One Person, One Promise
Electric picnic is over but one activity in Global Green stays with me. The team from Self Help Africa were encouraging festival goers to stop for a moment, write a couple of words or sentences onto sheets of paper and record our words for video.
We were asked to jot down our concerns about climate change on a piece of paper. Once done, we were asked to flip the paper over and note what we were already doing, or planning to do, to help reduce the effects of climate change in our own lives. The activity only took a couple of minutes but the message was powerful. It was a reminder that no matter how large the problem, we can make a difference if we all pledge to make small changes in our lifestyles.
The short video clip below from Self Help Africa shares the concerns and commitments people made:
Climate Change is Scary
Climate change is an enormous and potentially quite terrifying issue and a topic that’s easy for us to ignore or sweep under the rug while it doesn’t personally affect us. It seems too big an issue, too out of control. How could us mere mortals possibly make a difference?
However, writing down my pledge and watching everyone else make their own promises during the sunny weekend in Stradbally brought home to me the power of people. If everyone commits to make at least one change in their lifestyle, all the actions will combine to become a force to be reckoned with. Like a drop of water that produces a small ripple that grows to become a wave as more drops join it, our actions will make a difference.
Here’s a few examples of ways we can work to cut our environmental impact right now:
Think for a moment if one of us said we were only going to shop locally from now on in. That would be great, we’d be supporting our local economy and every little bit helps. However, imagine if twenty of us in one area pledged to only shop locally. The difference it would make to a community in terms of work, employment and an invigorated sense of belonging would be phenomenal. This article explains how communities can come together to create food co-ops, community supported agriculture scheme or food buying clubs.
Stop Food Waste
Or how about Food Waste? We waste millions of tonnes of food, thrown out every year because we buy too much and don’t use it. Apart from the commercial waste caused by us not (being allowed) to eat perfectly shaped fruit and vegetables, householders alone could save up to €1,000 a year if they used everything they bought. If we all pledged to write a shopping list at the beginning of the week and only buy the food we plan to eat, the impact on food wastage would be tremendous. This would be an achievable and effective action.
The Thrifty Couple have created a ‘no waste meal planner’ that’s worth a look. They take the weekly shopping list one step further by writing down all the products in their cupboards that are approaching use by dates and finding recipes that will include them.
Grow Your Own
Growing our own food was the single most important change we made to our lives in the Greenside Up household. In doing so it opened up a world of questions and answers about climate change, biodiversity, the soil, weather, food security, food sources, recipes, education, healthy eating and much, much more than we could possibly have imaged. As a result of wanting to know more about growing our own I went back to adult education, studied horticulture and started teaching beginners how to grow their own food.
Maybe we have to see our food growing as a tiny seedling to truly appreciate it; to watch it overcome and evade the pests, the weeds, its competitors, the water or lack of it, and feel delight as it grows into a plant that will feed and nourish us.
As much as I’d love to see it, I wouldn’t seriously expect everyone to pledge to grow their own fruit and vegetables. It can take time that many of us struggle to find. If however, people had a go at growing just one thing – a herb in container on a kitchen windowsill perhaps, or if they visited a community garden for a couple of hours a week, the connection between nature and food would be made and who knows where that might lead.
This thought-provoking article from the Sustainable Food Trust is worth considering as it highlights how our food choices will change in the coming years as our climate changes. We might have to learn how to grow our own tea and coffee!
There are many things we can commit to do, but on my own piece of white paper in the Self Help Africa tent I wrote down ‘save more water’. I’ve written several posts about this topic on the blog. We have a natural well that’s prone to running dry occasionally so know first hand how important it is to have clean, running water in our day-to-day lives.
Over the years Mr G and I have made changes to our daily habits that include turning the tap off when we brush our teeth or wash our hands. We’ve installed rain butts and an irrigation system to the polytunnel that runs from harvested rainwater. We’ve also placed a sink under the outside tap with a washing bowl making it easier to rinse brushes, vegetables and the like. Nevertheless, we have two teenage girls who could easily spend a half an hour each in the shower and that’s an issue that needs to be tackled. So far, asking them not to spend so much time standing under the running water hasn’t worked so perhaps we need to ramp up our game and install a shower timer, or flip the main fuse board switch a few times until they get the message.
We’ve also been meaning to place toilet ‘hippos’ into the cisterns, small devices that will half the amount of water flushed into the septic tank. Now is the time! If you decide to tackle your water usage, some of the tips linked above might help you.
The Power of One
By making one simple promise to save more water, I’m no longer overwhelmed by all the climate change problems I feel the need to tackle, and my sense of helplessness has diminished.
I’m concentrating my energies on one area, I am doing something about it, and that something WILL make a difference.
However, there’s power in numbers. Rather than trying to tackle the shower or water issues in our home on our own, I’ve realised we need to have this discussion with our kids. We might then collectively begin to tackle more issues and instead of it being just the adults who make the promise to reduce our environmental impact, our children would have a vested interest too and they won’t need cajoling.
Make a Commitment
Whether it’s making a promise to use less electricity, recycling or composting the waste, or a commitment to research alternative energies, an agreement to eat less meat or everyone to think about our car journeys and double them up, or cycle more, there are lots of actions we can take that won’t overly affect our standards of living but will collectively help to cut our impact.
Perhaps if we, as parents involve our children in these discussions and decisions so that they understand why we’re doing them, they’ll mention them to friends or school teachers, or at the very least grow up to think more responsibly about the planet too. Sadly, environmentalists are still seen by many as the minority, they’re the hippies on the edge of society, but the more small steps people take, the more usual everyone will seem.
I use this quote a lot in my work life and never before has it rung so loudly as it does now in relation to climate change:
Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. Helen Keller
Do you have any climate change concerns or have you started making changes to cut the effects of climate change in your own life? What issue will or have you tackled first? I’d really like to hear your thoughts.