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The Peak
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Julia Hawkins
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Ashden team

Sarah Butler-Sloss
Founder Director

My life before Ashden

I've always loved the natural world - at university I studied Zoology and Psychology. After graduating I worked in a clothes retail company and then as a photographer of portraits and landscapes. In the late 80s I became increasingly aware of the problems and strains humans were inflicting on the natural world. In 1990 I set up the Ashden Trust with my husband to help support those organisations that were addressing social and environmental problems. As we became more aware of environmental problems it was increasingly evident that few people were talking about or demonstrating what the solutions looked like in action. For many years we supported a range of work in East Africa that brought modern light from renewable sources and clean cooking facilities to remote communities. In the process we saw the life-changing impact these technologies were having on people’s lives and learnt a lot about the sector. Inspired by what we saw I established the Ashden Awards in 2001 to highlight the transformational impact sustainable, clean energy has on people’s lives and the local and global environment.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

insulating my home and double glazing my windows; making the most of our large south facing windows for passive solar gain; using solar water heating and energy efficient appliances; throwing out my tumble drier; growing and eating delicious vegetables (and cutting back on meat); reducing my work and holiday travel as much as possible; and when I'm not on the train or the tube I drive a peaceful Prius!

The next step on my journey is…

to get solid wall insulation

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

walking in beautiful landscapes, sailing on gorgeous seas, and relaxing in whatever sun I can find.

Simon Brammer
UK Programme Manager

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

Before Ashden I was the Chief Executive at London Cycling Campaign pursuing two passions: sustainable travel and a love of two (non-motorised) wheels. Before that I was a senior manager in the National Health Service. I did, however, start my career as a griddle chef at Little Chef – a chain of motorway service stations.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

retrofitting my own home to be much more energy efficient. I have installed solar panels and a wood-burning stove to keep it toasty in the winter. I’m also a total bore on lighting (ask my colleagues). I can probably answer any question you might have on LED lighting. It rocks, it really does - LED bulbs have the equivalent power and light quality of an old-style 100 Watt bulb using just 7 watts. Ask me if you want to know more! Oh, and like many of my colleagues, I cycle to work most days too.

The next step on my journey is…

to try very hard not to fly and to instead discover great parts of Europe by sleeper train. I think high speed train travel will eventually replace short-haul flights. It‘s much more civilised and you get to see beautiful scenery too.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

on the water possibly – I love sailing; up a mountain; with my feet up, a glass of wine to hand with a good book in front of the afore mentioned wood burning stove.

Ed Dean
Head of Development

My life before Ashden

I studied Art History at University and then pursued a career in marketing and retail. But by the early 90s I was became increasing involved in environmental causes and much of my recent working life has been focused on fundraising to protect the natural environment.

It’s gratifying to see sustainability being taken seriously and embraced by so many people, including government and big business. But there’s still a long way to go to rebalance our relationship with the planet. The transition to sustainable energy is fundamental to that rebalancing. Working for Ashden feels like I’m playing a part in making that change happen.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

I’d like to think that I tread as lightly as I can. All the lights in our house are LED and those (my children and occasionally my wife) who dare to leave a light on when not in the room – are severely rebuked. At least half of the food we eat is local and we eat far less meat that we used to, which with a protein-devouring teenage son is not easy. But for all my best endeavours, I’m not greener than green – sometimes that fillet steak eyeing me from the supermarket shelf is too much too resist.

The next step on my journey is…

I’d like, in the next few years, to ditch our ugly old gas boiler and replace it with a wood burning stove. I’m also looking into installing solar panels at the back of our house. I’m also keen to do more locally and I have recently joined up with a social enterprise in Lewes, East Sussex, whose remit is about sustainable living and transport.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

In a pair of waders cleaning up the local pond, clenching a handsaw and grimacing as I cut through the trunk of a laurel bush, or out in the fields walking with Bruno the dog.

Ellen Dobbs
International Programme Officer

My life before Ashden

Before joining the team here I spent three years at behaviour change charity Global Action Plan (who are UK Ashden Award winners), helping all kids of organisations and individuals make positive changes to reduce their environmental impact, from small businesses to NHS Trusts to national supermarket chains. Prior to that I completed a Masters in Sustainable Development and volunteered for a range of sustainability and development organisations. I originally studied French & Classics at university and have worked as an English as a Foreign Language teacher amongst quite a few other roles.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

Taking the train wherever I can when I go on holiday, rather than flying (I love a cross-Europe train adventure) and trying to walk as much as possible in London. I am also reducing the amount of meat I eat and trying to expand my knowledge of interesting veggie recipies.

The next step on my journey is…

To learn more about insulating my flat…and try to get my landlord on board.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

Doing something creative. I love photography, design and printing. I have recently been restoring an old letterpress printer and am teaching myself to use it.

