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How to go Greener Day at Beverley 30th March 2019

March 14, 2020 8:54 PM
By Linda Johnson in GLD Challenge magazine 2019-20
Originally published by Green Liberal Democrats

facebookThe Proceedings of the 'How to Go Greener Day'

Organized by Beverley Methodist Circuit Social Responsibility Group

At Toll Gavel United Church Beverley, HU17 9AA

Saturday 30th March 2019 10.00am - 4.00pm

By Lara S H Blythe

Psalm 24: "The Earth is the Lord's and everything in it"

Toll Gavel Church, Beverly Yorkshire. (Linda Johnson)Putting the 'How to Go Greener Day' into perspective

Beyond short term politics, there is a greater agenda looming large on the horizon - that of climate change and the future of the Home we call planet Earth. An issue so large it should unite and not divide. We have recently seen evidence of climate change as a growing issue in the news as school children assert their rights and go on strike on Friday afternoons, protesting that something must be done. After all the Earth is their Home too. As adults, we are the current stewards, but the brunt of the damage will fall to our descendants to repair.

Increasingly, people are turning towards an environmentally friendly lifestyle; not just environmental awareness, but mainstream engagement as they look for ways to reduce their impact on the Earth, tread more lightly and reduce their carbon footprint. There is an increase in awareness of the amount of meat we are consuming and a rise in the interest in and adoption of veganism. Furthermore, the public response to Dave Attenborough's 'Blue Planet' demonstrates our real concern for the creatures we share our planet with.

Introduction

Some of the Beverley Methodist Circuit Churches, including Toll Gavel United Church where the 'Greener Day' was held are already taking part in the A Rocha ECOchurch scheme and working towards the bronze award. Toll Gavel is a palm-oil friendly and fair-trade church and having already achieved this position, it is fitting that it should hold a symposium such as the 'How to Go Greener Day'.

The aim of the day, which organisers hope to be the first of many such events, was to inform individuals about climate change and provide practical ways in which they can engage and make a difference themselves. If each member of the audience was able to take away one idea that they could incorporate into their own lives to reduce their own carbon footprint, the day would have done its job. Attendance at the meeting (at 93 people) was higher than expected and demonstrates how interested and willing people are to participate and see what they can do.

The day was divided into two halves. The morning session was composed of a series of talks by a variety of individuals from Christian organisations and green initiatives to academics, business owners, and the Vegan Society, all depicting climate change from a different perspective. During the afternoon, information stands and workshops were available providing an opportunity to find out more about how we can get involved and make a difference to our impact on the planet. Workshops included how to make EcoBricks and finding out the size of carbon footprint we leave. Other stands showed the range of environmentally friendly products on offer, how to eat vegan and ways to reduce the energy consumption of buildings, for example churches. For coffee breaks, fair-trade products and vegan-friendly cakes, flapjacks and biscuits were served, and compostable bamboo cups were used for the coffee and tea. Coffee and tea were accompanied by vegan milk alternatives (hemp, almond and oat). Lunch was a vegan feast with plenty to go around - the two options being a coconut and bean stew or Mediterranean vegetables with thyme dumplings.



Morning Session

Welcome and introduction by Reverend Peter Cross

Reverend Peter Cross' opening address was thoughtful and enthusiastic. He stated to a filled hall that it was a privilege to introduce the first 'How to Go Greener Day' and hoped there would be many more to come.

Reciting a very apt story focusing on the plight of a swallow who sacrificed his future for the sake of his present, Rev'd Cross drew the attention to the human population and how in exploiting the planet we may soon achieve such destruction it is no longer able to sustain us or our way of life. In the story, a swallow made an agreement with a farmer. In exchange for a daily supply of food, the swallow would gift the farmer one feather per day. The swallow wouldn't have to go out foraging for food, and a single feather a day was a small price to pay. By the end of the summer, when it was time to migrate and fly south with his own kind, the now fat swallow, due to the lack of feathers could no longer fly, but neither could he protect himself from the cold winter looming.

