Video: Joanna Yarrow speaking at Green Monday

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At the recent Green Mondays event on Motivating the Mainstream Beyond Green Director Joanna Yarrow set out seven lessons learnt from working with organisations, places and people (she was only given seven minutes, otherwise there would’ve been many more…)

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Making sustainable living better than teen sex – Joanna Yarrow at the Ashden Awards Conference

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This post is written by Joanna Yarrow, Founding Director of Beyond Green

It was an honour to speak at this year’s Ashden Conference, setting the scene for the 2012 Ashden Awards which celebrate the best in “practical, local energy solutions that cut carbon, protect the environment, reduce poverty and improve people’s lives”.

My task was to set the scene for the day. So I gave a whistlestop tour of how we might go about shaping cultures & behaviours to become more sustainable.

Starting with the observation that sustainable living is still a bit like teenage sex (everyone says they’re doing it, but you suspect they’re not, and even if they are they’re probably not doing it properly – an old but good analogy…). I set out a few simple rules of thumb, drawing on observations of my work with various people, organisations and places. These included:

  1. relate to things people care about anyway (most of us aren’t scientists);
  2. provide opportunities for personal experience & an emotional connection (including my own personal experiences of growing up in Wilderness Wood and behavior change projects such as my BBC series Outrageous Wasters);
  3. harness the power of doing something to inspire further change (as in the Ariel Turn to 30 campaign);
  4. recognise diversity – understand the ‘essence’ of a person, organisation or place and develop solutions to suit (particularly important when working with organisations or whole communities);
  5. raise people’s sights: inspire, lift the benchmark, open horizons (wouldn’t it be great if we could take everyone on a reality tour of the most sustainable places in the world?);
  6. celebrate the upside of down, focusing on the benefits of living in a more sustainable way;
  7. make sustainable behaviour easy & attractive;
  8. walk the talk (actions speak louder than words) then remember to talk the walk;
  9. don’t wait for the perfect strategy – get on with something to create momentum, learning opportunities and champions; and
  10. provide the right context & support for more sustainable behaviours

You can read more about my talk and the rest of the events in this blogpost by IIED’s Suzanne Fisher Murray

Applications for next year’s Ashden Awards are now open – click here for details


All change: the future of travel

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Beyond Green Founder Director Joanna Yarrow gave a keynote speech on the future of travel at the recent annual Aecom / ICE  Prestige Lecture on sustainability.

She warned the audience of engineers that she’s not from a technical background, and rather than focusing on under the bonnet solutions she talked about the role of behaviour change in addressing the travel challenges of the 21st century. Her lecture focused on the importance of minimising the need to move around by improving accessibility, achieving a modal shift towards walking and cycling, improving the efficiency of mechanised transport and only then thinking about increasing transport capacity.

You can watch Joanna’s presentation here

Given the number of tecchies in the audience the ensuing debate with co-speaker Gary Lawrence, Chief Sustainability Officer for AECOM was pretty polite!

Read the Architects Journal’s account of Joanna’s speech here


Seeing the wood for the trees? Joanna Yarrow at the Royal Forestry Society Annual conference

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This is post is written by Joanna Yarrow, Founding Director of Beyond Green

Last month I joined experts from across the forestry and woodlands industry at a conference organised by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) and the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) to look at new ways of valuing the UK’s woodlands and forests.

I’m a relative newcomer to the world of forestry (as a child growing up in a wood I made the most of the outdoor life but studiously avoided anything to do with the technicalities of trees…) and felt particularly out of place as the only person in the room not wearing tweed. There were plenty of in-depth expositions about how to best to calculate the price of a tree. Not much consensus, but some nice scene-setting from Natural Capitalism: “while there may be no ‘right’ way to value a forest, a river or a child, the wrong way is to give it no value at all”.

