As you probably know, this year’s Leeds International Festival theme is Generation Future. We have so many exciting events which have tapped into the theme in different ways (all events will be on sale from 9am on the 14th!), but a crucial theme across many events is sustainability.
When we think of sustainability we primarily focus on our lifestyle choices (from how we eat to how we shop and the daily decisions we make), but we wanted to work in our health, too – keeping that work/life balance and prioritising good mental health is a way of making our lifestyles individually more sustainable.
Festival-wide, L20 is partnering up with Energy Revolution to make some changes to how we run. Set up in 2015, Energy Revolution helps to make festivals like us respond to climate change. They explain the impact of our carbon emissions, how to reduce them where possible, and how to do something positive in response to those unavoidable instances, by investing in projects that create clean, renewable energy. More information on that when our talks with Energy Revolution are finalised!
So, prioritising sustainability both for Generation Future and for us right now, we created a social media campaign around sustainability in January with our partners at Chapter 81!
We wanted to kickstart some conversation on the small changes we could all make collectively, and thought we’d better ‘put our money where our mouth is’ and get the team onboard. With a different challenge for every day of the month, some people in the office tried out a few of them, some undertook lots, and some just committed to one challenge running through the month…read on below to see how everyone weathered the January Sustainability Challenge!
Kieran Chappell, Digital Marketing:
“Going vegan for a few meals on the team’s vegan day was a huge challenge for me as a massive meat eater. For lunch I tried a vegan sausage roll alongside a normal one to see if there was any real difference. I have to say, the normal one was way better than the alternative – there was something about the vegan one that wasn’t right, so I threw half of it away… On the other hand, one part of this vegan challenge I did enjoy was having oat milk as a substitute to the normal milk I get, as it tasted much better in my opinion. And there are some vegan meals that are genuinely delicious, such as the Vada Pav at Bundobust.
I also volunteered to plant trees with the Hollybush Conservation Centre for day 28 of the campaign.”
“This was an interesting experience; the first time I’ve done anything like it. We planted over 300 trees and, despite the weather, the experience as a whole was one I’ll remember.”Kieran Chappell
Vicki Freestone, Business Executive:
“The challenge has really made me think about taking sustainability to the next level. For example, this year we are only planning to fly once. In addition to carbon offsetting our flights, I am buying ethical travel insurance. I have become vegetarian again and, in addition to the vegan and dairy free days in the challenge, my family has massively increased the amount of vegan food that we eat. I have a new love of oat milk – but will be giving vegan cheese a miss after a disastrous macaroni dish!
Altogether, I took part in 19 challenges and loved every single one – even planting trees in the sleet! 2019 was such a trying year, and a lot of us felt really flat at the end of it. Taking some positive steps and working together as a team has been really empowering and helped us to move away from climate change paralysis.
Challenges that I took part in:
3/1 Chart your Carbon footprint
5/1 Recycle your Christmas tree
6/1 Leave the car at home
7/1 Is there an alternative?
8/1 Go dairy free
10/1 Donate to Big Change
11/1 Spend some time in nature
13/1 Plant some herbs
14/1 Get a library card
16/1 Bring your reusable coffee cup
19/1 Switch to eco-friendly period products
20/1 Donate to a food bank
21/1 Go vegan for the day
23/1 Support an independent
24/1 Leave a positive review
26/1 Batch cook
28/1 Appreciate where you are
31/1 Take your own containers”
“So I thought that I was pretty sustainable already, and when I looked through the calendar of changes I wasn’t sure how many new’ things I’d be doing. But how wrong I was!”Vicki Freestone
Karen Butler, Head of Place Management & Delivery:
“So, I found the dairy free day remarkably easy! The only time I missed dairy was in my coffee – such a natural thing for me, to reach for it from the fridge – and though I do like non-dairy milks, I don’t particularly like it in coffee or tea. My solution was to drink black coffee (just one in the morning), green/mint tea and more water- which is a win win! I’ve since discovered that I really like soya latte – which has become my treat when out and about. Foodwise, there were plenty of options! Key for me was a little prep before the day… just retraining the brain and finding a new mode of operation! And, as head chef in my house – a success! No one else noticed they were eating dairy free!”
“Key for me was a little prep before the day… just retraining the brain and finding a new mode of operation!”Karen Butler
Carmine Ruggiero, Operations Manager:
“I did actually enjoy doing my vegan day – that’s despite being a certified meat eater!! I chose to have a Moroccan lentil stew from the M&S Planet Kitchen range for my dinner, which was excellent. I then made a vegetable stirfry (bean sprouts & water chestnuts in abundance, lots of carrots, broccoli, cabbage…made by my own fair hands!) for my tea – very good if I say so myself. I will definitely be cutting down on meat consumption and increasing the veg!
I had taken a week off and had plenty of work to do in the garden, recycling 15 bags of garden waste to my local tip.”
“I also replanted a tree from a large plant pot into my garden, and tidied my herb garden to make room for more strawberry plants and rosemary – all in all, I had a very productive week as part of the challenge.”Carmine Ruggiero
Sarah Towns, Marketing Executive:
“My reusable cup has become my new best friend and goes everywhere with me, rather than sitting abandoned on my desk or washed up on the kitchen sink! It shares my daily commute and even enjoys outings to my sons’ weekly football training sessions and matches.
