Tag Archives: green

Matching sets – making greener choices

My guess is that the idea of matching sets goes with the industrial revolution and mass production. For most of history, most of our ancestors would not have replaced anything that wasn’t broken. Most people would have put up with broken things, or fixed them, or only replaced what was broken. The idea of matching crockery is a pretty weird one when you think about it in terms of how we use resources. Matching kitchen furniture. Matching bathroom stuff – these things are bulky and costly to replace, but so often if one goes, the lot has to go.

Of course, this whole approach serves capitalism very well. If we feel tatty and shameful with mismatched items and are persuaded to throw everything away and get new ones any time a single thing breaks, we spend more.

I recently went round this with the kitchen floor. A number of the vinyl floor tiles were breaking up and not fit for purpose. Doing the whole floor was clearly going to take a lot of time and effort, so neither of us got round to it. Eventually it dawned on me that there was no need to do the whole floor. No need to take up perfectly serviceable tiles in order to replace them. We bought a single pack of tiles, removed the damaged ones, inserted the new ones – a job that didn’t take Tom very long at all in the end. A small amount of unusable material went to landfill.

We now have mismatched floor tiles in the kitchen. It’s perfectly functional. It looks like what it is.

So much of it comes down to what we think is desirable, acceptable, good enough, versus what we think will get us judged critically. If looking overtly green was considered your sexiest option, it would be persuasive. If you thought people would look on you favourably for waste-avoiding choices, then chucking a whole bunch of things away because one thing was damaged, would not be even slightly attractive.

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Trains and trees – action needed

Generally speaking I think trains are a good idea and I’m broadly in favour of developing more train infrastructure.  What I’m not in favour of is the HS2 project which is going to cost a fortune and will trash irreplaceable ancient woodland.

I’ve run into this before – where apparently green solutions aren’t properly green because it’s not been thought through properly. Yes, tidal energy is clean, but getting it by ruining the unique habitat that is The River Severn is not the right answer. Yes, wind power is good, but not if you stick massive turbines in the paths of migrating birds, or destroy a unique habitat with them.

The living environment is not some kind of luxury bonus when we’re thinking about green projects. One of the problems with reducing things to their carbon impact is that we lose the more complex, nuanced truth of the real value in our landscape. Yes, in carbon terms you can just plant more trees, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that harm has been offset. Ancient woodland cannot be replaced.

We’ve played fast and loose with our ecosystems for too long. Anything that we can’t see an immediate use for, we treat as having little or no value.  As we become more carbon aware, this may not improve things. How do you value an ancient oak, an owl or a curlew if you’re just calculating the carbon implications? It leads us to poor choices and to continue failing to understand that ecosystems are complex, delicate things. We treat a species as irrelevant at our peril.

A sustainable future means preserving as much wildness as we can. Sacrificing unique habitats for the sake of projects that claim to be green isn’t going to save us. Offsetting is often nonsense, and proposed offsetting plans seldom get close to recognising the harm done, much less mitigating successfully against it.

Find out more about HS2’s ancient woodland impact here – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/our-campaigns/hs2-rail-link/

Take action here – https://campaigns.woodlandtrust.org.uk/page/46290/action/1


Living Wages, Green Wages

Depending on who exactly you ask and where exactly you live, a living wage in the UK is £9 -£10.55

The minimum wage in the UK for people over 25, is £8.21 per hour. The government website tells us ‘An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £3.90.’ https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates – There are clearly working people in the UK not earning the minimum wage.

So, first up, it’s important to acknowledge that people under 25 get a minimum wage that isn’t the same as everyone else’s and is a long way short of the living wage. Self employed people can’t (speaking from experience) always earn minimum wage and as companies seem ever more inclined to turn employees into self employed freelancers, that wage pressure increases.

How is the living wage calculated? According to https://www.livingwage.org.uk/calculation  “MIS asks groups to identify what people need to be able to afford as a minimum. This is fed into a calculation of what someone needs to earn as a full-time salary, which is then converted to an hourly rate.”

