Think Global. Act Local!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Conclusion: No Impact Summary

Last week was a busy week, taking part in the no impact experiment and loosing my cool with the Labour party! The conclusion from this week is that there are many things we can do to lessen our impact on the environment just by looking at our lives and asking: "Do I do this because I choose to? Or is it because it is the norm in my society, or I've just become stuck in a rut and don't really think about my actions anymore?"

I was surprised that I allowed myself to use so many disposable paper towels, just because everyone else did. I also made new discoveries during al the stages of the project.

One of the biggest changes was slowing our speed on the motorway to 55-60 mph. What a relaxing, safe and cheap journey we had on the way back for our visit. In future we can make it to see family and back on a single tank of petrol as travelling at these speeds reduces fuel usage by as much as 25%.

Also, if you are travelling, try to choose times when the roads will not be congested. Being stuck in traffic is not good for your wallet, your mood or the environment. We'll be using a company to offset the emissions from our journey. Choosing a company to off set your carbon emissions is not straight forward, some do a much better job than others and the industry is poorly regulated. See this article in the Guardian for more information.

I may posting less frequently now the experiment is over, but over the next few weeks you can expect the results of my home energy survey and also a blog to explain our plans to be Carbon Neural by 2012.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Day's five and six: No Impact

Energy: I failed to make any change to my energy habitats this week - but it is something I'm going to tackle next week for the whole week. Our local library has kWh energy meters that you can borrow to see which appliances are using the most energy. It will be useful to see how much energy everything uses. We feel more comfortable about our energy usage now that we are with a renewable energy supplier (Good Energy)

Water: We've been experimenting with ways to reduce our water consumption over at 'the experiment'. I'm trying the every-other-day approach to showering, with a good old fashioned wash in the basin on no shower days. Grandad will be proud. It's not proving easy, I like a quick shower at work after cycling to freshen up for the day. The sink I use to wash at work only has cold water! We'll see how it goes! There's also been a lot of conversation about possible alternatives to shampoo to prevent all the chemicals that we release into environment.

My biggest energy and water consumption problems are at work. Unlike at home, the university is not with a renewable energy supplier, so my energy requirements are met by burning fossil fuels. The university is also very behind with water consumption. All of the toilets have 13 litre tanks - it's a lot of water to be flushing away. Despite sharing facilities with Greenpeace research, no one has ever considered installing a water saver, so it is something that I will look into.

Lack of ambitious leadership from Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Sent to Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Dear Ed

I commend you on your action that resulted in Ken Clarke retracting his statement about onshore wind farms.

I write to you now about Wednesday's vote on 10:10, which was heavily supported by all parties except Labour. The truth is that this vote was an important opportunity to receive global news coverage that shows that countries are ready to show leadership and act boldly at the Copenhagen talks in December. Instead, the opposite message is being sent.

Labour's action was not FAIR
We are personally committing to 10% cuts in 2010. Council, schools and business are all signing up, but the government that represents us with on match our commitment.

Labour’s action was not AMBITIOUS
The Labour party has already committed to a 12.5% cut by 2010-11. A 10% cut in 2010 would have been achievable and would have sent the message that the UK is being ambitious: an inspiration to the global community.

Labour’s action was not BINDING
The alternative motion that Labour proposed contained no binding targets. Only by continually demonstrating that we are not afraid to commit to binding targets that are necessary to fight climate change can we collectively make the progress that we need.

I have been following you on Twitter and at for some time, and I was reaching the conclusion that you would make a good future leader of the Labour party. However, the negative result from Wednesday's 10:10 opportunity has made me look much deeper, and I now find that you only have a moderate voting record on climate change.

Moderate is not ambitious. The world needs leaders who can free themselves from the perceived constraints of politics and economics to find new solutions to entrenched problems.

I have read your explanation of Labour's none-support for the 10:10 motion over at the Labour List site.

I feel that your response misses the critical objectives of the 10:10 motion, and that your response does not adequately explain your party’s position on this. I am now circulating messages widely to support the Liberal Democrats ( who spearheaded this motion, unanimously supported it, and have a very strong position on climate change.

Yours sincerely
Ian Elliott

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Labour's 10:10 failure

Sent to: Exeter University Green Society
Exeter MP,Mr Ben Bradshaw
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr Ed Miliband

Action: Please circulate this message to people who will be interested

At the beginning of the month the Exeter Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, told me in writing that he supported the 10:10 campaign's ambition to cut emissions by 10% in 2010.

