Encouragement, scolding and pleading; these are just a few of the ways the government is trying to get us to go green. But should we be listening? EMMA BIGG
Is Eco Sustainable? We are told that we are a wasteful nation; that we need to recycle more and use our cars less. Statistics released at the beginning of February by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that the average person in the UK from 2009 to 2010 produced around 456kg of waste, of which almost 40% was recycled. However, despite the insistence that the general population is not doing enough to help the environment, it is interesting to note that DEFRA has also reported that Local Authorities (LAs) have actually recycled less waste than the average household. This echoes the pressure on the general population to reduce their usage of cars while extra runways at airports are being built to accommodate increased commercial and private flights. Perhaps the government should start leading by example. In a robust attempt to integrate the concept of sustainable living that even I was initially impressed with, the Coalition plans to introduce the Green Deal from 2012, which will make it easier to introduce legislation promoting energy efficiency in the home. Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his desire for the Coalition to be “the greenest government ever,” and Minister for Housing and Local Government Grant Shapps insisted during my time with him that “our role is very much about supporting local communities in their wish to adopt higher standards of sustainability.” The aim for the Green Deal in particular is to encourage homeowners and tenants to carry out work on their homes, making them more energy efficient. The cost would not be paid upfront but from the savings on their energy bills, and unlike a personal loan, the cost remains with the house regardless of who owns it. However, despite the claims that you could make back the money in energy savings over a matter of years, to save money it seems you have to spend it. In this economic climate,
where the price of living is through the roof, it is unlikely that people are going to be willing to shell out for a greener house when they can barely afford to live in it. This is clearly all part of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, where citizens take more responsibility for the world around them. However, simply passing legislation making it easier for people to go green will not cut the mustard; the country needs to be led by example and given more incentive than a vague promise. There is also a similar issue with the concept of ‘eco towns’, which are sustainable housing developments brought in by the former Labour government. When I asked Mr Shapps who is expected to foot the bill for such developments he replied, “the bulk of investment to create eco towns will come from the private sector” and neatly dodged the question of their long-term sustainability. However, it is clear that once again the government isdictating what should be done but taking no responsibility for it. While he cannot “comment on what individuals are prepared to pay for,” it is interesting to note that the budget for eco towns was cut by 50% last summer, stopping some developments in their tracks. It bodes the question; if the Government isn’t taking this seriously, then why should we? Now don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in a green future; it is essential that we respect the planet we live on because at the very crudest level, it will come back and bite us on the tush if we don’t. Using a bicycle instead of the car or taking a few minutes to separate the rubbish for recycling can make a big difference if we do it together, and it is clear from DEFRA’s figures that recycling is slowly but surely increasing. However, it is also absolutely essential that the government realises that it must walk the talk, because the hypocritical nature of its current policies ultimately has the potential to drive away the urge to do good.
40% of household waste is recycled
It is unlikely that people are going to be willing to shell out for a greener house when they can’t afford to live in it
The budget for eco towns was cut by 50% last summer