This weeks interview has a more personal touch to it, as it happens to be the Director of my own wonderful place of work; the Eden Project! When I began working here, over 3 years ago, I had little knowledge of the world of sustainability, and even less awareness of just how much our life depends on the plants and animals we share this planet with.
But over the years I have learnt so much, and this stunning place – in the heart of Cornwall – continues to inspire me. I know it’s had a effect on the way I see the world and how I live to respect it; so I was intrigued to how other employees feel about sustainability as a result. Well, who better to ask than a key figure behind one of the UKs most popular tourist attractions and educational charities?!
Here, Director Gordon Seabright tells me all about his journey to eden, his personal motivations for greener living, and why cycling through London is just too fun to give up….
“Since June I’ve been Director of the Eden Project. I feel very much at home for many reasons, including the values of the organisation and my new colleagues. Before coming to Eden I was chief executive of the national cycling charity, and prior to that I was at the Royal Horticultural Society, so I’ve made my career in organisations that value sustainable living. Eden takes this a step further by having an explicit aim of connecting people with each other and the living world. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded each day by people who, without being sanctimonious about it, have chosen to work for a more sustainable world.”
What does green living mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your life?
I come to green living from an unusual angle – an obsession with avoiding waste that must come from my upbringing. I’m always the one disregarding sell-by dates and insisting on finishing everything that has made its way into the fridge! At Eden I particularly appreciate things like the WEEE Man sculpture, built from all the electrical items a typical Brit gets through in a lifetime – it makes me feel a little more justified in my obsession with using everything until it falls to pieces.
Why do you think it’s important to live a sustainable lifestyle?
A sustainable lifestyle seems to me to be the most satisfying way to live. I don’t take a hair-shirt stance on sustainability, but I do think life is more interesting if your eyes are open to what’s going on around you. Even a moment’s thought about what’s happening to our climate, food, population, oceans and so on make green living the obvious option.
At Eden, I’ve been hugely impressed with the genuine commitment to meaningful sustainability in the way we operate. For example, the proportion of food and drink that we sell that comes from our region (over 90%). When we did the ice bucket challenge I was pleased to find that the freezing water dumped over my head was recycled rainwater that had landed on the biomes, although any satisfaction I may have taken from this was pretty shortlived…
What have you found the easiest thing to implement?
I find the easiest way to live a greener life is to get on a bike. A ridiculous proportion of short journeys in the UK are made by car – the Danes and Dutch think we’re crazy. Cycling is one of the easiest and cheapest ways for people to reduce their contribution to climate change – if you switch to cycling for the UK average 4 mile commute you will save half a tonne of CO2 each year. And of course you enjoy all the health and fitness benefits – I’ll never understand why people drive to the gym when they could just go for a ride. So I get around Eden on my bike and use it when I’m going to meetings in London; it’s sustainable but also great fun.
However I do still enjoy the guilty pleasure of occasionally driving a friend’s vintage car in rallies and treasure hunts. I console myself with the thought that since it has been on the road since 1937 I am at least reusing if not reducing or recycling!
What habits have you found tricky to get started or maintain?
The thing I always find tricky is the initial cost of making a change. For example a friend of mine has just changed every light bulb in his (substantial) house to LED, and he’s dramatically reduced his electricity usage. But the cost of all those LED bulbs as a one-off purchase is a killer! Likewise I keep my old gas boiler at home staggering along when I really ought to replace it with a modern energy-efficient one – but the cost of making the change is horrendous. Of course, over time it would pay off, and the environmental case is unarguable, it’s just that first big investment!
Who or what keeps you inspired?
As for what keeps me inspired – I come to work at the Eden Project each day!