Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Green Helpers - The apples of my eyes

Last post I wrote how wonderful it would be to have a set of strong governmental policies coupled with strong individual will. Well, the Green Helpers project is Lush’s way of tapping that potential, passion and drive to make small (and big) changes at local level.
These days, every corner one looks, there will be scores of people concerned about the environment and feeling frustrated about not being able to do enough. If you give these green warriors the incentive (and a badge) to let all of their green passion loose, then you can sit and watch marvellous things unfold.
Every Lush shop (or nearly every shop) has a strong-willed, committed Green Helper. They are responsible for maintaining a good environmental standard in the shop, nagging fellow members of staff and driving change towards a sustainable future.
This project started this year and has been very fruitful. I hope to be able to feature some Green Helpers and what they’ve been involved with in this space.
In October we had four lovely days out and we visited different eco projects around the country. The idea was to get together and exchange information, learn loads and feel very inspired.

We visited the following places (click on names to see pictures)

York Environmental Centre
An environment centre in the city in the middle of a nature reserve that grew where there used to be a landfill site. We looked at some eco-houses near-by, saw the biggest strawbale building in Europe, visited composting toilets, saw solar panels and small wind turbines. We also spent lots of time coming up with new ideas and a green training session. Green Helpers told me everything they've been doing and I was very impressed. From sending questionnaires to all shops in their shopping district to getting everyone recycling, doing small campaigns in their shops, buying lunch in bulk to avoid packaging, etc.

Earthship Brighton

This is a stunning off-grid building that has rainwater collection, is naturally thermally-controlled (walls made out tyres guarantee the heat is absorbed by the thermal mass when it's hot and released when it's cold). We also saw organic and permaculture gardens, a massive array of solar panels and eco building techniques. We also spent time discussing evironmental best practice and an environmental standard for the shops.

Findhorn Eco Village
The Scottish Green Helpers and I went to Findhorn village near Inverness to look at one of the oldest eco-villages in the world. The first family settled there in 1959. The most amazing thing we saw there was something called "Living Machine". There are only twelve of those in the world, so it was a real privilege to be taken on a tour of one. Living Machines are used to treat sewage. The one we saw can handle human waste from 330 people. The water at the end of the process comes out completely clear and safe to European bathing standard levels. They use a variety of plants, bacteria and all sorts of organisms to digest and filter the sewage.

Center for Alternative Technology in Wales

In Wales, we had a look around CAT. They focus on energy, so we had a chance to see wind turbines, hydroelectric power, whole roofs cladded in solar panels. We also learned how wave and tidal power work and saw a super energy efficient house. The site is on an old quarry and it has a rail lift that is powered solely by water. We also had time to do a bit of training, discuss ideas and find out what everyone has been up to. One Green Helper has been making bags out of old aprons for staff to use when going shopping at lunch time!


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