The Politics of the Fair

Politics of the Fair

The Environmental Fair is meant to be a fun day out, and we hope you find it to be so.  We also hope that the event helps people attending to find out more about the many ways we can all work toward creating a more sustainable society.  A ‘sustainable society’ is one that provides a good quality of life for all, without compromising the ability of future generations to have a good quality of life.  It’s about human societies developing in a way which is good for the environment, meets social needs and creates vibrant economic activity – without leaving a mess behind us…. hmmmm!

So sustainability is not just an ‘environmentalist’ concept – it is about looking at how economic, social and environmental matters can be looked at together to solve the problems and challenges we face as a society – for the medium and longer term.  As the years go by we are all going to have to give more consideration to sustainability issues in the context of our own lifestyles – even if we don’t want to!

The serious sustainability issues we face will increasingly cut across all our lives.  If we are to address major problems such as climate change, rising food prices, job creation, wars/competition for and cost of natural resources, depletion of wildlife, etc, we’ll need to change the way we think about how we do things – its about knocking the ‘t’ off of can’t.

It is widely understood that we can more easily make changes to the way we do things at a local level (at least we stand a chance to get some control here!) and there’s a lot happening that you can get involved in.  Sustainability is not all about doom and gloom – there are lots of ways to get something from the idea of sustainability and it can be a real adventure whatever your interests are.  Have a look at some of our other activities from the submenu on this website…  and the stall listings…

If you think that sustainability issues are marginal and don’t affect you or your family, think about the price of fuel and food!  Do the lovely little apples you just bought support jobs in England or were the imported from the other side of the world?  were your clothes made by slave labour?  Do you think that complaining about fuel costs will really make prices go down – there’s increasing  demand from other countries for these resources!  And who’s going to look after you when you get old?  Will the banks bet our money away again with even more dire consequences? What next?!  A brave new world or lots of interesting solutions – perhaps?

Sustainability is not just an ‘environmentalists’ idea – as the media might sometimes lead peopel to believe – it’s a concept underpinning vast areas of public and private sector business planning (theoretically at least) and needs political will to push it through.  Although there’s a long way still to go in many respects, the extent to how ‘sustainable’ we ultimately manage to be as a society will depend on how seriously we take these issues, how far we are each prepared to go to challenge some of our  assumptions about modern day living… and how much we adapt to the ideas behind sustainability….

What can we do to be as self sufficient as possible…?   Here are some of themes covered by the Fair:

Eat Less Meat & Grow Your Own

One of the issues often raised is ‘why is the event vegetarian’?  The answer is that we want to show that it is possible to enjoy food without having to eat meat, even if for many, this is just for the day.   A plant-based diet uses substantially less energy than a diet based on animal products.  This energy is virtually all derived from fossil fuels, making meat and dairy consumption a contributing factor in climate change.  Meat eating is responsible for at least a third of all biological methane emissions.  A vegetable rich diet is also a healthy diet, so why not try and eat one or more vegetarian meals each week?  Much of the energy we consume, and therefore the carbon we emit, comes from the production and distribution of the food we eat. 10 calories of oil are typically consumed to produce one calorie of food including chemical fertilizers, pesticides, transport and packaging.  Many of the products we buy in supermarkets have travelled thousands of miles to reach the shelves.  6.9 million tonnes of food were consumed in London in 2000, 81% was imported from outside the UK. In the future, the lack of oil based pesticides and fertilisers will make a return to organic farming the norm.  Inevitably, high transportation costs will mean that much of our food will be grown closer to home, with many choosing to grow their own.  This is good from the point of view of climate change but those who choose not to, or who cannot grow their own, may find their weekly shopping bills a lot bigger than they are now.  Check out our Carshalton Community Allotment marquee.


