Peckham is a real community

When I tell people I live in Peckham, I am often faced with the question ‘why?’  Known for being the home of ‘Trotters Independent Traders’ from the tv show Only Fools and Horses and the place where Damilola Taylor was murdered, I can understand the question but it’s clear whoever asks hasn’t visited!

It’s a very creative neighbourhood with Camberwell College of Art and Goldsmith College close by, the South London Gallery and numerous art projects – Frank’s cafe, the pop-up Campari bar on the NCP carpark is a great example of the creative projects happening in the neighbourhood.

Peckham was hit by the sad events of the London Riots – shops were vandalised and a shop and bus were set on fire.

Photo from The Guardian website

Photo from The Guardian website

The riots were heartbreaking, sad and scary but over the last couple of days an even stronger sense of community has emerged. Peckham clearly has such a strong sense of togetherness that people have turned the Poundland boarded up window into a place to stick post-it notes of their feelings.
Peckham Poundland, Rye Lane

I went down to have a look to see what messages people were putting up. It had drawn a crowd of people reading what the community had to say and it has turned into a real piece of artwork. Peckham felt colourful, full of life and meaningful. The following messages really stuck out:

‘Peckham is home’
‘I love Peckham. I hate rioters’
‘Need discipline’
‘Community, don’t do it’
‘Crime doesn’t pay’
‘Burger King will reopen and you are barred’

Peckham post riot messages

These messages are important, not only for people to get their feelings across to others but to strengthen the community, make the rioters realise that the critical mass of poeple is made up of people wanting to live in a pleasant place, that if we empower people to make a difference we can live in happiness. The riot clean up was amazing, I wish I could taken part to help clean up after the riots – I would say I’ll be there next time but my hope is that this community won’t allow this to happen again.

Message being written on post-riot board, Peckham

Message being written on post-riot board, Peckham

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‘Art with a message’ at the Vintage Festival 2011

WWF @ Vintage Festival

The panda made me do it‘… was a vivid message I took away from this year’s Vintage Festival on the SouthBank. Have you thought about what pledge you might make to help preserve the natural world we live in?

I was really pleased to be able to help WWF at the Vintage Festival 2011 with their artwork collaboration.
Wayne Hemingway
, fashion designer, found of ‘Red or Dead‘ and co-founder of the Vintage Festival curated the WWF event to create a collaborative artwork to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

WWF @ Vintage Festival

It was a fantastic way to encourage the public to express their love, hopes or fears for the natural world (or how it’s inspired them) and be creative in how they presented it. The tables were full of material donated by the likes of Cath Kidson and paints, stencils and pens to create a fabulous art installation that can be shown around the country. The pieces of art were attached to a fishing net so that over the three days a wealth of love, happiness and stories could be collected.

WWF @ Vintage Festival
WWF @ Vintage Festival

Not only were people able to share their thoughts and messages on the natural world and living in a sustainable environment but they all appeared to have a great deal of fun! I was, as ever, amazed by the creativity that came out.

To show just how collaborative the event was, a video was produced made up of still photos taken over the weekend.

I hope that the messages left behind will really make people stop and think about the world we live in. Conserving the amount of water we use, being conscious of the decisions we make in everyday life, helping preserve our environment and being considerate with our actions are often talked about but not often embedded in our lives.

The WWF are running a number of events for their 50th Anniversary – ‘Lots of people are doing fantastic things to help us protect the natural world – buying sustainable seafood or forest-friendly wood, adopting an animal or saving energy at home or at work… ‘- If you weren’t able to join them at Vintage, take a look at their website to see how you could can take part.

Ecoinomy launches new website

For those that aren’t familiar with Ecoinomy, they are a behaviour company whose aim is to motivate employees to be less wasteful in the workplace.  Their online system encourages behaviour change by creating communities of employees who are rewarded for saving money.