Mentioning the current political situation looming large, Rev'd Cross noted that climate change far outweighs Brexit in importance and that instead of waiting for government, we as individuals can do something positive. The 'How to Go Greener Day' focusses on the possibilities available and the practical solutions open to us. As Rev'd Cross said: "We can and must make a difference".

Joy in Enough: A Vision for a Fair and Sustainable Economy

by Hilary Blake, Joy in Enough Development Officer, Green Christian

Opening the talk with a song that originated in South Africa, Hilary Blake successfully brought the audience together forming a 'community' for the day. The sole lyrics 'Come with me, for the journey is long' effectively describe our situation. In her talk Hilary introduced the concept of 'Joy in Enough', promoting the fact that we can live within the confines of what the earth can sustain and curb our drive to excess, instead finding joy in those things we do have.

The root causes or reasons why we have not already reached this position, according to Hillary, are threefold - Personal, Parochial and Political. Personally, we can each make every effort possible to improve our own lifestyles and therefore tread more lightly on the Earth, but unfortunately the infrastructure is not always available to allow us fully engage. Parochial and Political levels are the businesses, councils and national bodies that equally have to make sound decisions in order for the climate and the Earth to benefit.

Hilary's six 'impractical points' actions, which can become practices are designed to make us more appreciative of life and what we do have. They include: -

1. "Say Hello"; acknowledge that there is a relationship there, be it with a small spider or something larger.

2. "Say Thank you"; consumerism and marketing rely on our dissatisfaction, so instead show gratitude.

3. "Sing" - a physical action that is "co-operative, creative and expressive", skills rarely required from us by the rest of the world.

4. 'Grieve for what we have lost', and the future we will can no longer anticipate. Hillary reminds us that through grief comes joy, and that we should not mistake joy for happiness or optimism.

5. Look to the younger generation and their approach to life; appreciate the small.

6. Rest, take time out. Whether it be digitally or physically, rest is beneficial. Although not practical solutions, these actions can bring a community together.

How Our Lifestyles Contribute to Climate Change

David Hughes and Rachael Curry, Climate Stewards

According to David Hughes, the "mood towards climate change is changing". To understand how to maintain climatic conditions conducive to human development, scientists investigated nine Earth systems. On investigation, some of these were already found to be beyond their sustainable limits (Rockström et. al., 2009). It is expected we will experience a minimum global temperature rise of 1.5℃.

Rachael Curry, a budding climate scientist explained the science behind climate change and why the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is warming the planet. Although CO2 itself isn't a problem - the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere has varied over the Earth's recent history - it is the unprecedented rate and volume of gas that is causing climatic systems to become perturbed. This increase has been seen since the Industrial Era, w hich Rachel displayed using an elegantly animated graph. Rachael explained that at present 8t of CO2 is released into the atmosphere per person per year - a result of consumption of energy to run our homes, fuel our transport, produce our food and any waste that we produce. We still consume vast amounts of fossil fuels, and although generation and consumption of renewable energy in on the increase, it is not enough. Ironically, the usage of energy has decreased in the UK in the last few years, but only due to the increased temperatures we have experienced.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which uses data to 'predict' outcomes based on a variety of climatic scenarios, the best-case scenario would see the Earth's temperature rise by a minimum of 2℃, and in a worst-case scenario the Earth's temperature would rise by 4.5 ℃. Sobering stuff. Already sea ice sheet is shrinking, but other impacts include acidification of the world's oceans leading to the dissolution of the shells of marine organisms, and a rise in sea level caused by the both expansion of the water itself and the increase in the volume of water due to melting sea ice. Rachel highlighted, that although the UK may not feel these changes, the global impacts will be felt in such places as China, India and Africa.

Agriculture and the Environment - counter-intuitive truths

Dr. Phillip Bennion, Arable Farmer and Former MEP

Dr. Phillip Bennion spoke from the perspective of a farmer and began by asking the question 'which type of green?'. As we found out during Dr. Bennion's presentation, no one 'green' ideological method provides the answer to the issue of climate change. Considering 5 different types of 'green' Dr Bennion explained the advantages and disadvantages of each.

