Yes I really did it, the loony dook. A swim in the sea on new years day in a green dress and a high vis Greener Leith vest. So why do something so ridiculous? Well I don’t want your money but I do want your time. The time it takes to read this article. I want to tell you about my switch and my year in green. I want to ask you to consider a new years greenolution.
The story begins just over a year ago when I thought I was green because…
A) I recycled – partly because my Swedish flatmate exploded if I put anything in the wrong bin, but mostly because it was the right thing to do.
C) I was on the green team
D) I nearly always switched off lights when I left the room – again my Swedish flatmate had made little stickers and would check up…
E) I once volunteered on a marine survey boat in Greece
F) I liked the outdoors
But my life was about to change. I started a new job at environmental charity Changeworks in Waste Prevention. I entered a new world, my eyes opened. I hadn’t actually been that green on the inside afterall. Something was changing inside of me.
I realised throwing away food wasn’t just wasteful, it was actually giving off methane as it sat rotting in landfill sites. Methane is a greenhouse gas 21 times stronger than CO2. My food was making our planet warmer. An invisible barrier set itself up between me and the bin, was it my conscience? What ever it was, it led me to start throwing scraps of stale bread and pie crusts over the bridge down onto the bike track on the way to work. I was trying to feed the birds but then I realised I was probably feeding rats so I stopped. Instead I made a big effort to waste less with advise from Kitchen Canny.
I discovered Edinburgh sends 500 tonnes of waste by train to the landfill site in Dunbar every day, that’s the weight of 100 elephants! Imagine everything you’ve ever thrown away lying in a hole in the ground. It’s not surprising that we’re running out of space and we need an alternative solution.
One of the problems with the Green is we often preach to the converted. We have stalls at environmental fairs and the Green visit and get greener. We have stalls at festivals and carnivals and the interested Green come over and again, the Green get greener, the divide increases. We can appear smug and self-righteous, we put people off by telling them what they do wrong and don’t encourage what they do right. We judge before setting an example. We take ourselves too seriously. But we’re not all like that. On behalf of the elite green few, if this has been your experience, I apologise. Please do give us a second chance.
I’ve made some recommendations, some suggested new years greenolutions. Some are very easy and take a few seconds. Others require more effort. I jumped in the Sea, can you do at least greenolution number 1? And if you’re already doing them, can you suggest some others – why not add your suggestions below?
My 2011 Greener Leith Greenolutions
Greenolution 1: Share this article
Email it to a friend, tweet it, like it on facebook. It’s just a click. Talk about it. Write about it. Care about it.
Greenolution 2: Talk about the Fresh Water Pearl Mussel
A species on the brink. It lives in Scotland. It rides on the gills of salmon and trout and then drops off in clean rivers, if there are any. It can live for 100 years and grow to 15cm. It’s pearls are in the Scottish Crown Jewels. Wars were fought over it. It’s amazing and it needs our protection. It’s my number one endangered species. I’m writing a song about it, it’s the blues: “I’m more rare than a polar bear, why O why O WHY… does nobody care?” Find out how you can help Scottish Natural Heritage preserve it.
Greenolution 3: Sign up for the Greener Leith weekly news email
Every Monday you’ll get the latest stories from Greener Leith news. You don’t have to read them all. But some may interest you. It’s free. If you live in Edinburgh, it’s relevant. Click on the link to sign up.
Greenolution 4: Watch The Story of Stuff
Consumerism was designed to boost our economy after the war. We’ve all been convinced we need the latest things to be happy. Manufacturers purposely design things to be useless in a few years. It’s like the Matrix, take the pill, watch the film – it’s just ten minutes. Talk about it, pass it on. Escape from consumer society.
Greenolution 5: Get on your bike
Or get one if you don’t have one. You can get around on bike tracks if you don’t like roads. Pick up a second hand bike form The Bike Station for £50 to get started. If you have a bike, get on it, use it. Go for bike rides, enjoy the wind on your face in all weathers. Save money, get fit. It’s carbon free fun transport. Get help form We Love Leith. You can download our Leith Travel Map for free and if you travel further afield you can buy an Edinburgh Spokes Cycle Map from any of the bike shops in Edinburgh.
Greenolution 6: Watch Robots, talk Robots
A fantastic family film with an all star cast including Robin Williams, Ewan McGregor and Halle Berry. It will make you laugh out loud. It’s the story of stuff but with characters and a plot. It speaks out against the consumer ‘why be you when you can be new’ message and gives an alternative message ‘see a need, meet a need’. Repair, don’t consume. Changeworks were facilitating an activity for schools to go with the screening of Robots for the Take One Action Film Festival. We all made robot wrists bands from old bottles and put pledges in them. I asked volunteers to come out to the front and read the pledges. One boy from Kaimes Special School said, I can’t write so I drew a picture of a light bulb to remind me I can shine no matter what I’m made from. This film really is that good.
