Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My personal sustainability trip

My mother is 87 years old and having lived through years of wartime and austerity, she tends to know what sustainability is all about. Leave a light on, throw out a morsel of good food, buy anything more than is strictly necessary and you always got a lecture which oddly resembled the anti-consumerism and environmental stewardship themes of our current times. My childhood seems to have been one long sustainability education. Everything was reused, nothing was surplus, nothing was extravagant, nothing was unnecessary. Somewhat fixed in her ways, these habits have lived on and every time my kids leave a light on in our home, I hear my mother telling them to switch it off, even though we now live thousands of miles away. My mother lives in Manchester (UK), and visiting her this week, I realized that, not only is her old-style sustainability as relevant as ever, but she is also taking up Manchester's new style sustainability with gusto. Recycling, rubbish and waste in Manchester is now a regular topic of conversation.  Each household has four refuse bins : green for paper, brown for glass, tins and cans, blue for plastic and black for organic.

Photocredit :
All waste in my mother's home is now sorted so that it can get disposed of in the appropriate bin. During the few days my daughter and I visited with my mother, we made several trips to throw out the garbage. Every trip was preceded by a twenty minute explanation of which rubbish to throw in which bin. Every meal we concluded ended in a debate about some of the waste and which colour bin it should end up in. And even over a family dinner on Friday night at my niece's home, the main topic of conversation was the new organic waste caddy she had just received, for making food left-overs collection in the home more practical. Although none of my family have yet signed up for home composting master classes, there is certainly a new culture of waste disposal and recycling which has gripped the city and even my 87-year old mother is doing her bit.  

My mother and my daughter Eden - the garbage masters
Another sustainability experience in Manchester was our trip to Tesco's supermarket, where I always stock up on Tetley's tea bags and Bisto (see blog from another trip!). However, this time, we enjoyed earning extra bonus points  for my mother's Tesco Clubcard because we used our own shopping bags. At the checkout, the checkout-lady asked us how many of our own bags we had brought and duly recorded them in order to ensure my mother got a bonus for environmental awareness.

My daughter Eden with our Beyond Business shopping bags outside Tesco supermarket
Finally, the end of our trip came all too soon and we found ourselves in Manchester airport awaiting the flight home. Even here, sustainability was the theme of the day as we entered the Environment Zone:

Manchester Airport gets it!

The airport  has a Vision for Sustainability and has published a Sustainability Report in 2011 (GRI B level, GRI checked). It looks pretty good, too, demonstrating a range of energy-efficiency schemes and  a carbon challenge for all onsite businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

Overall, I was impressed with sustainability in Manchester, both in the way it penetrates the home and urban living culture, raising awareness and changing people's habits. In fact, I was so involved in sustainability issues during a brief family holiday, that I am wondering if I can charge my travel as a business expense! haha.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices   Contact me via  on Twitter or via my business website  (BeyondBusiness, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

1 comment:

Philip Walker said...

Isn't it funny how old-fashioned values - in this case 'waste not, want not' - prevail? Hats off to your mother and to Manchester, which, of course, has such a strong history of commerce, innovation and social progressivism.

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