Climate awareness: West Highland Free Press Articles

Fighting for a Sustainable Skye

27th November 2020

5 women making ecobricks

Members of Skye Climate Action making ecobricks.

The countdown has begun. Eleven months from now Glasgow will be hosting the most vital climate event since the Paris agreement in 2015: the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Politicians, world leaders and climate change activists will be coming together from across the globe to review their progress on reducing carbon emissions and to share essential strategies in tackling the climate change emergency.

Living on the west coast of Scotland, it might be easy for us to imagine our carbon footprint is low, but it’s not. Oil central heating, coal fires, fuel guzzling vehicles, plastic silage wrappers, plastic bin bags, not to mention the hundreds of hire cars cruising around the island every summer. Our carbon footprint is just as big a problem as everywhere else.

However, across Skye there are individuals and communities finding new ways to live and work more sustainably through Skye Climate Action (SCA). The citizen group was set up after the Scottish Government’s Big Climate Conversation in Portree last August and has been crucial in bringing together people from across the island who are actively engaged in the fight against climate change.

Rebecca Smith, supporter of SCA, believes that the group has been key to “joining up the dots. Everyone is doing projects. We have done lots of eco projects on this croft but until somebody knows about them… We don’t want publicity, but it is nice to hear about successful projects and it does make you try different things.”

Pre COVID-19, supporters of SCA have organized sustainability workshops such as ‘how to make your own Eco Bricks’. These ‘bricks are actually plastic bottles stuffed with non-recyclable plastic packaging and can be used to build plant pots, walls and even small buildings. SCA have also met with politicians, linked up with the Highland Council and began a collaboration with Portree based Atlas Arts to create a film looking at the future of Skye in respect to the current climate crisis.

Since the virus struck SCA has not been idle. Regular online supporter conversations focused on the question ‘How can Skye be a sustainable Island in terms of its communities, environment and economics as we emerge from COVID-19?’ has led to further projects such as Grow Skye. Co-convenor of SCA Trish Rogers describes Grow Skye as a “food security for all project” which guides and encourages people to grow their own. They hope to hold seasonal workshops covering a range of topics from foraging to soil preparation.

They have also organized a community competition to find Skye’s ‘Golden Village’. In October, Trish and Rebecca delivered 2000 daffodil bulbs, procured through the Peter Nyssen Bulb Company, to 14 communities around Skye including Carbost, Kilmuir and Elgol. The aim of the competition is to get communities to come together to look at recycling and soil use by creating a recycled container for the bulbs and planting them using a compost of their own devising. They will be judged in Spring 2021, and a prize will be given to the community with the most imaginative container and daffodil display, along with the esteemed title of ‘Skye’s Golden Village’.

Now, in the countdown to COP26, Trish and her co-convenor Sara Taylor are planning a Skye and Lochalsh Community Climate Festival. Trish says: “it is envisaged as a fringe event to COP26. Communities, groups and individuals will be encouraged to celebrate the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the cultural richness already available throughout the island.” These goals are believed by the United Nations to be the foundations on which we can build a more sustainable future. They tackle the very real challenges faced by communities and individuals across the globe such as hunger, inequality, marine and environmental conservation and responsible consumerism.

Trish hopes the festival will “be a positive and inclusive event. Ideas include arts and crafts, talks and films. We would love to get the schools involved. It will be something to look forward to and help Skye and Lochalsh bring further awareness and work towards a more climate ready area.” She adds: “One of the main principles is that there will be no money involved. All events would be free with donations to the community welcome.”

Skye and Lochalsh’s Community Climate festival will hopefully show that although we may be a small area, we have the potential to punch well above our weight. The climate crisis that we face is far bigger than our politicians and world leaders and it is going to take every one of us to help reverse the devastating impact we are currently having on our planet.