often those involved in the development of projects, giving their time and expertise freely over many months and years are also those who may be the best people to actually carry out paid work if funding becomes available. We do not want to discriminate against those willing to volunteer by preventing them applying for employment or consultancy opportunities when they arise. We advertise opportunities and those with any vested interest are obviously not involved in the selection process. We select fairly and appoint external expert interviewers where appropriate, giving everyone with relevant skills and experience the same chance of work. We want to employ the best people, whether they have previously been involved in Sustaining Dunbar or not. Everyone who volunteers with us is aware that this does not give them any guarantee of paid work.

What carbon reductions have been achieved to date?

Estimates of carbon reductions resulting directly from projects funded by the Climate Challenge Fund are detailed in our reports: Dunbar 2025 (Project ran from 2009-2011) and First Steps to Resiliance (Project 2012). However, short term carbon reductions are only one aspect of creating a resilient future and we are mainly focussed in putting in place the local policies and infrastructure that will make it easier for us all to live using much lower levels of fossil fuels in the longer term. To date (Feb 2013) our energy advisors have carried out over 800 full energy audits and have given advice and support to several hundred more households. Energy savings amount to about 3300MWh per year, equivalent to about 864 tonnes of CO2e per year. This equates to a saving on local energy bills of about £187,000 per year at present.

On public transport use: for the last year that we have survey data (to March 2012), public transport use increased by about 4% in the Dunbar area. Some of this quite significant change is very likely to be due to increased fuel costs and general austerity. However, those who have accessed our travel advice do show a greater level of behaviour change than those who have not.

Are we meeting our targets?

We originally intended to carry out many more energy audits but quickly found that households need a lot more time-consuming personal advice and follow up support than we had originally assumed. Nor are the energy savings achieved anything like enough at the moment. To achieve Scottish carbon reduction targets and for us to have homes that are affordable for us to heat to a comfortable level in future, we need an urgent programme to retrofit our local housing stock to a much higher energy efficiency standard. This will have a high upfront capital cost that most householders can’t currently afford or finance and we have added complications in the Dunbar area with so many houses in Conservation Areas – restricting what can be done to insulate solid stone walled properties. We are pessimistic that that the UK government’s new Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation funding will provide much useful support to enable this to happen any time soon either. That is why we are also working to influence policy at local authority and Scottish Government level.

As with reducing energy demand, increasing public transport use is not easy. As much as anything, we actually want to be reducing people’s need to travel at all which is why we seek to promote local leisure opportunities and are working to increase opportunities for local skills training and employment.

How do you ensure responsible financial stewardship?

The Board of Sustaining Dunbar is answerable to the members, to funders, to OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) and to Companies House. Funders lay down stringent procedures for monitoring and accounting for grants.

Can we afford Sustaining Dunbar in these times of austerity?

It was precisely to help us all face up to the challenges ahead, including economic austerity, that people came together to form Sustaining Dunbar in 2007.

What is a Transition Initiative?

Transition initiatives are communities that have come together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?

What is a Community Development Trust?

Development trusts offer a fresh approach to community regeneration. Independent and under community control, these organisations draw together the energy, commitment and creativity of local people to tackle local issues. Through enterprise and the ownership of local assets, development trusts address the economic, social, cultural and environmental needs of their communities. Sustaining Dunbar is a member of the Development Trust Association Scotland.

Why do we need to prepare for ‘Energy Descent’?

The term energy descent refers to the downward half of the peak oil curve, when the Age of Cheap Oil is over and world energy supplies have entered an inexorable decline. In ‘Energy Descent Pathways’ (download from here) , Rob Hopkins defines energy descent as being;

“The continual decline in net energy supporting humanity, a decline which mirrors the ascent in net energy that has taken place since the Industrial Revolution. It also refers to a future scenario in which humanity has successfully adapted to the declining net fossil fuel energy availability and has become more localised and self-reliant. It is a term favoured by people looking towards energy peak as an opportunity for positive change rather than an inevitable disaster.”

What is a Social Enterprise?

A Social Enterprise is a business with primarily social or environmental objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose and not for private profit.

Sustaining Dunbar is a member ‘Social Enterprise in East Lothian’ and sees social enterprise both as a way of delivering many of the aims of creating a strong local economy at the same time as generating profit to be reinvested in local community projects. The Bakery Dunbar, SpareWheels Community Interest Company and Foxlake Adventures are examples of local social enterprises. More detail can be found here.

How can I get involved?

You can join Sustaining Dunbar as a member; start a new working group (email philip@sustainingdunbar.org with your ideas); subscribe to updates from the website to make sure that you are kept informed of events; join our facebook site, follow us on twitter @sustaindunbar ….what are you waiting for?