Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Gay Times – Peter Tatchell (Sep07)

One of three interviews I did for the Gay Times – Peter Tatchell. See also Paul O-Grady and Kristin Digby

 With piles of paper balanced precariously almost to the ceiling (it reminded me of Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat), Peter’s flat is not only his home but his campaign headquarters too.  Animal rights, human rights, disability rights, gay rights are only a few of the issues he covers.  And green issues too – Peter has just become the Green Party candidate for Oxford East.

Even with a thorough investigation I found it difficult to uncover any green horrors in Peter’s lifestyle.  He only has 6 light bulbs in the whole flat and they’re all energy efficient.  He showers rather than baths.  He doesn’t own a washing machine, a dishwasher or a car and travels everywhere (within a 6 mile radius) by bike.  In fact he even has 2 bikes so that if a friend comes round there’s one for them too.

All this has apparently made his household the most energy-efficient in his area.  Peter signed up to having a smart meter, which monitors his electricity and gas consumption and sends the data back to the electricity supplier.  What they discovered is that he uses 70% less than the Government target for someone living on their own in a one bedroom flat.

Peter says that his interest in green issues came from his upbringing.  His mother was a housewife and his stepfather a gardener, a factory cleaner and a taxi driver.  So his family were poor, which meant he learnt to repair or recycle everything.

Even now Peter is not materialistic.  I noticed that he still had an old-fashioned record player on the side.  He said “Just because CDs come along I haven’t thrown out my vinyl”.  And he worries that finding places to get things repaired is increasingly difficult.

Actually one of his gripes about the gay movement is that it promotes materialism and a consumer culture.  He flicked through some gay magazines to show me what he means – advertisements and stories that encourage readers to ‘buy, buy, buy’, making them feel inadequate if they don’t have this year’s latest fashions or consumer goods.

With a bit of sleuth work I did manage to find a few flaws in Peter’s green armoury!  He uses disposable batteries in his shaver, puts his clothes in the dryer at the launderette (because he doesn’t have space to dry them at home) and his fridge is only ‘B’ rated for energy efficiency!  He also admitted to travelling by plane periodically – including a 6 yearly visit to his home country of Australia.

But probably the least green aspect of Peter’s life is the fact that he lives alone.  Even with a slightly larger overall impact, sharing your home with someone else is much more efficient in terms of heating, lighting and cooking.

5 Green Tips for Peter

  1. Get a battery re-charger or change your shaving habits!
  2. Challenge your launderette to get lower temperature washing.
  3. Get a drying rack that you can fit in the bath.
  4. Buy less magazines and newspapers
  5. Get a flat-mate!
–        Super fuel efficiency

–        Uses paper on both sides

–        Only fills the kettle with what’s needed

–        Very few lights and they’re all energy efficient.

–        Gets products repaired where he can

–        Showers rather than baths

–        Doesn’t buy bottled water

–        No car

–        Travels everywhere by bike

–        Uses disposable batteries in his shaver

–        Not able to wash at 30C at the launderette he uses (although he does use ‘warm’ cycle).

–        Partly dries clothes in a dryer

–        No compost (no garden for it)

–        Only a B rated fridge!

–        Will fly periodically

–        Does have computer and related equipment and so contributes to electronic waste.

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