Green credentials are challenged after visit
IF there’s anything that makes you feel bad about your environmental choices, it’s sharing your home for a week with a Swede. This, incidentally, is all perception on my part, rather than anything the Swede said or did.
But my friend from Malmö came to stay for a week and, in my mind, she merged with Greta Thunberg to be a much better version of humanity than I am.
Last year I counted up the number of flights I had taken and came to the appalled realisation that I had been on 31 flights in 2019.
Two of them were to Malmö and back and I was glad that Miss Thunberg was travelling by sea at the time because I didn’t want to bump into her and have to explain myself to the teenage environmental campaigner.
I couldn’t explain myself – I had no good excuses.
My friend Dan bought me wax wraps for Christmas, which you use instead of clingfilm or tinfoil to wrap your food and store it in the fridge.
At the end of the wax wrap’s lifespan it is fully compostable.
And I felt virtuous having these in the house as my Swedish friend also has them in her home.
The thing that really struck me, though, was how often my friends and I use our cars.
Six of us got together in Finnieston one evening and five of the six drove there in our personal cars – the sixth was my guest. For every festive event, a flurry of text messages went back and forth asking who was driving and who wanted to carpool.
In Sweden, none of my friend’s friends have cars and this really preyed on my mind.
All the wax wraps in the world are not going to balance out my car use.
COP26, the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference, is coming to the city later this year and it cannot be over-emphasised how important the event is for the city.
All eyes will be on Glasgow. It’s a time, also, for residents to think about how they live and what impact their choices have on the environment.
The SNP-led administration is very much trying to push us in the right direction by making changes to how we can use our cars in the city centre.
Introducing a low emissions zone is part of this. So is bringing in Sunday parking.
Tackling car use requires two things, though – for people to buy in to it and for the alternatives to be there so that they do.
I talk a big game about car use.
I cycle to work and to the city centre if I’m coming in for any reason other than shopping. But am I in denial about my car use? Probably.
I don’t cycle in to the city at night for a late night film because I’m usually rushing to, firstly, get to the film on time and, secondly, too lazy to contemplate cycling home again when I’ve already done one cycle commute that day.
If I have shopping to do then I’ll bring the car. Again, too lazy to carry heavy bags on the bus.
Or I’ll drive to Glasgow Fort where I can park for free rather than pay to park in town, thus damaging the environment and the local high street.
Being environmentally conscious has become fashionable and it has become important to businesses to be seen to be caring about their carbon footprint.
But, because this is capitalism and capitalism rarely really cares about anything but cash, an industry has sprung up to help us consume more stuff in the name of helping the planet.
Just at the time when it’s vital we live lightly and have fewer things, “caring consumerism” is giving us carte blanche to buy more things and pretending we’re on the side of right.
So, you can replace your plastic lunch box with a bamboo lunchbox. Or you can buy a water container made of metal and plastics recycled from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Buy, buy, buy and still feel good about yourself in the morning.
Except, you’d be better keeping your original plastic lunch box and making sure you actually use it.
Or reusing your initial water bottle until it becomes absolutely necessary to buy a new one.
We need to be smarter, make sure we are well informed about our choices and not get sucked in by the promise of shiny new things.
Unless you’re Donald Trump – and if you are, hiya! – you know that climate change is a global emergency. Australia, where I was born and grew up, is literally on fire.
The disaster is happening now. It seems ludicrous when people are being killed, homes destroyed and wildlife on the brink of extinction to worry about losing the convenience of driving to the shops.
It is time for everyone to make big changes – and to put pressure on the politicians and corporations that can make vital structural changes.
COP26 is an opportunity for Glasgow we should all use.
Catriona was glad she didn’t have to explain herself to Greta Thunberg