Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

Confession time: I am a kamikaze cyclist - OK?


It's been an active week on the eco front. Having insisted that I was a born-again cyclist since selling my car a few months ago (OK, this is a slight exaggeration - let's just say I don't think radio taxis face imminent demise), and given the impression I had taken the council's cycling proficiency course, Donnachadh, my eco coach, has been threatening to take me for a spin to test my prowess.

I must admit that the only cycling training I've taken is when I accompany my squeeze (an enthusiastic occasional cyclist) down to the pub. Detached temporarily from his intravenous drip of Stella Artois, he demonstrates a reckless streak once on the road, seeing pavements, zebra crossings and one-way streets as his private fiefdom.

I fear I have developed a number of non-proficient cycling habits that Donnachadh might not thoroughly approve of. In fact I must come clean and admit I have become that scourge of Middle England, a "kamikaze cyclist". (Isn't it curious the word "kamikaze" is never attached to any road users apart from cyclists, in the same way that "bogus" is rarely attached to anything but asylum seekers?)

Anyway I simply can't understand why people get so worked up about cyclists dodging the odd red light, zooming over pedestrian crossings (let them wait!) and cycling on pavements. Don't they know how dangerous the roads are?

However, I was on my best non-kamikaze cycling behaviour when Donnachadh arranged to cycle with me to the Ideal Home Show. It was my longest cycle ride ever (one mile, I thought the journey would never end).

Still, I saw it as training for the London to Amsterdam cycle ride this June - although on my current fitness levels (one mile an hour, not including breaks for coffee) it will take me three years, but I shan't let this deter me.

The Ideal Home Show is a shrine to consumerism, but it was good to see it reflect the public's growing interest in green issues. We enjoyed a mini exhibition about recycling, which showcased innovative goods made from waste products such as mobile phones and plastic bottles.

All trade shows are incredibly wasteful, the exhibits being made and then discarded into landfill immediately afterwards, so it was good to hear that all the wood used in the show will be recycled or reused, while e-mail was used as much as possible to avoid the use of paper.

As we strolled around we couldn't help noticing that the few eco-friendly areas were completely deserted, while the endless Jacuzzi stands, home saunas and huge spaces devoted to the bête noire of the eco world, patio heaters, were chock-full of punters. These appliances, once the preserve of footballers' wives, are now being aimed at the mass market, resulting in an alarming rise in our domestic carbon consumption - one patio heater uses the same amount of energy as 15 solar-powered homes.

As we were passing the tenth Jacuzzi hot tub stand Donnachadh began to froth with outrage - how I wish I had brought my Bush Flower Emergency Essence brandy drops - and I had to drag him out. Trouble is, on the way we had to pass three more patio heater stands, each one selling vast heaters the size of rockets.

Then we furiously pedalled home to cook dinner for some pals who were pitching up to watch It's Not Easy Being Green, during which Donnachadh did an eco-audit on the telly family's lifestyle. I loved the programme - it was bouncy, educational and set in stunning scenery.

Let's hope it leads to more green programmes - perhaps one set in an urban environment. I know, what about one where a newspaper columnist is filmed going green in London?

Wind turbines, compost loos, solar panels, chickens on the roof (I haven't got much room out there so they will have to be battery unless they are very small chickens), the good life in Chelsea. Any offers?

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