Thursday, September 29, 2022

End Clutter

The green tip for last week's service was from TakeTheJump's End Clutter suggestion - they highlight the climate and ecological impact of electronic items which are often replaced very frequently. The carbon emissions associated with the production of any electronic product are generally higher than those used in its entire lifetime eg only 13% of the Apple iPhone 11 Pro’s lifetime emissions are actually to do with its use; the other 86% are associated with its production, transport and end-of-life processing.

Electronic items should last 5-7 years so our target is not to replace them within that time. Obviously the same is true for lots of other products with potentially much longer lifecycles. According to Ethical Consumer, 8% of the world's carbon emissions come from steel production and each washing machine or fridge is responsible for 300-400 kg of carbon dioxide for its manufacture.

You can try taking portable electrical items to Reading Repair Cafe for advice on mending. Hiring, borrowing or buying secondhand are all obvious alternatives that save money too. 

Some years ago we tried a 'church borrowing book' in which people listed items they owned that they were prepared to lend to anyone in the congregation who wanted - these ranged from DVD collections to a flat by the sea - but it didn't really work because people forgot to check in there to find what might be available. It can feel awkward to ask to borrow but that is surely a consequence of problems with our culture - individualism, prizing wealth etc. Yet being prepared to borrow helps the planet and makes whoever does the lending feel good at the same time. It's part of what it means to be a community, so we shouldn't feel embarrassed to put out requests on the church Facebook page if our neighbours cannot help. My family was certainly very grateful to Laura's for lending us suitcases for our holiday this year.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Creation Sunday

 Last Sunday's service was given a special focus on Creation and the sermon will, as usual, be available on our church website in due course. In the intercessions it was fortunately easy to lead from prayers about the late Queen and new King into prayers for Creation because of their family's well-known concern for the environment. This was marked most recently in the launch of the Queen's Green Canopy.

At the end, as we have throughout Creationtide, a notice was given using TakeTheJump's recommended actions. This week the focus was on buying fewer clothes. The UN reckon that the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – that is actually more than aviation and shipping combined. About 2.5% of the world’s farmland is given over to cotton and over 10,000 litres of water are needed to make just one pair of jeans. Synthetic materials are of course often directly made from oil, and then there are all the tonnes of chemicals involved in dyeing the clothes. Apparently British shoppers buy more clothes than any others in Europe. (Source here)

Although some clothes companies have eco-ranges, campaigners say this really doesn’t address the problem seriously. In addition, while giving clothes to charity shops is good, the supply there outstrips the demand so that 70% of donated clothing ends up with textile merchants who sell it in developing countries where the livelihoods of local clothes producers are consequently undermined. TakeTheJump suggest we try to limit our buying to three or fewer new items each year, definitely no more than eight – if everyone in the developed world did that, it would reduce the fashion industry’s emissions by 37%. Instead we can buy more secondhand clothes, which supports charity shops, do more mending, and rent for special occasions instead of buying those dresses that only come out of the wardrobe once a year. Churches don’t tend to do jumble sales any more but the Greenbelt clothes swap seemed to go well and EcoChurch are trying to encourage us to do similar small scale events.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Travelling light

In last week's service the 'green tip' from TaketheJump was to opt for greener travel - that meant taking two of TaketheJump's themes - one on avoiding cars and the other on avoiding planes. We chose to combine them because we're aware that many people don't fly at all - 70% of all flights in the UK are made by just 15% of the population.

Flights account for 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions but they're a very energy intensive way to travel and they're increasing rapidly. Some campaigns ask us not to fly at all, but TaketheJump recommend only one short haul return flight every three years and a minimum of eight years between long haul flights. As it happens there was a great talk at Greenbelt this year on the topic by Helen Coffey, travel editor for The Independent who gave up flying in 2020 - an experience she records in her new book: Zero Altitude. It turns out that UK citizens fly abroad more than anyone else and the number of flights worldwide increased 300% between 1990 and 2021. Her top advice is to make the journey part of the holiday, to recognise that flying takes up most of a day anyway with all of the queuing and waiting; and that psychologically travelling at a pace where you are more conscious of the journey is better for you. A sleeper train may be more expensive than a flight, but it is also an adventure that feels a little bit Agatha Christie with less peril.

A quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transport, apparently, with two thirds of this coming from road travel. Living in Reading, it's not all that difficult to avoid using a car most of the time - we gave ours away about twelve years ago. This has been made much easier by generous friends in the congregation lending us their cars now and again (notably for Greenbelt!). For occasional short trips the commonwheels car club is great. 

It's worth being prepared to spend some money on making cycling feel safer and dryer with the right clothing - it feels easier to make that purchase if you bear in mind how little the cost is in comparison with servicing a car. |It took me several years to work up the courage to cycle at night - finally inspired by a fellow PCC member. It turned out to be far less stressful than I thought, in fact, sometimes cycling in the quiet on a still night can be intensely beautiful, even in Reading!

Although train travel can be expensive, booking in advance can make a ridiculously large difference and there are some excellent discount cards too - it was worth buying a 'Twogotogether' for me and my eldest just for one return journey to York which we weren't able to book very far in advance. The Network card covers a huge area of the south so I use it most of the time. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Taking the Jump in Creationtide


As usual we are marking Creation Tide through September and the first weekend in October. We've decided to encourage the actions suggested by in the notices each week, not least because many of them also involve actions that save money as well as carbon emissions and it feels more optimistic to be taking actions that will positively make the world fairer than just because the cost of living crisis is forcing us into them! For this week I mentioned the value of a plant based diet since the UN reckon that livestock accounts for 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is hard to believe until you realise that, of the total mass of mammals on this planet, 60% is livestock, 36% humans and only 4% wild animals.  The JUMP's suggestions and justifications are here. Elsewhere I've seen a suggestion of the equivalent of three chicken breasts a week as a maximum appropriate.

Of course meat and dairy aren't the only high emissions foods - chocolate can be awful if rainforests have been cut down to grow the cocoa, which is why it's essential to look for the Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade symbols. Deciding what is appropriate is made more complicated by the fact that the same products grown in different ways can have different impacts. I've always been encouraged to read that beef from cattle that graze in organic pasture land is better than that from crowded sheds. Unfortunately George Monbiot has observed that some 26% of land is grazed in this way and that if this land was allowed to grow wild it would actually be very much better both for the climate and biodiversity - not everyone has been persuaded, as these comments show. All in all it seems beef ought still to be a very rare luxury.

Luckily being vegetarian or vegan has never been easier with an amazing array of alternatives available in supermarkets so it's a great deal easier to do it healthily. Some of the alternatives aren't always that much cheaper than the meat of course, but with the right recipe books it can be very economical - my favourite vegetarian recipe book is one I've had since I was a student: Cheap and Easy by Rose Elliot.

Last Sunday I was also able to recruit a good team to start looking after the courtyard garden and added some more plants which have been wonderfully well-watered by the rains at last in the days since.