Greener Upon Thames was very sad last week to hear of the death of Trish Pargeter, a key member of our team. We share some happy memories here.
Trish was a Greener upon Thames Founding member and Trustee playing a vital role in this, our South West London based environmental organisation. On Thursday 12th March Trish sadly lost her long battle with cancer, dying surrounded by her close family and friends. Determined to make a difference, Trish certainly did, spending much of her time meeting and planning with Mike, Chairman of Greener. She was very good at organising events and inviting as many people as possible to ensure a great turn out. I remember one fun mammoth wine-buying jaunt in which Trish couldn’t remember her pin. Luckily being a trustworthy person the sommelier allowed her to pay with the card manually which is rare these days. We left with the goods and Trish was relieved and happy. Our fundraising event was a great success, and the wine much appreciated.
Trish was a crucial part of the process of making and maintaining excellent links with other like-minded environmental organisations; The Marine Conservation Society, Keep Britain Tidy, The Campaign To Protect Rural England, Surfers Against Sewage and Thames 21, Eco Tales and in America, 5 Gyres and One More Generation. In 2013 Greener upon Thames was very proud to join The Break The Bag Habit Coalition of which many of the above are also members. Always fun to be around and game for a laugh, Trish’s skills included wearing the ‘Bag Monster’ costume made up of over one hundred plastic bags joined together.
The costume doesn’t do much for ones’s vanity but it draws attention to the importance to rethink, reduce, re-use, upscale and recycle Plastic. This ubiquitous throw-away totem item, the plastic bag, represents the tip of the plastic landfill mountain And is a good place to start when aiming to reduce plastic use. As well as being unsightly in our landscapes, the bags often go into the Sewage system ending up in the sea and being mistaken for food by marine animals which then go on to die in some cases. Animals also suffer from getting trapped inches on land too. The plastic does not biodegrade but photodegrades into smaller and smaller particles, working up the food chain and ending up on our dinner plates. That’s why as a team we wanted to take our plight to parliament and in Spring of 2013 we teamed up with Eco Tales and the children of Stanley Primary School in Surrey And set up stall infringement of the Houses of Parliament one sunny day and then went with the children to meet the Prime Minister David Cameron. We’d like to think our combined efforts went some way to influencing their decision that day to introduce a charge on plastic bags that comes in this October, 2015. It’s what Trish and the Greener team campaigned for for years, so its a big step forward and we are really glad this was decided in Trish’s lifetime so she knew her hard work and dedication had paid off. However, the larger scale plastic pollution problem continues and as Trish would say, “It’s not in the bag yet.”
Greener Upon Thames campaigners welcomed the introduction of a carrier bag charge in England in the Queen’s speech on June 4th, but expressed disappointment that it would exclude paper and biodegradable bags and wouldn’t apply to small shops.
A member of the national Break the Bag Habit campaign, GUT believes that the Government has failed to listen to guidance given by every sector asked for advice by announcing that its proposed scheme will exclude small retailers, paper bags and biodegradable bags. The result will be a scheme that is different from the ones in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – confusing for both retailers and consumers.
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park and GUT supporter, commented: “Plastic bags are the most obvious, and gratuitous symbols of our throwaway culture, and it’s therefore good news that the Government is bringing in a levy on their use. But as ever, the scheme is vastly overcomplicated. It already works simply and very well in Wales, where plastic bag use has plummeted and where the scheme is popular, and I hope in time the Government will learn from their experiences.”
The bag charge is designed to significantly reduce the 7 billion bags given out every year in England, in turn reducing the incidence of littering and choked wildlife. But with only larger retailers required to take part in the scheme, consumers will find the scheme inconsistent and the small retailers won’t have the chance to reduce their costs…
These cards were produced for the film screenings of ‘Plastic Shores’ that were organised by GUT. The images are available to use for your own campaigns – they are designed at business card size and you could add your own info on the back. Just contact us for print-ready images.
Roz Savage had an environmental epiphany after reading about the Native American belief that we have to take good care of the land if we want it to take good care of us. She turned her back on a materialistic lifestyle and embraced a simpler life uncluttered by possessions.
Her key message is that, like her ocean rowing voyages, we can accomplish great things by taking a huge number of tiny steps in the right direction.
Our present environmental challenges have largely been created by billions of humans making daily decisions that don’t best serve the long-term interests of either the Earth or humanity. By taking personal responsibility and making wiser decisions, we can re-set our course for a cleaner, greener, brighter future that combines the best of civilization’s achievements with principles of sustainability.
“The UK is shamefully wasteful. In fact we generate enough waste every two hours to fill the Albert Hall. At a time where pressure on the world’s resources has never been greater, we have to find a way to be more efficient. The first priority is reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place, and the only way to do that is to make waste a liability. Companies will then operate in such a way that minimizes that liability.
Of all the waste we generate, the plastic bag is perhaps the greatest symbol of our throwaway society. They are used and then forgotten, and they leave a terrible legacy. The figures are shocking. Each year 13 billion bags are used and thrown away in the UK. Each bag will be used for an average of 20 minutes, and once discarded will take anything up to 1,000 years to decompose. About 98% will end up in our already overflowing landfill sites. Some 200 million will litter the countryside. Thousands of Sea turtles, whales, and countless other species mistake the bags for food and once ingested, the bags block the animal’s insides and cause a horrible death.
Countless countries have taken the initiative to ban or phase out the bag. China, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Taiwan and San Francisco have all introduced bans. Others have introduced a bag tax. In Ireland for instance, a bag-tax has led to a reported 90% reduction in the number of bags used. In spite of a sluggish response by our own leaders, things are beginning to happen in the UK, not least in Kew, where all of the local shops with the exception of Tesco have agreed to take get rid of the plastic bag.
Now under the guidance of Greener-Upon-Thames, Richmond Borough as a whole is embarking on the same journey, and I will support it all the way. I have written to all the major chains asking them to back the initiative and am awaiting a response. I’m not holding my breath, but I hope Tesco will be more helpful this time. I’ve also written to all the Schools, asking them to involve their pupils and parents. With enough support, this project can set an example for the country.”
Zac Goldsmith is MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, and Director of the Ecologist Magazine.