The first obvious point to make is that the living wage is based on the idea of the minimum needed to live – so the minimum wage set by government falls short of that for everyone – with massive implications – and for the under 25s to a degree that is alarming. Many people are not earning enough to live on, with all that this implies for their quality of life and their scope to choose. Also, if you can’t work full time – caring commitments, poor health etc, you probably can’t earn enough to live on, because that hourly rate depends on the assumption that you are able to work full time. If you’re on a zero hour contract, you may well not be working full time every week.

What people need to be able to afford as a minimum will not allow you to buy organic food – which is always more expensive. It won’t allow you to always pick out the more expensive fair trade and plastic free options. For this money, you will not be able to afford a state of the art electric car easily. You may have no choice but to buy clothes that aren’t so good for the environment. Things that will last longer and are more efficient may well be out of your price range. A living wage is not a green wage, it is not enough money to be able to make all the best ethical choices and still live.

If we want to pursue a green agenda, it is absolutely necessary not to have people priced out in this way. Environmental justice requires social justice. You can’t pay over the odds for greener goods if your income only covers the basics, or doesn’t even stretch that far.

I’ve been looking online to see if anyone has calculated the minimum wage for affording to live greenly – I’ve not found anything. If you know of any good sources, please leave comments.


Transition Towns for Pagans

This May, the Pagan Federation online conference was green themed, and during the planning phase, Debi asked if anyone could talk about the Transition Towns movement. As it happens, Stroud (aka home) has a hefty transition community all working in many different ways towards sustainability and reduced carbon use. Our district council aims to have the district carbon neutral by 2030!

This is the film I made about my experience of being a small part of that…

Find out more about The Transition Network here – https://transitionnetwork.org/


How being smart harms the planet

The fashion industry has been under some scrutiny of late for the environmental harm it does. A lot of clothing gets worn once and sent to landfill, and the notion of fashion is held to blame. However, there’s also the issue of looking smart, and what we now imagine that to mean.

Smart clothes are new clothes. There are no marks, no worn bits, no faded bits and no repairs on smart clothes. My son’s school is big on the idea of ‘smart’ and clear that a visible mend isn’t good enough. This wasn’t always the way of things and for much of the past, clean and neatly mended was smart enough for most of us.

New clothes speak of money. New clothes announce that you do not need to make do and mend, you can afford to throw away and replace. To look smart is to look affluent. However, the planet can’t afford us to keep going with this idea of richness.

It helps that I don’t do the kind of work where people will expect me to look ‘smart’. Authors are renowned for working in their pyjamas. We’re allowed to look a bit eccentric at events. It’s not unusual to find people at Transition meetings with old paint on their clothes, upcycled gear, things mended, and repurposed. I recall a fabulous hat made out of a child’s jumper… Equally in steampunk gatherings, remaking has kudos to it. I can go into those places wearing a skirt made out of offcuts from worn out shirts, and any judgement I get will tend towards the affirmative.

When we focus on smart, we also tend to focus on what we can buy readymade, which in turn means conformity, fitting in, having what everyone else has. Readymade means unoriginal, bland, lacking personal expression – and these might be good ways to push back against the smartness that harms the planet. If we prized innovation and originality more, then we’d be more up for upcycling and re-purposing because it would be all about showing off personal skill and cunning.

The current notion of smart, is modern. Our Viking and Saxon ancestors, I gather, took great care of their kit and meticulously patched damaged clothes to keep them going. When your culture says that your smartness is measured by how deftly you can make repairs, then that’s how you focus yourself. When your culture says ‘smart’ is a poor quality garment you throw away after a couple of wears, that’s apparently what we do.

Conventionally smart clothes are boring, unsustainable, and involve little or no personal creativity. Keeping usable fabric out of landfill leads to much more fun, innovation, skill, delight and scope to be unique.


Make radical green resolutions

This is the year to make radical green resolutions. Change your life, and help reduce the amount of harm we’re doing to the planet.

The most important areas to look at are energy use, transport, your home, your plastic use and your diet.

Where possible switch to a greener supplier or source.

However, many of these things can’t be dealt with by just buying a greener option. If for example we replaced all the single use plastic packaging with some other material, the scale of use means there would still be a massive environmental impact. We have to cut back, radically. All of us. Those of us who have most have to cut back most.

