scotland: focus on friends of the earth scotland
introducing Lynne Bannister, Corrie Cuthbertson and Ashley Buchan
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s national waste prevention programme CREW (Communities Reducing Excess Waste) has proved a big hit at local grassroots level, educating and motivating the public on how they can dramatically reduce the amount of waste within their everyday lives. Three Scottish activists explain how they’re involved and why CREW is so important….
Name: Lynne Bannister
Role within FoE: Waste Prevention Champion, CREW project
Experience: Project Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society. Now works as a full time caregiver.
“I came across Friends of the Earth almost by chance when I caught sight of an ad for CREW volunteers in my local newspaper here in Seatown (a small fishing town on the coast near Moray).
The CREW project appealed immediately as something that sounded both interesting and worthwhile. In fact, I discovered I was already very much in synch with the thinking behind the CREW initiative without having heard anything about it: lots of things on the first training day spoke to me in terms of my underlying ethos that my own life should be as low impact as possible.
As a CREW waste prevention champion, you can do as much or as little as you want. You have a completely free hand to do your own thing, (providing it fits the training modules we learnt or I check any idea out with Ros, the manager at FOES). I really like that aspect of it. I started by trying out a few different activities and then it all began to snowball. I wrote to my local paper explaining the initiative and soon afterwards started to do talks and waste prevention events at eight local libraries in our area.
One thing I particularly love is the regular ‘Give or Take’ waste exchange events I run in my garden once a month. People bring along stuff they no longer want or need and can then take away things other people have contributed. We get all kinds of things on the day…. seeds, plants, jewellery, toys… we even had a brand new recliner chair recently. There’s also always an information stand with DVDs, reading materials and so on. The whole things builds up a real community feeling.
On top of this, I’m involved in a number of other activities, including regular beach and river clean-ups organised jointly by CREW & the local RAF base. It’s been my role to liaise with the local council and to do all the necessary paperwork which both CREW & the RAF have used. I also work with education officers at the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, helping to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill and educating the public about what happens to the marine environment if waste isn’t removed effectively. And I’ve recently worked with a local charity, Waste Busters, an initiative that offers training places to people who would otherwise be disadvantaged in the employment market on a community can recycling scheme. I’ve just completed a CREW in-depth project called Streetwise where I’ve worked with 10 local families over a few months to help them reduce their waste.
I spend anything from 2 hrs to 10 hrs a week on all these things - sometimes more than that. But I feel very motivated and really enjoy encouraging other people to get stuck in.
FOE puts me in touch with some very interesting people. There’s a lot of collaborative work and I feel I’ve had a role in bringing people together, by offering to host meetings and so on. You could call it a matchmaking of souls. FOE’s CREW project is such a worthwhile thing to be involved in - although I always feel there’s so much more I could do.
There aren’t many lows. However, it’s not for everyone, this kind of volunteering – it can sometimes be a bit lonely. And because I’m also a carer, I find I have to achieve a balance as to how much I take on. But people are generally very positive and responsive to environmental issues which spurs me on.
Name: Corrie Cuthbertson
Role within FoE: Waste Prevention Champion for CREW project
Experience: Runs own translation agency
“I set up my own company about 18 months ago because I wanted a better work-life balance. I’d been a member of FoE for a long time before that but now have the time to be far more active. And because I’m self-employed, I can be very flexible in terms of time. I’m very happy with my level of commitment.
CREW is my main focus right now. I think it’s an amazing project. The people running it are genuine experts in what they do. After attending an initial training course to acquire the necessary knowledge and materials for the project, I’ve since held a series of workshops in our local adult education college for adults with learning difficulties and talks at various locations for everyone from new mums and Women’s Aid groups to Scout troops.
We’ve also run up a number of eye-catching stunts to raise awareness locally of CREW – including fielding a Halloween Waste Witch and, last Christmas, a Green Santa, who attended the local Farmer’s Market to encourage everyone to make their own gifts and not give people wasteful presents they don’t want.
