Welcome to the second instalment of RenEnergy’s Future Voices content series. Every month, we’ll be talking to a different individual with a clear vision on how we can safeguard the future of the planet. Our Future Voice this month is Leon Davies. Leon previously ran Norwich-based zero-carbon taxi firm, Zero Taxis. He now works as a consultant on green initiatives.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Welsh by birth but have lived in Norfolk for the last twenty years. After leaving school at 16, I enjoyed a great military career for fifteen years. I eventually left the military to start a family and started working offshore. Here I gained specialist knowledge of oil and gas, but also renewable energies such as solar and wind.
Two years ago, as I was travelling in Holland, I got in an electric taxi at Schiphol Airport. It really inspired me, and I decided to see if I could do something similar in Norwich. With the support of Broadlands Council, I launched Zero Taxis.
Unlike other ‘green’ taxi firms, Zero Taxis didn’t just stop at electric vehicles. We used solar power and battery storage to charge the taxis overnight. You can’t get any cleaner than going from sun to solar, to battery, to car! The business was a great success, achieving rapid growth and multiple business award wins. However, I was still working offshore at the time and couldn’t keep up with the firm’s growth. So, last year Zero Taxis was acquired by one of Norwich’s largest taxi firms, ABC Taxis.
I still work as an electric vehicle consultant and am supporting ABC Taxis on their mission to create a fully EV fleet by 2025.
When Covid-19 happened, I also started work on a new venture. I was approached by a group of East Anglian entrepreneurs to create an organic food delivery solution for people shielding from coronavirus. I thought it sounded interesting, so I agreed to manage the logistics for Goodery. Over the last few months, this initiative has really taken off. We now deliver 100% organic groceries to over 400 local customers.
As well as being an entrepreneur, I’m also a family man. I have two sons, and I love rugby, Guinness, and doing what I can for the planet.
Can you tell us more about Goodery?
We created Goodery to provide those who were shielding from coronavirus with organic food, delivered straight to their doorstep.
Everything we sell is 100% organic, including fruit and vegetables, baked goods, coffee, eggs, and soap. That means absolutely no pesticides or chemicals. We believe that choosing organic produce is a vital way to protect the health of our planet. The quality of the world’s soil is failing due to intensive farming and pesticide use. Some scientists predict that the UK has just 100 fruitful harvests left. By choosing organic, we can all do our own bit to help maintain a plentiful food supply for many years to come.
Goodery’s operations are also 100% net zero emissions. Where possible, we use electric vehicles for transit and delivery. We offset any emissions we do create by planting trees. We’re also zero waste: we don’t use plastic, only reusable containers that our customers return to us when finished.
We know that cost is one of the biggest obstacles stopping customers from buying organic produce. As we refine our operations, we’re able to lower our prices weekly to support our customers and encourage more people to shop organic. Since we purchase our stock directly from organic farms, our farmers receive a greater profit share too. We source produce as locally as we can and currently work with organic farmers in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, and Hertfordshire. Twelve weeks in, we have already acquired Arthur’s Organics: a Norwich-based veg box delivery service launched in 2002. We also support local farmers that want to switch back organic farming methods.
Since launching, the reception for Goodery has been amazing and we’ve received some amazing reviews. We have already outgrown our premises and moved to a larger industrial unit. Our goal now is to reach 2,000 customers in a year.
What are some achievable steps that businesses or organisations can take to operate more sustainably?
Firstly, if your business owns its own roof, why wouldn’t you put solar there? In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer. It allows businesses to save money on their energy bill and do their bit for the environment. Securing your own method of on-site energy generation also allows you to future proof your business.
For those that can afford it, swapping to EVs can make a huge impact to your business’s carbon footprint. In just two years, Zero Taxis prevented over 100 tonnes of C02 from entering the atmosphere.
Other than cost, I know that one of the greatest obstacles to EV adoption is range anxiety. As an EV consultant, I work with a lot of big businesses that are greening their fleet with EV. I provide training on EV charging, and support to alleviate range anxiety. After trying an EV and receiving just a little more education, most businesses find that the typical EV range is suitable for their needs.
And finally, I advise all companies to check out what government grants and tax reliefs are available for implementing green measures in your business.
What sort of green future would you like to see for East Anglia?
I believe that if the council got behind it, Norwich could be a frontrunner for EVs. Our city is home to a lot of forward-thinking people who can make a change, but the council needs to open the door.
Although Norwich is a green city overall, regions such as Oxfordshire and Dundee put us to shame. These councils have really bought into EV technology, and so have set up the required networks. Our local authority, on the other hand, can be a little slow to embrace change. Norwich, especially the Prince of Wales Road area, is very polluting. If you’d like to make a difference, start by writing to your MP and asking why we have 15-year-old buses on our roads. The technology is available for EV or at least hybrid buses, now we need the infrastructure.
Personally, I’d like to see more people take small steps to action positive change for the planet. We could all afford to live the way we did 40-50 years ago: walking more, eating local and organic produce, and taking holidays within the UK. If everyone did what they were comfortable with, together we could create a sizable and sustainable impact for the planet.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee. If you’d like to be part of RenEnergy’s Future Voices series, email Melissa.