Thoughts from the Head - Sustainability

The Head's Study

‘You are never too small to make a difference’…

As part of its drive for sustainability, the GDST refurbishment of the Head’s House at RHS has included a state of the art heating and hot water system that runs from a mobile app. Last night we added to our eco apps with one that seems to control all but the driving of my husband’s new-to-us electric car.

There is much finger-pointing at the moment as we puzzle through the ways we need to change our respective lifestyles if carbon neutral sustainability is to become a reality. Our generation ‘had it all’; our children ‘can’t have it both ways’. I know about the carbon footprint associated with air travel but learnt this week that our Netflix habits and other downloads apparently account for 0.3% of CO2 global emissions. As with all statistics, this is hotly disputed.

On the day that Greta Thunberg joins the Bristol Youth Climate Strike, I have been pondering why the values we espouse in our schools and families, including avoiding apportioning blame when considering solutions, are lost when we move to global issues. What is done is done. Now we need to work together to find solutions, each doing as much as we can to make a difference. Whether missing education is a way to achieve this is for another thought piece.

Today I want to consider the cars, school minibuses and coaches included, that I pass daily with engines idling as we wait to collect children. Almost exactly a year ago Public Health England published a report saying that up to 36,000 people are dying every year from human-made air pollution. They considered the options for improving air quality including banning engines from idling near schools.

Understandably we want to stay warm and comfortable while waiting in our vehicles. Surely, however, the ‘put on another layer rather than turn up the heating’ adage should apply to our cars as much as to our houses. This is one simple example of how each of us, taking responsibility for our actions, and without blaming others for what has been, can be conscious of not worsening pollution.

It is clear that, as Myles Allen, professor of Geoscience at Oxford University pointed out this week, engineers will tell us that the solutions to the climate crisis are doable however, this will not happen without leadership.

How heartening then to see the leadership from our School sustainability ‘green team’. Having completed a School-wide audit they are now planning action for change focusing on biodiversity, waste and reduction of energy consumption across campus. They are espousing Greta Thunberg’s belief that ‘you are never too small to make a difference’.

So, whilst my husband is getting to grips with a new app that magically seems to prepare his electric car in the morning so it is toasty warm and good to go, I will settle for using my rather old low tech diesel in as responsible a manner as I can including never leaving it idling. And should an electric car owning finger point to me about diesel cars, I will be ready with my CO2 download stat in return. Alternatively, staying true to my values, maybe it is time to hop on one of the two electric bikes loaned to the School by Bath Council and leave the car at home altogether.

Mrs Kate Reynolds