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Episode 6 : Down to Zero (and beyond) – me and climate change

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

One year and 2 months later ...

To bring about a better world, let us all strive together with vision, with courage, and with optimism." ― Dalai Lama

Beyond Words II, part of a new series of #sustainable work made from re-melted waste glass and inspired by all those memories and emotions we have that are beyond the confines of language - beyond words

Hard to believe it's almost Christmas and nealy 5 months since my last update. We have taken the idea of 'Trim-Tab' to our heart (many thanks Buckminster "Bucky"Fuller and @simongaiger4456).

If you are not sure what I mean, here is a great, energetic, summary from Jeff Bridges, "Bucky made the analogy that a trim tab is an example of how the individual is connected to society and how we affect society. And I like to think of myself as a trim tab. All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man!"

Watching 'The Great Climate Fight' on Ch 4 over the last few weeks has made us realise that governments and huge companies are the big movers for change, but as trim-tabs we can drive them to change with our votes and how we choose to spend our money.

We are still working hard, still making good progress 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

  • to share what we learn on our journey

Where are we the grand scheme of things?

Our workshop is up and running in a basic way and both our workshop and 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.

We have installed a small wind turbine to provide additional charging to our battery storage particulalry on cloudy days or overnight. Our hilltop location, not far from the sea has meant that it has proven it's worth so far this winter.

We have reached a new milestone in the last few weeks. Our old, oil fired boiler, which used to heat the house and our hot water, has now been replaced with a new efficient heat only, electric boiler and a special type of water heater that operates as a heat battery using a unique phase change material. I can't tell you how good it feels to have significantly reduced our reliance on fossil fuels. We have a massive insulation project underway in the house, which we hope will make a huge difference to our overall energy requirements. I should have some data on this in the next update. In the interim, here are a few work in progress shots. :0)

Now our only fossil fuel usage is the bottled gas we use when the furnace and/or glory hole are lit, but we minimise this as much as possible, often making work without the furnace, or batch making with the furnace so we can switich it off after. This enables us to accurately track and minimise our usage. All preheating and annealing is done using electric kilns and lehrs.

When the electric furnace comes online (we are still saving for that), we will be extending the solar installation and making a few more tweaks to our system to make it more efficient for our 3 phase power needs. We realise now that while we had hoped to do most of our glassblowing in the winter, and our gardening and exhibitions in the summer. We will need to adjust our glassblowing to the sunniest periods in the calendar. There are a lot of processes that we have adjusted around the best times for electricity generation. It's funny, because before this - I would have put the laundry on in the evening or the dishwasher overnight. Now all power hungry activities happen during the brightest part of the day. 😎

In the last update in July, we had just completed our first melt of home made glass cullet (#reuse) and it was great to have created 4 different series of work - the Climate Collections - all using the re-melted waste glass.

Studio Ellie Maya have been great to work with, developing some sculptural pieces using the re-melted waste glass and inspired by limpets, champion ecosystem builders on our coasts.

Ellie, Studio Ellie Maya, works with artists, interior designers and architects to consciously curate beautiful spaces with sustainable products. Here is her stand at Formed with Future Heritage at the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour in October this year. It was a great privilege to have my limpets and Beyond Words series included in the show. Both made sustainably.

Neil and I also made a joint series of work based on Seagrass. Seagrass 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 .

Our intent is to raise awarenerss of the importance of seagrass in the fight against climate change and to raise funds for the restoration of seagrass meadows. We are donating 10% of the price of each piece below to @projectseagrass. These are available in my shop.

This work augments our own carbon offsets created through our meadow restoration, biodivertity improvement and tree and hedgerow planting. Off-sets are always an interesting subject. As I mentioned in the previous episode, 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 1120 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, to improve biodiversity and provide wildlife corridors. We have started a smallish, mixed fruit orchard, with a few original apple, plum and cherry trees and have added crab apple trees, and a number of Welsh apple and pear varieties. We also have peach, apricot, pomegranate, fig and lemon trees. These live in our polytunnel and greenhouse, neither of which are heated.

We have made conscious food 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 Episodes 4-5, 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 have started to investigate more as we have reached our 1 year anniversary.

These last few months have been great as we have made successful new work using our recycled waste cullet with much of the energy being provided by our own solar and wind generation. Having the oil fired boiler replaced has aslo been a big milestone, next is recycling the oil tank and completing the insulation in between designing and making new work for our exhibtions next year.

I would be lying if I said this has all been easy, and we are not there yet, but we have a vision of where we want and need to be and know we will get there. We didnt get selected for the QEST/Heritage Crafts Sustainability Award, but what was brilliant is the overwhelming number of applications that had been made for the award. It's so wonderful to see so many makers, working hard to create beautiful work - sustainably. We have seen all the hard work being done all aound the UK and globally to reduce the carbon footprint of makers businesses and to use/reuse waster materials in the creation of new work. It's remarkable.

Everyone is a 'trim tab' creating that 'low pressure' for change...long may it continue and grow...😊

#climate pieces #onedrop collection - remelted waste glass

As always, thanks for sharing this journey ...

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