Edition number 6; dateline 7 May 2008

Is it getting warmer or is it just me?

With The Leisure Review Summer Gathering (a walk over Kinder Scout and a walk around  Glossop’s duck pond for the less adventurous) only months away and the growing pressures thrown our way in terms of environmental ‘issues’ and global warming, my thoughts turned away from my muddy footprint towards my carbon footprint and associated issues.

At this point I would like to calm you by saying it is all my fault that the globe is warming (although I am getting colder). That’s what the TV tells me every night: it’s my personal responsibility because I left the computer on and, worse, I have a hot tub! However, it seems that there is a dichotomy between the alleged healthy pursuits of being out and about on the hills and the damage I cause by just being there. However, this ‘environmental’ thing is not just a subject for those of us out mountain biking, walking, climbing and being in the great outdoors. An article in the paper on green burials in Epping Forest got me thinking about which elements of leisure are or should be considering environmental issues. Certainly parks departments, which usually contain the cemeteries, should be; countryside services, leisure and facility management, development teams (whether arts, sport, community, heritage, etc) who deliver programmes which enhance understanding of many issues could be.

The dichotomy is extended when I consider my impact both as a walker in the Derbyshire Peak District and as someone working within the leisure industry. While I will readily admit to being, or at least feeling, responsible for all environmental disasters which happen across the world (it sometimes seems that is how the government and much of the media would like me to think), I wonder how I can affect the environmental issues in my work and why I should bother. One aspect of my work involves buildings – helping to making new ones, renovating others – and I am having more and more conversations about how the buildings people want to build can be ‘green’. I have to say that a major stumbling block fairly early in any conversation is ‘We would love to do it but we can’t afford it.’ If we move past that point by everyone saying that they are committed to making the project environmentally friendly the next stumbling block is usually the architects and/or builders shying away from it. If we get past that point it usually fails at the point when the project is presented to funding agencies who say something like ‘You’ll have to cut the solar panels; they aren’t eligible/you can’t afford them/you should spend the money on more sport/art/community activity space and not on energy-saving activities.’

This is my plea: lets all badger government a little more to make changes to the way funding is distributed to allow us to implement a few changes and not lose the activity space as a result. After all, this isn’t just about the immediate impact on the environment: it can over the years ahead save money on revenue costs, such as heating, lighting, water bills, etc. We also need to work with our friends in planning so that they too help with our mission. However, it would be fair to say that I have somewhere between few and no conversations regarding the environment when talking with my development friends. It seems the environment hasn’t reached us yet.

All my non-work activities –walking, cycling, running, swimming and, of course, sitting in the hot tub – have some impact on the environment. Whether it is the fact that my running shoes are flown or shipped in from China (or somewhere in Asia) or the chemicals which are pumped into the swimming pool, the damage which we have on our immediate environment has been an issue to me for many years. As a horse rider in my ‘yoof’, I had many battles with walkers who were annoyed by the horse’s great big metal shoes digging up the paths, yet the gardeners would rush out with their spades to gather any waste left behind to use on the roses and thank me. The green part of me was already confused. The cyclists annoyed both walkers and riders as they not only also dug up paths but crashed into both groups with monotonous regularity. In response to the encouragement for us all to get out and exercise more some great trails have been created in my neck of the woods from old railway lines, bringing a marked increase in riders, walkers, runners and cyclist getting out there. The trails have also been designed so that little damage is caused by those nasty hooves or wheels so, as long as I don’t drive into the Peak District, perhaps I am now OK? But then again we also need to listen to the folk who had been wandering these old railway lines for years before they were cleared for our mass usage: what about all the wildlife which was cleared out to make the new trails?

It seems I may never win the green battle but I have come to the conclusion that I will make small steps on a personal level. I will ask clients the questions about how their work will impact on energy consumption and the environment. I will turn lights, computers and printers off in the office when I am not using them. I will use public transport when I can. I will walk between meetings and other activities (particularly when I am in London). I will try to take a full car load if I am going walking in the Peak District. However, I for one am going to keep a common-sense approach to this issue. If we all do a little it will add to a lot of change. Whatever the media tells me, I can’t change the whole world on my own but I can think about what I am doing. This will make my environment better and, most of the time, it will probably cost me less.


Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.



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