Richmond-upon-Thames is Going Plastic-Free

Kew goes plastic-bag-freeRichmond traders and residents are campaigning to end the use of plastic bags for shopping in the borough.

You Can Help

• Get a reusable shopping bag - you can buy one of the Greener Kew ones from a local trader if you need one
• Express your support for the campaign to local traders
• Encourage traders who haven't pledged yet to take part

You can share your comments and ideas here on this blog - Keep it clean if not Green!

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Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Update

Christmas nearly upon us and we want to thank you for your support through the year, whether your signature on our petition or in more substantial form in the fight against plastic bags. We feel a bit like those ducks, floating serenely on the water, but paddling like mad underneath!

Greener upon Thames ends the year on a high.

We joined in the festive cheer at Kew Sparkle and Barnes Christmas Shopping night, making a profit of over £400 for our campaign against single use plastic bags in the Borough. The Krispy Kreme donuts and hot chocolates flew from the stalls.

The Eco Dinosaur (made from wood and plastic bags) created by students of Holy Trinity Primary School in Sheen has had a starring role in the window display of the SOSS (Support our Small Shops) pop-up Gallery in Barnes. Andrea Craig of Support SOSS said, "We are absolutely delighted to have raised £500 so far on behalf of Greener Upon Thames. The pop-up shop has been very successful and we have had lots of interest from shoppers, residents and local artists interested in displaying their work. It has been brilliant to be part of and there will be more opening in the coming months".

PlasticBagFree Kingston and Ham United Group have joined the other urban villages on the river as members of GreeneruponThames, staging events and campaigning, some of which was fun, and some was cold and windy, but we were all warmed by people’s positive response!

Although as the Copenhagen Climate Summit comes to a close, and many other immediate and very important challenges face us, we carry on with what to some may seem like a minor campaign. It isn’t. When President Kennedy talked about aiming for the moon, he said, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Well, what we are trying to do is easy. Just take your own reusable bag and say no to a plastic bag, and spread the message. This isn’t a moon shot, it’s much closer to home. It’s a small but essential part of looking after our Earth.

Greener upon Thames has exciting plans for the New Year. We will be shooting our film, launching our Greener Bag and badges and on 21st January holding an event at the Bingham Hotel in Richmond. Thank you again for your support (and if you can give us more, that would be good – look forward to hearing from you!).

With best wishes for an absolutely fabulous plastic bag free 2010!

Greener upon Thames

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Re: Plastic bags again

Another update from Carole...

International News

* Ireland has placed a levy on plastic bags. Oh, no, that was in 2002
* The Welsh environment minister proposed that a 15p levy be placed on plastic bags. But that was June 2009.
* 9 Jan 2008 ... The Chinese government announces a crackdown on plastic bags, in a bid to cut pollution and save resources. (BBC News)
* It looks as though Australia will be banning plastic bags state by state. South Australia has become the first to ban them, on 4 May 2009, but other states are pushing to join.

National News

Sorry, none. The UK government is still relying on voluntary action to reduce takeup of single use bags. Why?

Local news

GreeneruponThames supporters are still out there, working on the campaign to get the government to bring in a levy on single use bags.

We know it’s not the most important threat to life on this planet – what with climate change, overpopulation, war and disease. It is, in the great scheme of things, maybe quite small. But we can do it, and we should do it.

Here are a few words from Karen, who collected pledges from 90 shops in Sheen, to ask customers if they need a plastic bag, and to reuse plastic bags:

“The majority of the businesses I spoke to thought this was a good idea …, from the businesses I spoke to, this is a well supported and well considered thing to do.”

And also from the manager of Kingston Branch TKMaxx, which has a policy since last year to charge for plastic bags:

“You have to explain to some customers why we’re charging, but we have reduced usage by 70%”

A personal view

As you grow older, you recognise that you won’t be a hero. You won’t climb Everest, or be a famous ballerina or invent the cure for the common cold. You accept that the most you can do is live a decent life, try to bring up your children with a moral compass, give them more than you had and prepare them for a future you can’t envisage.

What I really hate is the fact that my most enduring legacy will be the plastic bags I brought home from the supermarket, the yogurt pots and the bread wrappers. That they will be there for centuries after I’m gone, polluting the seas, releasing their toxic chemicals into the food chain and causing harm where I had only hoped to do good.

We’re not giving up and neither should you.

GreeneruponThames continues to campaign. We welcome your support.

Monday, 19 October 2009

10:10 Campaign goes to parliament

If you haven't heard of 10:10 yet you should get informed...anyone and everyone is invited to pledge to cut their carbon by 10% in 2010.

The Lib Dems have brought a motion for parliament to make the pledge.

let's hope the gov signs up.

Can Greener-upon Thames make the 10:10 cut too?

