Introduction from Geoff to this week’s Reflections
Sunday 18th April would have seen us hold an Eco Church themed service with Catherine Causley from Transition Exmouth as our guest speaker. Since we are unable to meet for worship, I invited Catherine to provide our Reflections for this Sunday, suggesting she might like to write for us what she would have conveyed in her talk. This is what she sent – which I hope acts as a challenge and an inspiration to us all!
The things we have done to reduce our environmental impact as a family
My name is Catherine and I am married to Roger and together we have 2 children, Holly aged 9 and Toby aged 7. Over the last few years we have been trying to reduce our environmental impact, slowly over time we have tried a number of different things. We added things one by one, it was easier than trying to implement a whole series of changes in one go and it allowed us to embed new behaviours before adding new things. Maybe in hindsight we might have implemented things in a different order but we were learning as we went along. Our carbon footprint has reduced by 50% and I do not feel like we have sacrificed anything by the changes we have made.
- Reduced our consumption of dairy products. Our son has eczema and it took us a while to realise that it was triggered by dairy, so a couple of years ago we went dairy free for 6 weeks to see if eliminating dairy helped his condition and it did. We found the experience ok after a period of adjustment, so have massively reduced our dairy consumption except for the occasional piece of cheese. For me the hardest thing was giving up milk in coffee but after a couple of weeks I soon got used to it. We tried numerous nut milks but they were not for us but if you can’t go without something in your morning coffee then oat milk is definitely the best option.
- Went from 2 cars to 1. In 2019 I was involved in a minor car crash, where someone drove into the side of my car writing it off. We decided not to replace it and now just have one car. I was worried about how we would make it work with both of us needing to commute to Exeter for work, school drop offs and general usage but actually it’s been fine. We both have e-bikes which we use for short journeys, the battery makes cycling up to the top of Brixington easy. Pre-covid I used to cycle the 11 miles into my Exeter office and it would take the same time as driving.
- Buy second hand. This is something I have always done, mainly because I didn’t have the budget to buy new items. I have a passion for Stag bedroom furniture and often find older furniture is better quality and built to last in a way new furniture just isn’t. I buy preloved clothes for my children and myself and have recently learnt to sew so that I can make alterations and repair our clothes.
- Stop flying. My last flight was 4 years ago and I flew to Manchester for a work event. We have made the decision to no longer fly, much of Europe is accessible by ferry and car. We tend to holiday in the U.K. There are so many beautiful places to see and we are blessed to live in such a stunning part of the U.K. Whilst I may fly again at some point I have no plans to in the medium term. My children’s favourite place to go on holiday is Dawlish, at the age they are all they want is a beach, a park and the freedom to run around and play. My favourite holiday was to North Wales, it’s really the prettiest place in the U.K I have ever been to, it’s just a shame you can’t guarantee the weather!
- Go vegetarian – almost. For a few years now we have been reducing our meat and dairy consumption, we went from eating meat everyday to a couple of times a week. Then in January we did Veganuary and went fully vegan for a whole month. I am lucky my children love vegetables and are not fussy eaters and actually they barely mentioned the switch. Now as a family we are almost vegetarian, by that I mean we eat the occasional bacon sandwich and will eat whatever we are served at someone else’s house but very rarely cook meat at home. We also don’t eat eggs, fish or red meat.
- Green energy. This was probably the easiest switch for us, we went with a supplier that sells only renewable electricity, our supplier is Octopus. There is a concern that it will be massively more expensive but we found it cost about the same. Renewable gas is harder to come by but we have a newish gas boiler and keep the ambient temperature low, I make my kids put on a jumper before I switch on the heating!
- Eco renovation. We love our house and intend to stay here forever so we have installed solar p.v to generate our own energy and have battery storage to store energy whilst the sun is shining to use later in the evening. This was not a cheap measure but will pay back in 10 years and save us over £25,000 over its lifetime in energy. We will generate about 75% of the energy our house uses. Later on this year we will replace the ancient double glazing and insulate the whole house. The cost to insulate the attic will be about £300 and will save us £140 per year and last 40 years so it’s a great return on our investment.
- Recycle everything. I am a firm believer in reuse before recycling so not only do I primarily buy second-hand furniture and clothes but I also give away things I no longer need. Exmouth Friends in Need is a great way of passing on things and it helps to support disadvantaged people in our community. I also use freecycle which is an email based free giveaway site and the bonus is people will come and collect it from you so it’s easy. In my day job I work for Devon County Council as the reuse project officer for the waste management team, so I have learnt to be very good at ensuring my rubbish ends up in the correct bin. I really focus on food waste and hardly ever throw food out. I use the community larder when I have an excess of things I have grown or bought and turn my vegetable waste into compost.
- Get involved. Now my children are older I have a bit more time so I have got involved with Transition Exmouth. They are a local environmental community group aimed at helping people tackle the climate crisis. To date we have run energy advice clinics, networking events, litter patrols and worked with the Town council to adopt a 10-point plan to reduce their environmental impact. I am also in the process of setting up a Library of Things, so that people can share items.
- Organic box scheme. A couple of years ago we started to get vegetables from a local organic farm and every week we have a veg box, the flavour is just amazing, plus it has the bonus of creating far less packaging waste.
So if this has inspired you and you would like to take a step to being more eco conscious but are unsure where to start my suggestions would be to
- Switch to a renewable energy supplier
- Insulate your house
- Buy organic food, preferably from a local grower
For more information or to meet like-minded people, you could join Transition Exmouth, we are a lovely friendly and supportive bunch. You could also check out our new website, Our place, Our planet for lots of ideas on how to reduce waste.