Your Planet: Changing lives
Four public figures talk to Kate Finnigan about how they are each trying to do their bit for the planet
Monday 19 September 2005
Jesse Wood, 28, musician
I was really influenced by my stepmother Jo (wife of Jesse's father, Ronnie Wood) in terms of recycling and organic food. And my wife Tilly is really conscious about these things too, so she's been encouraging me. We moved to Somerset near Glastonbury a year ago and we're little hippies down here now. Living in the countryside feels "greener" than living in London.
I'm getting better all the time, getting out of my city ways. My factual knowledge is improving. I can't see anything good about the climate getting worse. All these hurricanes and the temperature rises only make me want to do more. I mean it's got to have something to do with the way we've been living, hasn't it? You can't be blinkered about that any more, Mr Bush. It's turned round and bitten him on the arse with Hurricane Katrina. I think it's karma.
We grow herbs and apples and I'm going to get a little vegetable garden going soon. I've got a great compost heap and I'll throw all the vegetable peelings, tea bags and eggshells in there. I go down the recycling centre every week, with a big box of everything we've collected. I have to admit I've been a bit slack lately because I was on tour and then, ten days ago, our second child Lola was born.
Our food is as organic and Fair Trade as possible. All of Lola's baby food is organic. We'll always spend that extra few quid on it. And I've noticed that the prices are getting a bit more reasonable. I try to avoid packaging, although I did recently end up buying organic apples from New Zealand in a plastic box.
We use Ecover products for cleaning and washing up and all those things. Lola's nappies are 100 per cent biodegradable. My cousin's husband has an apothecary in Wells called Arcania. It's all handmade organic beauty products. There's one in Glastonbury, so we've got a lot of stuff from there. Tilly loves it and I find that sort of stuff doesn't irritate your skin as much.
I'd like to do more for the environment. I do give money to Greenpeace but there's a long way to go. Another cousin of mine is a mechanic and I want him to convert my car to gas. It's definitely something I'll do. But unleaded's got to be good enough for me at the moment.
Hopefully, with Wills and the Willing we'll get in a position where we can use that to help educate people. I've been really influenced by bands like Coldplay and U2 who have been so big on FairTrade. We've done a song about homelessness and I'd love to do one about the environment. Our album Kerbside is going to be carbon neutral. I think that's the least we can do.
Alistair McGowan, 40, impressionist
I first became aware of environmental issues and the ability one has to make a difference when I read an article about waste in about 1989. I remember being astonished by a statistic about how much waste McDonalds had saved by shortening the length of their drinking straws. It set something off in me about how much unnecessary waste was being generated. I decided from that moment to do my best to recycle everything I could.
When I first left drama school I joined Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the WWF and became more informed about what we were doing to the world and how easily it could be rectified and how, as individuals, we can all make a difference. It takes some getting used to but the minute you change your habits you become aware of how wasteful you're being.
I cycle when I can. I don't have a car. I'm not saying that other people shouldn't have one but I manage without. In London, often it's quicker to walk than travel by Underground or road anyway.
I learn things constantly and for me it's been about making an effort. I try to avoid over packaged food and not over-buy. I read recently about the massive amount of food we waste as a nation. I try always to buy organic - for my health and just for the way it's produced. Less pesticides means less damage to rivers and fish and I think it has been a process of learning about what the chain of events is involved in what I do.
I recycle a lot and use environmentally friendly products in the home. And I try not to over-use things or wash things too often. I wear things over and over and no one has ever told me that my clothes are unpleasant.
When I do wash things I never use a tumble-drier - they use huge amounts of energy. I changed my energy supplier about three years ago to Good Energy; my bills are about the same. I have found that since I started thinking about energy, I started saving money because I was switching things off. I did look into having solar panels, but it's hard in the area where I live.
There is always something new that will strike me. For example, this summer I bought this nice shoulder bag and take it with me everywhere, and since I've had it I haven't really used a plastic shopping bag. Of course there are times when I have to compromise; accept a plastic bag, buy something that isn't organic, take car journeys now and again.
For me, it's been a question of modifying my behaviour and really thinking about what I'm wasting and asking myself how I am contributing to the problem.
But I found it quite exciting to realise that I was not helpless. Living a better, more responsible life has made me feel better about myself. I am doing the best I can to be responsible towards our planet and for future generations.
Sian Lloyd, 46, weather forecaster
I'm looking at the effects of climate change every day. Over the last ten years the shifts in the weather have been dramatic. We're seeing a lot more extreme weather now. Records are being shattered all over the place. Once in 100-year events started happening once every ten years. Now they're once every year. This August, London's temperatures have been the highest they've ever been. Hurricane Katrina was climate change in action.
I'm not perfect when it comes to being green. I drive to work every day, for a start. I'm thinking of getting rid of my two cars and buying a Toyota Prius. But at the moment I pay the congestion charge every day and I think it's brilliant. It's a really great thing that Ken Livingstone did and every city should have one. We don't need fast cars in this day and age. Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear is an anachronism.
I am good at recycling. My fiancé (MP, Lembit Opik) got me into doing it properly a few years ago. In our house in Wales we've got lots of different bins for different types of waste. And it's easy for us to recycle in our nearest town, Newtown. They have the amenities right in the centre and you can do clothes, bottles, plastic all in one place.
Bottled water is one of my big pet hates. We've got some of the best water in the world yet everyone carries a bottle around. If you are going to buy bottled, at least fill it up again. I had to educate my fiancé about water. When we first got together I was appalled at how much he'd put in the kettle. He was making enough for a whole battalion! But he's better now. We've just had our house done up and we've put in a really good shower, so that we won't have baths. Laziness dictates that my washing machine is permanently set at 40 degrees, which just happens to be the more eco-friendly temperature.
I'm a tremendous supporter of renewable energy - wind, wave, solar. I particularly approve of off-shore wind farms. Being from Wales I know a lot about those big winds coming in from the north-west. I'm in favour of a climate change law. I'm a member of the World Wildlife Fund and they're taking positive steps in that direction - whereas the government is talking the talk but not walking the walk. G8 was a tremendous disappointment. I don't see that it's achieved anything.
In Wales I'll shop in the Co-op where they have a lot of Fairtrade products. I think it's more important to buy Fairtrade than organic. Organic doesn't mean it's been grown responsibly. What's the point of buying organic green beans from Kenya? I wouldn't buy New Zealand lamb that's been flown across the world either. It tastes much better to have something that's seasonal and local.
I buy things loose, not in packages. The supermarkets really have to do something about the waste they're producing. It's terrible. I try not to use plastic bags and take one shopping bag with me - like people used to. Wouldn't it be lovely if the next big thing after the Make Poverty History arm bands was a trendy shopping bag that everyone took to the supermarket? That would be fantastic. Someone really should do that...
For more information about wind energy go to www.embracewind.com
John Humphrys, 62, broadcaster
About 25 years ago, I bought a farm in Wales, thinking that I would settle down and live a bucolic existence. I realised quite quickly that wasn't going to happen. But in the couple of years I was there, I met two extremely impressive people who introduced me to the organic movement - Patrick Holden [Director of the Soil Association] and Peter Segger [Chairman of Organic Farm Foods]. They persuaded me to start growing organically, which I began to do - disastrously. I stupidly planted 12 acres of carrots and almost immediately the weeds came up. So I started pulling weeds one morning and by lunchtime I looked up, and realised I would be 165 before I got to the other end.
I ended up selling most of the farm. But I've remained involved with the organic movement. I buy organic food - I've got a great butcher in London. I try to avoid supermarkets as much as possible; when I can't avoid it, I buy organic.
Ten to fifteen years ago, I lived in a house with a cold pantry. Food kept wonderfully in there, so during the winter I decided not to use the fridge. A journalist came round to interview me and I stupidly mentioned this fact. It's been thrown back at me ever since - how I'm 'the man who turns off his fridge'. And it's no longer even true. I don't live in the house with the pantry any more! But yes, when I boil a kettle for a cup of coffee, I boil enough water for a cup of coffee. That strikes me as not only sensible but also practical, in terms of saving time. But I'm portrayed as too mean to boil a kettle of water. It baffles me - as if there's something macho about wasting electricity!
I do turn the lights off if I'm leaving a room and I think I'm not likely to be returning for some time. All the bulbs I use are energy efficient. And I'm fortunate in that I really dislike warm rooms, so it's not difficult for me to have the central heating low.
I recycle religiously. I can bore for Britain on the subject of recycling. I've also got two excellent composters. I reckon by the end of the week after I've recycled all the paper, tins, bottles and combustibles, I have one supermarket bag of rubbish.
I upset listeners of the Today programme when I rail against patio heaters, but it's one of my greatest irritations. Burning gas to heat outside air seems ludicrous to me. Someone emailed in and said, 'How can John Humphrys be so thoughtless? It's wonderful to be able to sit outside in the winter and still feel warm. And it's also one of the few ways I can escape the television.' And I thought, did it never occur to you to turn the television off? Or put a jumper on?
The thing about living the green life is that it's rather pleasant. Yes, it's logical and sensible but it's also enjoyable. I have an apple tree and I've now got loads of apples that I've grown without using insecticide, that I'll put through the juicer and create organic apple juice that will see me halfway through the winter. And there's nothing better than being able to drink your own organic apple juice.
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