Crystal glass and bees

It’s Crystal Clear…We have a water crisis (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Crystal glass and bees

A surprise from a zoom I attended last week was that many people are unaware that we have a real water crisis here in Horsham District, the first ever in the UK on this scale.  The huge water shortfall means that all building work is now on hold while solutions are sought.

Southern Water provide drinking water for over a million properties, and remove and recycle the waste water of almost five million people.  Quite a task!

Although we have 205 reservoirs, this provides only 7% of our water.  The majority comes from underground aquifers, with around 25% being taken from rivers.

The cost of this service from 2020-2025 is around £1,000 per property, with improvements ranging from digitisation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to re-vamping the 3,500 pumping stations and 40,000 kilometres of sewers.  Over a thousand options are being modelled including banning non-essential water use and building a desalination plant at Shoreham.

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Youth eco forum

Youth in Action (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Youth eco forumLast month marks 2 years since the launch of our Youth Eco Forum (YEF), a group of young environmentalists that meet to discuss their concerns about the environment, share solutions and plan events.

“Whilst it’s true that you can only do so much alone, by coming together, we can find ways to reduce the human impact on climate change and make a positive difference.” says founder member Catherine Sleeman. “The idea was to bring us together and give us space to speak about issues important to us and operate independently.”

The forum was initially set up as a fortnightly Zoom meeting during lockdown and is an easy way for young people from across a wide area of Horsham District and beyond to meet.

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Katie at Refills

Play with Plastic Free July (First Published in West Sussex County Times)

Katie at Refills

Going plastic free for a whole 31 days does sound pretty daunting, some would argue impossible, but it’s a great opportunity to get a little creative, learn something new and hopefully pick up a couple of new habits you can stick to. It’s like diet and exercise, if you’re not enjoying it and it doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle you’re unlikely to carry on with it.

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Climate & Ecology Bill

Climate Change hits Sussex as UK Declares First Red Extreme Heat Warning

Climate and Ecology BillSoaring temperatures have left Sussex residents sweltering after an extreme heat warning raised the question whether this week has been the hottest on record in the region and what we should be doing to tackle climate change.

The national emergency came only a day after Sussex Green Living’s CEO Carrie Cort, her son and the charity’s Youth Eco Forum leader Tash Barns joined ‘Zero Hour’, a coalition of UK campaigners, world-leading scientists, academics and members of the public in Victoria Tower Garden next to the House of Lords in Westminster.

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Rainforest

The Importance of Rainforests (First Published in West Sussex County Times)

RainforestI have been blessed to spend 20 years working in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Choco cloud forest, a world away from my home in Pulborough.

It has been like having parallel lives.

The UK has one of lowest levels of tree cover in Europe at 13%, globally ranking 136th out of 189 countries. Looking down from a plane over our green desert fields, we can see how few trees there really are with only tiny patches of ancient woodland remaining, maybe unaware that here in England our level of biodiversity is painfully low.  Although the woodland cover has doubled in the last 100 years this is mainly with non-native conifer plantations, where very little diversity can exist.

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Rudgewick Recycling bins

Go Greener Rudgwick Recycling by Fiona Sodha (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Rudgewick Recycling binsGo Greener Rudgwick (GGR) is a group of local volunteers who meet regularly to sort single use plastics that can’t be recycled at home, but can be left in the Rudgwick Youth Centre recycling bins. We work in conjunction with Sussex Green Living in Horsham to sort and box items to be sent to Terracycle, a recycling company, to make into new products.

The plastics collected include crisp & biscuit wrappers, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, packaging & floss containers, biros & felt pens, household cleaning items such as marigold gloves, trigger heads, dishwasher flexible packaging, personal care & beauty products such as deodorants and empty foundation tubes, plant pots & trays, cheese wrappers and milk bottle tops.

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Green Library

We Need Worms …and Book Worms by Morag Warrack (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Green Library

We’re slowly moving towards creating a more permanent Green Hub for Horsham, inspired by the excellent Zero at Guildford. One of the many things we’d love, alongside a Community Fridge, a Seed Bank, and a Library of Things (such as ladders or tents) is a Green Book Library.

There are countless wonderful books available, some written by children, such as Greta Thunberg’s tiny motivational book, ‘No-one is too small to make a difference’.  Even her inspirational title is clearly intended to change people’s lives for the better.  When Greta has been asked “What can we do?” her reply has been, “Educate yourself””

What better way to start, then, than by borrowing a book from a Green Library?