Britain is one of Europe’s worst energy waster with bad habits such as leaving electrical appliances on standby, set to cost households £11bn by 2012.  Space heating, hot water and appliances make up 10% of our carbon emissions.  Our houses are much more energy efficient than 60 years ago but heating is still responsible for about 60% of domestic energy use – that’s more than 140 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.  In the future, fossil fuels will become more expensive and services are likely to be interrupted as demand outstrips supply.  Changing our behaviour to save energy at home and work will become increasingly important as costs rise and fuel becomes less available.  The Germans are now producing up to 40% of their electricity needs through solar panels alone on some summer days – where are we – we’re at 2% !!!  Where did the ‘Great’ go in Great Britain…. shouldn’t we be right up there too?

Why not be resourceful and save some money – insulate more, install draught proofing yourself and fill gaps with newspaper, beading or sealant.  Fit a hot water jacket that’s at least 75mm (3″) thick and save around £20 a year.  Cavity wall insulation could save you up to £160 each year and creates an even temperature in your home.  27 cm (10 inches) of loft insulation can save you between £180 and £220 a year.  Double glazing cuts heat loss through windows by 50% and could cut your heating bill by £80 to £100 a year – and more as energy prices rise.

Buy with energy efficiency in mind: switch to energy saving light bulbs – they last up to 12 times longer than ordinary light bulbs and each bulb you fit could save up to £100 on electricity over the bulb’s lifetime – and the new LED bulbs last even longer.  Choose an A or A* rated product next time you buy electrical equipment like a fridge or washing machine.  Save up to a third on your heating bills with a high efficiency condensing boiler.

Switch to a green energy supplier:  change to a green tariff to reduce your emissions and protect the environment.  Install renewable energy technologies:  solar water heating can save you money using free energy from the sun to heat your water and add value to your property.  PV solar panels, wind turbines, micro combined heat and power, ground source heating and wood stoves are becoming increasingly popular.

We try to make the Fair as energy neutral as possible.  All the stages are powered by renewable energy and we have cut down on the use of diesel generators unless absolutely necessary.  The main stage PA system is solar powered and the entire kit consumes less energy than an electric toaster – and the same for the Music Café electricity. While you are at the Music Café, why not check out the demonstration solar water heating rig by EcoLocal’s mobile solar power station – and our Energy Road show at the same location…

If you have suggestions for how we can reduce the carbon footprint of the Fair, please do let us know.


Transport is the fastest growing contributor to CO2 emissions in the UK.  In 2008, 53% of Sutton residents travelled to work by car, 38% of these journeys were less than 3.25 miles and 66% less than 6.5 miles, equivalent to a half hour cycle.  Nationally, total road traffic has grown by 82% since 1980.  As fossil fuel prices rise, we will need to find cleaner, cheaper, carbon-free renewable alternatives to petrol.  For cars, this is likely to be battery electric vehicles.  Electric motors are 4-5 times more efficient than internal combustion engines, giving an immediate energy saving.

In future, cycling and walking will become increasingly popular again as the costs of driving rise, helping us to stay fit and using virtually no carbon.  We are keen to encourage people to become confident cyclists and aim to promote cycling and walking at the Fair – as well as public transport, hence the free bus service… In general we believe it is better to do things locally – see the ‘living locally’ display by the Music Café – as this cuts down on the need to travel.

Products and Packaging and Waste!!

Products and packaging require energy and raw materials (often oil) to be made and therefore add to our carbon footprint.  In Sutton, 38% of the waste we throw away is recycled leaving a lot which is buried in the ground at a landfill site.  Here, the rubbish rots and makes methane (a green house gas which traps 21 times as much heat as CO2) and leachate, which can pollute our water courses.  In the future, as well as recycling, we need to reduce the amount we consume.  Breaking the cycle and simply buying less has the added bonus of helping us to get out of debt which means we can work less and enjoy life more.

Local producers will become increasingly important as transport costs rise and we will see the return of local family firms and repair shops and more regional producers.  People may have to increasingly embrace traditional skills such as food growing, sewing and knitting, woodwork and even shoemaking, as resources become too precious to just throw away.