Our vision for sustainable transport in the UK in 2030

This year The Big Lemon will be 10 years old.  This is a good time to reflect on our journey, and look at where we want to go and what we want to achieve in the next 10-13 years.

It’s been one hell of a ride.  From humble beginnings with three old buses and a van full of biodiesel in a car park to Brighton & Hove’s Business of the Year 2016, it has been a rollercoaster of epic proportions.

Where it all began…
The Big Lemon was the first bus company in the UK to run its whole fleet on 100% recycled waste cooking oil, and the first bus company in the UK with a Facebook group (that was before they even had ‘Pages‘!)  An early adopter of Twitter, we were laughed at in 2009 for using it as a means to communicate service updates to our passengers.  Now everyone’s doing it.

The Big Lemon Team - Brighton
Team Lemon
In 2017 we have seven coaches, two little buses and a minibus working four daily bus services in Brighton & Hove as well as private coach hire, music festival coaches and Sunday Walks.  Last year we drove almost as far as the moon, taking over a quarter of a million people to where they wanted to go and saving over 220 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere in the process. We also got stuck into all sorts of local community initiatives such as Brighton Festival, a scheme to help long-term unemployed people get training and work experience, and a lunch club for elderly residents in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

Last year we also did a lot of work on the Bigger Picture, asking questions like “what’s it all for?”,”what’s the point in us?” and “where are we going with it?”.

The Dream Team deep in thought
Looking back over the last few months…

The Big Plan for the future
Following a Solar Bus Retreat in Dream Valley, five Dream Team meetings in Brighton, a month of relationship-building in Bristol, two full Team Lemon meetings, umpteen cups of tea and a few sneaky craft beers we agreed on our purpose:

“to enable everyone to get around their community in an affordable, environmentally-sustainable way”

and our 2030 Vision:

“By 2030 every community in the UK has access to affordable, sustainable transport, using zero-emissions vehicles powered by renewable energy and owned by the local community”

 

Anything’s possible
The Solar Bus Retreat team selfie

because Life’s more Fun on The Big Lemon!
So how do we go about that?

the-big-lemon-is-hiring-a-new-md

We have decided that the best way to achieve our goal is to hire a Managing Director to take The Big Lemon in Brighton & Hove to the next stage of its development; and set up a wider network to realise the 2030 Vision. This network will be led by our CEO Tom Druitt and would have four functions:

  1. to develop creative and innovative solutions to address the transport needs of the future in a sustainable way
  2. to facilitate the creation of new social enterprises in other communities under The Big Lemon’s umbrella, with shared values and a common purpose but operationally independent and locally-owned
  3. To provide training and coaching to support and develop the new teams in the network
  4. To provide business support in the form of licensing, marketing, administration, financial and legal support to give all the social enterprises in The Big Lemon family the best chance of success.

Would you like to be part of our future – and help us realise our vision?

Come to our AGM on Sunday 5th March at 3pm at Lemon HQ.  The whole community is welcome, but only shareholders are able to vote.  If you’d like to come please fill in the form below so we know how many people to expect:

Do you know anyone who would relish a new challenge leading one of Brighton’s most exciting businesses, and one of the UK’s most innovative social enterprises?  Please tell them about our new vacancy for a Managing Director in Brighton.

 

Happy New Year from all of us at The Big Lemon!

We’d like to wish all our passengers, customers and friends a very happy New Year!  The last year has been our best so far and we’d like to share a few highlights.

Here’s the 60 second whistle-stop tour:


January: We set our aims for the year:

  1. To benchmark our performance in each area and set up a system for measuring our performance
  2. To use the system to improve our performance in each area over the year
  3. To become the best workplace in Brighton & Hove
  4. To go for growth.
  5. To start operating services with electric buses.

February: We set out our electric bus plans and raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses. We now have two in a factory in Sheffield having their finishing touches done; we will take delivery of these in the New Year.  In February we also went on a team fun day out, digger-racing in Kent.

March: In March we had a big Team day, where we shared our hopes and dreams, both as individuals and for The Big Lemon. The same evening we had our AGM, where it was agreed to invest 80% of our surplus from 2015 in our electric bus plans and in the company’s growth, and split the remaining 20% between a staff fund for our team, and our very first dividend payment for our shareholders.