Emma-Louise Frost
Communications Assistant

My life before Ashden

My interest in sustainability stemmed from a combination of having a very outdoorsy family who love camping and being raised on nature documentaries. When I chose to study biology and ethics at A-level this interest grew and I knew that I would love to work in a sector that was doing something to help. After studying marketing at university, I completed an online marketing internship for the RNLI and knew that I wanted to combine my passion for all things digital with working for a charitable organisation. After spending the past two years developing my marketing skills at a travel company I saw the opportunity to work for Ashden and grabbed it with both hands!

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

not using my car as much now that I can walk and get the train to work. I also constantly follow my housemates around turning lights off after them and shutting the fridge door, much to their annoyance.

The next step on my journey is…

to buy more local, in-season produce to reduce my food miles.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

cooking, going back to Dorset to see family and friends and trying to see as much live music as I can afford.

Alex Green
Travel and School Awards Manager

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

Before Ashden I worked as a sustainability consultant: supporting public and private sector organisations to be more sustainable. I advised them about resource efficiency, environmental management, waste, water use and much more. I also ran my own business providing sustainability workshops to businesses and schools. Before that I worked for Kent County Council and the Environment Agency running the Environment Awards for Kent Business.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

Reducing the amount of energy I use in my home as much as possible. We have cavity wall and loft insulation as well as double glazing throughout the house. We turn off everything when it is not in use and only use the heating when really needed. We have a veggie patch which provides us with lots of lovely fresh, organic produce. We try to use our car as little as possible by walking the children to school and cycling whenever we can.

The next step on my journey is…

To try and use my car even less by using more public transport. I would also like to continue to expand our veggie patch and maybe incorporate a few more fruit trees, but I may have to train my children to do the weeding first!

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

Mostly running around after my three little boys. We are a very outdoor family and all enjoy camping in France and playing sports. I am a keen runner and enjoy taking part in 10km races when time allows.

Danielle Jones
PA to Sarah Butler-Sloss

My life before Ashden

I have been working at the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts for fifteen years and working on Ashden since it began in 2001. Before then I worked at the Mental Health Foundation.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

recycling at home, using low energy light bulbs and leaving the car at home and walking wherever possible.

When I am not working you’ll find me…

playing tennis, running (not very fast!) or watching my son play football.

Pete Knight
Fundraising Assistant

My life before Ashden

I decided to volunteer for a local organisation that supported children and education in Zambia while studying towards my MA in International Relations. This turned in to a permanent fundraising position, building on my interest in issues surrounding development in Africa. I have also done a stint in the recruitment industry as a researcher and been chief composter at a local plant nursery.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

Composting! Coming from a family of farmers, I have been brought up on the idea that natural fertilizers (of all types!) are pretty important to our environment, both in the re-use of waste and in the replacement of manufactured substitutes. Anything from tea bags to old mags are all great ways to get tip-top soil.

The next step on my journey is…

To use my bicycle as much as possible instead of catching a bus or hopping on the tube. This might also help in my general uncertainty as to where I am in London at any one time. I have also been pestering my landlord to install double glazing – as yet with little success.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

Outside, either finding a green bit of London to trot around in or heading home to the countryside to play cricket for my old club (mostly for the tea and cakes).

Mike Pepler
UK Awards Manager

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

I originally trained as an Electronic Engineer, completing my degree and PhD at Leeds University, and also gaining some work experience in the nuclear industry. After five years working in silicon chip design, I decided that the future of our energy supply was a bigger issue, and retrained in renewable energy at Reading University. I did some work for Ashden during my course, and was delighted to join the team when I’d completed my studies.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

heating our house entirely from wood and solar thermal, supplying some of our electricity from solar PV, working from home, shopping locally and not having a TV.

The next step on my journey is…

a difficult one, we’ve already done the easy and medium tasks to cut our energy use. The next steps are getting into the blocked off cavities in our dormer roof to insulate them, insulating the flat roof sections, and eventually installing external insulation – we’ve already filled the cavity wall.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

in the woods with a chainsaw. We’re fortunate to own a few acres of coppice woodland, which we manage ourselves to supply all our own wood for home heating. As it’s coppice, the trees grow back rapidly to be harvested again in about 15 years, and the management is good for biodiversity. It’s also great fun and very satisfying work.