I’m also currently working with our local council on a radical drive to make Falkirk plastic bag-free. We also recently collected a stack of excess packaging originating from local supermarkets and took it back to the shop managers, with a petition signed by their customers demanding that something be done to reduce the ridiculous amount of waste. After all, who needs their pears sold in a polystyrene tray - or individually-wrapped bananas? Even the store managers agreed with us! We’re going to repeat the event as it was such a big success. Our local MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) even came along and gave us her support.
Events like this pull in plenty of radio and press coverage – so that I’ve had to do a number of live interviews to get our key messages across. Six months ago, if you’d asked me to do that, I would have been a bag of nerves! But the whole experience has meant that I’ve gained a huge amount of confidence – as well as insight into the issues involved. I now know so much more about waste than I did before and am really passionate about it. I also now know my way around the local council and how, as an activist, you need to approach it – because the wheels can sometimes turn very slowly…
Being involved with FoE has definitely developed me as a person. I now really feel part of the town I live in. The whole experience, especially on the media side, has given me a lot of confidence.
One of the few downsides is the time factor – your other hobbies and pastimes can suffer. And it can occasionally get you down, when you learn the extent of the problems. People always take something away from the workshops - but I am sometimes shocked at the level at which they’re starting out from, such as not even knowing what Tetrapak is… Funding is also an issue and we’re currently running out of materials - the workshops I use for adults with learning difficulties, for example.
Name: Ashley Buchan
Age: Age 16
Location: Luthermuir, Aberdeenshire
Role within FoE: Waste Prevention Champion, CREW
Work experience: Currently at school studying for A level
“I've been a member of Friends of the Earth Scotland for two years now. I was very interested in their activities and attended an AGM where they were talking about the CREW project. I decided to do the training course so that I could get things off the ground in my area. I’ve been a member of FoE Tayside (Dundee) for almost a year.
I’ve already carried out a number of waste workshops in local schools and for community children’s groups. As soon as we discover that a school is doing some sort of environmental project, we jump in quickly and offer to do a workshop! I really enjoy working with the local community, giving people the resources and information they need to see for themselves just how much damage excess packaging is doing to the environment. The message really hits home when you demonstrate how much even one small community can do to reduce waste.
Most of the children I work with are between eight and ten years old. I teach them which products we should all be avoiding because of their packaging. Items sold in Tetrapak, for example, because it is so difficult to recycle – or plastic crisp packets. Most food packaging is very expensive and unnecessary and it’s all contributing to Scotland’s Waste Mountain. I also explain why it’s important not to leave food to go rotten as this also has an impact in terms of methane emissions.
Supporting the cause
The workshops I’ve done so far have all gone very well. It’s always interesting to hear people’s reactions and to see how much they know about the subject. I’ve found my audiences to be very supportive, interested and keen to avoid waste. I’m now keen to do some adult workshops as well. I’m working hard on my own family as well – which in many ways has been the biggest challenge. But my Gran who has always questioned the claim that climate change is man-made now does that whilst scrubbing out tins for recycling and pulling out bags to be re-used at the supermarket, so I think I’m gradually getting through…
I also recently helped with a photo stunt for FoE’s Big Ask climate change campaign, where we’re demanding that shipments and aviation should also be included in the bill. FoE Scotland asked me to go and help gather people together for the event and so I contacted our local MP via email, who was very happy to help. He turned up and agreed to read out a long quote and to hold our banner for the cameras. He actually stood next to my Dad who was dressed as Gordon Brown for the occasion!
Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating doing some of these things – like running a stall and asking people to sign postcards as part of the Big Ask campaign – but FoE have always been very supportive of me. I’m definitely not doing it all by myself. It’s also been very good for my people skills. I’d like to become a journalist after I finish my studies and the skills I’ve gained from running the press stunts will be great for that.
I feel I’ve been able to do lots of hands-on things to help the environment. It’s a real opportunity to make a difference. I’ve also gained a lot within myself in terms of confidence and experience which will look good on my CV!
Generally I feel very positive, but just sometimes when you see how much needs to be done, it can get you down. It can also be frustrating juggling FoE work versus my studies. I’m not always free to do as much as I’d like but I’m very committed to it none the less.