Chain Reaction – Reducing Carbon through Active Travel

November 6, 2015

Chain Reaction – Reducing Carbon through Active Travel

Leaving a legacy is a very difficult job, leaving a legacy about something you don’t totally understand is even harder.

My Climate Challenge Fund project is all about leaving a lasting legacy in my community, specifically an attitude change towards greener transport. So I asked myself the question… where do I start? I guess the best place to start with me. If I am the person educating others about climate challenge then it makes sense to start with my knowledge.

I feel passionately that we should practice what we preach and recognised that I must make personal changes that would help with my personal climate challenge pledge. This was tricky as it meant I had to influence my children and my wife’s behaviour and attitude to helping reduce our carbon output. I started with recycling which I thought would be the easiest area to tackle that my whole family could get involved in. With a little help from Edinburgh Council (who gave great advice and all the equipment within one week of requesting) we had everything we needed to get started. The real challenge was talking my wife into changing her behaviour about rubbish!

The next challenge was the greatest of all, how to change other peoples behaviours. If I really wanted to influence other people into choosing a greener method of transport, then I myself had to do this consciously and lead by example. I wanted to make sure I was seen as a role model in the community. This was not a challenge because I had far to go to work or far to take the kids to school it was a challenge because driving my car was so easy, it had become a habit. It was low effort, warm and I had not long passed my driving test so it was exciting as well. But, how am I going to explain and change attitudes around cars if I drive everywhere? I had to take the plunge and stop using the car. I cycled or took the bus in the morning for the school run and to get to work.

Using the car less wasn’t as difficult as I thought as it hadn’t been that long ago when I did get the bus or cycled. However it did reminded me how much healthier I felt when I cycled everywhere rather than driving and how much more awake in the morning the kids were on the school run rather  than being half asleep from being driven in a nice warm car.

Ok so this is going well I thought; I have started being more environmentally conscious now how much further can I take this? I suppose I could grow my own food and buy second hand clothes only when I need them or I could set up a stall and tell my community how they could be more environmentally conscious.  Reflecting back on what I have learnt and done so far and I feel proud.

This encouraged me to seek funding for my community to benefit from what I have come to realise – that being environmentally conscious is not just beneficial to the planet but to my own life too. I was awarded a fund from Keep Scotland Beautiful and Junior Climate Challenge Fund in 2014 for two years. The project has worked with over 10000 people and at the end of our first year we saved a massive 27 tonnes of carbon. An amazing achievement which came from the personal challenge I set myself. The project is not to be annoying, not to preach not to tell people they must change, not to tell people they are the cause of our climate issues but to say ….. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERNCE! It doesn’t matter how small the step is that you are taking it will help the climate challenge we all have on our hands.

I am lucky to be based within a local social enterprise project – MY Adventure which specialises in Outdoor Education. This means my aim of encouraging a greener mode of transport fits perfectly within their social aims. By working with the full community, all ages and abilities to change attitudes towards alternative transport, I decided to focus on cycling. MY Adventure has a whole host of bikes and cycling equipment suitable for all ages so the project – CHAIN REACTION was born! The aim of the project was to change and make aware to the community about climate change and what we as individuals and as a community can do to help. Through working with the community and providing the equipment and the training for free I have found that this is a great way to get community members involved. Through non-intrusive very light conversations with the community we are able to make climate change relate to everyone. This can be talking about the cost difference from cycling rather than taking the bus or the health benefits from walking or cycling rather than driving.

One of my key legacies is the MY-Bike course developed at Craigroyston Community High School, which is a curriculum class and is the first of its kind! It has been reported on in the Times Educational Supplement and HMIe Craigroyston Community High School report  2014 being described as ‘ground breaking. The MY-Bike course has 3 main elements.

  • Leadership – Each student is qualified in cycle ability and first aid before teaching their local primary schools how to cycle their bikes safely on road.
  • Mechanics – Each student becomes qualified in cycle mechanics (City & Guilds)
  • Enterprise – The students get a bike at the beginning of the year and they learn all about it and how to repair it. After the students repair the bike and add value for their chosen market they have the opportunity to sell it and keep the profit.

Another project within Chain reaction is Gypsy Brae – Cyclone Bike Track. Cyclone Bike Track is the largest bike track in Edinburgh which has been fully built by volunteers. I found a piece of land that was run down and contacted the local council to ask if we could take ownership of this and turn it into a bike track, to my amazement the council said yes!

The track has been made by the community for the community. I found that to go mountain biking you had to travel out of Edinburgh and for some community members this was impossible due to price of travelling, so we decided to build our own bike track and through the help of the council we have now started this. Currently the bike track has three main tracks and has lots of space to grow. We have been encouraging groups to take their own part of the track and build it how they want to use it. This has helped primary schools, local business, youth groups, employment groups and community groups take real ownership of their community and what push the boundaries, making anything possible!

Chain reaction is not just leaving one big legacy it is leaving several legacies all over the community and beyond and this is not only down to me but to the community for getting on board and wanting to make that change. I want to thanks Junior Climate Challenge Fund for supporting me to take what was first a personal challenge to a whole community – to challenge us all to reduce our carbon output and protect our environment for future generations.