Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Washing lines in Dubrovnik (Jun08)

Where bombs and missiles fell in the early 1990s, I stood looking at washing lines and cats. Swallows were diving over the rooftops of Dubrovnik in the evening sun – it was a magical experience, perhaps all the more so because I was there for such a short time.

My trip to Croatia was arranged by AISE – the European Soaps and Detergents Manufacturing trade association. They invited me to speak at their annual conference for executives in the industry. I wanted to convince them that it was no longer good enough to go on doing business and just be a bit greener. They need to care about the environment and even be prepared to stop selling products that have an impact but no real benefit to society.

I think some of the audience were a little shocked to hear that I think the world would be a better place without air fresheners and fabric conditioners… Looking at the clothes drying in the sun I could have added that we’d be better off without dryers too – even in wetter climates when washing racks may have to compete for space in bathrooms and kitchens.

Arriving at my hotel in a coastal village outside Dubrovnik, I was told that my room wasn’t yet ready. This prompted me to look at a map and discover that a I could make a trip to the old city on a 45 minute boat ride across the Aegean. As I sat on the bow of the boat I felt a million miles away from my hectic life at home.

I was back at my hotel in time for dinner on a terrace over-looking the village with delegates from the conference. The balmy night meant there was no need for a cardigan – perhaps a sailor would have sniffed the air and predicted the huge and dramatic thunder storm that followed. I was woken at 2am by crashing and rolling with lightning flashing and striking over the sea. I loved it.

Before breakfast I was able to swim in the warm sea water off the rocks – and calm had returned. Unfortunately, after I’d made my speech in the morning I had to head home. I’d like to have stayed longer.

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