I thought I would start and end this post with two pictures that I hope will help explain why I decided to do this challenge. This is my daughter Armelie demonstrating why, last year, we moved the length of the UK and changed our lives for the better. We — Armelie, my partner James and I — on the Isle of Islay, the Queen of the Hebridian Islands (map). Islay and its neighbouring Island Jura have a joint population of around 3,400 people, with the majority (over 3,200) living on Islay.
So who are we?
Armelie is 7 years old; she is into art, music and dancing. She has coped well with the big move to Islay, has started to learn the Clàrsach, made lots of new friends and started to say wee instead of small. She is happiest when she can get outdoors, play on the beach or explore the beautiful environment around us.
James gave up his job with a major retailer to move to Islay with Armelie and I. He has spent the last year working on what he would like to be his future, photography, and if you want to see what Islay looks like, you could always visit his blog. He loves living on Islay as it has allowed him to combine his twin passions of being outdoors and taking beautiful photos.
And me, Vanessa, I am the head of Social Studies and a Geography teacher in a small secondary school that serves the two Isles of Islay and Jura, Islay High School. We are a tech-savvy school: All the pupils have laptops, and we are trying to banish paper (not an easy task).
There is also Ellie, a 3-year-old cross who came to live with us last year, Bob the cat ,who appears occasionally for food, and Moggy the cat, who is 13-year-old an inheritance that came with some furniture and wants nothing else but to sleep.
As a geography teacher I am well aware of the consequences that the exploitation of natural resources has had on our planet. Indeed, I spend a great deal of my working life giving students the tools and information they need so that they can realize this for themselves. Lately, however, I have been asking myself if the life I lead here is in fact as green as the one I lived in the big city.
This picture illustrates one of the big problems we have here if we want to realize a greener more sustainable life. It’s the ferry, and this is the way in which the vast majority of the food we eat and all the consumer goods we buy reach the Island. We are encouraged to consider the air miles of the food we buy, but here it’s the road miles: at least two hours from the nearest city, Glasgow, and then another two hours on the ferry. One of my big aims throughout the challenge is to work towards sourcing as much food as possible from the Island, and to look at ways of reusing things which we have on the Island rather than discarding them.
My other aim involves energy consumption. Because we live on Islay and I rent a house at the moment, I do not have the option to change to a green tariff for electricity or explore other options such as a wood-fired stove. I will be exploring this issue throughout the challenge and hope to come up with some low-tech practical solutions to help us conserve energy and, importantly, stay warm in the winter.