South Downs

The Big Picture

South Downs

South Downs painting by local artist John Thompson

Scotland seems to be ahead of the game in looking at the big picture, using the joined-up thinking that needs to happen now to address the current crises in resources, economy, nature and climate.

Last month’s Film at the Horsham Green Film Festival was made in Scotland: ‘Riverwoods’. This wonderful film opened with shots of Alaska’s bountiful nature, then moved across the same latitude to Scotland with its acres of treeless uplands, a legacy of the clearances of the traditional small mixed farms to make way for large scale sheep grazing.

But why are there no sheep at Knepp’s rewilding project? Read more

Money Saving Energy

Saving Energy can Save Money AND Protect the Planet

Money Saving Energy

Around 21% of the UK’s carbon emissions come from our homes. With the increase in energy prices that we have seen, making your home more energy efficient will lower your energy bills. Good for the planet and your pocket!

Many organisations talk about energy saving tips, but they often require a big financial outlay with buying a new boiler or retrofitting your house. These are great ideas and will have a big impact on your energy consumption, but if you can’t afford these right now, here are some lifestyle tips you can make that won’t cost you a thing. Read more

Transition Horsham seed swap

How to Grow in Harmony with Nature

Transition Horsham seed swapDid you know that farming more in harmony with nature can not only replenish the soil (without the need for manufacturing and transporting factory-made chemicals long distances in plastic bags) but can also produce crops throughout the year because different foods can be grown together, in the same way as they are on an allotment?

By planting a variety of a different crops each month, and especially by planting crops amongst fruit or nut trees, even more food can be grown in a small area.

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Silent Spring

Sixty Years since Silent Spring (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Silent Spring

Recycle. Repair. Save fuel. Care about Nature. They’re becoming mainstream now. But it wasn’t always thus.

Sixty years ago, things were very different. Big science and technology dominated everything. Problem with insects munching your crops? Destroy them with DDT! Want to get to the shops faster? Try our new ’59 saloon with fuel consumption lower than the Dead Sea! Everything was going to be newer, shinier, faster, bigger-and largely made of plastic.

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Is the climate broken? Opinions from the people of Horsham

Is the climate broken? Should the Government be doing more about it? Can ordinary citizens do anything? How will things look for our children and grandchildren?

To find out what the people of Horsham think, we spent a recent lunchtime patrolling the busy streets around the Swan Walk Shopping Centre.

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Child in Tree

A Fond Farewell for our Green Queen (first published in West Sussex County Times)

children and natureAs one of her final decisions, the Queen chose to mark her Platinum Jubilee this year with the Queen’s Green Canopy, a unique tree planting initiative which invited people from across the United Kingdom to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”.  The first wave of planting took place in the spring, and as we mourn her passing, how fitting it seems that the second planting season will be taking place, from October until the end of the year, creating a living memorial to a wonderful monarch who embodied dignity and wisdom, and who stayed up to date and informed in her serious passion to serve, right up until mere days before her passing. Read more


Do you consider what happens to your waste? (First published in West Sussex County Times)

Recycling In West Sussex, 58.8% of an average household waste bin’s contents could have been diverted from general rubbish. Shockingly, 12.9% of the contents are items that could have been placed in kerbside recycling, and 40.5% is food waste. West Sussex County Council (WSCC) are asking us to reduce what we use, and re-use where possible. If items can’t be re-used, then recycle or compost. But what happens to the rest of our waste?

As managing our environmental impact becomes increasingly important, this is a question on many peoples’ minds. In West Sussex, all household waste is processed at two sites managed by Biffa, West Sussex Ltd. A team of our recycling volunteers recently organised visits to Brookhurst Mechanical Biological Treatment Facility and Ford Materials Recycling Facility to find out more.

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The Humble Bumble (first published in West Sussex County Times)

BeeWhen I was invited to write an article on my experience with bumble bees, this title came to mind.  I like to think it’s part of Christopher Bollas’s  ‘unthought known’ territory – something you’ve carried around in your mind without ever really realising it.  And as it turns out, the phrase is rather apt:  Darwin referred to them as the ‘hum bee’ – because they ‘hummed’.

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Smal tortoiseshell butterflies on Echinachea flower

Sustainable Flowers & Floristry (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Smal tortoiseshell butterflies on Echinachea flower

Flowers are a precious part of our life-events, but are we aware of the significant environmental and human costs of the demand for cheap flowers at all times of the year?

Until the 1970s, bought flowers came from British farms, while today, most are grown commercially in Holland, Columbia, Ecuador and Kenya, routed through Dutch auctions. The flower industry has a massive carbon footprint, from heating greenhouses to refrigerated transport, a vast chemical footprint from pesticides, herbicides and preservatives, some banned in the UK, polluting soil and water, poisoning pollinators, impacting flower workers and their communities, many producers are not Fairtrade.

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Vegan cake

Horsham Vegan Market (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Vegan cake

Pires Place Vegan Market is conveniently placed in the centre of Horsham in Piries Place.  It’s a regular event and takes place on the last Saturday of each month from 9.30am to 3.30pm.