  • Veganism was the first to be considered. We do not all need to become vegan. It is not necessary, though a vegan diet does have a lower carbon footprint. Only 10% of UK land is economically viable for vegetable production. Soil type needs to be considered, as does soil exhaustion. Crop rotation needs to be taken into account as well as the fact that grass is a carbon sink. Any livestock kept on the grass would also increase the organic matter in the ground. Perhaps it is better to encourage less meat consumption than to turn completely vegan.

  • Organic produce was the next to be considered. In this case growing crops organically results in a 60% yield reduction.

  • Agro-chemicals are heavily regulated. If their use was banned it would result in a 30% decrease in crop yield, therefore the carbon footprint per tonne of food produced rises. Dr. Bennion noted the large amounts of the chemical nitrous oxide in the air. This is a product of the natural breakdown of organic matter in waterlogged conditions. Stopping the use of nitrogen by farmers would not work, as an increase in land would be needed to retain yield. Ensuring farmers only use nitrogen in the correct conditions however, would help reduce nitrous oxide emissions.

  • Dr. Bennion briefly covered biofuel, of which he stated that some types of biofuel are not worth using due to the little difference they make. Biomass on the other hand results in a 90-99% saving of carbon. The caveat is however, that it needs burning, and the air quality resulting from this is variable.

  • Lastly, wildlife habitats were considered. Unfortunately, less intense farming of the land and setting aside poor-quality land does not improve or contribute to wildlife habitats effectively. However Dr. Bennion highlighted that "positive management of smaller plots" of land are successful in producing good wildlife habitats.

Dr Bennion's conclusion was a practical one, advocating the use of both science and technology to improve farming practices and produce good crops. This includes ensuring good inputs (e.g. mindful use of agrochemicals) and genetic modification of plants. Specific routes to 'green farming' e.g. the farming of only organic crops or supporting only arable farming is not practical and each route comes with its own set of caveats.

Energy Management - Practical steps we can take

David Hughes, Climate Stewards

According to David Hughes the carbon footprint of one British citizen is equal to that of 500 Malawians. An individual in the UK would theoretically produce the equivalent carbon footprint by the 7th January that an individual in Kenya would produce within one complete year. Perspective is everything, and as David pointed out we can be either pessimists or optimists when we consider how we can play our part. There are some positive statistics: in 2018 one third of UK electricity came from renewable resources; greenhouses gases have decreased every year for the past six years; and our CO2 emissions are the lowest they have been since the reign of Queen Victoria. If nothing is done to curb our current lifestyles, we could expect an increase in the Earth's temperature of between 3.5 and 5 ℃. Reducing this to our target of 1.5 to 2 ℃ warming would require our emissions to half by 2030 and reach zero by 2050. So, David asks, 'what can we do?' David highlighted four areas where we as individuals can make a difference:

  • Buildings: Turn things off, transfer to a renewable energy supplier, insulate and draft proof your house, think about installing thermal photovoltaics for heating water or solar panels for generating your own electricity, you could even install ground-source or air-source heat pumps. Although renewable energy can be erratic in supply, using batteries allows storage to make it more practical.

  • Transport: Find greener alternatives to what you currently do - walk, cycle, use public transport, buy a low emission car, an electric or hybrid car, and ask yourself - do I really need to fly?

  • Food: Consider reducing your meat consumption and think about your choice of meat. There are different alternatives - veganism, vegetarianism, and flexitarianism.

  • Offset: No matter what we do, we will all continue to produce some CO2. The CO2 that you cannot control, you could offset.

Climate stewards have projects in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Mexico. Initiatives include planting trees, and providing water filters and cook stoves, all of which have benefits for the climate, the community and the biodiversity of the area. Churches in the UK could consider using the ECOchurch scheme to decrease their climatic impact.