Yesterday the motion was put to the house of commons, and was overwhelming blocked by Labour, including a negative vote from my MP. The motion received strong support from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, but was rejected at 297:225.

A heavily watered down version passed the house without a further vote, and it does commit £20 million to assist central government to reduce their emissions.

The main aim of the 10:10 campaign is to send a strong message to the world that we are ready to commit to ambitious and binding targets in Copenhagen this December. What is most baffling is that the 10% cut is completely in line with the Labour government's existing commitment of a 12.5% reduction by 2010-11.

The Liberal Democrats want the UK to take the lead on the issue of climate change, they proposed this bold motion, they unanimously supported it, and of all the parties they have the highest turn out to vote. Maybe it's time we all vote Liberal in Exeter? Does the Green Society actively support a political party?

See the full break down of votes on this motion here.

Day 4 - Food

It's becoming clear over at the No Impact Experiment that the primary cause of waste for most of us is food packaging. On top of this, there is also the issue of food miles- the distance that foodstuffs travel to make it to our plate.

Currently it is impossible to find local, unpackaged replacements for the majority of foodstuffs, although it is possible to bulk out our meals with lots of local vegetables.

We are however beginning to grow some of our own food, whether it is on the window sill, or outside. This year we had a runaway success with butternut squash. We did not plant 'the crop', we merely used compost from the compost bin, and it seems that the hollowed out seeds from a shop-bought butternut squash that had been composted enjoyed coming out into the Devon sunshine...

Unfortunately we're moving rapidly towards winter. My second water melon didn't grow to full size...!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Day 3. No Impact Week

A quick post about yesterday's 'Transportation' day on the No Impact Experiment. On Tuesday we each addressed the transportation that we used, and looked for ways to cut our impact. Usually we travel very little, although I do clock up 5 miles a day on my bike getting to work and back, but this week is a bit different as we're visiting family on Friday, and we'll be travelling 260 miles by car.

To directly combat this, we'll be limiting our speed to 60 mph (and following the lorries up the motorway), a quick search on the web suggests that it can cost up to 25% less in fuel to drive at 50mph compared to 70mph. In fact travelling at less than 15mph creates the most pollution, and this decreases up to the most efficient speed: 60mph.

We'll also be observing the Energy Saving Trust's Smarter Driving tips, and offsetting our journey with a carbon offsetting company. More details later in the week.

Energy Saving Week

This week is also Energy Saving Week, an annual event held by the Energy Saving Trust.
It's an important week for "both our pockets and the planet"!

The theme this year is waste, and the EST wants to help us to stop wasting Time, Money and Energy. Their web site is packed full of useful advice.

Next week I will be writing about one aspect of energy waste: electricity consumption, so tune in daily to find out the results as I go around the house with a kWh electricity meter and see which appliances are the most hungry!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Day 2

I've set myself a very specific goal for Day 2 of the No Impact Experiment. I'm aiming to generate no waste at all whilst I am at work. We'll also be addressing waste at home as the project continues, but the focus for today is doing everything possible to prevent making waste that goes into the bin.

A look at last Friday's rubbish (above, which has yet to be emptied..!), most of the waste is use-once-throw-away paper towels, a few pealing and a tea bag that should have gone home to be composted, and a fruit net that some satsumas came in - a reminder that I'm currently eating none local, out of season fruit! Apparently, 80% of the products that we buy are designed to be used once and then thrown away (See No Impact Man).

I'm now using a towel from home, and wondering whether I can do anything to convince my colleagues that they don't want to be generating all this 'used once' waste every day:

I'm also wondering when exactly I developed a reliance on chewing gum after meals instead of brushing. I'm sure this is the result of some successful television marketing. I'm switching over to celery sticks which I once read are good for the teeth, and the fibre also last a long time so they are good for generating natural teeth-cleansing saliva!

Taking Action

One part of the No Impact Week is to take action on an environmental issue. There are many suggestions of how you could achieve this. See the No Impact Manual for some ideas, and also look at the discussion of what is going on over at the No Impact Experiment message boards.

One way you could get involved now is by encouraging your MP support the 10:10 campaign. Parliament is voting on Wednesday this week on whether to go for a 10% cut in emissions in 2010. This is exactly the kind of action that is needed if we are serious about meeting our goals for emission reductions. Contact you MP here, and let them know you want them to support this motion.