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Carole Reports from the Front Line

Once upon a time, on a blustery autumn day, 4 intrepid warriors of the Greener tribe set out to save the environment . There was M, an experienced fighter, calm and undaunted in the face of adversity; W, enthusiastic, committed and brave; J, engaging, energetic and prepared, and finally C, driven by a mixture of outrage and zealous determination. But smiling with it.

Well, that’s what it felt like. You had to be there.

What really happened: We gave out leaflets and asked shoppers to sign our petition. We visited a parade of shops and asked them to sign a pledge to promote the use of reusable bags, keep plastic bags out of sight and ask customers if they needed a bag before providing one.

Here are some of their responses:

Pet Food Supplies
Absolutely! we don’t give out plastic bags, we use reusable and already ask customers to bring in their own (served customer and took an old Tesco bag from under the counter for her).

sadly, surrounded by plastic, but nevertheless passionate that the environment should be looked after, he would do what he could, and it was a disgrace the way our fish stocks had been managed. “Our customers bring their own bags.”

Certainly, did agree that plastic bags should be paid for. Among other things, would reduce the rubbish littering the parade

Upmarket Wine Merchant
Happy to sign. Did not give out any plastic bags, reused their boxes

Convenience Store
Signed to do his best, but felt under pressure to provide bags, as they were available free up the road from Asda.

Our star. Wrapped his food products in waxed paper, was prepared to fill customers’ own containers, asked them to bring their own bags and had a little rant about the litter and this is not allowed in South Africa, where he is from. (also, by the way, not allowed in Australia, Ireland, China, Bangladesh ….. )

Oriental Foods
Manager not in, but deputy promised to hand form over for signature. In less than perfect English, he engaged in informed discussion, wished us well and said he fully supported our campaign. Smiling nods from other staff.

We visited 13 shops.
We took away 10 signed pledges, with one possible to follow.
Almost without exception, passersby accepted the leaflets and most were prepared to sign the petition.
We collected 79 signatures in support and we were only out an hour.

If I were a politician and I got this sort of feedback on an issue, I would think this was a mandate.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Radical Thinking in Government Report

This report has been published by the Sustainable Development Commission. It makes interesting reading:

Here is an extract:

"This may seem an inopportune moment to question growth. It is not. On the contrary, this crisis offers the potential to engage in serious reflection. It is a unique opportunity to address financial and ecological sustainability together. A world in which things simply go on as usual is already inconceivable. But what about a world in which nine billion people all aspire to the level of affluence achieved in the OECD nations?

"Such an economy would need to be 15 times the size of this one by 2050 and 40 times bigger by the end of the century. What does such an economy look like?

"What does it run on? Does it really offer a credible vision for a shared and lasting prosperity?

"Fixing the economy is only part of the problem. Addressing the social logic of consumerism is also vital. This task is far from simple - mainly because of the way in which material goods are so deeply implicated in the fabric of our lives.

"This growth model was always unstable ecologically. It has now proven itself unstable economically. The age of irresponsibility is not about casual oversight or individual greed. If there was irresponsibility it was systematic, sanctioned widely and with one clear aim in mind: the continuation and protection of economic growth.

"The failure of this strategy is disastrous in all sorts of ways. Not least for the impacts that it is having across the world, in particular in poorer communities. But the idea that growth can deliver us from the crisis is also deeply problematic. Responses which aim to restore the status quo, even if they succeed in the short term, simply return us to a condition of financial and ecological unsustainability."

Happy reading!

Monday, 16 March 2009

The Age of Stupid

Last night I watched a climate 'activist' film called the Age of Stupid. It is basically a documentary set within a dramatisation showing the world in 2055 when things have gone very badly wrong and most life, and most humans, have disappeared. Pete Postlethwaite sits in an archive wondering why we were so stupid, and didnt act to save ourselves before it was too late, when it was so very obvious that there was a climate crisis emerging.

It was very moving and energising and the premiere was run on solar power in Leicester Square. It had about 1% of the emissions of a typical hollywood premiere apparently.

It ended with a couple of announcements, one being that the Maldives have announced they are going to be the world's first carbon-neutral country, and intend to achieve this within 10 years. Another was from Pete Postlethwaite who said to Ed Milliband, who was brave enough to turn up for a bashing, that if the government approve the building of a coal station in Kent this year, he will return his OBE - and he will also demand that Ed Milliband should be removed from his post as he is not fit to represent the people. They also wanted to draw attention to the Copenhagen summit this December at which emissions will be discussed and targets agreed, by the world's governments.

There is lots more to say about all this and it is very much a fierce campaign. The people who believe climate change is an emergnecy, naturally become very passionate about it. If you dont think it is an emergency you are less likely to be so active and passionate although you might think there is some kind of problem that you can address in a few small ways.