The Plastic Disaster

Kallum Nicholson, The EcoShed

Kallum started his presentation with a short clip of a turtle with a straw lodged in its nostril. The audience followed the turtle's plight as the straw was removed. Single use plastics (straws, bottles, coffee cups and bags) have alternatives, including fabric shopping bags, reusable coffee cups and beeswax or soy food coverings. To collect the micro-plastics that come away from clothes during washing, use washing bags.

Kallum promoted the idea of zero waste, that instead of throwing things away, we do the following: refuse (unwanted flyers for example), reduce, reuse, repair, recycled and rot. He encouraged the idea of becoming a local hero, and cited initiatives like 4 Ocean (https://4ocean.com), which initially started with two surfers taking issue against the amount of plastic in the ocean. Olio (https://olioex.com), another initiative mentioned, aims to redistribute food so it is not wasted but consumed instead.

The idea of the EcoBrick - the subject of Kallum's afternoon workshop was explained. This involves taking a single use plastic bottle, filling it with single-use plastic and donating it so it can be used to build with. Completed EcoBricks for example can be used to build Earth Ships and according to Kallum, it takes 8,867 EcoBricks to build a 'mud' hut which will house 5 people.

Environmental Veganism

Linda Johnson, on behalf of The Vegan Society

Over the last 15 years there has been a 350% increase in veganism. So large an increase that now supermarkets have launched vegan products and restau

rants are laying on vegan meals. Linda herself has been vegan for over 20 years - due to some health as well as environmental concerns she sought plant-based alternatives.

Evidence suggests that a vegan diet is far healthier for the body as well as the environment compared to a diet based around meat. Red and processed meat have been linked to cancer and becoming vegan can lessen an individual's carbon footprint by up to 73%. Linda described the negative impact of farming meat and fishing on the environment and with specific regard to fishing, Linda reported how, in addition to the fishing itself, fishing boats pollute the oceans with oil.

The caveat with a vegan diet is ensuring the body gets enough vitamin B12, which is made by microbes within the gut. However, vitamin B12 supplements are readily available, and B12 is already included in the ingredients of plant-based milk alternatives such as soya, hemp and oat milks. For more information regarding becoming vegan, facts and figures and following a vegan lifestyle, see https://www.vegansociety.com.

Panel Discussion

The panel assembled after the morning talks to answer questions. Some enquiries were directed towards Kallum on the topics of EcoBricks and ecological washing bags.

Dr. Phillip Bennion answered a question on nitrogen use as an agrochemical and its impact on the local environment. Dr. Bennion advocated good management of nitrogen use, applying it in late March when the ground is drier, as well as "little and often during the growing season". These measures will help reduce the amount emitted to the atmosphere. Organic manure was raised as an alternative to nitrogen, but manure is more difficult to control.

Hydrogen for use as a fuel was discussed with Dr. Bennion. Although we have the technology to produce it, hydrogen storage presents more of a problem. The process of hydrogen fuel production is expensive and to make it a viable fuel source, production costs would have to be reduced. Electricity generated by wind turbines could be used to produce hydrogen for fuel, however the fuel generated would to be used in the local area that it is produced.

Linda Johnson explained that household expenses can be substantially reduced by investing in solar panels for the roof of a house, installing battery storage for any energy generated and transferring to an electric car.





Afternoon Session

Thirteen workshops and information stands were available to attend during the afternoon session. The workshops and stands included practical ways in which we can to reduce our carbon footprint and tread more lightly on the earth, environmentally friendly products to buy as well as schemes available to participate in.

ECOchurch with Rachael Curry and David Hughes

EcoChurch is a project run by A Rocha UK, which allows congregations across the UK to register their church and be recognised for achieving increased levels of environmental friendliness. The levels available - Bronze, Silver and Gold each have different criteria to reach, and requires the congregation and its leaders to actively engage in fighting climate change.