April: We held two public meetings, in Ovingdean and Woodingdean, to meet our passengers and the wider community to find out how our Service 52 was going and what residents needed most in the future. We also did surveys on all three of our services, and found high satisfaction levels on all services, with highest marks (93% in one survey!) going to our drivers for their friendly, personal service.  Our main area for improvement was found to be the lack of technology giving passengers real-time service information, something we are addressing with our new electric buses.  In April we also won a “Best Recycler” Award from Paper Round for our 82% recycling rate, up from 64% the year before.

May: The May bank holiday weekend saw us kick off our festival season, with Beltane Fire Festival just outside Lewes. We were also honoured to be the subject of Patcham Junior School’s float in Brighton & Hove’s Children’s Parade.

June:  In June we started two new bus services for a large employer in Hove, providing their staff with a shuttle bus between Hove Station and the office, and also a daily coach shuttle between their offices in Hove and Surrey.  We also won two awards at the inaugural Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards, for Innovation and Green Business.

The children of Patcham Junior School made a Big Lemon bus for the Brighton & Hove Children’s Parade

July: We took over the lease on our depot on 1 July from our landlord (who retired), giving us much more freedom to do things like… put solar panels on the roof (more on this later!)  But before we could anything with the depot we had to get rid of two scrapped cars and two shipping containers’ worth of rubbish!

August: We bought another coach in August, taking our coach fleet from three to seven in less than six months. These coaches worked pretty much non-stop all summer, on weddings, parties, school trips, day trips, music festival coaches and transport for language school students.

September: We won a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards this year, winning the Green Business Award, Best Place to Work, and Business of the Year. Probably the proudest moment in our story so far.

At the Brighton & Hove Business Awards The Big Lemon won awards for Green Business, Best Workplace and Business of the Year!

October: Our Solar Bus campaign with Brighton Energy Coop  won the regional contest for the M&S Energy Awards, with 1473 votes and 171 crowd-fund backers raising a total of £13,325. Together with £12,500 from M&S Energy this campaign raised £25,825 to put 128 solar panels on the roof of our depot to power our new electric buses. We’re massively grateful to everyone who helped, and especially to Sussex Backup, Infinity Foods and Buddies Cafe for their very generous financial support. Incredibly, we also won the Transport category at the 2016 P.E.A. Awards.

November: This year undoubtedly has been the best yet for so many reasons, but what put the cherry on top was recognition at the UK Social Enterprise Awards in London, where we were named Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.

December: What a year – thank you for being part of it! To finish, here are some stats:

  • over 270,000 passengers carried on five bus services
  • 624 private coach hires, not including regular hires, festival coaches or our subsidised trips for community organisations; an average of 52/month or 1.7 per day
  • 1133 people taken to 12 different music festivals
  • 84 local walkers taken on 7 Sunday Walks
  • 97,700 litres of biodiesel used, diverting 112 tonnes of cooking fat from the waste stream
  • 218,416 miles driven by a total of 16 different buses and coaches
  • 220 tonnes COsaved from the atmosphere (from using biodiesel instead of diesel)
Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all our passengers and friends – Cheers!

The Big Lemon wins national social enterprise award

The Big Lemon, a social enterprise based in Brighton has won the Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year  award at the UK Social Enterprise Awards, held on Monday night at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London [28 November 2016].


The national competition recognises excellence and outstanding achievements by social enterprises – businesses that reinvest their profits for good, benefitting people and planet. There are now more than 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £24 billion to the economy each year.

The Big Lemon was recognised for its use of recycled cooking oil in the buses and the progress made in pursuing zero-emissions electric buses powered by renewable energy.

Tom Druitt, Founder & Managing Director of The Big Lemon said the award was “the icing on the cake” of a very good year and paid tribute to the drivers who put in “120% every day to give an awesome service to passengers”.

The annual celebration of British social enterprises was hosted by two time Edinburgh Comedy Awards Finalist, Nish Kumar. The ceremony was attended by leading UK social enterprises, representatives from large corporates and the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP.

Social enterprise supply chain

The Big Lemon and the other winners were presented with bespoke trophies made by the social enterprise, Designs in Mind, which employs people with mental health problems. Social enterprises also supplied all the goods and services on the night, including the catering, rigging, drinks, flower displays and goody bags.

