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Taking Responsibility for the Climate Emergency

Garry Jones

Thu 4 Nov 2021

Well happy autumn to you all, the colder weather seems to have finally arrived in November, after a worryingly warm October.  Thus, I couldn’t very well blog about much other than the climate crisis this week whilst COP26 is in full swing.

I’m going to start personal. Our household are vegetarians; we buy a good degree of local and organic food – we think its healthier and tastes better as well as its benefits to the climate and nature; we have long had a 100% renewable energy provider – though it includes gas (see below); we don’t fly abroad on holiday; we buy relatively little ‘stuff’ – we aren’t very consumerist. Downsides – we have a gas boiler and I suspect our house could be better insulated; we have two cars – though I’ve done something like 10% of my usual mileage since Covid and I have a small car, albeit petrol; compared to the average earth citizen I guess we are consumerist – we buy some stuff, often its plastic in one way or other.

Ok, with that on the table… I want first to say something about responsibility for addressing the climate emergency – for that is what it is and finish with a few updates on what we are doing at Support Staffordshire. I deliberately started with personal responsibility, for there is some, and many of us could do more. However, personal responsibility must be weighed against personal capability. With busy lives, work, family, caring, volunteering, and looking after ourselves in a myriad of other ways from exercise to mental wellbeing, its forgivable that the majority of folks simply don’t have the means, skills, wherewithal, money or time to individually act in some of the trickier ways. Frankly the upheaval of getting our loft insulated fills me with dread, let alone the idea that we might need our central heating replaced, walls ripped out, pipes changed….ugh! And for many of you living in our towns and villages, well taking a train, bus or cycling is just impractical to fit into a busy life and whilst staying safe. Thus I am angry that those who could and should take responsibility for these tougher steps seem to be moving at glacial pace.

Most weeks I observe new houses with conventional gas boilers being installed. Electric cars remain out of reach for the average Joe, and if you can’t park your car outside your house, which many can’t, where would you charge it anyway? In the last 50 years housing has grown ever more expensive and the expectation of cheap food has become baked in (forgive the pun) to household budgets, so that better climate-friendly food options just aren’t realistic or accessible for most. I could go on but suffice to say that many government agencies, manufacturers, retailers  and larger voluntary sector organisations too, need to pull their finger out and start to change some of the fundamentals – and I shall be sick if I see that patronising Amazon ad again, with their track record in corporate tax, workers rights and environmental impacts. We as individuals and communities can do a lot, but we can also only do so much if businesses and government don’t move too, and in many cases lead the way. I shall say what we are doing in a moment but if you are a local business person or public sector employee or indeed senior staff member or politician, or know one please ask the question, and keep asking the question – are we doing as much as we can do? What more could we do? What might break the mould, upset the status quo, even lose us a few customers, but ultimately be the right thing to do? And then ask again! And get a little angry if the response isn’t good enough!

Support Staffordshire is a people business, we don’t make stuff or sell stuff. As such our own carbon footprint is relatively narrow. Yet we are looking to ensure the premises we do have control over are drawing on renewable energy and supporting greener companies. We are also looking at the little stuff we do buy to make better choices. We have recently been educating ourselves on our remote/digital footprints to see what small margins we can further improve there. And finally travel – our biggest footprint – well we don’t have all the answers, 100% home working isn’t going to work for our relational business, but I do expect us to stay at around 50% of our pre-Covid office and travel, perhaps more. And finally, finally, we have woken up to our role in this – ours is not an environmental charity, you won’t see that in our constitution, but what you will see is a clear objective in our business plan and a working group and action plan to keep doing better. If you would like some support with taking this step at your own voluntary group, charity or social enterprise, please get in touch; we are looking at a climate focussed peer support network as we speak, so feedback would also be welcome.