Waste Neutrality, the Eden Project, and saving the planet.

Wednesday of our holiday in Cornwall, and a visit to the Eden Project! You mostly hear good things about it but occasionally you meet someone that thought it was rubbish. I can see why people might not like it but I thought it was fascinating, beautiful, educational and inspiring.

A visit to the Eden Project raises lots of questions about our planet. I’d probably fall into the category of very-nearly-green-hippy. Partly driven by my faith – my belief in a creator and in our duty to look after His creation – and partly driven by science and common sense, I believe we should reduce, recycle and reuse as much as possible.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations at work about being green. Mostly with people who slightly mock the concept of being overtly, or overly, environmentally friendly. Mostly with people who think I’m silly for cycling in the rain (but that’s another issue altogether). I feel in a minority there.

But most of the discussions aren’t actually about the concepts of waste, wastefulness, packaging, reuse of materials and consumerism. Most of the discussions are about “Carbon Footprints”, which I don’t really understand myself and which, to me, seem to be just marketing to make us feel good about buying a product or service. But I don’t actually get what it means to put a tonne of carbon dioxide into the air! In contrast, I DO get what it means to put a plastic bag in a landfill. It means that I’ve wasted some oil – a precious natural resource that will, one day pretty soon now, run out – in order to produce something that I’ve then discarded on a big heap and which will sit there being a plastic bag in the way, for a VERY long time.

I’m all for being carbon neutral. But I’m more for thinking about how much stuff we use and throw away. And by “use” I include “burn to make energy”, which means that my concept of “reducing” includes lowering emissions, but, so I think, seems to be a more holistic approach.

What’s this got to do with my holiday and the Eden Project?

Well, there aren’t many things that I don’t like about the lovely cottage that we’re staying in, but one thing that bugs me is that we can’t recycle. Everything is thrown in the bin (well, we’re going to take some stuff home with us too). This means that in 5 days we’ve produced about 2 times as much waste as we’d normally produce at home. It’s shocking how, without compost and recycling, it mounts up so quickly.

In contrast, the Eden Project was keen to talk about how it was trying to be “waste neutral”. Reducing the amount of waste that they produce, reusing items where it is possible, recycling what’s left, and buying recycled goods (and thus creating demand for recycled products).

It’s expensive, and it sounds like hard work and lots of thinking. They declare it to be “a philosophy for life”. It’s a challenge to all of us. It’s a challenge to me! How much do I think about the waste that will be produced by an item that I buy? How often do I get lazy and throw something away because to take it home and recycle it would be too much hard work? Am I willing to pay a bit extra for something that’s locally sourced, recycled, or in “green” packaging?

One other thing that I wondered was, are we doing enough? That is are we DOING enough?

The Eden Project sells lots of books. Mostly books about being green and ethical. It’s good to read (or write!) an article or book about this kind of thing. It’s good to be inspired by the wonders of nature on display at the Eden Project and feel protective of our amazing planet. It’s good to read about how others are adopting this philosophy for life. It’s good to think and ask the questions.

But when we get to the supermarket, or need to travel somewhere nearby, or book a holiday, or are throwing something in the bin…when we have a choice to make a difference…what are we actually going to choose to do?