The Awards are organised by Social Enterprise UK, the national trade body for social enterprise.

Peter Holbrook CBE, Social Enterprise UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“Year on year the UK Social Enterprise Awards get bigger and better. This year the competition was particularly fierce, so a big congratulations to insert name of your social enterprise for taking home a trophy.

In a year that’s been dominated by political uncertainty, divisions and inequalities, hearing the stories behind the winners and all the finalists has been a breath of fresh air. Social enterprises show that another way of doing business is possible, one that puts people and the planet first. Because they’re free of shareholders they’re able to reinvest their profits for good.”

Social enterprise facts and figures*

• There are 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing 24 billion to the UK economy and employing one million people.

• Social enterprises are experiencing a start-up boom – 35% are three years old or less, three times the proportion of SME start-ups.

• Social enterprises are much more likely to be led by women than mainstream businesses – 40% of social enterprises have a female leader, compared with 18% of SMEs and 5% of FTSE 100 companies.

Sponsors of the Awards are the British Council, Big Society Capital, CAN, GLL, Johnson & Johnson, Landmarc, Mutual Ventures, Natwest, PwC, P3, Santander and Wates Group. The Big Issue is media partner to the Awards.

* Leading the world in social enterprise, a report published by Social Enterprise UK, 2015 – http://www.socialenterprise.org.uk/advice-services/publications/state-social-enterprise-report-2015

The Big Lemon wins funding for Solar Bus project from M&S Energy Fund

Following a marathon six week effort from hundreds of local people, The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has won funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon zero-emission electric bus

The 120 solar panels will generate 30,000kW of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. With no emissions, the Solar Buses will reduce noxious gases in some of Brighton and Hove’s most polluted areas and will power the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton on 100% renewable energy.

We’re thrilled to have won the regional M&S Energy Award for our Solar Bus project and would like to thank all those who voted, pledged funds and shared our story to help make it happen. This will enable us to cover the roof of our depot in solar panels so we can run our new electric buses on renewable energy.

As far as we know there is nothing quite like this in the country yet, so this award will help us push the boundaries of what is possible and bring a zero carbon, zero emissions bus service to our community.  We would like to pay tribute to the other wonderful projects in our region and wish them well in developing their plans in the future.

Tom Druitt, Managing Director

The Solar Bus project was one of 199 different applications to the scheme, 125 of which were shortlisted.  These were put to public vote for six weeks during September and October and the voting process also included the option to donate to the project via the Crowdfunding platform.

We have been overwhelmed by the amount of public support for this project and would like to say a special thank you to all those who have helped us get this far.

This is a journey of discovery, and we have discovered above all the value of partnerships. We started off with just two organisations and an idea and now have a whole community of people engaged in the project, a number of local businesses supporting it, and enough money to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s depot in 120 solar panels – enough to run a whole bus service on renewable energy.

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Coop

The Solar Bus project was one of 19 regional winners, with 1549 votes, 170 pledges, and a total of £13,325 raised through crowdfunding, almost half the total amount of£28,798 raised through the scheme nationally.  The project will benefit from £12,500 funding from M&S Energy which, together with the £13,325 crowdfunding donations will fund the solar array on the roof of the bus depot.

Congratulations! A fantastic achievement

Andrew Boag, Chair, Brighton & Hove Buswatch

The project has received support from a number of local businesses including three Founding Partners: Sussex Backup Ltd, Infinity Foods and Buddies 24 Cafe, and five Founding Sponsors: Yelo Architects, Propellernet, Acumen Business Law, Ideal Glass & Glazing, and Mooncup.

sussex-backup-ltd   infinity-foods    buddies

The solar panels will be installed in the New Year and the first solar bus will go into service in the Spring of 2017.

 

The Big Lemon scores a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards

The Big Lemon was the big winner at the 11th Brighton & Hove Business Awards, scooping the Green Business award and Best Place to Work as well as the big one itself: Business of the Year.

What a massive honour! Huge thanks go to our team for their incredible efforts every day, to the local community for supporting us, and to the people of Brighton & Hove for honouring us in this way. Thank you!

Tom Druitt, MD

At the award ceremony Tom thanked the people of Brighton & Hove for their support and urged everyone to vote for The Big Lemon’s Solar Bus project currently competing for funding from the M&S Community Energy Fund.

