Corporate Watch on 10:10 as corporate greenwash

I’ve just read this report on 10:10 from Corporate Watch. They take a look at the usefulness of the project, and whether it is/is being used as corporate greenwash.

The big issue that I have with 10:10 is its focus on the individual. The big changes that we need to make aren’t at an individual level; they’re at a corporate and governmental level, and they’re about making significant changes to the way that the world operates. In particular, to the way that capitalism operates*. 10:10 encourages the idea that climate change is an individual responsibility. And, sure, we do all need to change our habits, and that’s not a bad thing. But it’s not going to be enough; and a campaign like this risks encouraging people to think that they’ve done their bit now.

The Corporate Watch report points out that corporations are being encouraged to sign up as well (good), but that the level for them is 3%. Looking at the 10:10 website, what they’re actually saying is that 10% is the target but 3% is enough (2nd para). Note that this isn’t applied to individuals (although it is to organisations). I find this pretty dodgy; not only that, but that page talks first about “urging your staff, suppliers and customers to sign up to cut their own emissions by 10%” and only then about “doing everything you can to reduce your own operational emissions”. This is a straightforward and massive cop-out, especially since (as above), it’s businesses and corporations that are the ones that really need to make changes. E.On say they’ve signed up to 10:10, for fuck’s sake, and I don’t see on that page anything about them changing their processes. Or, I don’t know, doing something about their coal-fired power stations.

Encouraging individual reductions is great. Letting companies off the hook before they even start is crap. Letting them sign up when all they’re doing is talking to their customers is greenwash. Which is a shame, because 10:10 could be doing something stronger than that. Expecting — and auditing — an actual 10% cut in business emissions would be more like a real achievement.

* It’s possible that what’s needed is changes big enough that it might not really be ‘capitalism’ any more, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Independence days

I came across the Independence Days challenge over on Casaubon’s Book. I rather like the idea. So, how’ve I done in the last week?

1. Plant something. Beans and peas on the balcony. The ones I planted earlier in the month have come up now, as well.

2. Harvest something. Chard and volunteer leeks from the allotment; herbs from the balcony; I’ll be harvesting some salad leaves from the balcony later today. (I should focus on doing this more often – no point in growing the damn stuff if I don’t eat it.)

3. Preserve something. Green tomato chutney! From the green tomatoes on the balcony. Only a single jar this year, but it’s tasty stuff.

4. Prep something. Hm. I finished knitting my gloves; that might count. I built a bit more of the cold-frame for the allotment.

5. Cook something. Learnt how to make soda bread! Which is very tasty.

6. Manage your reserves. This I am seriously not good at; although we’ve been filling up the freezer with food again, which is good.

7. Work on local food systems. Not doing much on this either. Although I’m considering the guerilla gardening situation… But then, I already knew that the whole community issue is the thing I’m worst at.

Better than I’d feared, though.

Time and sustainability

I worked out the other day that the various things I’m committed to (paid work, activism, food-growing, writing, other bits & pieces) add up to approximately a 50-hour week (that’s excluding the 5 hours I work on Saturdays). Which… is a lot.

Then there’s the things that keep showing up in my inbox, or on mailing lists, or in leaflets I see in Non-Commercial House or LARC. So many things that I would love to get involved in, and that would be valuable uses of my time. Except for where I already have no time left.

I know that activism has to be sustainable; that you need to look after yourself and avoid burnout. (It’s also my experience that far too often, that’s not seen as a priority — that there can be an attitude whereby it’s encouraged to run yourself into the ground for a cause. But that’s for another post.) But there is so much that I could be doing, and I don’t know how to choose or prioritise it.

The best I can do at the moment is to try to be honest about what I actually get something out of for myself (because you won’t work well at something that you’re doing reluctantly); and to watch my tendency to overcommit when I’m just trying things out. I keep reminding myself that it’s OK to try things out, to work out where I want to spend my energies.

My gut instinct is that what I’m doing at the moment isn’t long-term sustainable; so I need to do something about it. But that doesn’t help me work out what to drop whilst still feeling satisfied with how I’m spending my time. If anything, it’s a constant battle not to take more things on. Tales of other people’s experiences of managing this would be gratefully appreciated!

Teas: thyme, dandelion root, and chickweed

The other week I harvested some dandelion roots and chickweed, to try out for their medicinal properties. I also tried thyme infusion. Here are the reports.

Thyme infusion

A couple of sprigs of fresh (or dried) thyme in a mug, fill with boiling water, cover, and leave for 5-10 min. Crushing the leaves a little beforehand makes a stronger infusion, I found. It’s supposed to be a good decongestant.

It certainly tastes lovely (you can add a little honey, but I didn’t bother), and both I (a little sniffly at the time) and my cold-ridden test subject found that it did at least temporarily seem to have a de-gunking effect. Cold-ridden test subject also said it made him feel calmer.

Would voluntarily drink again!

Dandelion root decoction

Since dandelion roots are quite tough, this required a decoction, which means that instead of just infusing in boiling water, one simmers it on the stove for a while — in this case, I simmered a couple of smallish roots for about 15 min.

I was expecting bitterness, and was all set to add some honey, but in fact I found it quite pleasantly earthy, and not bitter at all. Certainly less bitter than strong black tea.

