‘How to Green your Life’: Green Salon at SEC Newgate UK
Sustainable lifestyle coach Lucy Johnson likes her hot baths – and recognises that no one wants to give up their little luxuries. She uses the bath analogy in her ‘How to Green your Life’ talk to illustrate the planetary carbon cycle: “Carbon sinks are like drains in the bath. In the past there was a balance – what came in, went out,” she says. “Since The Industrial Revolution, we’ve opened the carbon taps and at the same time blocked the drain... We now have just 12cm left before the bath overflows [and we exceed a 1.5°C temperature rise].”
She stretches the metaphor a bit further: “But turning off the taps feels like giving things up. And that’s not the way we’re built. As a psychologist, I can tell you people don’t just give things up - you need to replace that habit with another healthier behaviour.”
That’s why Johnson set up Green Salon during the pandemic – to support businesses and high net worth individuals (the wealthiest 10% are responsible for around half of all global emissions since 1990*) in changing their behaviours to reduce their impact on the planet. Her vetted sustainable shopping directory makes it easy for people (well, those with well-lubricated wallets) to make better choices.
Her approach, generally, is not to “carbon-shame” but to cheerlead her clients/audience into developing greener habits – hoping the trend will ripple outwards. Johnson found a receptive audience at SEC Newgate, which is currently undergoing B-Corp certification, but it was the first time many of us had filled in a personal “know your carbon footprint” questionnaire. That was an eye-opener.
Over the hour, she presented us with a range of workable solutions and realistic options for decarbonising our lives. And the quickest and easiest way to do that is to switch to a renewable energy provider. Other big wins around the home include conserving energy and improving insulation. While the mantra “heat the person, not the space” might echo Ed Davey’s controversial advice one year to “wear more jumpers this winter”, she delivers this point with a great deal more sensitivity than the former Energy Minister in Cameron’s cabinet. And who knew that electric blankets were a gift for the energy thrifty? Apparently, they cost 30p a night to take the winter chill off, compared to £20 for keeping a radiator on.
The big elephant in the room of course was air travel. Here I have to ‘fess-up that by taking one long-haul family flight earlier this year, I effectively doubled my carbon footprint (and that was just my flight). The reality is that although sustainable aviation fuel is already here (and being used by airlines like BA, KLM and SWISS Air), the cost of flying green will be unobtainable for the majority for a few years to come.
In the meantime, Johnson suggested we could holiday in Europe by train. She mentioned a few overnight train networks such as NightJet, Midnight Trains and SJ Euronight that would make the experience pleasant (even luxurious) compared to flying.
She also showed us where we could refill, recycle, rotate and upcycle to our heart’s content when it came to groceries, household stuff, vintage clothes and even skincare, via a new generation of eco-commerce sites including UpCircle, Bower Collective, Dizzie, De-Pop, ByRotation and Vinted etc. These were all important wins which surprisingly account for around a tenth of our footprint – about the same proportion as our heating. But Johnson was more relaxed about worrying about the carbon footprint of our emails: “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” she said.
Overall, ‘How To Green Your Life’ was an elucidating experience delivered in an engaging way that was never too preachy, with attention to factual detail. After all, Johnson is an ex-broadcast journalist.
* according to a report published in 2021 from the World Inequality Laboratory.