Thursday, 21 May 2009

Finding the cash to go Green

Here's a thought. See what you think.

If I had the means and the skills to do so, I would install solar panels, a windmill and a compost toilet to the place where I live. The only electricity I personally require is the means to charge my notebook and mobile phone. The only water I personally require is a standpipe or wild source (unlikely in the UK) of clean (uncontaminated) water.

My heart and soul are for the environment, and I have spent a long time getting my life worked round to the place of simplicity where I can walk the talk.

I don't run a car now, and my life is a very small, local, low-cost affair (a love affair - with the Earth).

There are still things I have to work on. I mostly shop on ebay, but occasionally in chain stores for cheap clothes. My aim for the next year is to make the change to buying groceries from small independent local traders with a low carbon footprint - the street market especially: no shop fittings, no electric tills, lights etc. Connected with that is my aim to work on reducing packaging waste: buying food in a basic state, sold in brown paper bags or one-skin plastic bags, instead of plastic boxes overwrapped with plastic shrink-wrap and sometimes cardboard sleeves as well.

One issue I have to think about here is the meat-eating versus vegetarian thing. Vegetarian food is often very processed and heavily packaged, and transported from manufacturing bases elsewhere: so its processing for retail must have a considerable carbon footprint. Aylesbury (where I live) is traditionally a farming area, so meat, milk and eggs are readily sourced locally, supporting the local economy, working with traditional skills still in place, and generating less packing and transportation.

I do know, though, that eating food made from animals (meat, eggs and dairy) is very heavy on grain and water usage, and creates considerable pollution. It matters to me to source compassionately farmed food. I accept that unless they were farmed for our food, the animals would never have lived at all - but I believe most passionately that they should be able to trust us to provide them with an enviromnent that allows for their nature to be expressed - stimulus and variety and the opportunity to live in flocks and herds and raise their own young, as well as enough of the right kind of food, water and shelter for their health and wellbeing.

At the moment on balance I am thinking to move in the direction of locally sourced food, in the most basic form, with the least packaging from the simplest trader outlet, involving the least transportation and least animal suffering. I think I have to change from canned pulses to dried - a change I am reluctant to make, because the dried ones never come up as soft and tasty as the tinned ones - but, hey.

Anyway, that wasn't my thought, that was a digression.

I wanted to say, I think there are many people like me who are prepared to commit really properly to living green. Some of them are rich and powerful, or are very skilled, so can make big changes (like the Prince of Wales), making sure their homes are designed, built and run in harmony with the environment, and their mode of transport has a small carbon footprint. That, incidentally, means the transport that services their lives, not just the vehicles they travel in. If we don't run a car but buy all our veggies imported, we still have a hell of a carbon footprint.

But many of the people who chose to live really green have very little money. Often they live in urban settings, where they can get a job (which they need), while running no car, living simply, having access to a wholefood outlet and stores that sell Green goods.

These people, the ones who have little money but still make lifestyle changes, even if they save up often can't afford the big things: installation of a big enough rainwater tank under their garden, solar panels and windmills on their roofs, double glazing, and compost toilets. The new government grants for roof and wall insulation are very helpful, of course, though (in my experience) very hard to access - we tried a lot, but gave up in the end and just paid for and installed our own.

I think there will also be in our society a great many people who have a conscience about the environment, but have a visceral aversion to the idea of using compost toilets, and can't be bothered with catching rainwater and sunshine and wind. There will be many people who want to go on driving gas-heavy cars and using masses of electrical gadgets, and shopping in the mall, and going on holiday in aeroplanes - but feel guilty, and would like to make some kind of Green effort as well.

And my thought was this: I wonder if we could hook up the two groups of people somehow?

I mean, if Family A would use a compost loo if only they could afford to install one, and Family B thinks compost loos are disgusting but has lots of money and a bad conscience about water use and the environment; might not Family B be prepared to finance Family A's loo, so that between them one family converts from a water closet to a compost loo?

Or if there is a rich businessman who cares about the Earth, but whose wife (who runs their household) thinks Green initiatives are for cranks, and has everything from a coffee-machine through a bread-machine, and icecream-machine, a tumble-dryer and all the rest; might not the man be pleased to fund a solar panel for a person who lived simply - in a mobile home, say, and could cover most of their electrical needs that way?

Or if there is a business company, flying executives round the world, running a fleet of leased cars for their employees, working in an articially lit office and running computers and all the related gizmos all day long - might they not be pleased to club together to fund one family to have a rainwater tank, or a solar panel, or a windmill?

Or might not a church be pleased to sponsor a family to adopt an Earth-friendly initiative like that? Maybe in a big church with a good age range, some would have the skills, and some would have the money, to create green roofs (maybe on the garden sheds if not the houses) of church members who hadn't got the skills or the money.

I think there are many people who would live Greener than they do if they could afford to. Especially, this is because many poor people live in towns, where household overheads are lower, so they can't just adopt a bucket-and-chuck-it compost loo, or cook over an open fire, as they might if they could afford to live in the country: they have to have the proper installations. And I think that many people who are wealthy enough to live Green are too entangled in the brambles of getting and maintaining wealth to take on board the complexity of going Green.

But I think if you put the two together, the rich people may well be prepared to finance the consciences of the poor - after all, that's what the rich countries always want to do in the big eco-summits.

The 'send-a-cow' and 'good gifts' initiatives to help people overseas seem popular, especially among older people who are happy to receive them in lieu of gifts, as their shelves and cupboards are full up of things acquired over a lifetime, and they are more into down-sizing than building up. This could work in a similar way, but for people in their own country.

What do you think? Would it work? How could we organise it? I don't think it should be set up as a charity or government project, because the administrative and regulatory systems associated with those are so monolithic.

I wonder if we could dream this into being.... If we can, please may I put up my hand for a green roof, a compost loo and a solar panel!

1 comment:

Buzzfloyd said...

I think this is such a good idea! I would love to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle, but simply can't afford it. Maybe this idea will take root somewhere and grow.