Greenolution 7: Chuck it on the Checkout
When you buy overly packaged goods, you’re saying you approve of the amount of packaging used. I don’t approve. Thankfully you can legally leave your packaging on the checkout at a supermarket to demonstrate your objection. I started a facebook group a year ago called ‘chuck it on the checkout’. I’m ashamed to say I’ve not been diligent in my attention to the group, it was a one hit wonder to raise awareness of the issue. If someone would like to take over or make a fan page – please do!
Greenolution 8: Value food, don’t waste it
Greenolution 9: Sign the RSPB’s letter to the future
Sign the letter and show politicians you care about endangered species and the future of our planet.
Greenolution 10: Mend it and keep using it
Every Saturday morning in Leith you can take your clothes, bike and electrical goods for free mending at Tinker Tailor.
Greenolution 11: Go Outside
Enjoy the birds on the water of Leith. Watch the butterflies, they’re amazing, a big fat ugly catterpilla, makes it’s own silk, wrapps itself up and a few weeks later, a thing of wonderous beauty emerges. It has thin legs, a long touge and it’s covered in hexagonal light reflectors, it can even fly. That’s like a human changing into a rainbow Sea Eagle. It’s amazing, appreciate it. Head to the Wilderness, connect with nature and care about it. Remember, change is possible.
Greenolution 12: Insulate
Simple and effective. Saves energy and saves you money. Get draft excluders. You may even qualify for free top up insulation in your roof. Contact the Home Insulation Scheme for free advise.
Greenolution 13: Grow your own
Grow cress on cotton wool, or something in a wondow box. Train to be a community gardener and start a backgreen garden in your tennemant. Go and help at an allotment. If you have a garden or an allotment, you are lucky! Use it. Share it. Eat the fruit (or veg) or your labour. Now get growing and grow something else.
Greenolution 14: Volunteer
Do something to help. Do something that matters. Do something you care about. Or something different. Pick up litter on your local beach. See a need, meet a need.
Greenolution 15: Use Too Good to Waste
It’s an online A – Z encyclopedia of Practical ways to Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle in Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Scottish Borders. You can pick up a hard copy from Changeworks or your local library.
Greenolution 16: Use charity shops
Donate, buy things. We don’t need to make so many new things, we’ve got loads already, it’s sitting in charity shops wating for you. Pick up a charity shop map from Changeworks, your local library and at many charity shops. Or download one here.
Greenolution 17: Compost and Quick
Subsidised bins have stopped but there are still stocks left. Get your bin quick and start using it. Turn your leftover peelings, tea bags, card and paper into something useful for the garden. If you get stuck there’s a helpline and a Master of Composting can even visit your home to help you.
Greenolution 18: Value Water
It covers two thirds of the surface of our planet. It’s the only substance found naturally on Earth in three forms, solid, liquid and gas. Humans can survive for around 2 days without water, maybe 3 if we’re lucky. It makes up two thirds of our bodies, three quarters of our brains, lets think about it since we can’t think without it. When we use water we use energy. Find out all how to use less energy and get water efficienct in Greener Leith article ‘Water, water everywhere’
Greenolution 19: Switch your bulbs, switch your thinking
Very soon, the only bulbs available for purchase will be energy savers. You’ll be forced to switch. Right now you can make a choice. I was waiting until each bulb went before I made the switch. But then I switched to save money and the environment, quick and easy. I even got energy saving spotlights, yes they were more expensive but you save you money in the long run. I saw the maths, I made the switch, I wished I done it earlier. And every time I switched on my lights, their slow brightening was a symbol of my new awakening. I was inspired to write about it in verse:
My Energy Saving light bulb,
You’re my switch to make things right.
You’re my graduated, understated, ice cream of de-light.
What you lack in elegance,
You redeem in radiance.
What I lack in eloquence,
You redeem in pounds and pence.
You’re my personal sunrise surprise,
My shining light of bright demise.
My world is changed now through your eyes,
To summarise. – I love you
Unveil the eyes of all to see,
The marvel of technology,
In your potential energy.
I crave your luminosity,
But there are those who do not see…
They do not see your glory,
Blind to your wattage story.
My energy saving light bulb,
Oh why have they forsaken you?
Forgive them, forgive them.
For they know not watt they screw.
The world will only change when green issues become everyone’s issues, when culture shifts and the divide between people who are already committed to taking green action, and your every day person is closed through dialogue. It’s like any issue, we often ignore it until it becomes an issue. How will it become an issue? Well if you talk about it, write about it, care about it. I don’t just want your time, I want you to turn over a Greener Leaf. It’s time to switch.
Special thanks to my Official Towel Bearer and Camera Woman Jacki Morris, Assistant Towel Bearer Deni, to Drivers and Fellow Dookers Dave Mackay and Kathryn Linton, to the rest of the Dookers (Jane, Elizabeth, Lizzie) to Chris Foster who asked me to dook and to Ally for editing the film.