The EcoShed with Kallum Nicholson

Kallum owns a shop in Trinity Market, Hull 'The EcoShed' which sells environmentally friendly products. There were some of these products available to buy including washing bags, soap nuts, beauty products, reusable coffee cups, and Children's toys. In Kallum's workshop participants learnt to make EcoBricks. Used, cleaned and dried plastic bottles, of various sizes, are filled to the brim with single use plastic items. The materials put into the bottle must be nothing but plastic, so no paper, metal, glass or organic materials. Once completed, EcoBricks are used as the building blocks of 'mud' huts and Earth Ships.

Conscious Consideration with Megan Whiteman

Conscious Consideration is a project run by Megan Whiteman, which has 'environmental and social justice' at its core. Set up through an internship awarded to Megan by the North and East District of the Methodist Church, the aim of Conscious Consideration is to recommend methods and provide ideas on how environmental and social sustainability can be achieved. Conscious Consideration focusses on 'living conditions, health, security, fair wages' and 'access to education' to step towards these goals. Practical ideas are available to enable us all to impact a little less on our Earth. For example, the 'Buying Hierarchy', which as Megan's information suggests, before you buy new, consider using what you have, or consider swapping, buying second hand, making your own, or buying from sustainable brands.

Climate Stewards with Rachel Curry and David Hughes

The carbon footprint is a measure of the impact we each have on the Earth based on the CO2 emissions we create just by the lifestyles we lead. Each individual's carbon footprint is different depending on what activities they take part in. Using children's building bricks as units of carbon, the Climate Stewards workshop allowed participants to look at their lifestyle and work out how large a carbon footprint they leave behind during everyday life. Taking a look at their current footprint allows individuals to look at how they can reduce their impact further, perhaps even identifying particular aspects of their lifestyle that need more focus.

Friends of the Earth

This workshop and information stand pro vided the opportunity to find out what you can do to make your garden a more bee and insect friendly place. Ideas included planting alpines, honeysuckles and herbs as well as other, simple 'open' plants that allow insects and bees access to the pollen. Providing a water supply, for example shallow bird baths or a small pond is also helpful. Insect and bees have increasingly been exposed to habitat destruction, disease and pesticides which has resulted in a decline in their numbers. As well as the personal contributions we can make, Friends of the Earth also gave information about the role local and national politics has to play, for example the success of the 2014 National Pollinator Strategy and the potential lifting of the ban on Nicotinoids when the UK leaves the EU through Brexit.

Norwex with Amy Connor and Sarah Robinson

Norwex is a brand of cleaning products, which when used around the home create "Safe Havens".

When cleaning with the Norwex microfibre cloth, no chemicals are used, just water. This reduces the amount of chemicals in our homes and also reduces the number of plastic bottles required. Amy and Sarah, sales consultants for Norwex, were on hand to show how the Norwex microfibre cloth can easily clean greasy cream from a surface. The cloth is cleaned with a special laundry detergent that is different from standard laundry detergents, which often contain unnecessary ingredients. Beside the risk to our own health within the home, Amy and Sarah gave the example of killer wales, which are now at risk from harm due to chemicals that end up in the ocean.

Tropic with Nicola King

"Beauty with a conscience", Tropic Skincare is a UK beauty brand based in Surrey. All of its products are cruelty free and are endorsed by the vegan society. Eco-Friendliness is the core value found throughout the brand from the packaging to what goes into the products itself. Packaging used is minimal and refills are available to buy so there is no need to continue to purchase soap pumps if you already have one! The company is at the forefront of developments within the environmental sector and as bamboo becomes increasingly unsustainable, Tropic are already looking for an alternative. Samples were available to try, and beauty sets available for purchase.

The Vegan Society with Philippa Lennox

As Linda Johnson informed the audience during her talk, going vegan is one way to massively reduce your carbon footprint. The vegan society stand had a whole array of information leaflets, vegan magazines and recipe ideas for those ready and willing to take the plunge. Participants had the opportunity to learn about how going vegan can benefit the planet with leaflets and posters on the environmental impacts of large-scale meat and fish farming. Furthermore, individuals could find out how going vegan could benefit their own health with pamphlets on various concerns such as cardiovascular health and diabetes, as well as the details of calcium and protein intake on a vegan diet. Smoky Leek and Hazelnut Tart anyone?

