Turn over a Greener Leaf in 2011… for dooks sake

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.

B) Every day I encouraged children to care about the environment at the Scottish Seabird Centre. I helped them to love Puffins and to see the plastic in bird’s stomachs.

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

Plan your meals, use up your leftovers. Check sell by dates. Don’t let your leftovers rott in landfill and cause global warming. Get tips from Kitchen Canny or Love Food Hate Waste.

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 


Awaken curiosity,

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.

Read more from Emily on Sustainable StoriesTwitter or Facebook.

Written by Emily Dodd

  • Aged hermit

    Interesting post. however …

    Reducing packaging at source is a better solution than wasteful recycling. Recycling is time consuming and needs to be transported etc. Less packaging would immediately and honestly reduce the need to recycle would it not?

    The energy saving bulbs arecworkable but far from ideal. Have a look at recommended ways of safe disposal of these bulbs. They contain mercury. They represent a hazard.

    The biomass energy plant is a green solution supported by green groups. Of course it isn't really a green solution is it? There is always another green group who oppose any suggested solution.

    Whilst consumerism is hardly ideal no one has come forward with a workable alternative. Given the size and growing power of China and India it seems unlikely that a change can be developed in any reasonable timescale. What is the alternative?

    Mend, be canny and control the purse strings have been strong drivers for Scots over many many years. What did your Granny say? Sensible stuff, dull and boring but clearly factual.

    Please also bear in mind that the latest government plan for sustainable energy using wind etc. Also includes the cost of additional gas and clean coal power generation as standby for when the wind doesn't blow in the required manner. Hardly a reasonable way forward.

  • Hannah

    Right, I'm gonna start growing my own herbs and things and try isulating my window better. I think I will have to read this a few times over for most things to sink in but I'm totally on board with the food stuff, it's insane how much people waste. I do have one objection though, as a rat lover, can't they eat the stale bread too? haha

  • Emily Dodd

    Aged Hermit, Lots of interesting and valid points.
    Hopefully you will see the point of the article is to get people thinking and talking about these issues. My Granny is very good at reducing waste too, sadly not everyone is like her.

    I thought I was green because I recycled, I then realised I wasn't actually that green and there's far more to it. There are so many issues to be aware of, I've highlighted a few that have made a difference to me and made some suggestions including reducing waste e.g. mend, reduce food waste, buy less etc.

    I've included reducing packaging at the supemarket when you could say it's better to buy local and sustainable, of course it is but there are millions of people who are not doing that so why not try to change the supermarkets themselves?

    This is not a hard and fast guide to being green, it's suggestions for dialogue and for change. But I've enjoyed reading your points and thinking about them too.


  • Emily Dodd

    Hannah, good for you. A pet rat is another good way to reduce food waste (O:

  • http://www.clearmindedcreative.com Milo

    Really great list Emily, and very of you brave to do the Loony Dook! I'm going to go through the items on the list over the next few weeks and do as many of them as I can.

  • Charlotte

    Very impressed that you actually went in the water, it must have been arctic, so lots of greeny points for that.

    Was also really impressed with your honesty about recycling and 'being' green and it made me think about the blind spots in my own green thinking, which are probably more numerous than I would care to admit here! I have printed off your article (sharp intake of breath, I know) and it now has pride of place on the fridge door to remind us (my family) of what we can do to turn over that green leaf.

    As for Aged Hermit? Take a loony dook next year and I will consider putting your thoughts on my fridge!!

  • Izzi

    I really like the post, Em, and think it's really inspiring, particularly getting to the motive of why you do stuff and are you really belieiving what you do, or is it just 'the thing to do'.

  • Aged Hermit

    Firstly let me say that's it's great that you published my comments and I'm all for a debate/discussion which reflect a wide variety of views. There are too many people out there on all sides of the debate who don't want to listen to anything which doesn't support their views.

