Published on February 17, 2013 | by Julie Smith0
Make every week Green Week
Prince Charles warned that mankind was on the brink of “committing suicide on a grand scale”.
‘Go green, or die’ was the message in his acceptance speech of a lifetime achievement award at the International Green Awards.
The Prince said that if we continued to ignore environmental issues, we would “condemn our grandchildren and their children to an unbearably toxic and unstable existence,” The Independent reported.
Despite Charles’ dedication to championing the environment, his apocalyptic views were met with wide criticism.
CynicismDr Benny Peiser, the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, chastised the Prince saying that his extreme speech was “over the top” and “not helpful to the debate”.
Today, many people continue to remain cynical about the idea of ‘going green’. The guilt created by media reporting and pressure, coupled with the time and economic constraints of modern society make the concept of being truly sustainable seem like an unobtainable ideal.
“Sustainability is a funny word,” said Jan Hendzel, co-founder of reclaimed furniture makers Hendzel & Hunt and Central Saint Martins graduate.
“To be truly sustainable in London is nearly impossible. But you can nod towards the ideas of sustainability, which is how we work,” he added.
Product designer, Thomas Thwaites – most famous for The Toaster Project, in which he de-constructed a toaster and rebuilt it from scratch using raw materials – told Arts London News: “People don’t have the time. I don’t have the time. I can’t be bothered either.
“Part of The Toaster Project was poking a bit of fun at the idea that we should all go and live in the woods and make all our own stuff. It’s fun to do if you’re interested in it, but the vast majority of people aren’t.”
Green issues are often presented in a contradictory way. The same publication may present information instructing people to act differently on the same issue.
An example of this is the debate surrounding red meat. It has been said that if everybody really wanted to reduce their carbon footprint and make a difference, they would not eat meat.
“You could say, ‘I eat the cheapest meat, it’s had a horrible life, but has been done in a really efficient way’.” Harry Trimble
The effects of industrial meat production on energy, water usage, and public health are staggering. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation has estimated almost 20 per cent of greenhouse gases are attributable to the raising of animals for food, although some researchers claim the real number is closer to 50 per cent.
Although there is a preconception that organic and free-range meat is much better for animal welfare, the animals used in organic meat use far more resources than meat that is produced on a mass scale.
Harry Trimble, a colleague of Thwaites discussed the contradictions in the environmental movement.
Speaking to ALN, he said: “You could say, ‘I eat organic meat, it has lived free-range and had a wonderful life’. Or you could say, ‘I eat the cheapest meat, it’s had a horrible life, but has been done in a really efficient way.’
“When the debate shows that the actual carbon-per-grams of meat is better with the latter, it is clear that the changes that need to made are institutional.”
Minor part of bigger issues
He suggested that the issues most commonly reported in the press and promoted by environmental organisations – such as remembering to switch lights off or putting things in the correct recycling bins – are important, but only a minor part of much bigger issues.
“When students first touch upon sustainability as a subject,” Trimble said, “they look at things such as supermarket carrier bags.
“But carrier bags are barely 0.0001 per cent of supermarkets entire carbon footprint. The problems they create are only relevant when they blow away and suffocate a family of moles or something,” he said.
“Thousands of column inches have been dedicated to discussing which is better, hand towels or hand dryers, or how if we all unplugged our phone chargers it would save enough energy to shut down a power station.
“If all of us switched of our phone chargers and it would only save one power station, it can’t be very much power!” said Thwaites.
“It’s irrelevant really. It just scratches the surface, and I think everyone intuitively knows that.”
Green Week at UALThe University of the Arts London is preparing for its annual Green Week, which starts later this term.
Running from March 4 to 8, the event will see staff and students take part in a variety of activities that aim to communicate the most pressing environmental issues.
Each college will create its own unique timetable of workshops, exhibitions, lectures and screenings, all focused on this year’s theme: Transition.
Green Week is a concept devised by People & Planet, a student-led organisation which campaigns for young people to take positive action for social and environmental justice.
The idea behind Green Week is for schools, colleges and universities to focus on issues surrounding climate change and to kick-start educational organisations into launching practical solutions for a low-carbon future.
Each year People & Planet compile a comprehensive independent league-table of UK universities, ranking them according to their environmental and ethical performance.
Universities are graded in the style of a degree, for example, each institution will be awarded either a 1st, a 2:1, a 2:2 or a 3rd. Last year, UAL received a 2:2.