Winners featured in the Argus newspaper 

Other big Brighton names who took home gongs on the night included Brighton Gin which won awards for Business Beyond the City and New Kids on the Block. The gin distiller was also highly commended as the one of the best businesses in Brighton.

This year’s Outstanding Brightonian was named as Sarah Springford, Director of the Chamber of Commerce since 2008.

Presenting Sarah with her award, Mike Gilson cited Sarah’s terrific work with the Living Wage. Said Mike:“Thanks to her hard work and dedication almost 300 businesses in Brighton & Hove have signed up to the Living Wage.

“Sarah has transformed the Chamber and delivered some really amazing results on behalf of businesses in the city.”

Sponsors for 2016 included Allied Irish Bank, Brighton and Hove Buses, Cardens Accountants, City Cabs, Dental Health Spa, Gatwick Airport, Gemini Print, Graves Jenkins, Martin Searle Solicitors, RBS, Robinson Low Francis, TSS Facilities and Yelo Architects.

Title Sussex, Platinum Business and Juice 107.2FM were media sponsors.

The BAHBAs are supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Brighton & Hove City Council, Brilliant Brighton, the Brighton and Hove Food Festival, the Brighton Business Curry Club and Brighton & Hove Tourism Alliance.

They all came together to create a competition which acknowledges the diversity and uniqueness of Brighton and celebrates those companies, organisations and individuals who really build the Brighton brand.

The Big Lemon & Brighton Energy Co-op shortlisted in joint Solar Bus project bid

The Big Lemon and Brighton Energy Coop‘s joint Solar Bus project has been shortlisted in its bid for a share of the M&S Community Energy Fund, to cover the roof of The Big Lemon’s bus depot in solar panels to power the new electric buses on clean green renewable energy.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop

The 120 solar panels will generate 30kWh of electricity – the equivalent of 1.8 million kettle boils. This will power the whole of the 52 route between Woodingdean and Brighton city centre on 100% renewable energy, with no emissions coming from the bus at all.

It’s great to be working with The Big Lemon on the innovative Solar Bus project. Brighton Energy Co-op has many exciting projects, but never before have we covered the roof of a bus depot in solar panels to power the buses that live there.

This is the first project of its kind in the UK – a very exciting time for us and a project that puts Brighton & Hove at the forefront of renewable energy and transport in the UK

Will Cottrell, Chair, Brighton Energy Co-op

The M&S Community Energy Fund launched in July 2015 and has already funded 26 projects around the country. The aim of the fund is to enable more communities in the UK to generate renewable energy and become environmentally and financially sustainable. This year there is £350,000 up for grabs for the best projects, as voted for by members of the public.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

The total cost of the 120-panel installation will be £25,000. The Solar Bus project is hoping to raise half of that through crowdfunding, and attract enough votes from members of the public to win £12,500 of funding from M&S Energy to cover the other half.

The Big Lemon Solar Bus project with Brighton Energy Coop
Will from Brighton Energy Coop and Tom from The Big Lemon in the bus depot discussing how it will all work

Crowdfunding benefits include an entry on the ‘Solar Bus Wall of Fame‘ on The Big Lemon’s website, an invite to a special Solar Bus ‘Founders Dinner’ and even naming rights on The Big Lemon’s first electric bus.

I’m hugely grateful to the M&S Community Energy Fund for giving us such a fantastic opportunity, and excited to be working with Brighton Energy Co-op on the Solar Bus project – with their expertise in solar installations we can’t go wrong.

All we have to do now is get enough votes on the M&S Community Energy Fund website and achieve our crowdfunding target… no mean feat!  We are calling on everyone who wants zero-emissions buses powered on renewable energy in Brighton & Hove to help us in any way they can!

Tom Druitt, Managing Director, The Big Lemon

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

The Big Lemon is on a mission to bring zero-emissions electric buses to communities across the UK by 2030, all run by the local community and powered by renewable energy.  This pilot project will not only be great for Brighton & Hove, it will also be the first step towards making this vision a reality.

To support the Solar Bus project please

Vote for The Big Lemon Solar Bus Project!

and share the project page at https://www.mandsenergyfund.com/projects/the-big-lemon-solar-bus-project.

Thank you!