Get into your Green Routine

PUBLISHED: 16:27 03 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:51 20 February 2013

View west across the panels on Michael Eavis' farm buildings

View west across the panels on Michael Eavis' farm buildings

Somerset abounds with inspiring people turning their eco principles and money-saving good sense into practice. Nick Cater finds out more

Somerset abounds with inspiring people turning their eco principles and money-saving good sense into practice. Nick Cater finds out more.

Going green in Somerset or at least going greener means getting into a new routine of helpful habits, from using less power and water to recycling more and wasting less.

That green routine challenge is getting both tougher and easier. Tougher, because we know we must go beyond recycling to reuse repairing, donating or selling old items, not discarding them and do more to waste less by reducing what we consume. Easier, because austerity prompts us all to conserve resources, seek better value, and rediscover make-do-and-mend.

While Somerset has its successes good waste services mean a high recycling rate it is a rural county, giving us a chunky personal carbon footprint from our many motoring miles. But for those keen to do more, there is plenty of support and ideas, from green community networks to projects raising awareness among the next generation and Somerset Waste Partnerships own Green Routine guide.

Support in Somerset is both online and off, as thousands already use reuse networks like Freecycle or Freegle that offer items for nothing to give them a longer life and avoid landfill. To save cash and carbon by cutting motoring miles, Car Share Somerset matches passengers with seats, while sharing or loan services, such as Bridgwater-based, see growing demand for equipment, services and even land.

Demand for land is hardly surprising when many want to grow their own and allotments can have long waiting lists. Food production, including local cider making, is the among the many issues taken up by many green groups, such as those in the Transition Network from Wells to Langport, Minehead to the Blackdown Hills. So food was alongside water, transport, energy and waste when Taunton transition group put together its handbook with "information, scary facts ... and practical hints and tips" about cutting bills and carbon. Backed by Taunton Deane Borough Council, the group has also piloted mentor schemes to help people cope with the recession, from food co-ops and bike repairs to "energy efficiency parties".

For those that can afford to pay, and often with help for those that cannot, Somerset has green courses aplenty, such as those run by the Carymoor Environmental Trust conservation and education charity near Castle Cary, such as hedgerow basket-making led by Wyldwood Willows Amanda Rayner, or its workshops with schools. For 2012, with support from the Learning Communities Fund, Somerset Skills and Learning and housing associations in Bridgwater, Frome and Yeovil, Carymoors practical skill courses have titles like Frugal Food and A Stitch in Time.

For a greener next generation, groups like Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership, helped by Somerset Community Foundation, run woodland activities for youngsters, such as pond clearing, crafts and camp fires, while on Tauntons Halcon and Priorswood estates, arts event organisers Fuse Performance helps gets kids engaged in community clean-ups and art projects with recycled materials donated by companies to Somerset scrapstores, such as those in Minehead, Wells and Yeovil.

Businesses can play a vital green role, such as the self-financing social enterprise created by home improvement charity Somerset Care and Repair based around stair lifts used by older people. Proud of the apprenticeships and qualifications the work offers young people, director Kevin Lake said: "We remove and fit about 50 lifts a year. If the lift cannot be reused, it is stripped for usable parts and the rest recycled through scrap yards."

Somerset is a solar energy hotspot, with many individuals and groups installing renewable power systems, notably Glastonbury Festival boss Michael Eavis with a major photo-voltaic set-up from Bristol firm Solar Sense UK on his Worthy Farm. Another good example is Western Somersets community-owned Brendon Energy, which raised 72,000 from local people to invest in solar systems for community buildings, such as Wiveliscombes childrens centre. As well as providing free power to those buildings, the scheme installed by local firm Eco-Exmoor will sell electricity to the national grid, building a community fund that could surpass 100,000 over 25 years for new local projects.

At the other end of the power line, what to do with "e-waste" concerns Somerset campaigner Melinda Watson, of the Raw Foundation, and green consultant Julia Hailes, specifically the way we discard working items from PCs to fridges, that could be reused, and junk broken machines that could be recycled. Under the banner of "E For Good", they will work with Somerset schools, campaigns and businesses to boost reuse and recycling.

Recycling inspires creativity, from Somersets "Scraptors" group turning rubbish into art, such as the sculpture trail being planned for the Magdalen Project environmental educational centre near Chard, to Glastonbury "upcycler" Kieran vanden Bosch. His work includes turning washing machines into braziers, tyres into seats, and flattened beverage cartons into the TetraShak, a portable market stall already seen at Brutons Sunrise Festival.

And for a deeply green routine, try beating this: the site office at Glastonburys Red Brick Building community project has been built not with reclaimed stone or even straw bales, but hundreds of old Argos catalogues.

Nick Cater is Senior Communications Officer at Somerset Waste Partnership, which manages waste and recycling services for all local authorities in Somerset.

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