As perhaps some lighter relief amidst the learned arboriculture, I talked about what we’re up to at Beyond Green’s sister organisation Wilderness Wood in East Sussex. In contrast to the vast tracts of land available to many of the landowners present, we’ve got just 62 acres where we juggle the many challenges of combining award-winning productive forestry with the highs and lows of inspiring and engaging visitors in sustainable living.

When my parents applied for planning permission to build a home in the wood 30 years ago the planning authority questioned the feasibility of two people earning a living wage from managing just 62 acres of woodland. Whilst there’s certainly been no gold-rush in the UK’s forestry industry, 3 decades on we employ 12+ full time equivalent staff plus a number of seasonal contractors. The key is diversity – we juggle a combination of woodland management, production of firewood, poles & fencing, furniture and garden products with education, family activities & events, courses, delicious local seasonal food & drink and more. All under a guiding ethos of balancing ecological, social and economic performance.

In recognition of its approach to forestry and the diversity of its activities, in 2010 the wood won the RFS Excellence in Forestry Award. Last year the BBC Politics Show visited. They wanted to use us as a case study showing how the ‘private sector’ could be a positive force in running woodlands (so therefore no need to worry about that sell-off of national forests everyone was squeaking about). In my interview on the show I pointed out that unless there’s a large and untapped mass of values-driven committed plate-spinners out there just desperate to run woodlands in the way we do it’s very unlikely that market forces alone would result in Wilderness Woods springing up across the country! (But if you are one of those types do please get in touch…!)

So when the good tweedy folk of the RFS beamingly said how nice it was to see us having such fun in the wood I had to point out that if any of them was contemplating doing something similar they should be prepared to feel like this at the end of every day:

One last thought: if forests are as important to the whole nation as last year’s uprising against the government’s proposals to sell of national forests suggested, it would be great if the RFS could attract a slightly more diverse audience:


Sustainability inspirations in a woodland setting: Event 3rd February

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If you’re looking for some inspiration to lift the winter gloom, head to Wilderness Wood in East Sussex. The sister company to Beyond Green, Wilderness Wood runs a whole range of events and activities bringing people from all walks of life together to enjoy a taste of sustainable living in a beautiful woodland setting. On the evening of Friday 3rd February the wood is hosting the first of 2012’s monthly candlelit dinners with inspiring speakers who are expert in a particular aspect of sustainable living. Kicking off this year’s events, Trewin Restorick, the founder of Global Action Plan (one of the UK’s leading environmental charities) will share his experiences of working at the cutting edge of greening Britain, reflect on progress towards sustainability and share his ideas for how we can each really make a difference in 2012.

The 3-course locally-sourced menu will include celeriac cream soup with squash brochette and truffles, rosti with field mushrooms, smoked peppers & braised baby leeks, panfried seabass with saffron fondant, buttered spinach & dill veloute, and caramelised pears with vanilla bean panna cotta & red wine or poached blueberry syrup. All served with a range of local and organic wines and beers. For more information see http://www.wildernesswood.co.uk/event/candlelit-dinner-trewin-restorick-ceo-global-action-plan and to book places call Wilderness Wood on 01825 830 509.


Feedback from Broadland Workshop

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A month ago in mid-October, the Beyond Green design team hosted a series of workshops and exhibitions for stakeholders and members of the public to discuss the draft plan, concepts and designs for development at Broadland.  Many valuable ideas were brought forth that has since helped us make our draft masterplan stronger and more aligned with community needs. The key issues that were raised at these workshops and our initial reactions to them can be viewed by clicking on the following link (PDF).

Broadland October Feedback

Anyone who wasn’t able to attend the sessions can view the exhibition boards presented at the workshops HERE.

Since beginning exploration of development opportunities in Norfolk, we have made it a priority to be open and engaged with the greater community.  The following clip captures some very promising messages that articulate how our approach thus far has been valued by varying local stakeholders.  A special thank you goes out to Bruce Bentley, Jason Kidman and Will Harvey who shared their thoughts with us.


Disgusted with Tunbridge Wells

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This piece is written by Jonathan Smales, Executive Chairman of Beyond Green.

