Writing the manual for a sustainable low carbon community: part #1

It feels like starting a new year’s resolution.

“With joy, our Yearly Meeting has made a commitment to becoming a low carbon sustainable community” – Britain Yearly Meeting epistle 2011.

Like going to the gym or learning a new language I would start off with good intentions but probably not make it beyond the first month.

But this could be different. Our epistle also states: “The time to act is now.”

While our epistle is not a binding statement, our minutes from Yearly Meeting are. And minute 36 states: “The action we are ready to take at this time is to make a strong corporate commitment to become a low-carbon, sustainable community.”

An anonymous Quaker quoted in The Friend thinks that the minute didn’t go far enough: “‘I feel as if I was let off the hook with the minute’, a Friend said when talking about the wording of the minute on Gathering up the Threads. ‘It was a masterpiece of English, but I felt a real need to have a firmer decision. Proclaiming that we are ready to be ready is not enough. We need to act. The time is now. We need targets.’” http://thefriend.org/article/the-time-is-now/

But this approach is largely irrelevant to me. It is like telling me that Quakers have a testimony to peace and I reply “unless you tell me how much peace you mean, I can’t live by it”.

So I’m not going to wait upon another Quaker body to work out what my target is – instead I’m going to take action.

Last night my partner L and I sat down to address how much immediate action we can take. We have divided our lives into home, work, local community, worshipping communities and other.

Most importantly, we decided that we are doing this together and that we are doing it with joy.

The letters of the word 'Green' looking like a hedge among a riot of colour

Going green with joy. Photo: Erin_Beth/flickr/CC

At home, we decided, we can make some savings. We sat down with our energy bills and looked at how much we have spent per month from the end of January to the end of July. We divided the amounts by six and set a target of a 15% reduction of units used in the first year. This was because the 10:10 campaign set a target of a 10% reduction and we added 5% because energy prices are about to rise substantially. We don’t want to be spending more than we already are, if we can help it.

We came up with our own intentions (practice, as Pam Lunn describes it in the Swarthmoor Lecture) such as not leaving electrical equipment on stand-by; defrosting the fridge/freezer regularly; only heating rooms that we are using regularly; and no ‘joy showering’. This has fast become a catchphrase of ours, borrowed from an elderly Friend in The Hague who we stayed with earlier this year. She told us that there was a limited supply of hot water in her flat we could only use the shower for practical purposes. “No joy showering,” she said.

Then we did an internet search for other tips for reducing our bills. The 10:10 site http://www.1010global.org/uk/insulating has an excellent page of ideas and we decided that window film, radiator panels and DIY draught-busting all sound like excellent ideas that we could purchase and implement ourselves.

During the Yearly Meeting sessions on the issue, we heard that some Friends are limited by living in rented accommodation. This is our situation too, but we’re not put off. We are pricing up the 10:10 ideas to send to our landlady. They’re the cheapest options and will benefit the flat long after we are gone. The least we can do is ask her if she will pay for these relatively cheap suggestions.

Something else that we’ve decided to try and do is buy no more new DVDs and less books. We hope to send some of our current books to Zimbabwe for the libraries supported by Friends of Hlekweni, or sell our old books and DVDs to raise funds for Hlekweni ( a training college in Zimbabwe).

At the local community level we are going to get involved with our local Transition Town movement. There’s a communal fruit-picking event later this month and a few other activities including support for the 9 carrots campaign. 9 carrots is an initiative whereby businesses commit to a particular carbon-reducing action and will save 10% of all purchases by 9 carrots customers towards the total amount needed to spend on the change. So, for example, near us a wine bar agreed to a £200 spend on changing lightbulbs. Customers who registered with 9 carrots spent £2,000 at the wine bar over several months and now the lightbulbs have been bought and are being fitted. Learn more about the scheme at http://9carrots.org/.

Our worshipping communities are Peckham Quaker Meeting and Westminster Quaker Meeting.

At Westminster I am involved with the premises committee so will have an opportunity soon to help shape the heating and energy systems at the Meeting House for the next 30-50 years. And a small group has recently started discussing our environmental impact – this came out of a preparation meeting ahead of Yearly Meeting Gathering.

At Peckham there will be a meeting soon to discuss where we go from here. As we don’t have a Meeting House how we move forward will, at least in part, be different from Westminster.

So there you have it, some initial steps are under way. There’s still plenty to do and we haven’t even begun to think about work or many other activities. It really wasn’t hard to get this started.

Are you considering how to take steps towards being part of a low carbon sustainable community? I would like to publish more Quakers’ experiences on Nayler, especially if they could involve regular or occasional updates. Leave a comment at the end of this article and state whether or not it is for publication or email me at [email protected].  

6 thoughts on “Writing the manual for a sustainable low carbon community: part #1

  1. It was inspiring to read of how YMG affected you–it did me too. Just want to share a nifty resource for cutting carbon and reducing energy use: see imeasure.org.uk You get a reminder each week to record your gas and electricity meter, which honestly gets easier each time! Soon you may opt to join a “carbon club” on the website which simply means the site automatically calculates how you compare with other similar-sized households. It becomes highly motivating and joyful to squeeze down your usage so you can creep into the top lowest consumers. We need all the help we can get!

  2. Hi,I was so inspired too and am trying to cut my consumerism (at suesheppey.blogspot.com) also interested in transition towns for my LM involvement but the ‘elephant in the room’ to quote another Friend, is our society’s dependence on the economy of consumerism and I can’t see any short term answers there. Just each trying to do our bit and speaking truth to power whenever possible. I admire your carbone cutting and will follow what I can.

  3. All 3 members of our household were at YMG, myself, my spouse and our adult son, but we came back to a busy week of work and Quaker commitments and so have not found much time to discuss moving to a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s been a matter of snatched conversations here and there.
    My first resolve from YMG was to raise some of the sustainability issues with my work colleagues. I felt that if the conversation on Monday morning was the typical:
    ‘Hello Stephanie, had a good holiday?’
    ‘Yes, great thanks.’
    ‘Weather was good wasn’t it’
    then into the backlog of work, I’d have lost an opportunity.
    I did raise the issue of recycling in particular – at home we all sort our waste for the council recycling collection, at work we just bung everything in the bin. The response from my colleagues and boss was supportive, but a difficulty is that the council just say they don’t do recycling for business waste.
    The Meeting House has found a way round this because it has a warden’s flat and so is a domestic property and a business.
    So next target is to talk to my local councillor.
    Thanks Jez for setting this excellent example.

  4. We’re back from YMG and on personal level have decided not to heat the greenhouse but to overwinter in the house – extending window sills to do that; to cut out grapefruit which we habitually eat daily, as it isn’t UK produce and to try to be more local with fruit;to leave more time so we can walk/cycle all the local trips;to line the last set of curtains to be done. Cooking up idea for teaching making and mending skills. Working up an approach to MP linking ARms Fair, resource waste and environmental damage and the consequences of violent self-interest ways of life.
    Meeting House – thinking of ways to counteract objections to putting solar on roof of Meeting House from a Friend.

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