Christian Aid with Stephanie & Rob Cooper

Christian Aid's current focus is identifying and working to eliminate the causes of climate change, therefore working to preventing or at least minimise any further damage to that already done. The banking firm HSBC are still planning to finance new coal-fuelled power plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. However, at the meeting, participants had the chance to sign a petition against this. Beside their campaign work to help prevent further climate change, Christian Aid also works with development agencies, providing aid and the basics of life to those who need it, as well as confronting the regimes that perpetuate states of poverty.

Free Flow with Steph Darnes, Rob Pritchard and Jenny Porter

A stand mostly, if not completely attended by females, Free Flow aims to end period poverty and promote environmental friendliness at the same time. The extent to which period poverty affects individuals in Hull is unknown - not even the regional Clinical Commissioning Group knows, all Free Flow know is that it is a lot. The female menstrual cycle is still taboo, but it is a serious subject.

Beside the disposable sanitary towels and tampons that most women use, there are eco-friendly alternatives. The Menstrual cup, which replaces the tampon, is made of medical grade silicon, and is both hygienic and reusable; and instead of plastic-based sanitary towels, towels made from bamboo are available - they are slightly more expensive but will last a whole lot longer than one use.

Beverley Fairtrade Group with John Turner

The Fairtrade stand had a variety of Fairtrade goods available for purchase. Information was on hand for participants to find out more about what Fairtrade actually means for the farmers. The Fairtrade logo ensures those who grow the produce have better working conditions and higher returns on their goods. Fairtrade also work towards protecting the Earth from climate change.

Green Christian with Paul Bodenham

In this workshop participants were able to find out more about the project 'Joy in Enough'. 'Joy in Enough is a new way to think about economics and was briefly introduced at the start of the day by Hilary Blake. Instead of the current mode of economic thinking based in capitalism and consumerism, profits, growth and debt 'Joy in Enough' focusses on individual and societal wellbeing.

Green Journey with Mark Rudhall

Green Journey is a faith-based charity organisation that works to improve the green credentials of public buildings. Initially started within the Diocese of Leeds, Green Journey now works over a larger area and with a whole variety of Christian faiths including Baptist, Methodist, Church of England, United Reform and the Independent Evangelical churches as well as some schools (if they are an academy or trust).

Green Journey carries out an energy audit of the building in question and suggests realistic ways to improve its energy rating, for example, changing the heating system or installing double glazing. Any carbon footprint remaining after changes have been made can be offset. The process is a long-term one where Green Journey provide the knowledge and expertise necessary throughout. In the future, Green Journey hope to extend their services to other faith-buildings for example synagogues and mosques.

Outcomes of the 'How to go Greener' Day

The 'How to Go Greener Day' was a resounding success. Presentations were informative, enthusiastic and engaging. The information stands and workshops offered many practical ideas on how each individual can take part in the fight against climate change and make their own lifestyle slightly greener. The foods available during the breaks and at lunch showed that there are lots of vegan alternatives, and they can be delicious.

The event brought those individuals together who have a collective passion for a greater cause, with all working towards the same goal. This concept was epitomised in the song led by Hilary Blake 'Come with me, for the journey is long', which both opened and closed the day. It may be a long journey, but the opportunities we have as a society are wide ranging and accessible to everyone. It is reassuring that we can all do something.

One delegate, Dr John Bestley, has already committed to starting an Environmental Theology Group, Toll Gavel United Church wishes to become a collection-point for completed Eco-bricks and Walkington Methodist Church is now actively collecting single-use plastic to fill EcoBricks.

The leaders and congregation of Beverley Methodist Circuit have a desire to improve its green credentials further, which hopefully will result in many more 'How to Go Greener Days' to come.

References

Rockström et. al., 2009. A safe operating space for humanity, Nature, 461, 472-475.


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From GLD Challenge Magazine 2019-20