Archive for Battling my own apathy

Human Rights: 60 years

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Declaration in 1948

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Declaration in 1948

Wednesday 10th December 2008 – 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formed.

It’s an important anniversary, not least because more than half a century later, we’re not much closer to seeing the articles a reality.

Here’s some stuff worth looking at:

The Declaration itself

An excellent documentary: Taking Liberties

I started a petition to get the Human Rights declaration a compulsory part of the British curriculum. SIGN IT!

And ask yourself: how many of the articles can you name?

If we don’t even know what our human rights are, how can we protect them?

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And then there were lights

Spot the difference:

Spot the difference

Spot the difference

OK yes, in one picture only 2 lights are on, and there’s definitely a different hue. But the real point is I’ve just put in energy efficient lightbulbs.

Really it should be step one on any green-minded person’s to-do list. But some how this one slipped down the list; and I really only have British Gas to thank for sending four free ones in the post.

They reckon it could shave 15% off my bills.

I have to say though the difference in colours much more pleasant too!

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Bikes v Cars (literally)

So I’ve been cycling to work every day for a couple of weeks now. I’ve been really lucky with the weather so far – cool but not too breezy, and most importantly dry.

Wednesday it bucketed it down, and I got soaked before I’d even reached my office. Is that a nice start to a long day?

Well, I’m going to fight the urge to become a fairweather cyclist.

Meanwhile, the other challenge is negotiating Hull’s busy streets. Lots of cycle lanes but there are still some busy lanes to cross. Then I was sent something from the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

It’s advice for both drivers and cyclists – maybe it’ll help us all get along better:

Motorists and cyclists: share the road

With motoring costs ever increasing, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of cyclists.

Getting back on to a bike after ten years or so can be a nerve racking experience. The IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) offers these handy ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for anyone dusting off their old bike and also for motorists, who must share the road with the growing number of cyclists of all abilities.

Car drivers….

DO overtake with care, not too close and not too fast.  Whizzing past cyclists within a foot of their handlebars may feel perfectly safe, but it doesn’t for the cyclist

DO leave cyclists enough ‘wobble room’ when passing them – cyclists may have to move out slightly to negotiate drains, potholes, smashed glass and other debris.  They don’t want to be squeezed into the gutter

DO check the door mirror and the blind spot before opening the driver’s door after parking to avoid knocking down a cyclist

DON’T sound the horn when near them

DON’T cut up a cyclist passing on the nearside when turning left, and don’t overtake then turn left across their front wheel

DON’T drive into the ‘advanced stop area’ for cyclists at lights: it is against the Highway Code

Cyclists….

DO establish eye contact (in a non-aggressive way) with drivers emerging from junctions, particularly if they are turning right

DO position the bike to avoid being knocked off if a parked car door swings open

DO stop at red lights – this is a major irritation for drivers who see the law being flouted

DO undertake some cycle skill training, some employers offer this as a staff benefit

DON’T forget to check the bike lights, spare batteries and wear a good high visibility jacket/vest.  See and be seen

DON’T abuse the zebra crossing.  When riding along the nearside of the carriageway, do not swing onto the zebra to cross the road: drivers won’t be expecting that, and the risk of being hit is greater

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Check out my box

Fruit n veg

Fruit n veg

That’s right, it’s one of those organic fruit and veg boxes no-less; the ones that get delivered straight to your door.

After all, one of the points on the manifesto was to eat locally produced food and organic where possible. So this solves two of those problems. They were delivered to my door by the Arthur Street Trading Company who cover the Hull and East Yorkshire area.

I can pay by direct debit each week, and cut out the hassle of going to the shops.

I was inspired to find one while reading an excellent “chapter” on green food, on the Otesha Project‘s website, part of a book they’re writing on ethical living.

Organic box schemes run all over the UK – find your local one here.

There is a catch though: £12 for the above box: is the price sustainable?

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Time to hit the road…

I wrote a few weeks ago how, through the wonder of Freecycle, I had got myself a 2nd hand bike-absolutely free.

Well, now it’s time to use it. The delay? I needed to get hold of new lights, a helmet and chain to make it road worthy, but I’ve now tested it out, and from tomorrow, I will be a commuting cyclist!

It’s going to cut my carbon emissions down significantly as my car does many miles a week.

But, unlike what I wrote last month, it doesn’t look like it’ll save me much money. I’m keeping the car for the occassional long journey to see family and friends. That means it needs to be taxed (£66 for 6 months) and insured (£42 a month).

Can’t win ’em all eh, but at least it keeps me green!

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From four wheels to two wheels…

“When I see a person on a bicycle, it gives me hope for the human race” (H.G. Wells)

This week I’m saying goodbye to this….

My beautiful (but polluting and expensive) Nissan Micra

My beautiful (but polluting and expensive) Nissan Micra

…and hello to this!

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My new "duel suspension" mountain bike!

Yes, it was one of my first aims on my “Green Manifesto” last week, and I’ve wasted no time in getting this one sorted.

In his inspiring book “365 Ways to Change the World” the author Michael Norton talks about all the benefits of taking to the saddle, including saving petrol, not giving your hard earned cash to evil oil companies…and flying through rush hour traffic.

Instead of driving the 1.5 miles to walk, from next week I’m going to cycle it instead, reducing one of my major carbon emissions down to zero.

And environmental benefits aside, this is a massive money saver. My car currently costs £40 a month, just in tax and insurance and another £60 a month on petrol.

I acquired the bike off the website Freecycle – a phenomenon I discovered about 2 years ago, which is steadily becoming more popular. It’s management system – through Yahoo Groups – is cumbersome though, and I think it would benefit from a Gumtree type design.

But still, it got the job done. I posted a message a week ago saying “WANTED: men’s bicycle”. And within days someone contacted me. I didn’t pay a penny for this bike and it’s in excellent condition.

Now to buy a helmet and revise my Highway Code……..

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My Green Manifesto

I realised early on that breaking the bounds of my own apathy was going to have to happen in two phases. Yes, I eventually want to become more of an activist, taking a stand on issues which matter.

But first I need to limit the impact my own existence has on the planet. So here it is, my green manifesto to cut my carbon footprint and the damage I do to the environment. I hope to have achieved all thest things by the end of 2008, so I can start the new year with a clean slate.

My Green Manifesto

  1. Replace my old lightbulbs with energy efficient ones
  2. Recycle everything: glass bottles, plastic bottles, every scrap of paper and metal
  3. Unplug anything I’m not using
  4. Eat less meat (see my previous post)
  5. Drink only fairtrade coffee
  6. Buy in season food from local, independent suppliers
  7. Keep the thermostat down 2 degrees
  8. Buy organic food where I can
  9. Drive much, much less
  10. Get a bike, and cycle to work!
  11. Never use another plastic bag – reusable’s all the way
  12. Consume less water
  13. …and by the end of the year, I’m want to have planted at least one tree!

So there it is. 13 things I have come up with. This blog is supposed to be about me making these changes, talking through how I’m going to make it happen, and (fingers crossed) showing off the results.

If I’ve missed any off then post them on the comments below and I’ll add them! Here’s to making a difference.

Heres to making a difference

Here's to making a difference

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