My message is below

Dear Ben,

We've just heard that this Wednesday parliament will vote collectively on joining the 10:10 campaign to achieve a 10% reduction in public sector emissions by the end of 2010. We highly commend this initiative, and as members of the Exeter constituency we hope you will represent our wishes by voting in support of this motion.

Please let me know that you are able to attend the debate on Wednesday and that you are representing us on this issue.

Best wishes,

** so that your MP knows you live in their constituency **

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Day 1

Day One. The No Impact Experiment, which is an off shoot of the No Impact Man year of environmetal consciousness, has started, and it appears that I am the only person from the UK taking part. The first day is all about our consumption and is basically making us aware of the principals of economic growth and how the western world has gone crazy by becoming very materialistic and over consuming. I believe that I am already a lower consumer that most people I know, but I'm using this week to catalogue my spending and question whether I really want to make all the purchases. I've never had an unpaid credit card debit, if I don't have enough money then I just don't spend. Today I'd like to share one of our major successes for avoiding over spending and over consumption: freecycle.

Here are some of the items we've acquired in the past:

Our dining room table and four chairs (it actually extends to seat six people).

28" T.V.

Our cooker (we use it every day!)

Check out the suggestions from other 'No Impacters' at the project's World group, including a site for exchanging and sharing books and the old WWII adage: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do with out"

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Did you know that today is BAD?

Here is a copy of my guest blog for today's Blog Action Day. To comment, please see the original post on "Rambles from my Chair"

Blog Action Day

Today the world’s bloggers unite to discuss an issue of global importance: Climate Change. I have invited Ian Elliott to do a guest posting on the subject. I hope you will find it as informative and useful as I did.

Blogs have become a powerful tool in modern communication. Distant family and friends can follow each other’s lives, people can interact and express themselves more, and non-geographic communities are being formed and are growing.
Blogs bring independent news from every corner of the world, freedom of speech is spreading to places where voices have been repressed and online communities are slowly bringing our leaders to account.

A cure for democracy?

A well-connected citizenry is fundamental for a healthy democracy. Al Gore concludes his book “The Assault on Reason” with the observation that “Our self-government is based on the ability of individual citizens to use reason in holding their elected representatives, senators, and presidents accountable for their actions”. Internet communities, blogs and independent news are an antidote to the propaganda and controlled spin that floods the mass media. Democracy had become a one-way communication, with information for the electorate being passed on through television news and advertising. But, the misconception that democracy is only about listening to spin and making a single vote is starting to heal and we are seeing a much stronger dialog emerging directly between our leaders and the people who hold them accountable.

No where are the results of this transformation more apparent than on the issue of Climate Change. The overwhelming outcry of the public (uniting through blogs and email groups) is winning out over the entrenched interests of the old energy lobbies and we have found our collective voice. The success of recent campaigns (Global Wakeup Call, TckTckTck campaign, 10:10
UK/Global , ... ) is paving the way for successful negations at the Copenhagen summit in December.

Making it happen

Twelve years ago (1997) the Kyoto protocol was slow to get countries onboard. Australia did not ratify the treaty until the end of 2007, and the US and Alaska never did commit to the carbon reductions, with President Obama planning to find a new agreement in Copenhagen this December.

Only continued pressure, from us all, will make committing to a binding treaty easier than not doing so. Initiatives like 10:10 (see below) are making a real impact. My member of parliament knows I will hold him accountable, and that knowledge ensures that this issue is important for receiving votes at in the next election.
Right now
, there are important actions you can take to engage in our democracies and get a better deal for the environment:

USA: The Kerry-Boxer Climate Bill is a really strong bill, and it needs your help if it is going to pass the senate. Contact your senator today by phone or email and let them know you support this important piece of legislation.

Canada: Prime minster Harper is dragging his feet on Climate Change. So much so that the Climate Action Network gave him the “Colossal
" award for having done more than any other country to drag down talks at the UN climate negotiations. Contact your member of parliament and get in touch with Environment Minister Jim Prentice: get them to put pressure on Prime Minister Harper to attend Copenhagen and commit to a Fair, Ambitious and Binding deal for the climate.

UK: Has your MP signed the 10:10 pledge to cut their personal carbon emissions by 10% in 2010? Mine has! Let them know we hold them personally accountable on climate change, and that we’ll all be doing our bit too. There is now also a Global 10:10 campaign.