    On recycling I know a businessman who owns a recycling operation and he is horrified by the amount of stuff diligently put into the recycling system which ends up in landfills. Yes you read that right. It happens. I was at the local tip at Craigentinny yesterday. It was very busy. So busy in fact that we had to take some of the recycling home again. Tesco came to the rescue tho as the recycling bins where empty at their Leith store.

    Buying local? Where possible sure but let's not get too carried away by carbon foot prints for goods or services. It's complex. Environmentalists know this.

    Also what about Fair Trade? The produce has to be transported to markets which demand them?
    (Putting aside the ridiculous need for poor farmers who sign up to get a reasonable price for their products but also have to agree to grow organically without using modern farming techniques which would provide the output
    required for them to pay good wages to their workforce and avoid keeping them in poverty).

    Waste of any description is abhorrent be it food, energy, intellect etc. etc. Is recycling food waste a good idea? Does it really work? In years gone by farmers used to collect food waste and use it to supplement pig diets. Now that's an interesting way to do things? Positive even. Those composting bins are difficult to make work properly but you'll already know this.

    I'm not at all sure that my participation in the submerging in freezing water on New Years Day at South Queensferry (the Ferry) has any real bearing on a debate? Regardless I am active in trying to support a better life, world and opportunity for EVERYONE regardless of standpoint and agreement with my views. Difference creates an opportunity to learn and appreciate the views of others. That's reasonable is it not?

  • Emily

    Milo and Charlotte,
    Thank you so much for your comments, I'm glad you're going through the list and honored to be on the fridge. Please do let me know how it goes.

    The dook was extremely cold but I didn't notice it at the time since I was concentrating so hard. I'll explain, one of the girls in our group didn't have dook-able shoes and it was near impossible for her to walk on the sharp shingle in bear feet. Everyone else just ran off into the water so I offered her a piggy back. Note to self, It's very hard to walk on sharp rocks into freezing cold water in a green dress with a girl on your back.

    I almost dunked her backwards a few times. And then I stepped onto something that moved and we were done for. I screamed, she janked off my swimming cap and SPLASH – we were in. Both my shoes flew off as I tipped backwards and my feet came up out of the water, I remember wondering what they were both doing there as I stared up at them. Very elegant I'm sure.

    Some man came over with one of my shoes, it floated past him. The other was never to be seen again so I put my swimming cap on my other foot.

    I emerged expecting whisky but oh no, it was hot juice, rubbish! And then I did a quick interview on camera for Greener Leith and after that, I changed discretely in the street and my Towel Bearer pointed out that my lips had turned blue. That was when the cold really hit – both my feet were numb and I was limping, it was like they had been replaced with bricks. I had a head ache for 2 days. I don't think it's good for you, loony dooking.

    But anyway, it was worth it, your posts make it worth it (O:

  • Emily Dodd

    Hi Izzi, Thanks for the comment, glad you're feeling inspired. Good luck with the greenolutions (O;

  • Emily Dodd

    Hi Aged Hermit,
    Thanks once again for your comments, some really interesting points.
    I do agree 'Difference creates an opportunity to learn and appreciate the views of others' and it's briliant to have a range of views including yours.

  • Julia

    Good stuff emms, home grown carrots actually do taste better! I irritate check out staff when I don't put my bakies in a bag and they have to weigh them loose, but I've got to do a lot more to be truly green. have resolved to try harder this year (interesting conflict about nappies though?! any thoughts?)

  • Evs

    Hi Ju

    No conflict about nappies – a life cycle analysis by the Environment Agency in 2008 (http://publications.environment-agency.gov.uk/pdf/SCHO0808BOIR-e-e.pdf) shows that using real nappies is up to 40% better than using disposables, though it does recognise that the way the nappies are washed and dried has a big influence on this figure.

    The Changeworks Real Nappy Project can give lots of help and advice on using, washing and drying real nappies and also runs free drop-in 'nappuccino' coffee mornings so that you can meet parents who use real nappies. For more info see:

    Hope this helps :)

  • Evs

    To Aged Hermit

    Compost bins are really easy to use – the golden rule is to put in about half dry material (e.g. scrunched up cardboard, leaves, shredded paper) with about half wet material (fruit/veg peelings, t-bags, coffee granules…).

