Ideas about Green Issues

This note attempts to record some local discussions with a few interested people. Using the format of the concentric circles that we have found useful as it helps us feel better about thinking we are powerless about the big stuff and that small stuff is trivial and silly.  It could help us have a more balanced view.

Starting with the very centre of the circle, what people can actually do – we could identify that as being about people thinking about their actions and we immediately agreed that there is a big danger of us seeming to preach or to make people feel guilty.

Rather than make a list of bad things that people shouldn’t do, simple examples of things that some people have done or are doing might be more acceptable and more tangible.

Equally we need to be aware of class and wealth issues. There is a danger that we talk about very expensive initiatives like heat pumps or we mention what people can do in their gardens – both of which could be quite alienating for people who are eg renting a flat without a garden.

So – at the centre we can start from the simplest and cheapest things that people can do in their homes – and these have the added benefit of actually saving people money so it’s not only a question of green consciousness:

Draft proofing including letterboxes and around the edges of doors. Do it yourself double glazing in the form of that plastic film that can be used as secondary glazing if you don’t need to open the window – which we have used and is incredibly cheap and very effective. Foil behind radiators means you don’t just warm up the brickwork but throw more heat into the room. Draft excluders in the form of long thin cushions underneath door edges. Tim Green in Grafton Road specialises in draft proofing old windows but he’s not cheap. Blocking up chimneys– An old pillow in a strong plastic bag. 

Loft insulation – maybe exchange information and experiences there – it doesn’t have to be horrible prickly glass fibre, you can get long silvery bags full of the stuff that are much nicer to handle.

In terms of more sophisticated changes to the homes we have some very good resources here: Sophie and Rafe in Inkerman, Tom in Grafton have all done very full conversion jobs.

Others have certainly got solar panels and they include Don, two houses opposite him, Sarah and Gwyn also in Willes and maybe more.

We talked about the fact that some people may find that they either can’t do even some of the simplest things that would help and can’t afford to employ people. That would lead onto a good neighbour scheme maybe with some training and pooling of expertise with people being careful not to offer to do tasks that are beyond their capacity. Plus a list of good value tradespeople / handy people.

If people do have a garden then we could have a whole section about leaving it a bit neglected, choosing plants carefully for pollination, having a compost heap, protecting any frogs or toads. Having a water butt, having drought resistant plants. Share information about any successful vegetable or fruit growing. Think about planting a tree if there’s enough room – exchange of information on that.   

If no garden: Window boxes –opportunities there for suitable flowers for pollinators and some vegetables or herbs? Maintaining the street trees and gardens.  IARA can claim some success with trees – and the two community gardens.  Robert is not going to be able to do his for ever.     Street tree gardens?  ideas for natural pollinator friendly planting? 

Behaviour. Moving more into people’s behaviour it is much more sensitive and we could draw up a list of suggestions which people could comment on:
Probably the least obvious but most effective one is to change any savings or pension fund into an ethical fund.

Food:  Obviously eating less (no) meat is a powerful and very sensitive subject. Food air miles and buying organic food. We are blessed in having Earth and Phoenicia but maybe we can discuss with the supermarkets what their understanding of organic purchasing is. There are at least three different box systems: Kentish Town veg box. Odd Box. Abel and Cole. Pros and cons of all of those would be an interesting subject.

Not buying new things. Charity chops esp for clothes and books – (sorry Owl.) Abe books, Freecycle, I’m sure there are others. 

House temperature:  We could find out research on the savings from turning down any thermostats by one degree and wearing a pullover.
Travel:   Obviously driving less and certainly flying less.For those of us who are very used to driving, we may not be fully aware of all the various deals that are available on public transport – for example tickets bought far enough in advance, maybe using a freedom pass to get to the edge of London. And various other discount cards like family or student.
We could investigate and publicise lift sharing as well as the local Zipcar and hire car resources.

Maybe we could start a very modest car sharing scheme locally although that didn’t take off previously.Certainly an announcement that someone is driving to the recycling centre – or Sainsburys / Morrisons and has some space in the car would be neighbourly and might save another journey.

The next circle out maybe about what IARA itself could do and I think we can be a bit satisfied with the local gardening efforts including helping to ensure the survival of new trees.

The WhatsApp group has encouraged quite a lot of reuse and avoided some waste.
The electric milk float travelling shop has also been strongly supported by us.

The next circle out – We could connect with other local community efforts such as Transition Town which seem to have been absorbed into Think and Do. We should obviously be a partner with them.  We thought about local schools and how children may be given ideas there or projects and they might have resources or have input into local parents that we could work with. A source of ideas, materials and motivation.

Wider circle – influence. There is also Climate Emergency Camden which Dee and Alice Brown are very involved with and represent the next edge of influence – on Camden Council.

There are major issues with the council who are very strong on the rhetoric but still keep their pension investments in fossil fuel companies and use toxic chemicals on public spaces.

Even more profoundly, they seemed committed to a very old-fashioned philosophy of demolishing and building new with huge inbuilt carbon footprints.Recycling rates are very low apparently compared with other boroughs. More information needed.

There is an ongoing issue about the Edmonton incinerator and we need more information about.

Wider circle – national and international. We didn’t go much further into the wider area like national politics but Climate Emergency Camden have met with Kier Starmer and with the council. And with local elections coming up, they may be doing a sort of challenge questionnaire for candidates.