Chhavi Sharma
International Programme Manager

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

My interest in sustainable development began as a teenager, when I went to Rishi Valley, a boarding school in the drought-prone hinterland of South India. Not only was the school self-sufficient – home-grown food, solar energy, bio-gas plant and percolation tank to capture rainwater – but it had taken on the role of improving the lot of the neighbouring villages by running a rural school programme and the reforestation of surrounding hills. After completing my MSc in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics I spent seven years working in the sustainable energy sector, focusing on energy access and rural electrification. The first six were at Lifeline Energy, managing clean technology radio and lighting projects across sub-Saharan Africa. Then, before joining Ashden, I worked as a consultant for Nuru Energy, a social enterprise providing off-grid lighting solutions to rural households in East Africa and India through village-level entrepreneurs.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

using public transport and doing little things around the house, like reducing my electricity and water consumption, recycling, reusing plastic bags and buying locally sourced, seasonal produce as much as possible.

The next step on my journey is…

to make my flat more energy efficient by insulating the windows, and to start cycling again.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

travelling, taking photos, hiking, cooking and baking

Suzy Van den Eynde
Administrative Assistant

My life before Ashden

I joined Ashden in September 2008 and was pleased to learn how much sustainable energy is at the forefront in the UK and the developing world.

And I am still learning a lot! Now that we’re working with Eurostar for a Sustainable Travel Award I’ve discovered all about the innovative green travel projects in Belgium (where I moved from a long, long time ago). As a native Flemish speaker I particularly enjoyed spending time speaking to potential applicants in Belgium this year.

I am trying to live more sustainably by…

leaving the car behind as much as possible, but with two kids who have to be ferried around all the time it’s not so easy!

Also, I like organising house-swap holidays all over the world – a sustainable way to travel!

Kinga Várnai
Awards Coordinator

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

Following a brief stint fundraising for various charities and an even briefer time in the private sector after uni, I realised that using money to achieve something positive rather than trying to make money was much more my style. I spent nearly five years at the Department of Health working on a health research capability that aimed to make research using routinely collected data in the NHS easier, faster and more cost effective, promoting ‘the health and wealth of the nation’. When this great programme came to an end in 2012 it gave me the chance to re-evaluate what I was doing, and the opportunity to get involved with a sustainable energy charity was too good to miss!

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

cycling everywhere I possibly can and failing that, walking or using public transport. I try and do all the little things as much as possible – my housemates know my aversion to plastic bags well! Food waste is a big bugbear as well; I make sure I never get in a situation where I have to throw food out.

The next step on my journey is…

to try to get a sustainable yield from my balcony and window sill veg gardens. Tomatoes and peppers take care of themselves with plenty of water, but I have lots to learn about the root and brassica families.

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

reading, learning about the natural world and the environment or knitting – my knitted zoo is starting to reach impressive proportions!

Joanna Walton
Head of Communications and Deputy Director

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

My first passion in life was art and design – I studied textile design – but my path to working at Ashden started when I travelled to Borneo many years ago and saw the destruction of the rainforests with my own eyes. It ignited a desire in me to do something to protect our environment. Since then I have worked largely in the voluntary sector in the fields of environment and communication. Four years at Media Natura, an environmental communications agency, were followed by a few years at the Media Trust where I was Communications Director. A short career break to do a course in horticulture and have a baby then led to Ashden where I have worked since 2005.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

reducing our domestic energy consumption. We live in a ‘hard to treat’ Edwardian house in London. With solid walls, leaky sash windows and an antiquated heating system making it more efficient has been hard work. But, over the last year we have reduced our energy consumption by 30% through DIY secondary glazing, enthusiastic draught-proofing, energy efficient light bulbs and appliances and behaviour change. We also use the car as little as possible, choosing public transport or walking wherever we can.

The next step on my journey is…

to reduce our energy consumption further. With solar panels installed at the end of 2011 I hope that our electricity use will go down even more and we plan more insulation in our quest to go even lower. And on my wish list of course is a wood burner!

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

Spending time with my daughter, reading (I’m a member of two book clubs!), walking in Kew Gardens and pottering about in my garden.

Anne Wheldon
Knowledge and Research Adviser

| Linkedin

My life before Ashden

My previous life was as an academic working on renewable energy. I started as a lecturer in Applied Physics at the University of Swaziland – that’s really where I became convinced of the need for better and more sustainable energy solutions.

I’m trying to live more sustainably by…

checking my household carbon accounts each year. Nerdy though it sounds, it really shows where we’ve achieved big changes (cutting gas use through insulation, reducing car use etc) and where we have stood still despite our efforts (electricity).

The next step on my journey is…

to get my head round the climate impact of my own household consumption (ie: the goods and services that we buy). It bothers me that the national talk of the ‘need for GDP to grow’ ignores the climate impact of that growth. And, on a more practical level, having done all that we can with insulation, we’re starting to double glaze our house!

When I’m not at work you’ll find me…

quilting. I’d put it aside for half a lifetime, but re-joined a quilting group last year, and I’m now quietly obsessed. It’s a good way to make an attractive insulation material too, so that you can turn the thermostat down.