Ecoinomy home page www.ecoinomy.com

Ecoinomy home page http://www.ecoinomy.com

Creating behaviour change takes time. It is not a matter of telling people to do something different or about removing items that encourages bad habits. It is about empowering people to feel they are making a difference that they benefit from.  Making changes alone often feels pointless and goes unrecognised but making changes as a group where you can see a tangible difference can be incredibly motivating and rewarding especially if there is an element of competition involved. This is what Ecoinomy does!

Ecoinomy has two offerings – the eco.system which is aimed at organisations who have more than 250 people who would use the system and eco.logic which is aimed at departments, project teams or companies with less than 250 people who would use it.  Both work in a similar way – a cause (charity, community group, event etc) to save money for is agreed, people join the system and enter their cost savings into the system.  A carbon calculator estimates the amount of CO2 saved and the money calculator adds up the money saved.  A percentage of this money goes to the chosen cause.

It’s a win, win, win situation – the company saves money by the employees consciously changing their habits (whether it’s reducing their printing, cycling to a meeting or not ordering biscuits for the next meeting), the employee sees a reason to think sustainably and feels motivated in the workplace and the environment wins because the CO2 emissions are reduced. Once momentum builds on the system and people see new ways to save money, the system becomes invaluable.

There is also a free e.Book ‘Ecoinomics’ on the website which can be downloaded for tips on how to operate in a less wasteful way. The fun illustrations and novel examples are not only thought provoking but also obvious and easy to carry out!

The fantastic thing about innovation like the Ecoinomy systems is that it creates interaction within the workplace and encourages employees to think further than the workplace.  If workplaces can become less wasteful and attitudes changed by employees seeing how much money they can save for their company and cause, then the hope is that those messages will go back to the home and we can live on a happier planet.

 

 

Insightful South Africa

Visiting South Africa blew me away – its beauty is undescrible, its vast landscapes are unimagineable and the ‘african skies’ are magnificant. It’s a real shame though that it’s sustainable issues are, in my eyes, desparate.

I had heard about people talking about crime in South Africa and had been told numerous times to lock car doors, not walk around at night and not to go near the Townships but no one had mentioned the environmental or social issues I’d see.

Here are a few of the insights I picked up on my 2 week travels.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Banner in Knysna - Water Stressed Area

Banner in Knysna – Water Stressed Area

It was interesting coming into Knysna on the Garden Route to see a large banner saying ‘this is a water stressed area’ – the countryside was incredibly lush and it had rained all day!

The banners were also posted on rubbish bins and on lamp posts helping them to stand out to people walking or driving by.

Although it was good to see someone being environmentally conscious and keen to get the message across but the campaign didn’t appear to be carried out futher. There were no messages to explain how they suggested the locals to cut back on their water use. And, if i wasn’t educated on water use and the environmental problems we face regarding water, I would see this sign as ‘not my problem’.

While watching tv that evening, a large star burst flash came up on the screen saying ‘save energy – turn off your television when you are not watching it’.  It was definitely eye catching and possibly a message we, in the UK should be adopting. Do the locals take note?

'eco diesel'

‘eco diesel’

Apart from the new buses that had been introduced in Cape Town after the Football World Cup and the local mini bus style taxis (who will change their route to suit customers!) everyone appears to drive.  No one commutes by bicycle and trains are hardly used (or seen!).  I saw this sign at a petrol station saying ‘eco diesel. good for your car, even better for your world’.  You could argue that eco diesel (whatever that really is!) is more environmentally friendly than using unleaded petrol but wouldn’t it better for people to learn how to ‘eco drive‘, car share or encourage better public transport?

I found it hard to find many recycling points around Cape Town and the surrounding towns.  We did, however go to a farmers market style happening in the Woodstock area of Cape Town and there people appeared to be more environmentally conscious.  There was a recycling notice stating that the neighbourgoods market was recycling and that there were separate bins to put recycling into.  Although the sign was clear, easy to read and placed in a prominent place, I didn’t see the recycling bins and am sure all the rubbish went into one bin….