The next global climate campaign is on 24th October.
Take a look at what is happening over at

How can I cut my personal emissions?

Just how hard is it to save money and save the environment?! Follow me on my own project as I aim to become Carbon Neutral by 2012. Next week I’ll be conducting my own No Impact Experiment. So please follow along at

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

10:10 LET'S make real progress on meeting our targets

The 10:10 campaign aims to get individuals and governments to commit to a 10% reduction in carbon emissions in 2010...

To: Benjamin Bradshaw MP

Dear Ben,

Are you supporting the 10:10 campaign?

We've switched our home to renewable electricity (, I cycle 5 miles a day to and from work, and we'll be making sure that we cut our household emissions by at least 10% next year by monitoring our consumption and making 'green' lifestyle choices.

In fact, thousands and thousands of us across the country are pledging to cut our emissions by 10% in 2010. We want to show that it's possible and to build support for decisive action to tackle climate change, and we need to know that our local MP is getting involved.

The government has a crucial role to play in making emission cuts a reality, and at times making tough choices to make sure we reach our targets. We need MPs to show a lead, and it's bound to help if loads of MPs are taking part in 10:10.

We are voting Labour, primarily because of the dedication that is being shown on these issues my Ed Miliband

But, to ensure we continue voting labour in the local elections please let me now if you're planning to get involved, and if not please tell me why not.

You can find out more about 10:10 and sign up here:

Best wishes,

** so that your MP knows you live in their constituency **

Response received 7th October...

And an immediate reply from me....

Dear Ben,

Thank you for your letter dated 6th October. I commend you on your actions to personally combat climate change, and I look forward to hearing what actions you take to achieve a further cut of 10% in your emissions next year.

I am concerned that my email communication and many others like it results in a reply being sent by post. Even on recycled paper, if this is common practice then it is a terrible waste of resources (production, printing and transport) when an electronic reply could have be made in turn.

I would like to know whether the labour party has a ‘think before you print’ policy, and also whether you could, on our behalf, contact the relevant office to ensure that email communications, by default, are replied to by email. The same letter could be sent as a pdf attachment to retain the current formatting.

I request future replies be by email, and I look forward to your response,

Best wishes,


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Friend of Earth

Do you have 15 minutes free today to send an email and be a friend of the Earth?

A government consultation called ‘Strengthening Local Democracy’ is (among other objectives) determining councils’ role on meeting climate change targets. I'm writting a quick email to argue that councils should cut carbon emissions in their area by at least 40 per cent by 2020. It is important that the government set a minimum standard of action on climate for all councils to meet our national targets.

Today, now, I'm sending a short and concise email to

It includes a personalised version of some of the following points suggested by FoE.

(1) This consultation and the Government’s commitment to local authorities have a stronger role in tackling climate change is welcome.
(2) The UK is committed to achieving CO2 emissions reductions of 34 per cent by 2020. To meet this target, and to avoid dangerous climate change, will require radical action by all sections of society and Government, including all local authorities.
(3) Under the current voluntary system, a minority of local authorities are taking real, systematic action on climate change, and most are doing very little.
(4) All councils adopting short-term emissions targets or local carbon budgets would have the effect of ensuring that all local authorities take their share of the national responsibility. Either could be a good way forward.
(5) Whichever mechanism is adopted, it should ensure that that all local authorities are required to meet a minimum standard of action. Doing nothing should no longer be an option for councils.
(6) The Government’s proposal to provide more support for councils to act on climate change, including new funding and new powers, is very welcome.

The following is needed:
- More information for councils on how to cut carbon. Friends of the Earth supports a new regional technical advice body on Climate Change to help provide the evidence base for action on climate change.
- New innovative financing enabling councils to fund positive climate solutions on renewable energy.
- A strong role for local authorities in co-coordinating funding streams - for example when deciding where to target and spend money from programs for home insulation and energy efficiency.
- That councils must be ‘challenged’ by the government to reduce carbon from transport. To achieve this we think the Department for Transport must check councils’ local transport plans for carbon – and refuse to accept plans that increase CO2.
- More community engagement in developing local climate solutions. If you can, stress the benefits you think that this would bring to people in your area. Eg. a planning system that that encourages green and efficient heating – like district heating networks for communities, or solar panels on homes, could slash people’s fuel bills, create jobs and boost the local economy.

Emails must reach the Department of Communities and Local Government today as the consultation closes 2nd of October.