Good friend and Beyond Green associate Paul Murrain mailed me a copy of an AP release yesterday reporting the alarming increase in greenhouse gases between 2009 and 2010. Apparently the rise of 6% is the fastest increase on record, equivalent to an extra 564 million tons of carbon which itself is a number bigger than the emissions form all but three of the world’s countries – China, the US and India (link to article HERE).  This is a sign of ‘how feeble the world’s efforts have been at slowing man-made global warming’. One commentator, Chris Field from Stanford, asks in the light of this astonishing increase whether we might need to look beyond the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ‘worst case scenarios’ for global climate to ‘something more extreme’.

But rather than look beyond the IPCC let’s look a little closer to home. After a tiring day at work and despite the grim news on carbon (which actually was no big surprise) rather than stay at home and do something sensible (and low carbon) like read or listen to music, my partner and I drove to the cinema in Tunbridge Wells. Normally when we go out we travel 5 miles to the lovely cinema on the high street in Uckfield but we wanted to see Stephen Soderbergh’s ‘Contagion’. The journey turned out to be a horror show cameo of how mixed up and plain stupid things have become with regard to the messy but vital trinity of travel, town planning and carbon.

At first we couldn’t get out of the drive of our house because cars were speeding along the road through the village with its token 30 mph speed limit at what must have been at least 50 mph; presumably they were in enthusiastic pursuit of former Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond’s advice cum admonition, offered in defence of his proposal to increase motorway speed limits to 80 mph, to ‘get into the fast lane of the global economy’.

Arriving eventually in Tunbridge Wells we were sent on a cook’s tour of the town wiggling this way and that for mile upon mile, exploring all manner of suburbs and dead ends. After several wrong turns we found ourselves lost! Stranded, bemused and spooked in a giant, out-of-town, hybrid shopping centre, business park, entertainment complex. With no obvious landmarks (all the glass and steel sheds look exactly the same but for the luminous corporate logos polluting the night sky), normal
street patterns nowhere to be seen, legibility zero, people nil, alienation at max, we jiggled around haplessy until miraculously after half-an-hour of disorientation and lots of iPhone wayfinding we ’arrived’ at the cinema. At first we weren’t sure it was a cinema – it could have been a car showroom, a tile centre or perhaps a Staples. Surrounded by a vast car park with row upon row of cars  (but still strangely no people to be seen) we made our way to the garish entrance to be greeted by massed ranks of snacks, sweets and video games illuminated by a power station load of garish lighting. Still no people.

Now, apparently, Tunbridge Wells used to have a charming cinema in its centre, close to proper cafes and restaurants, shops, bus routes and the like. But at some point in the last 20 years the town spewed important parts of itself into that carbon hungry, car-frenzied, car-dependent, hybrid business park jobbie. With transport representing c.25% of our carbon footprints (and growing) how can there be any place for these no-place, remote, soulless, commercial theme parks. They take the heart out of towns, create congestion, destroy character, reduce social interaction and drive up carbon emissions. What’s the opposite of ’win-win’? If they can be allowed in a beautiful town like Tunbridge Wells (where one of the MPs, Greg Clarke is a Planning/Localism Minister in government incidentally), what chance elsewhere? And what do we do with them once carbon has a proper price and people can no longer afford the frequent private travel. ‘Re-purposing’ (as the Americans say) one of those monsters is beyond belief. Except maybe the sheds could be used for carbon capture? Or maybe we could move into these sealed environments as safe havens when the climate outside in real places has become too fierce?

The film was rubbish incidentally. Don’t go. and especially don’t go there.

 


Wilderness Wood to host eco-celebrity Alistair McGowan on October 7th

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Beyond Green sister company Wilderness Wood is a 62-acre productive woodland in East Sussex, a quaint village located one hour south of London via train.  The Wood hosts a variety of eco-initiative for nature appreciators large and small, from guided hikes that search out edible fungus, bugs and woodland monsters to handmade furniture and locally sourced, organic food available for purchase.  Accompanying the many activities provided during the day, Wilderness Wood has also presented a series of monthly candlelit dinners to celebrate unique and ambitous efforts taken by individuals of varying disciplines.  The upcoming dinner is particularly special, hosting the accomplished actor, impressionist and eco-advocate Alistar McGowan on October 7th at 7:30PM.