Featuring up to 16 stalls, the vegan market offers tasty cold food varying from plant-based artisan ‘cheeze’, pies and savouries through to the most delectable cakes & sweet treats, with some gluten-free options of course!  There is a hot food stall each month, often hotdogs (vegan of course!), and a new-comer offering a range of freshly made vegan pizzas.  You will also find non-food stalls at the market selling anything from make-up and body care through to eco-friendly household goods and gifts, all of course, completely vegan and not tested on animals.

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Want less, Waste Less (first published in West Sussex County Times)


As mentioned in last week’s blog, a jolly band of Sussex Green Living’s recycling ‘wombles’ enjoyed a tour of Biffa Mechanical and Biological Treatment Facility at Warnham recently.

And when I say ‘enjoyed’ I really mean it!  If anyone had told me even a few years ago that I would be excited about a tip trip, I would have been very sceptical – but there we are, that’s how life rolls.

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Food waste

Taste or Waste? (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Food waste

I recently listened to a Sustainable Squad podcast (Listen to this episode now on @spotify and @applepodcasts) with Shane Jordan, who became a chef by chance because of his involvement with Food Cycle, collecting unwanted food from shops by bicycle then taking it to be cooked at a Sussex community centre. In his book, Food Waste Philosophy, he explains that he uses every edible part of plants in his cooking, including banana skins.

I was struck with his passion and ingenuity.  Another inspirational example is Horsham chef Lenny Salsano, who works at Hill Top Primary School in Crawley.  Pre-pandemic, he engaged the pupils in planting, growing and cooking the food used in their lunches.  Lenny is keen for the children to learn how important it is to eat fresh, unprocessed food, and shares his skills with pupils.  This year they have made salads, chopped vegetables and watched him make bread, which they then eat.  Five other schools under the Caterlink umbrella are now using Lenny’s model.

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Puttenham Barn

Puttenham Barn Bunkhouse

Chris MeeksBuilding Your Dreams

While wardening at Puttenham Bunkhouse Barn last weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Meeks, its founder, who spent many years as editor with Cycling UK, (Cyclists’ Touring Club), and who, aged 16, was the youngest elected member of the YHA’s management team here in the south-east.

Sitting relaxed in the sunshine, amid butterflies and flowers, wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Wilderness not woodchips”, Chris continues to share his passions.

He’s an astonishing example of how one person can inspire a generation.  The bunkhouse began life as an idea: finding a place, negotiating the lease with Guildford Borough Council, raising £130,000, removing a huge cattle trough and digging out the floor to lower it by 50 cm. The eventual opening in 2005 was achieved thanks to enormous input from a team of volunteers, including John Bannister, an alternative technology expert.

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Crystal glass and bees

It’s Crystal Clear…We have a water crisis (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Crystal glass and bees

A surprise from a zoom I attended last week was that many people are unaware that we have a real water crisis here in Horsham District, the first ever in the UK on this scale.  The huge water shortfall means that all building work is now on hold while solutions are sought.

Southern Water provide drinking water for over a million properties, and remove and recycle the waste water of almost five million people.  Quite a task!

Although we have 205 reservoirs, this provides only 7% of our water.  The majority comes from underground aquifers, with around 25% being taken from rivers.

The cost of this service from 2020-2025 is around £1,000 per property, with improvements ranging from digitisation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to re-vamping the 3,500 pumping stations and 40,000 kilometres of sewers.  Over a thousand options are being modelled including banning non-essential water use and building a desalination plant at Shoreham.

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Beach clean feature

Beach clean & Art to highlight plastic waste in Eastbourne

Beach CleanNCS (National Citizens Service) Eastbourne is a volunteer youth group. They are currently running a social action project to raise awareness for Plastic Free Eastbourne which helps raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and encourages people to reduce plastic waste.

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Youth eco forum

Youth in Action (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Youth eco forumLast month marks 2 years since the launch of our Youth Eco Forum (YEF), a group of young environmentalists that meet to discuss their concerns about the environment, share solutions and plan events.

“Whilst it’s true that you can only do so much alone, by coming together, we can find ways to reduce the human impact on climate change and make a positive difference.” says founder member Catherine Sleeman. “The idea was to bring us together and give us space to speak about issues important to us and operate independently.”

The forum was initially set up as a fortnightly Zoom meeting during lockdown and is an easy way for young people from across a wide area of Horsham District and beyond to meet.

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Katie at Refills

Play with Plastic Free July (First Published in West Sussex County Times)

Katie at Refills

Going plastic free for a whole 31 days does sound pretty daunting, some would argue impossible, but it’s a great opportunity to get a little creative, learn something new and hopefully pick up a couple of new habits you can stick to. It’s like diet and exercise, if you’re not enjoying it and it doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle you’re unlikely to carry on with it.

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Why the UK Energy Price Hikes & Energy Shortages?

Why the UK Energy Price Hikes and Energy Shortages? Its our reliance on imported fuels, rather than developing the huge tidal and wind resources we have around this island. Most UK homes are still heated by gas and many are woefully under insulated.