Recycling notice board

Recycling notice board

There is clearly an educational element needed in the city to help people understand the necessity of how to recycle!

There was a story on the news one evening about the problem with travelling between Johanesberg and Durban.  The train currently takes a large amount of time as does driving, therefore the taxi company have decided to set up a local cost ‘taxi’ airline to fly people between the two towns. Designed to work like a taxi rank, people will line up and get on the next available plane.  When people were interviewed to ask their opinion of the new service, there were comments along the lines of ‘the local taxi service is terrible so this won’t work’ rather than ‘we should not be harming the environment by flying’.  South Africa, please build a high speed train line before encouraging cheap flights!

WESTERN INFLUENCES

'eco' reuseable coffee cup

‘eco’ reuseable coffee cup

In Western countries, especially London as I see it everyday, the ‘to go’ coffee culture is bigger than ever.  Whether it’s a fashionable thing or a convenience thing, people are buying coffees on their way to work or when they are out and about. The good thing is that people are being more environmentally conscious and buying reusable coffee cups (the KeepCup is a popular brand).

Recent research (see Lucy Siegel’s article ‘Are Single Use Paper Cups Evil?‘ in the Guardian) does show however that the energy used to produce and then wash a cup each time does not necessarily challenge the energy used to produce paper cups and recycle them….

My point here is that there is not the same ‘to go’ coffee culture, that I noticed, in South Africa but clearly the coffee shops either feel they should be selling ‘eco cups to help the environment’ or that it is a good way to make money!  Western trends are definitely strong in South Africa.

INNOVATION & COMMUNITY

Beer can display at Cape Town airport

Beer can display at Cape Town airport

The only place that I saw any type of local art work to do with sustainability was at the airport as I was leaving Cape Town.

I couldn’t find any information on what the installation was for but someone had clearly designed a fantastic looking tree with leaves/flowers made out of recycled beer cans.

Maybe it was a simple way to promote the beer drunk in South Africa….? I’d love to know who produced it.

We visited the Cape Wine region close to Cape Town and were really impressed with the Solms-Delta wine estate.  I had been to an event the week before travelling to South Africa where Mark Delta (director) had explained the importance of providing a sustainable future for the estate and those working on the estate. He had over come a social problem where the people working on the farm felt they owned the farm but weren’t being heard, by mortagaging his land to buy the plot of land next door for the farmers to own. This way, both the Delta estate and the local workers could work in collaboration with empowered workers for a sustainable future.  The estate runs various events through out the year to promote community projects, fundraising and encouraging local collaboration.  They also produce a fantastic range of wines (which should not be over looked)!

Solms-Delta wine estate

Solms-Delta wine estate

SOCIAL ISSUES

I was shocked at the number of social issues in and around Cape Town.  Ignoring theft, muggings etc, the general urban issues that cause everyday annoyance or problems was pretty sad.  I was surprised to hear that even though there is a postal service, you are hardly likely to receive any post (unless it is a plain, thin envelope) as it gets stolen before it reaches your letter box!  Apparently Amazon do deliver to South Africa now but the service is not regularly used due to the unlikely event of actually receiving the items purchased!

Message on a PostBox in Cape Town
Message on a PostBox in Cape Town

Maybe it’s also a problem in the UK but I noticed a letter box in Cape Town with a sign on it asking people not to put their rubbish in the box.  It is clearly a problem which means a notice was necessary.

To sum up my trip, South Africa is well worth a visit. I was pleasantly surprised that it is a self sufficient country in terms of produce yet the social issues seriously need some help.  The racist attitude and urban poverty were hard to stomach which really need to be overcome for the country to flourish.

Environmental education, better communication and western knowledge could really benefit the country and make it even more amazing than it currently is.

Have you been to South Africa? I’d love to hear your thoughts.