This week I was surprised to see myself staring out from a bus shelter advert. I was surprised because they were in a hurry and forgot to ask me first! Anyway, the reason I was there is because I am an environmental champion for the London Borough of Hounslow. This sounds far grander than it is. It’s really a way for people in the area to get together and communicate their environmental issues to the council. It’s also for the council to hear from residents, in an informal way, what the issues that their residents are facing. And it’s a way for the council to find ways for local people to start working together to achieve more. It’s a new programme so we have the chance to shape it and make it work for us. So far I’m enjoying it.
And that’s kind of the point. I was on the bus shelter advertising volunteer week but I hadn’t really thought of what I was doing as volunteering. I enjoy talking about the environment and encouraging people to make a difference. As part of the environmental champions I get to talk to like minded people who all want to make a difference and together we hope we can do more.
My environmental journey started when I took redundancy from my corporate job and had more time to spend at home. I was prompted to look at the volume of plastic products in our waste and set about trying to reduce that. During my journey I’ve learnt that not only do you have power as a consumer, it’s possible to make those purchasing decisions more powerful by telling others about them. I buy my veg from Riverford as it’s organic, plastic free and co-op owned and my toilet paper from Who gives a Crap as they contribute some of their profits to help build toilets in places that need them. I learnt that one of the really important elements of being an eco-worrier is to talk about it. So this is me, being a citizen, telling the council what our issues are.
What do I do?
I think my main local contribution to climate change so far has been setting up and being the admin for a whatsapp for our road. If I could measure the carbon savings from the saws, wheelbarrows, and hedge trimmers that have been borrowed, the number of sofas, beds and trampolines that have been donated and the myriad other ways that neighbours share, borrow, lend, donate and receive I think it would be truly significant.
Through lockdown my interest in nature has grown as we watched every flower open in our small garden. I attended a neighbourhood webinar on hedgehogs and learnt that we all need a small hedgehog sized hole in our fences so that they have somewhere to go. In Spring I wrote a piece on how to look after our smaller residents from bird feeding to bug hotels.
Be the change
I recently noticed a new bird feeder in my next door neighbour’s garden. I am secretly hoping it was because of my article. Just like someone I follow on instagram posted that she was secretly hoping her neighbour was following no mow May when his previously manicured lawns were looking a bit more natural. We talk about the ripple effect of our actions. We don’t quite know where they will go or how they will work (that’s where the ripple analogy ends!) but somewhere somehow our actions start adding up.
According to volunteers week the most common reason overall for volunteering is wanting to improve things or help people. And as I said earlier it’s enjoyable so it has been shown to improve volunteer’s wellbeing. It’s natural to feel good after helping others out or cleaning a beach or planting a tree. Volunteering can help you gain new skills, experiences, boost your confidence and help you gain new friends and relationships.
According to the Canals and Rivers Trust, England and Wales’ canals and rivers can be plastic free within a year if everyone picked up just one piece of litter each. This blows my mind. Let’s start there? Can that be the next PM news briefing please? Or where do you want to start?
If you want to support important and necessary nature projects then you can do so by offsetting your carbon footprint with us. You can find out more here, while also offsetting your everyday carbon emissions.