We're making a difference in Lichfield
Aug 20 2009 By Justine Halifax
In a parish near Lichfield the whole community is doing its bit to go green. Justine Halifax explains their high-tech approach.
Where all things green are concerned you’ll often find a mixed bag of support in every community.
Most neighbourhoods are home to a combination of ardent green supporters, some who compost and recycle when they have the time, while others refuse point blank to do their bit.
But the argument that one person can’t make a difference is not an acceptable concept in Whittington and Fisherwick, near Lichfield.
For in this parish everyone has come together with a collective common goal to be as green as possible.
In a groundbreaking move, the Whittington and Fisherwick Environment Group (WFEG) has launched a new website tool to allow every resident in the community to take part a unique experiment.
An online carbon calculator went live at www.wfeg.org.uk last week to enable every household to assess its CO2 emissions and also allow the parish to measure changes in its carbon footprint too.
But this is not the first, or an isolated attempt, by residents at this picturesque spot to be more environmentally friendly.
WFEG chairman Mike Kinghan, said: “Ever since our group formed three years ago residents’ involvement in what we are trying to do has been phenomenal.”
As individuals, villagers are doing all they can within their budget and their lifestyles constraints, whether it be small or big changes, to make a difference and tackle the state of the planet’s troubled eco-system.
Grandmother-of-four Sue Gopsill, of Darnford Lane, Whittington, said: “I’m very passionate about all this because I feel we are in a very serious situation and I think it’s more important when you have children and grandchildren.
“And for me it’s an all ages thing.”
The 71-year-old has introduced a number of affordable measures with her husband on a pensioner’s budget, including putting in energy efficient bulbs, buying a car with the lowest emissions possible, double glazing the house and insulating cavity walls.
Other everyday steps include turning lights off when not needed, “vigorously” recycling and composting, cutting out using plastic bags, only using her aga and oil boiler in summer, having the emersion heater on timer and only watering the garden from a water butt.
The pensioner, a former school governor, has also started a gardening club at Whittington Primary School to teach children how to grow their own vegetables. Sue is one of many villagers changing their daily habits to do their bit, as well as taking bigger steps too.
Mother-of-two Joy Thorneycroft only moved into her three-bedroomed detached house in Falcon Drive three years ago but even with a young family she has taken huge strides to be greener.
The most significant step has been fitting solar panels and installing a wood burner.
The 34-year-old said: “This is our second summer with the solar panels, which many other houses in the village have, and they have been working pretty well. It’s made a significant difference to our heating bills by knocking about a third off.
“So with fluctuating energy bills going green makes economic sense too. And although we have central heating, we find the wood burner heats the house well.”
“With two children you can’t do things that will wreck everybody’s quality of life. But it’s been easy to do the things we’ve done and we will reap the benefits as they will pay for themselves eventually.
“It’s quite nice to live in a village that’s so focused on being greener.”
Annemarie Stone, who rents a grade two listed 22 acre small holding on the outskirts of Whittington village, is another mum who is striving to be greener.
The 37-year-old has her own animals and grows her own fruit and vegetables in a bid to be self sustainable.
She also hopes to set up a community scheme where residents are able to buy into the farm’s yield and a farm education centre too.
The mother-of-one said: “My area of interest is food. I have eight pigs I’m fattening up for slaughter, 22 chickens and a vegetable garden growing a large range of vegetables and fruit. I’m really excited about being self sustainable and self sufficient.
“We did a local food survey and people’s motivation wasn’t money it was about where they produce came from so I’m trying to set up a community supported agreement where the community buys into the yield for a weekly investment then they get a share of the available yield.
“We have a lot of derelict buildings that we hope to convert into community kitchens and classrooms and if we can we would be looking at compostable toilets, solar panels and insulating the buildings.”
Chemical engineer Dave Crosby, is also growing his own vegetables to cut down on supermarket trips.
The 39-year-old also claims he’s shaved about 30 per cent off his household bills too just by replacing his former 24 hour, 700 watt fish pond pump with a 250 watt energy efficient one and putting in energy efficient light bulbs.
The father-of-one, who is also trying to change his driving habits to save on fuel, said: “While all these things don’t sound a lot on their own, together they do make a difference.
“A lot of these green habits are the kind of things that can benefit the family, the individual and the planet’s eco-system and when you piece them all together you can see that you have an extra few pounds in your pocket at the end of the month.”
It’s clear from the efforts of devoted villagers in Whittington and Fisherwick that being greener has a multitude of benefits.
Mike Kinghan said: “It took a little while for people to understand that we weren’t some kind of nutters that wanted everyone to live in tepees and sit in the dark but now I think the vast majority of people realise that reducing energy use and waste makes a huge amount of sense.
“It’s the feeling that by acting together as a community we can really make a difference that gives us a big incentive to continue our low carbon journey.”