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Episode 5: Down to Zero (and beyond) – me and climate change

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

My journey to a net zero carbon and hopefully carbon positive life (and art practice)

Ten Months In...

“In order to carry a positive action, we must develop here a positive vision.” ― Dalai Lama

New work titled 'One Drop' created with a reduced carbon footprint #reuse #reducereuserecycle "In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence." - Kahlil Gibran

It's been around 6 months since my last update. June 2023 has now officially been declared the hottest on record and we find ourselves in an El Niño event - which brings even greater extremes of weather and associated events like the huge forest fires across Canada and Europe to the catastrophic flooding in China, India, South Korea and Japan.

In the face of all that climate news, it's easy to feel disheartened and wonder what can we do as individuals to make a difference. We all have these moments and it was on one of these days that I found an Instagram post describing the inspiration behind some new work by a wonderful sculptor, Simon Gaiger (IG: @simongaiger4456). The piece is called 'Trim-Tab - Sea Change' , and is inspired by a quote by Buckminster Fuller.

I have shared the text from the IG post below.

"Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth - the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there's a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It's a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it's going right by you, that it's left you altogether. But if you're doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, "Call me trim-tab".

The truth is that you get the low pressure to do things, rather than getting on the other side and trying to push the bow of the ship around. And you build that low pressure by getting rid of a little nonsense, getting rid of things that don't work and aren't true until you start to get that trim-tab motion. It works every time. That's the grand strategy you're going for. So I'm positive that what you'll do with yourself, just the little things you do with yourself, these are the things that count.

To be a real trim-tab, you've got to start with yourself, and soon you'll feel that low pressure, and suddenly things begin to work in a beautiful way. Of course, they happen only when you're dealing with really great integrity"

Inspiring! Right!?!

Lots has happened and we are working hard toward our carbon neutral/sustainability goal holding the idea of a 'trim tab' in our minds. It's been really wonderful to see lots of other studios making great changes toward becoming or being sustainable. We have seen this all over the world now - that 'low pressure' as Buckminster Fuller called it. Here are just a few:

  • Australia - Small Impact Studio run by Scott Chaseling (@smallimpactstudio) and Gina Fairley

  • Denmark - Eric Meaker Glas

  • Indonesia - Ivan Bestari Minar Pradipta (@ivanoozz)

  • Kenya - Anselm's Kitengela Hot Glass (@kitengelahotglass)

  • New Zealand - Lava Glass (Lynden Over and Christine Robb) - officially carbon neutral (@lavaglassnz)

  • UK

    • Allister Malcolm, Stourbridge Glass Museum (@allistermalcolmglassltd)

    • Ian Hanky, Upcycled Glass Company (@upcycledglasscompany)

    • Jon Lewis, All About Glass (@jonlewisglass)

    • Hannah Gibson (@hannahgibsonglass)

    • 😊 Us , Wilkin and Mason (@neilwilkinglass and @robertamasonartglass)

I'm so pleased to say that we have been making real progress here and have a clear, positive vision of how we caretake our space now and in the future.

Our goals are simple:

  • to create a sustainable, carbon friendly (ideally carbon neutral) environment to live, grow, work and create in ( #reduce #reuse #recycle )

  • to improve the biodiversity of where we live

Where are we the grand scheme of things?

Our workshop is up and running in a basic* way and this and our home are now powered largely by our solar and wind generation. We estimate that we have currently put more back into the national grid than we've used (largely due to that 30 day period of hot sunny weather). This will change when the electric furnace comes online and our boiler is swapped out but we are looking at making a few more tweaks to our system to make it more efficient for our 3 phase power needs.

*basic = insulated ceiling and walls, re-wired, lights, power for equipment, etc

Image of the screen from our inverter to show the flow of power during generation and usage

We have now completed our first melt of home made glass cullet (#reuse) and I have a new series of #climate pieces. I will post the photos soon. I have also been exploring, with Neil's help a few other ideas for new sculptural work and a new range (fingers crossed) for Studio Ellie Maya. All reduce waste and create lovely things in the process. Here's a short video of the process. There are more details in the caption of the Instagram post.

We have an electric furnace in the plan and are saving for that. In the interim, we still use propane (bottled gas) for our furnace, glory hole and pipe warmer - but we organise ourselves to optimise the use of the furnace so it runs only when we need it. We track our gas usage closely and although gas is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, we still measure what's used so we can off-set that amount of carbon in other ways. (#reduce)

Off-sets are always an interesting subject. We have decided to be responsible, as far as possible, for providing our own off-sets. In many ways, this is tied in very closely with improving the biodiversity of where we live. We are lucky to live on a small smallholding and have used tree planting as part of our first line of off-sets. Since October 2022, we have planted more that 1000 trees here. Around 450 are part of shelterbelt as we live near the top of a hill and the other 670 trees are part of 2 hedgerows we have planted again for wind protection and to improve biodiversity and provide wildlife corridors.

We also spend time volunteering with @projectseagrass. Sea grass is becoming recognised as one of the key natural solutions to the climate crisis. They have the potential to sequester and store huge amounts of carbon dissolved into the oceans and store it 35 times faster than the tropical rain forests. So we are doing our part to help support a wonderful organisation working hard to re-establish seagrass meadows round the UK and globally. You can learn more here in this short video from WWF and Project Seagrass .

#wip Work in progress in collaboration with @neilwilkinglass to help raise funds for @projectseagrass

We have made conscious choices to significantly reduce our meat consumption, try to buy local sustainable produce, grow as much as we can of what we need and compost, freecycle, upcycle or recycle what we no longer need. ( #reduce #reuse #recycle )

For those who like spreadsheets (not many I guess!😂) Here is an outline of our current plan/activities:

As I mentioned in Episode 4, the next stage is establishing a way to reliably measure each activity to record progress toward our goal. We also need to consider formal validation of our footprint. As we are very small and not a 'manufacturing' type of studio, it's been difficult to get time from the independent verification companies, but this is something I will be looking more closely at as we reach our 1 year mark.

This month has been great as we have been able to make new work using our recycled waste cullet with much of the energy being provided by our own solar and wind generation. It's a great feeling! Proper photos of the new work coming soon, but I will leave you with a few teasers of new work in progress ...

#climate pieces (Left and right) #wip fun with #seagooseberries (middle)

As always, thanks for sharing this journey ...

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