It’s supposed to have general tonic effects, and in particular to be good for the liver and kidneys. I didn’t particularly notice a diuretic effect, but I did feel a bit better after drinking it (I had a couple of glasses of wine the night before and was feeling just slightly under the weather). So might make a good hangover cure!

Would drink again but with less enthusiasm than the thyme.

Chickweed infusion

A small handful of dried chickweed; pour boiling water over, cover, and leave for 10-30 min. Supposed to be good for coughs and hoarseness. I didn’t really have either symptom, but my throat’s been a little scratchy of late.

Unlike the thyme tea, I had to strain this, as the chickweed didn’t sink enough for me to drink around it. It doesn’t taste of much at all, and it smells of wet greenery. Not unpleasant, but not actively pleasant, either. Maybe a slightly bittersweet aftertaste? (It does that strange thing whereby the thing itself doesn’t taste of much but your mouth tastes sweet afterwards.)

I didn’t particularly notice a soothing effect, although I did notice a slight degunking effect; but that can just be associated with drinking liquid of any sort. Plus it made my nose tickle.

Would try again if I had a cough or hoarse throat, but wouldn’t drink for pleasure.

I’ve also poured oil over a jar of dried chickweed and put that in the sun for a couple of weeks, to try it as a healing oil for minor skin irritation.

The Carbon Supermarket

You can download Kate Evans’ latest cartoon, The Carbon Supermarket, from her website. It’s a fantastic explanation of why carbon trading just doesn’t work.

After seeing this I went looking through her archives, as well. I particularly liked this one about the Diggers, and this one about privacy rights, but they’re all worth a read.

Update from my last post: that evening I went out to the AGM of the Friends of Galleywall Nature Reserve, a tiny nature reserve just down the road from me; and wound up volunteering as treasurer and to do a couple of other things to recruit volunteers. So if you’re in S London & interested in local wildlife, let me know! There’s an open morning coming up on the 12th December, as well.

Community and sustainability

I wouldn’t entirely describe myself as anti-social; but I’m quite happy spending a fair amount of time on my own, and I can find it quite hard to go out and put myself in new social spaces.

I was interested to read this week two articles about community participation. As Belinda points out, in the long run if you’re expecting a major change in our current society, community is a necessity rather than a luxury.

I absolutely agree with this in principle. In practice, I’m finding it harder to engage at that level than I’d like. I’m increasingly aware that part of the problem is that I feel unsupported. The various groups or community events that I aim to attend (e.g. the local nature reserve meeting tonight) are often also potentially interesting to the people I’m closest. But in practice, those people usually lack the time, energy, or social inclination to go along.

Now, that’s not anyone’s fault, and of course, it doesn’t prevent me from going myself. But it does mean that every time I try to expand my social or community circles, I have to take myself away from my existing social links to do it, rather than being able to integrate them. That by itself makes the whole process harder.

It also means I’m always going to these things on my own. Which isn’t usually a problem for me; I spent 10 months pottering around the world on my own, meeting people and going to things with no problems. But I didn’t expect any social support then, because I had no existing social circle.

The only option (other than to give up!) is to keep looking for new opportunities, keep pushing myself to do this on my own, and to try to find the places where I feel comfortable and can make new friends and acquaintances. I think it’s important to do all of that. I could just wish I found it a little easier.

It’s the little things

Minor changes or things I have done to reduce my environmental footprint recently:

  • Stopped using rubber gloves to do the washing up. Instead I made up some hand-cream (aqueous cream, a little almond oil, some aloe vera sap, and a few drops of lavender and frankincense essential oils) and put that in an old moisturiser jar by the sink.
  • Started using handkerchiefs rather than tissues.
  • Switched to (fair-trade) tealeaves rather than tea-bags. I have a per-cup teaball that makes this easier. Not particularly impressed with the quality of the Co-op’s tealeaves, though.
  • Did not buy a dog-bed when we got Finlay; instead he sleeps on a pile of old blankets (and an old coat and jumper) that were too knackered to be of use for their intended purpose. Actually overnight he sleeps on the landing with no blanket at all; and half the time during the day he eschews both blanket piles in favour of sprawling all over the floor; but hey, that’s his decision.
  • Patched my slightly-split rear bike tyre (from the inside, using a piece of another old tyre) rather than replacing what is otherwise a perfectly decent tyre. (Safety note: it’s not a big split, nor is it on the sidewall, so it’s not dangerous to ride on; it’s just a place where punctures are more likely.)
  • Darned two holes in one of my nice thick black stockings. (This also affected by the fact that these are no longer available at all, so I need to keep them going for as long as possible!).
  • Bought a book I wanted (on woodworking by hand, which I want to try out) second-hand instead of new.

Do I think any of these have a major impact on my carbon footprint? No. But I do think that making small daily-life changes is part of making larger changes; that it helps to remind you to think about sustainability. One of the main things I’m working on at the moment is simply not buying things; reducing my footprint by reducing my consumption. (Hence the second-hand book; and on realising that I really do need some specific warm clothing for cycle-instructing purposes over the winter, I went hunting & found the organic fair-trade version of that.) That’s a daily decision, but it’s not really one you can point at.

Link roundup

Various links I’ve collected over the last couple of weeks: