Archive for the "dilemmas" category

Listed buildings & green issues: what are your thoughts?

(This isn’t strictly a recycling issue but I was thinking about it the other day and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter!)

A few miles down the road from me is a village called Saltaire.

It is a Victorian model village founded by a local mill owner (Sir Titus Salt) so his employees had somewhere nice to live compared to the slums around mills in the rest of Bradford. It’s still a nice place to live – rows upon rows of well built Yorkshire-stone houses, with a lovely park, a very pretty church, lots of independent shops and the old mill, which is now home to an art gallery, restaurants & cafés, and more specialist shops. The whole area has survived the last 160 years in a remarkable complete state and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, which means that the government has a duty to protect the site from future development.

Without the World Heritage Site protection (and the listed status all the individual buildings around the village as well), various parts of the village would probably have been redeveloped or demolished in the name of progress – for example, there is a traffic crunch point just near the village and various people are crying out for a bypass or a tunnel underneath the whole area. With regards to that sort of thing – and to preserve our cultural history, I’m all in support of having listed buildings and the Heritage Site protection but…

I was passing through the village the other day and I noticed that most of the houses & shops still have old, single glazed windows. A lot of the windows have pretty curved tops – like in the picture – so I imagine they’d be expensive to replace anyway, before getting into issues of whether or not it’s allowed. (There are some houses in a less picturesque part of the city which have clearly just had rectangular windows placed en masse behind the arched stone window – but that does look bodgy and would definitely not be allowed in Saltaire.) A few houses seemed to have secondary glazing inside which helps a bit but I imagine the rest are losing a fair bit of heat through the single glazed windows and are probably draughty too. Similarly, a lot of the smaller terrace houses don’t have a hallway – their front doors open straight into their living rooms – and from living in a house like that for ten years, I can tell you for sure that it can be a draughty heat-sink even when you don’t actually open and close the door.

Many of the houses in Saltaire face east-west so they wouldn’t be optimal for solar panels anyway but even if they had south-facing roofs, I’m guessing that wouldn’t be allowed — any listed building is likely to require “listed building consent” before solar panels can be installed and it’s often refused if it’s felt the panels would “detract from the appearance and character” of the building or area or “disturb or destroy the historical fabric”. The situation would be similar for micro wind turbines or biomass flues etc.

Of course, these issues aren’t specific to this village – there are over 370,000 listed buildings in England alone – but passing through Saltaire got me thinking and I wondered what you thought about it. While most of us want to do so to stop wasting energy & money, a lot of people with listed houses can’t do the same.

Do you think the properties that represent our past should be protected above all else? Or should there be a focus on energy-awareness for the present & the future instead?

Do you live in a listed building? Have you had any problems making it more energy efficient? Or conversely, is it easier than it seems like it’ll be?

(Photo from Wikipedia)

How can I recycle more stuff on my own?

We’ve had an email from Melissa:

I’m Melissa from Argentina. I love recycling but there are not many things I can do here.

That’s why I’ve got to ask you… Is there any way of recycling more stuff on my own??? I recycle paper, bottle caps and cardboard.

In my country there aren’t a lot of places where I can recycle and I think that’s because people (not everyone) don’t care about that.. That’s very sad!

It is very sad – but an interesting question: these days so much recycling in the UK etc relies on local council provision (or in some areas, on supermarkets/other businesses) – how would we recycle if those systems weren’t in place?

I think we’d reuse more – a plastic bottle repurposed as a plant cloche doesn’t need recycling, neither does a glass jar reused for homemade preserves, a t-shirt upcycled into a shopping bag or scrap paper clipped together to make a notebook. We know that we should reuse before recycling – but I think that would be even more apparent if there wasn’t an option to recycle. Despite the name, this site is more about reusing than recycling – because it should come first and is easier to do on an individual level.

What we think of as proper recycling – breaking something down and making something new from the base material – is a lot harder to do at home, especially without specialist skills or equipment. It would probably be easier (but not exactly easy) to work with local authorities/community groups to set up recycling schemes working with local recycling/reclamation companies. Does anyone have any experience/advice about doing that sort of thing? Or are there any things that can easily be recycled (not just reused) at home?

Any other thoughts/advice for Melissa?

(Photo by septober)

Definitions for being green: you a treehugger, a hippy, a Bright Green?

Over on The Really Good Life today, I’ve asked a question:

I’m not self-sufficient, so what I am?

I’m asking how people who grow their own food, making their own stuff, cook their meals etc define themselves — I might be alone on the issue but I don’t like calling myself “self-sufficient” because I’m not and I never will be, so it seems wrong & naive to call myself that. So I’m asking what other people in a similar situation call themselves or how they define their lifestyles.

I think there is similar terminology issue in the green sphere too – how do you define your green activities/lifestyle?

I see a lot of people taking back what were formerly insults: people calling themselves treehuggers, or crunchy, or “green freak”, “a greenie” or “dirty hippy” (all three phrases I’ve used to describe myself in the past week).

Aside from the general catch-all “environmenalist”, more serious/official labels stem from the idea of Bright Green, Light Green or Dark Green environmentalists – Bright Greens believe the way forward is through better designs for living, new technology & social innovation largely within the current political & economic society. For Light Greens, environmentalism is a largely a lifestyle choice and Dark Greens want to overthrow wasteful capitalism & hug the world until it stops crying.

What term(s) do you use/prefer when talking about yourself and your lifestyle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Repair This: at what point is it better to buy something new?

Here’s a question that’s been I’ve been wondering about for a while: at what point is it better to buy something new than keep repairing something old?

On this site, we’re all about reducing & repairing – not buying things new for the sake of it or because they’re a bit scuffed & dirty – but with many things, you reach a point of diminishing returns and it feels like you’re throwing good money/time/resources after bad: at some point you have to make a decision to replace it. I suspect the precise point where that occurs depends very much on the item but I wondered what you think about when you’re deciding whether to repair or replace.

Is it a question of your skills? the item’s repairability? availability/affordability of new parts? its not-just-financial value? Other factors?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

How can I respond to Wasteful Wallies?

Not one of our usual “how can I recycle/reduce/make this?” type questions but I’m hoping some of you might be able to give me some advice.

About once a week, some ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS jokers leave comments on the site, attempting to insult us all and bragging about how they’re more than delighted to send whatever item were discussing to landfill – and I just don’t know how to respond to them, other than assuming they’re trolls and pressing the delete key.

I personally have very clear opinions on the environment and climate change (and, well, everything to be frank ;) ) but by and large, I keep that off the site – as much as I want everyone to be a dirty hippy like me, it’s not what the site’s about. Everyone has their own motives for reducing, reusing and recycling, I just hope that the ideas on this site can help inspire people no matter why they’re doing it.

But these wacky commenters… Ok, sometimes our questions/ideas can be a bit crunchy but we’re not forcing them on people so I don’t know why they’re responding like that. Aside from it possibly being a manifestation of guilt or the like, I don’t understand how someone can get so venomous about someone else wanting to reuse a toilet roll tube to grow seedlings in.

Other recycling/green bloggers – do you get similar comments? How do you respond to them?

Does anyone come across these people in real life too, where it’s not as easy to just hit the delete button and ignore them?