Loving the wheels of change
Wondering if the new trend for carbon conversations is for you and your family? Nicola Baird offers some help
There’s a slightly soggy Carbon Conversations invitation in this week’s organic vegetable bag, several EcoTeam leader-training invites in my in-box and a friend, Cinzia, with two young children, telling me she’s just about to lead a Carbon Conversation (which should see her fellow CC’s cut an impressive tonne of carbon within a year). While at 10:10 there’s an update setting a light bulb challenge to see if the tens of thousands who said they’d like to cut their energy use by 10 per cent by 2010 can sort out their lights, one switch at a time.
Seems like there’s quite a trend here for small groups of friends, neighbours or people who live not too far from each other to meet up and hand hold as they talk about ways to make their homes a bit more energy efficient, or a bit less energy profligate, maybe both.
Have you heard of any of these groups? I better explain that EcoTeams are groups of six people who meet up each month for around six months. Together an EcoTeam decides what actions they can do at home and discuss the things they’ve done – then upload it on to a website. EcoTeams are masterminded by Global Action Plan (GAP) and offer a brilliant way to make new friends as well as cut down on expenses and packaging. Plus you get to save the planet and some of the participants also get a certificate from UNEP. GAP has found that the average person taking part in an EcoTeam reduces their carbon emissions by 17%, the water they use by 15% and cuts their household bills by £170 a year.
But with such a crowd of eco-DIY initiatives what is the best thing to do, especially if you’ve got young children – which makes going out at night for an EcoTeam meeting impractical or even impossible? I think the answer is to copy the ideas and just take your family’s green transformation a steady step at a time. So when there’s a choice always aim to pick the one that’s least damaging to the planet.
Some of the mums and dads I interviewed for my book Homemade Kids: creative, thrifty and eco-friendly ways to raise children have used this lifestyle principle in ways that they invariably say have also improved their life – made it more fun and more family orientated (eg travelling by train rather than plane). Or made them fitter/happier (eg, using bikes more often than a car). That’s why this blog entry includes a photo of Rebecca (above) who has cycled miles with her child as a way of having fun getting around and keeping her family’s carbon footprint down. In fact this snap she sent was taken when Rosa was about seven weeks old and on the way to a festival. Not so long after Rosa’s family made their way from London to Spain – by bike.
While Jude, a very sporty mum of one year old Oli, decided to buy a buggy that could convert into a bike so that he could still enjoy pedal power and whiz her baby around the supermarket when she reached her destination.
As much as I love bikes, I’m also a great fan of just plain old walking – the more you take your baby out and about the more places and people you get to know, the more life you breathe into your community and the more easy it becomes to sort out the niggles, eco or not (eg, dog poo…). Walking is second nature to my girls now – I’m sure that’s why Lola, 11, was fit enough to do just fine in a long distance run the other day (she’s now on Islington’s girls cross country team) and Nell, 8, got to read out a heartfelt poem she’d written about Walking (and walking, and walking home) at her recent class assembly.
Don’t tell anyone, but very naughtily (for me) I’m doing a little bit of extra street pounding (wearing out my own and the kids’ wellies) in order to admire my car club’s new vehicles, BMWs. Perhaps as a special treat we’ll walk to one and take a purposeful half hour drive just to see if a new posh; brand is as energy-efficient as it claims? That’ll at least be something to report back at an EcoTeam meeting…