Alistair is probably best known for his impersonations on BBC1’s BAFTA-winning The Big Impression, but his career has ranged from irreverent comedy to serious drama, together with writing and directing. Alongside his career as a performer, Alistair is a passionate spokesman on environmental issues. He’s helped promote campaigns for Sustrans, the Woodland Trust, Trees for Cities and Recycle Now and is an ambassador for WWF-UK. He developed a green charter for the film industry and in partnership with Zac Goldsmith, Emma Thompson and Greenpeace, bought a strip of land to block development of the proposed third runway at Heathrow. He’s never owned a car.

To learn more about Alistair’s unique journey firsthand whilst enjoying a handcrafted organic meal in fantastic company, refer to Wilderness Wood’s website HERE for more information.


A world first

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A FARM: shop like no other

Farm shops are popping up in the most unlikely of places these days, with produce transported in (hopefully) from nearby farms and containing an enticing display of well sourced seasonal and ethically produced meat, fruit and vegetables. Nothing we’ve seen so far however has been quite as unique as the shop we visited last week in London’s east; it literally was a farm in a shop!

FARM: shop is the genius invention of ‘Something & Son’, a trio of entrepreneurs, two of which are alumni of Beyond Green. Keen to find out more about the enterprise, some of us went to visit the farm last week with Sam Henderson explaining the scientific workings of the place to us…

The shop/farm started as a dream for the trio until they won Hackney Council’s Art in Empty Spaces initiative, which awarded them the chance to transform an empty property in Dalston into something ‘useful and meaningful’. With a budget of just a few thousand, some handy contacts and a lot of elbow grease, a year later and they’re not only well on their way to creating a fully fledged farm with all sorts of inspiring food production initiatives on the go, but they’ve also  doubled the rental value of the property for the council through their work!

Our tour begun in the garden, where we found a polytunnel hosting tadpoles, salad and veg supplies with plans for a food and drink bar amongst the herbs and even space for pigs alongside!  We  then worked our way up to the top of the building, stopping along the way to admire the Tilapia powered aquaponics system (and office space), the hydroponics growing a plentiful supply of premium basil. The kefur bacteria display in the hallway (recently used in their homemade gingerbeer experiment) led up to the tomato (and will be pineapple) factory on the second floor and a meeting room with a view of 4 happy chickens pecking away in a run on the roof.

This is way more than an exhibition space however, since all the food they produce is designed to be eaten on site. The team have recently renovated the kitchen so they can prepare and sell food in the lovely little cafe; from mushroom omelettes to a planned fish fry using the Talapia from the room next door! Demand for produce in the shop is high, and any food they can’t grow onsite is supplemented from the sister (and more traditional) Church Farm in Ardeley.

At a time when you can’t eat a tomato without enquiring about the carbon intensity of its production, the project is also unique since it’s “not out to prove anything.” In response to our questions about the relative benefits and potential footprint of growing pineapples in the sunny room upstairs, Sam replies that for them, its all about inspiring people, and that the team “simply sought to create something fascinating…and have never tried to take sides”.

FARM: shop is definitely fascinating; a world first come to life through the commitment, skill, intelligence and imagination of the team. We’d advise you to visit the café for a brunch with a difference, or take a tour yourselves (you can liaise with Sam to book tours starting at £5 per person)!


How to do eco in style

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In this blog prepared to mark the 10 year anniversary of the inspirational Eden project, green living expert Joanna Yarrow shares her top ten tips for a stylish and ethical lifestyle.

View the article on the telegraph’s website here, and click here to see some more of the guest birthday blogs and other shenanigans from Eden!