We have to question everything we do, everything we use, everything we buy. If you’ve been justifying to yourself something you know isn’t sustainable, now is a good time to re-think it. If you can’t give it up entirely, cut it back as much as you can. If it’s something you can’t solve personally, make a commitment to campaigning for change.

Make a New Year’s resolution that involves radical lifestyle change. Do it for the planet. Do it for yourself. Do it to start building a better and more sustainable life. Do it because it’s the right thing to do.


Greener Christmas – keep the light levels down

Christmas decorations that light up are a way of warding off the darkness at the darkest part of the year. They are an antidote to short days and grim, wintery weather, and that’s fair enough, but less, is definitely more.

Consider the raw materials that go into making lights and the wires that connect them. Consider the energy required to power them. Consider the light pollution if you put a lot of them up outside. Consider how that extra light may impact on those around you, and also on wild things.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here. I find it hard to imagine Druids plastering the outsides of their homes in flashing lights made out of plastic, or running up the electric bills to burn brightly through the night.

I hate the wasteful excess of it all, and the ones that flash I find maddening. How do we persuade people to give up on this? I can understand the urge to have a bit of light, cheer and prettiness. But the mad excesses (yes, I have a near neighbour who does this) confuses me. Beyond a certain level, it’s just invasive. I can see no joy in it. I don’t know how to persuade people whose motives make so little sense to me, so if you have any insights, please pile into the comments.


Greener Christmas – cut out the plastic

Here’s a simple tip to make Christmas greener: Cut out the plastic. Don’t buy anything that has significant packaging on it – all those gift boxes the supermarkets like to put together are just bundles of waste that have to be dealt with. Let’s send them a clear message that we don’t actually want a ton of extra packaging as part of the season.

Don’t buy plastic disposable things.

Don’t buy gifts in single use plastic packaging.

Don’t buy gifts that are themselves made of plastic – especially not the kinds of cheap children’s toys that are likely to break soon and wind up in the bin.

It can be tempting, especially when buying for children, to want to present them with a big mound of gifts to open. It is of course more affordable to do this by purchasing lots of cheap, plastic toys. Overwhelming a child with low value things that will go in the bin teaches them some unhelpful lessons about consumption and waste and will set patterns they’ll have a hard time breaking in later life. If they can break them at all. It is much better to have fewer things of better quality and to learn to take care of them and value them.


Greener Christmas – give something useful

Here’s an option for making Christmas a bit greener: Give people things they can use. Give them food and drink, clothes, toiletries and useful or essential things that they are missing. Make sure these are things that keep well, and they will be used and none of them will be abandoned to landfill.

We are subjected to a lot of messages that useful things – such as socks – are terrible presents. A proper, glamorous present costs a lot more and has less utility. Children don’t want warm clothes, they want a plastic toy based on a TV program. Allegedly.

This is a great time to provide people with nice things they wouldn’t necessarily be able to fund for themselves. Think carefully about what the person you are buying for might need – so many people are living in poverty at the moment; small useful gifts are much more valuable than things of no utility in this context.

Also think about how to tackle the issue of gifts with any friends or family members who might struggle to afford it. Offering not to do Christmas can really take the pressure off. The gift of not driving someone else into debt is a huge one, and well worth considering.

Poverty tends to cause feelings of shame and inadequacy, so it can make it very hard to say ‘I can’t afford to buy you a present’. If you are in a better position, take the initiative here. Start those awkward conversations. Give the gift of caring about other people’s situations.


Have a greener Christmas

For the next couple of weeks, this blog is going to be all about having a greener Christmas, Yule, or whatever else you celebrate. I’m going to mostly say ‘Christmas’ because I think more people will find it if I do. Also, Christmas is the festival especially tied in to commercialmass, and it’s the specifically Christmas derived traditions that I am going to be challenging. So, if you’re having an eco-friendly Yule already, or a sustainable solstice, you probably don’t need what I’m wafting about. However, I’m asking for shares, tweets, reblogs and so forth on this content if you can spare me a moment over the coming weeks. (Not this one, this one doesn’t really have much in it…)

Christmas is a terrible time for waste, consumerism, debt and perpetrating the idea that stuff is what we need to be happy. As a species and as a planet, we can’t afford this kind of attitude.