Multiple factors are behind the gas price increases. Geopolitical pressures, including high demand for gas from Asia and low supply from Russia, as well as last year’s cold winter, which left gas stocks low, are among the main reasons.

Other countries, such as Norway and Germany, have done a much better job of moving away from gas-fired heating and adopting electric heat pumps, meaning consumers are less exposed to price leaps. Many energy companies have gone bust in recent months and new suppliers have had to purchase gas and electricity on the wholesale market. Britain’s entire energy market needs modernising. Read more

Climate & Ecology Bill

Climate Change hits Sussex as UK Declares First Red Extreme Heat Warning

Climate and Ecology BillSoaring temperatures have left Sussex residents sweltering after an extreme heat warning raised the question whether this week has been the hottest on record in the region and what we should be doing to tackle climate change.

The national emergency came only a day after Sussex Green Living’s CEO Carrie Cort, her son and the charity’s Youth Eco Forum leader Tash Barns joined ‘Zero Hour’, a coalition of UK campaigners, world-leading scientists, academics and members of the public in Victoria Tower Garden next to the House of Lords in Westminster.

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The Importance of Rainforests (First Published in West Sussex County Times)

RainforestI have been blessed to spend 20 years working in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Choco cloud forest, a world away from my home in Pulborough.

It has been like having parallel lives.

The UK has one of lowest levels of tree cover in Europe at 13%, globally ranking 136th out of 189 countries. Looking down from a plane over our green desert fields, we can see how few trees there really are with only tiny patches of ancient woodland remaining, maybe unaware that here in England our level of biodiversity is painfully low.  Although the woodland cover has doubled in the last 100 years this is mainly with non-native conifer plantations, where very little diversity can exist.

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Rudgewick Recycling bins

Go Greener Rudgwick Recycling by Fiona Sodha (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Rudgewick Recycling binsGo Greener Rudgwick (GGR) is a group of local volunteers who meet regularly to sort single use plastics that can’t be recycled at home, but can be left in the Rudgwick Youth Centre recycling bins. We work in conjunction with Sussex Green Living in Horsham to sort and box items to be sent to Terracycle, a recycling company, to make into new products.

The plastics collected include crisp & biscuit wrappers, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, packaging & floss containers, biros & felt pens, household cleaning items such as marigold gloves, trigger heads, dishwasher flexible packaging, personal care & beauty products such as deodorants and empty foundation tubes, plant pots & trays, cheese wrappers and milk bottle tops.

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Green Library

We Need Worms …and Book Worms by Morag Warrack (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Green Library

We’re slowly moving towards creating a more permanent Green Hub for Horsham, inspired by the excellent Zero at Guildford. One of the many things we’d love, alongside a Community Fridge, a Seed Bank, and a Library of Things (such as ladders or tents) is a Green Book Library.

There are countless wonderful books available, some written by children, such as Greta Thunberg’s tiny motivational book, ‘No-one is too small to make a difference’.  Even her inspirational title is clearly intended to change people’s lives for the better.  When Greta has been asked “What can we do?” her reply has been, “Educate yourself””

What better way to start, then, than by borrowing a book from a Green Library?

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Swift Action Needed: Citizen Science for Horsham Swift Box Project (first published in West Sussex County Times)

SwiftsSwifts have been thriving for about 70 million years, when they would have been nesting in crevices in rocks and trees alongside the last of the Tyrannosaurs. But despite millions of years, something has now gone dramatically wrong, and UK numbers have plummeted in the last 25 years.

These extraordinary birds can remain in the air for three whole years because everything else apart from nesting is done on the wing.  Only when they reach maturity and start to build will they touch anything solid.

No other bird can fly faster in level flight. They eat insects, drink raindrops or water from a lake, even mating and sleeping on the wing, up near Earth’s stratosphere.  Their huge eyes are surrounded by bristles that act as sun visors and their feet are incredibly strong and so needle-sharp and tiny that they are unable to hop or walk, so they fly directly into the holes, cling to walls or slip into spaces where they can easily drop back out again.

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Refill is the new Recycle

I’ve always considered myself to be a bit of a greenie, I recycle after all! However, last month I took part in The Big Plastic Count organised by Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic. The aim was to count my plastic packaging waste over the course of a week and record it as part of a nationwide study to understand how much plastic waste we are creating in the UK. 

We already know that we’re using too much plastic. The UK produces more plastic packaging per person than almost any other country in the world – only the US is worse. And if things carry on as they are, the amount of plastic waste produced around the world is set to double by 2040.

So could the answer to our plastic problems be refill?


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Eco Float

World Environment Day (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Eco Float2022 marks 50 years since the conference which led to the designation of 5th June as World Environment Day. ‘Only One Earth’ was the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference and half a century later, do we doubt that this planet is our only home, whose finite resources are running out?

World Environment Day 2022 will be held again with this same theme, ‘Only One Earth’, to highlight again the need to live sustainably in harmony with our ecology by bringing transformative changes through policies and our own choices, moving towards lifestyles more in line with the natural cycles of Nature.

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