We’ve been thinking a lot lately about our environmental impact. Although we live pretty low down on the food chain and have few appliances, live in a recycled home and don’t fly, we still cause more harm than we’d like.
Our biggest impact is our car, we drive to attend events and gigs, and Kate also drives to work 3 days a week. Because of the amount of stuff we have to move we have a fairly large diesel car-van (a fiat Doblo) which whilst efficient for a car of its size still burns more fuel than we’d like. To be honest, in a perfect world we’d like to burn no fossil fuel at all.
So we are trying to make plans to go car free. This will probably reduce the type of things we can do, but we’ll feel better about it. We have bicycles for short journeys, although the country lanes around here are made dangerous by cars, and we will be risking our lives, though hopefully the power of Hi-Visibilty Jackets will protect us! The car and fuel is one of our major outgoings too, so having a car just to get to events which you have to work at to pay for the car is a bit self defeating anyhow…
Further on this topic Corwen got into a bit of a discussion with someone on facebook who is planning to fly from Australia to the UK to attend a Druid event. We both think this is a startling example of cognitive dissonance, to travel in the most environmentally damaging way possible to a Druid event, but exactly how damaging is it?
We did some maths. Imagine a camp for 70 people (hypothetically an ‘average’ Pagan camp). Lets say each of those people on average drives 70 miles round trip to get to camp. The camp’s CO2 emissions from transport will be around 800kg of CO2. If a single person flies across the Atlantic, even from this side of the States, then their flight more than doubles the CO2 impact of the whole gathering.
What makes us feel worse is that we support these events and thus contribute to their impact, not only by driving ourselves, but by playing and running workshops we encourage others to come. Mostly that travel has a negligible impact but if people are increasingly flying to these events, the Pagan Camp scene’s environmental impact could double or triple easily without anyone noticing.
Going back to this particular Druid camp, around 400 people go, and they travel further because it is a bigger event, lets say 100 miles each. The one chap flying equals the travel impact of more than 150 of his fellow campers. If three people fly from Australia then this more than equals the driving of the other 397 people. Those three flyers more than double the emissions of the whole camp.
So here’s an idea, if we Pagans really care about the planet, could we at least devise a voluntary code of conduct for events which encourages good practice, both ethical and environmental? Here are some suggestions:
Events handle large amounts of cash, and most banks have no ethical policy. Whilst the ticket money is sloshing about waiting to be spent it may well be funding factory farming, GM crops, the arms industry, deforestation etc etc. Events should show that they try to handle their finances in an ethical way, using where possible financial institutions that have an ethical policy, such as the Cooperative Bank or Triodos. Even an event with 50 tickets at £30 has a turnover of £1,500, so it’s worth consideration, even for smaller gatherings.
Event catering has a big impact. Could event organisers do more to endeavour to make sure that food sold is sourced as ethically (with as little environmental impact and as little animal cruelty) as possible? The easiest way to do this is to serve vegetarian food locally sourced. And what about minimising waste food, while we’re at it, and composting?
Transport and CO2
Events could attempt to both quantify and mitigate the environmental damage they cause. This means both offsetting the CO2 produced (hopefully in some physical collective way rather than just paying an offsetting company- an industry which is dodgy to the extreme), and by making concrete attempts to reduce the CO2 emitted. Discouraging people travelling by air might be a start, if we set up an event we have to be responsible for the damage caused and try to minimise it. Providing networking opportunities for car sharing, publicising public transport options and making arrangements for collecting people from nearby public transport nodes would also be good.
All this can be summed up in a sentence:
This event offsets its carbon footprint whilst seeking to reduce it, handles its financial assets responsibly and sources foodstuffs as ethically as possible.
We’ll be making some attempt to publicise these ideas over the next few months, maybe through an article or two. I’d like to see all events that call themselves Pagan beginning to address these issues. Ultimately I’d like to only support events that signed up to such a pledge, and I hope other environmentally conscious Pagans would do the same.
What do you think? Any other areas you’d like to see covered by a voluntary ethical policy for the camp scene?