“Last year’s score was pretty bad,” said UAL’s environmental and energy manager Ian Lane.
“It was made clear to me that UAL wanted to be a first class organisation, so part of my interview [when I applied for the job] was a presentation on how we’re going to do that.
“Next year, I’m looking for a dramatic improvement. But it will take a year.”
Lane was recruited to his post in December 2012. As well as having a mammoth task on his hands, he has the added pressure of being fully aware that his job is on the line if he does not achieve results.
“If I don’t get us up to 1st class, they’ll sack me. But I’ve worked successfully in this for about 11 years now so I’m not used to not delivering,” Lane said.
People & Planet’s own nationwide Green Week ends on Sunday February 17.
In response to the event, UAL’s vice chancellor Nigel Carrington will sign the ‘Green Education Declaration’ this week. The declaration calls on universities to commit to working towards a greener higher education sector.
“It was made clear to me that UAL wanted to be a first class organisation.” UAL environmental and energy manager, Ian Lane
The declaration was created so that universities can commit to doing their bit in the effort to address larger environmental issues. The declaration includes pledges to work to prevent global average temperatures from rising, integrate sustainable development education into the curriculum as well as achieve targets of a sector-wide carbon reduction of 50 per cent by 2020.
In addition, a short film by two LCC alumni will be shown on the homepage of the UAL website and on screens at all the colleges throughout the week.
The film features the pro vice chancellor of each college talking about why sustainability is important for artists and designers – and the obstacles they face.
It also directs students to social media websites where more information is available on how to get involved in Green Week.
Other events to look out for will be ‘green’ cocktails in the student bars, a ‘swap shop’ on the square outside Central Saint Martins and the introduction of meat-free Mondays in college canteens.
London conscientious communicators
The LCC is planning to put its own stamp on Green Week by using their design and media blocks to represent themes of waste, transport, consumption, biodiversity and water.
Led by a range of sustainability experts, LCC will create a variety of design challenges based around each theme.
There will be a series of workshops and exhibitions, all of which will promote and showcase good environmental practice.
Over the last term, 40 sustainability experts and innovators have visited LCC to challenge design students to communicate environmental issues surrounding the themes for this year’s Green Week.
Students from LCC’s BA Graphic and Media Design and FDA Design for Graphic Communication courses have combined to develop a brief that will communicate their chosen sustainability challenge.
Sarah Temple, Design course director at LCC, said: “Often you let students do their own research and they just scrape around on the edge of the subject. But these experts are bringing incredibly contemporary information for students work with.
“These organisations are looking for communicators. They’re looking for filmmakers, photographers, journalists and designers to work with, but they haven’t got huge budgets.
“So they have what we want, and we have what they want.”
Sustainable fishingThe designs – pitched last week – include a campaign for sustainable fishing, a plant that teaches you about contaminated water and a ‘mysterious’ box that aims to tackle clothes-waste.
The installations will be exhibited around the college throughout the week.
Practioners contributing to LCC’s Green Week include designers Thwaites and Trimble.
They will start the week by tackling the issue of waste with a workshop called ‘Product Triage and Repair’.
The workshop will involve assessing broken household appliances in terms of how ‘injured’ they are, and devising ways to make them “better than new” through design, packaging and branding.
“The idea is to give second-hand things the same accoutrements you would get if you went to John Lewis and bought a fancy kettle, which would come in a nice box with lots of jargon,” said Thwaites.
“It will be a unique piece – not just one of the 10,000 Russell & Hobbs churned out last month.”
The workshop will get students to think about “upcycling” and look at ways to avoid contributing to the 90 per cent of products that end up in a landfill within six months of purchase.
Other activities to look out for include the“24-hour design challenge” set by reclaimed material specialists Hendzel & Hunt, as well as a project to produce an anti-consumerist newspaper with the creators of the Occupied Times.
“A lot of my colleagues say the best Green Week would be if we all stayed at home in bed, as anything you do or create uses energy and resources,” said Temple.
“So instead of Green Week at LCC, we have called our week ‘London Conscientious Communicators’.
“If you talk about what is ethical and moral, it makes it a much broader area than just sustainability, which is quite limited.”
For more information on the LCC Green Week, please visit: http://newevents.arts.ac.uk/event/lcc-green-week-2013