And thanks to this small commitment, I managed to save a fair few pence (average 25p discount for using a reusable cup as opposed to a disposable one at many of the big coffee chains), which I’m donating to Big Change Leeds – I’m rounding it up, to £10. Every little helps.
Thanks to my weekly vegan days, I have discovered the delights of oat milk (I’m definitely up for the swap!), and now feel as if I have my eyes open to the amazing array of food on offer (my favourite dishes from the city’s indies).”
“As a pescatarian, I confess I thought it might be a step too far, but it’s been a much easier experience than I thought and I’m planning to continue on a weekly basis – I might even up it, to two days of vegan eating per week! The jury’s still out on vegan cheese though…”Sarah Towns
Gemma Holsgrove, Festival Executive:
“Having grown up on the Surrey/Berkshire border and also having spent some time living in the Oxfordshire countryside (until I moved to York in 2017), I didn’t realise what it’s like to not have to rely on a car to get you everywhere. Using the car every day had just become normal, as public transport was either not great ‘down south’ or didn’t exist in the rolling countryside of Oxfordshire! Over the last couple of years, I’ve known my car was on borrowed time – it was costing so much money for new parts just to keep it going, so when the time came where the passenger back door just decided not to open ever again and the car didn’t even pass pre-MOT checks, I waved goodbye to the car that I had relied on for so many years. That was just before Christmas.
With our January challenge, inspired by the 2020 festival theme Generation Future, I thought – what better way to challenge myself and really see how long I can last without needing a car than now? I usually get the train into Leeds for work – probably the most significant reason is due to being aware of travelling more sustainably and my carbon footprint, but I also find the cycle to the station followed by a 20 minute train journey (where I often get some emails done) and a 10 minute walk quite a good way to start the morning.
I found that in the week, I really didn’t need a car – I generally work 3 days in Leeds and 2 at home each week, so a bike and the train were more than enough. It was those times when my friends who don’t live in the city invited me to head out to the Yorkshire countryside for a walk or dinner, and there I am on Google maps trying to figure out the best route. So I was lazy. I couldn’t be bothered to sit on a bus for 40 minutes each way to get part way out of York to where I needed to be – so I stayed at home, in York. This is where not having a car is inconvenient – and I’ve yet to rise to the next challenge of trying the bus as I may even like the chilled out ride into the countryside!?
The other area where it’s been inconvenient is food shopping. I’m a massive food lover, and going to the supermarket to choose my food has always been something I’ve enjoyed – probably a bit too much! I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by supermarkets where I live in York – I can get to a Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose or an Asda within a 10 minute walk. The main ’struggle’ I have is when I do a bulk shop and I have to carry it back. I probably need to get over my obsession with going to the supermarket and just order online – another challenge!”
“Overall, it’s been a good month, and whilst there are a couple of areas of my life that not having a car isn’t ideal for, for the most part, it’s not something I’m missing and I’m going to see how long I can keep going without a car - if I can make it to 6 months, that will be a real success!”Gemma Holsgrove
Polly Cuthbert, Festival Coordinator:
“I started slightly later due to a very VERY sore head on New Year’s Day*, so, on the 3rd of January, I put together my vegan meal plan for my first week back at work. I would love for my life to be filled with time to make Anna Jones recipes or if I had a healthy enough bank balance to make every vegan recipe that Meera Sodha puts in the Guardian. But it doesn’t and I don’t, so I kept a strict budget and made simple(ish) meals to manage my expectations. I spent £25 on a week’s worth of vegan meals, including one emergency stock cupboard meal just in case. It’s no illusion that a vegan lifestyle is a luxury that essentially only the middle classes can afford, but I’m giving it a shot, hopefully without much ziti (don’t know what it is but Meera Sodha loves it!) in sight.
*Don’t worry I made sure I did the full month and was vegan until the 3rd of Feb!
We all have busy lives, of course, and I don’t have a highly physically demanding job. But, when you are super-busy at work, and ‘WHERE WILL THE NEON GO FOR THIS EVENT’ thoughts keep you up in the middle of the night, sometimes the only energy I have left at the end of the day is to put a Linda McCartney pie in the oven and be done with it. To my HORROR, so many of the veggie staples that I had relied upon to keep things easy of an evening had milk, eggs or whey powder (what IS whey powder?) in them, without me knowing. The combination of being ravenous all of the time (apparently that can happen when you change to veganism), and squinting to look at small writing on packets, made me a very hungry, frustrated woman. But, there are so many independent food places in Leeds that made life incredibly easy in January: Kanassa, Eat Your Greens, and Belgrave were my go-to for reliable (and DELICIOUS) vegan food.
I’ve also learnt a lot about how veganism and ‘doing your bit’ can make a difference. In 2014, a UK study published in the journal Climatic Change found that eating a diet high in meat came with a cost of 7.2kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day, compared with 3.8kg for vegetarians and just 2.9kg for vegans. About a quarter of greenhouse gases attributable to human activity come from intensive farming, which is roughly the same as electricity and heat production, and slightly more than industry, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It’s pretty wild the impact we have by simply putting food in our mouths.”
“The lessons I’ve learnt from the #wearegenerationfuture challenge are that bulk cooking, planning ahead and shopping locally should be part of my lifestyle to make things easier! I know, now, that I will absolutely opt for way more plant-based options than I did before.”Polly Cuthbert