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Swifts

Swift Action Needed: Citizen Science for Horsham Swift Box Project (first published in West Sussex County Times)

SwiftsSwifts have been thriving for about 70 million years, when they would have been nesting in crevices in rocks and trees alongside the last of the Tyrannosaurs. But despite millions of years, something has now gone dramatically wrong, and UK numbers have plummeted in the last 25 years.

These extraordinary birds can remain in the air for three whole years because everything else apart from nesting is done on the wing.  Only when they reach maturity and start to build will they touch anything solid.

No other bird can fly faster in level flight. They eat insects, drink raindrops or water from a lake, even mating and sleeping on the wing, up near Earth’s stratosphere.  Their huge eyes are surrounded by bristles that act as sun visors and their feet are incredibly strong and so needle-sharp and tiny that they are unable to hop or walk, so they fly directly into the holes, cling to walls or slip into spaces where they can easily drop back out again.

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Eco Float

World Environment Day (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Eco Float2022 marks 50 years since the conference which led to the designation of 5th June as World Environment Day. ‘Only One Earth’ was the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference and half a century later, do we doubt that this planet is our only home, whose finite resources are running out?

World Environment Day 2022 will be held again with this same theme, ‘Only One Earth’, to highlight again the need to live sustainably in harmony with our ecology by bringing transformative changes through policies and our own choices, moving towards lifestyles more in line with the natural cycles of Nature.

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Sheep

The Wool Revival (first published in West Sussex County Times)

SheepDon’t we all love to see spring lambs in wildflower meadows, and sheep in green fields?

In total contrast, who wants to see a factory producing acrylic?  A synthetic produced mainly in India and China, it’s made from chemicals so dangerous that special regulations have had to be made to prevent explosions at the factories manufacturing it.

Acrylic seems to have replaced real wool in much of our clothing.  However it is not biodegradeable so minute harmful particles of it are becoming increasingly present in our oceans, in foodstuffs and in human and animal bodies. There is now even some suspicion that there may be carcinogenic risks associated with wearing acrylic next to our skin.

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Billingshurst Dairy

The Green Thing (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Billingshurst Dairy

Image Credit: Billingshurst Dairy

Checking out at the supermarket, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she could bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologised and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”  She was right in that my generation didn’t have ‘the green thing’.

Back then, we returned glass milk, lemonade and beer bottles to the shop, and were sometimes given a few pence in return. The shop sent them all back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, so the same bottles were used over and over again.

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Lily's cottage stall

For all our sakes – Stop using Peat (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Peat-free Compost

No doubt you have heard that for a healthy planet, we should use peat-free compost, but do you know why, or what exactly is peat?

Peat is soil made up of organic matter that has only partially rotted down. The lack of oxygen and the acidic nature of waterlogged peat bogs prevent bacteria and fungi from breaking down the dead plant material.  It is formed over millions of years, at a rate of only 1mm thickness per year, but we are currently extracting it at a rate much, much faster than that!  By ‘mining’ peat we are both damaging the ecology and adding to climate change.

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Eco Aware Earth Day (first published in West Sussex County Times)

The children at Ashington CE Primary School enjoyed an early Earth Green Day on Thursday 7th April 2022. The day was organised by Sienna, Magenta, Sophie and Jasmine, four passionate Eco Warriors in Year 5 supported by the school’s Outdoor Learning Lead, Miss Martlew.

The four girls had their eco passion ignited by a Rainforest topic in Year Four and ever since have eagerly encouraged others, staff included, to join them in driving for a more eco aware school, community and planet. Consequently, there was no need for the school staff to set up an eco-group; the girls would never have not let it happen!  They created their own group, with many other children eager to join in.

The Green Day started with a whole school Eco Easter bonnet parade with winners from each class receiving an eco-notebook and pen and an Easter Egg. All hats were adorned with recycled decorations and had an Easter theme. The children clung to their hats in the wind but were full of smiles of pride in the beautiful spring sunshine as they paraded, each class in turn, in front of the whole school to cheerful applause. Read more

Soil or Earth? by Morag Warrack (first published in West Sussex County Times)

  Morag Warrack

Soil or Earth?