    I've been using a compost bin for years and each time I empty it I'm surprised by how satisfied I feel when I get all the lovely finished compost from the bottom!

    And I'm sorry, but your friend in the 'recycling business' is just helping to spread the urban myth about recycling ending up in landfill. Councils generally spend more money on collecting and separating materials for recycling than collecting general waste, so they have absolutely no reason to pay even more in gate fees and taxes to put it into a landfill site, rather than get paid money from companies who use the materials for recycling.

    Occasionally some materials that should have been recycled has to end up in landfill when a load has been contaminated – e.g. vandals tipping a can of paint into a paper bank.

  • Fiona

    Nice one Emily, interesting article that has raised a good debate.
    As a former Edinburger all I can say is that even if you're doing nothing there, you're doing better than the Texans over here. I'm afraid it is a drop in an ocean compared to the huge cars, perpetual driving, and wasting of food to name a few. But I am up for bringing greener (Leith) to Texas!!!

  • Sarah

    This is all really interesting. On real nappies, we use "bum genius" and they are really easy and will save us a lot of money in the long run too! If you are pregnant and considering reusables, I recommend you don't start until the baby stops doing "a poo a feed" as this is a nightmare with reusables! (6 weeks or so) Also the baby gets through so much washing at this point by being sick on stuff, your washing machine will probably be pretty stretched anyway! Also we don't use them at night because they always seemed to leak after a 12 hour stint. However, when we go on holiday and take disposables, I can't believe how quickly the waste mount up. I suggest asking people for nappies as a present, because they are about £12 and you need about 20. They seem a hassle at first, but when you get into it, it is very striaghtforward (including when you are out and about) and Bum genius dry very fast too – no need to tumble dry. Hope this helps

  • Stacey Freeman

    I've spent hours trauling the internet and looking at various blogs for exactly this sort of thing.
    I am currently in the process of completing research for my dissertation. I am looking at the concept of green consumerism and looking at this sort of moral responsibility that encourages people to shop more ethically. In particular I am looking at this within the context of charity shops and whether people consider the charity shop as a site for green consumption. I was really excited to see you greenolution 16 was encouraging the use of charity shops.
    I was just wondering whether you or anyone had any comments on their use of charity shops or perhaps why they feel a charity shop would be 'greener' than say a mainstream retailer.
    Any comments would be greatly apprieciated, in the name of research.


  • Evs

    Hi Stace

    Emily asked me to reply to you. Changeworks have been promoting the use of charity shops for many years as they are vital outlets for the reuse of clothes, furniture and other items that may otherwise have gone to landfill.

    Please get in touch with the Waste Prevention Team if you'd like more information. Cheers, Evs

  • Emily Dodd

    Hello Ju,
    Thanks for reading and commenting, really glad you're resolved and hope all the great nappie advise from Ev's and Sarah helped too. Will Charlie be walking in a 'bum genius' when I next see him? (;

    Evs, you are a fount of knowledge in all things green, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge here.

    Fi, good luck with bringing Greener Leith to Texas. I'm sure J will help them to finish their food and they'll all want to listen to your awesome English accents (and even more so when they see your awesome film).

    Sarah, they sound like great nappies, I hear many of the nappies have funny names, one make is 'fill your pants'. Thanks for all your advice and brilliant comment.

    Stace, I'm delighted this is just what you've been searching for. I've asked Evs to reply to you on the charity shop use, she is part of a project at Changeworks called 'Generous Scotland'. They work with charity shops and other organisations and part of the project is to print and distribute charity and reuse maps. If you click on the link in Greenolution 16: Use Charity shops' you can download the map for useful information and contacts.
    Evs post will appear on here soon too.

    Sorry for my slow response everyone, I had swine flu last week.