I felt the film was not just about climate change however. Quite a lot of it was about social injustice and the oil industry, it was centered around the idea that oil is a dirty thing. I felt this was a distortion.

For example, it is a fact that up to a fifth of the world's carbon emissions are coming from forests as they are cut and burned away. This was not mentioned once in the film , the whole focus was on oil - in the states, in nigeria, in iraq, in india; but oil is not the only factor and oil is not all bad. It would be good if they had mentioned the forests and included a sotry of someone in a forest/deforested area. Deforestation is a serious issue here becuase not only are you releasing carbon from the living trees of today (as opposed to the dead plants of the long distant past, as in oil) but you are also destroying one of the few natural carbon capture systems we have that can function on a really large scale. Its a climate double whammy.

We all are contributing to all these problems, and to deforestation we are adding through the consumption of palm oil, meat, and timber products. Palm oil is in almost everything you want to eat or use in cosmetics, shampoos, soaps etc, so its a nightmare trying to cut it out of your diet or lifestyle. I've tried to start doing it - its really really hard. Meat - especially the beef cattle - is nourished on a lot of soya and other vegetable products a lot of which are grown in cleared forest lands, largely in South America's Amazon forests, and unfortunately the land doesnt stay cultivable for more than a few years so there is a constant need to move on and clear more forest.

Timber and wood and paper markets also add to the damage - the construction industry uses a lot of the asian rainforests, in particular for China's growth. But also many of the nice garden furniture you buy at the garden centre has come from - often illegally - logged forests in Asia. This to me is scandalous but it goes on. Even worse was when I learned that some loo paper is made from tropical forest wood. This is really dreadful to destroy such wealth of species and diversity so we can wipe our arses once. I would like to see laws that loo roll has to be made of recycled paper.

Anyway putting all that aside I would like to propose that we could investigate having a screening of the Age of Stupid in Kew when it becomes publicly available on May 1st. In the meantime you can go to see it at a cinema.

Find out more
Film: The Age of Stupid
Climate Change Campaigners
Deforestation and Climate Change

Thanks for reading, do post your comments.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Titbit for interested folks

London Sustainability Exchange invites you to join the Energise London Learning Network and benefit from a free suite of services to support your work in Energising Londoners towards energy efficiency, use of renewable energy sources, and water conservation.

You will get all these free services by signing up! Join now by contacting Rachel Grewal (

I have enclosed a briefing sheet of the project

Rachel Grewal

Behaviour Change Programme Assistant
London Sustainability Exchange
84 Long Lane
London SE1 4AU
Tel: 020 7234 9405

Fax: 020 7234 9419

Government Policy on Plastic Bags

A while ago I signed a petition on the Number 10 website, about plastic bags, and the Government has now responsed to the petition:

"The Government is committed to reducing significantly the wasteful distribution of single-use carrier bags, and has already taken decisive action.

The Government now has powers, introduced through the Climate Change Act, to require retailers to charge for the carrier bags they distribute, but our preference has always been for a voluntary approach to reducing bag use. This was behind the Government’s decision to sign up to an agreement in December 2008 with Britain’s leading supermarkets represented by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). This committed to a 50 per cent cut in the number of carrier bags given out by spring 2009, working towards an eventual reduction of 70% in numbers of bags distributed. This is a positive development and is exactly the reduction in bag distribution we have been seeking, and is a similar reduction to what we estimate could be achieved through legislation. The enabling powers in the Climate Change Act have motivated retailers who have responded well to these challenging targets. The Government is confident that, with the continued help of their customers, retailers will deliver significant reductions in the numbers of bags they give out.

Progress on the agreement will be monitored by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). We will review to see if the 50 per cent target has been achieved this spring, and again in 2010, to assess further progress. Whilst regulation remains as a fallback, to be used if the voluntary action was not sufficient, we feel that it would be inappropriate to regulate just now when retailers are offering to do so much on a voluntary basis."

I will be interested to know if the 50% drop has come as expected, and your views on whether this is the right approach.

I do feel that even if we campaign very hard locally, eventually government and other social forces will be the effector of real change. This doesnt mean I dont think its worth doing - it helps smooth the way for the bigger players and it also means we can in the future take the lead on other green issues locally.

Does anyone know whether Richmond is signed up to the Sustainable Communities Act? I think it is but its nowhere to be found on their website.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Greener Kew is Going Global!

well not quite, but it is spreading:

Traders across the borough of Richmond upon Thames are getting together with Greener upon Thames to help end the free plastic bag culture that has caused so much damage, particularly to the world's ocean life.

We want to pursue a healthier world by taking responsibility for our needless waste. Convenience is easy, but our environment is in trouble. It's not that hard - just bring your own bags, just like your parents used to do.