The very name of our planet is also the name of our soil.  Earth.  One of the most precious things for our existence.

It’s an apparently strange mixture of living beings and dead ones, inert substances and active ones.

Anyone over the age of 50 is likely to remember the abundance, the rich aliveness of summer meadows-the colours, the scents and the joyful assault on the ears of crickets, grasshoppers and bees below, with skylarks above. Read more

Trafalgar REC Oct 2021

We should all be gardeners by Natasha Barnes (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Natasha Barnes Trafalgar REC Oct 2021

Gardening is for everyone – I truly believe that!

It’s time to change its reputation as a middle class hobby for retirees or young people who would like a pet but don’t fancy finding poo on the carpet- so they settle for a cheese plant. From some pots on a balcony to an ambitious permaculture project, I challenge you to feel the benefits!

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Turn it off! By Morag Warrack (first published in West Sussex County Times)

toothpaste kitMorag Warrack

I found myself in the role of Light-Police recently at a joyous family gathering to celebrate several ‘zero’ birthdays which had been postponed due to Covid.

At our beautiful AirBnB, bathroom lights, shower lights, bedroom lights, corridor lights and kitchen lights were left on even though the family were all outside for much of the time.

My dad grew up in poverty and was delighted to be able to provide for us- we had plenty, and he was very generous, but we learned the lesson young that lights should be switched off if you’re not in the room.  Nothing should be wasted.

By coincidence that same weekend an article was published relating how Greta Thunberg taught her father the same switch-it-off lesson. Read more

Nature Networks by Isabella Tree (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Imagine a beautiful Persian carpet. Then cut it into a thousand squares. What do you get? Not a thousand smaller Persian carpets but a thousand scraps of cloth unravelling at the edges. That’s what’s happening to nature in the modern landscape, the scraps becoming ever smaller as the threads begin to trip us up. It is causing the Sixth Mass Extinction – a catastrophic loss of biodiversity affecting the whole planet.

We can see the unravellings all around us if we know how to look. A patch of ancient woodland surrounded by a monoculture of arable is vulnerable to ‘edge effect’ – the drift of chemical sprays, exposure to wind, extreme heat and frost – eating away at habitat on its periphery. That single ancient oak in the middle of a field of wheat has its roots assaulted by ploughing every year. The fine fungal filaments – or mycorrhizae – leading off its roots in search of nutrients are drenched several times a year in agricultural chemicals. The tree can no longer communicate underground with other trees. It is like a lone elephant in a zoo, deprived of the society of its herd, doomed to die alone. Read more

Sussex Kelp Forest Leads the Way by Keir Hartley (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Kelp forest

The new kelp forest off the Sussex coast is becoming real. That’s the message from Councillors and wildlife and fisheries experts. And it puts Sussex in the forefront of efforts to combat global warming, habitat destruction and the return to a cleaner, more sustainable world.

The marine forest which stretched between Chichester and Rye was destroyed by storms and trawling in the 1980s but is now being restored.

“Given the extent of kelp loss it may take many years for kelp to recover to the density and distribution once known”, says Tim Dapling, Chief Officer for Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.  “Early information appears to show changes in the environment already taking place since trawling management was introduced in March 2021. It will be very interesting to see changes in 4-5 years time.” Read more

COP26 Climate Summit:  The Road to Glasgow passes through Sussex by Geoff Barnard (first published in WSCT)

The COP26 Climate Summit starts in Glasgow on November 1st.  It’s an opportunity that simply can’t be missed if the world is to get on top of climate change, and the multiple threats it poses to the planet, before it’s too late.

But who knew that crucial, behind-the-scenes, preparations for the conference are happening right here in Sussex, at Wiston House, just up the road from Steyning.

That’s where Wilton Park, a specialist offshoot of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, is based.  In their 75th anniversary year, Wilton Park have been instrumental in convening a whole series of dialogues and meetings – mostly online, because of Covid – all geared to making the Glasgow Summit a success.

COP stands for the ‘Conference of the Parties’, and Glasgow is the 26th such event since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was signed in Rio at the 1992 Earth Summit. This one is particularly important.  It is the first time that governments will be asked to report back on progress on the pledges made at the Paris Summit in 2016, and ‘ratchet’ them up with new and more demanding targets. Read more

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Inspiring sustainable living in Sussex