Friday, 3 September 2010

Catching up with Lizz's eco-year

You might have been following Lizz's exploits, either here or on her own blog. I've posted three digests here so far, on 23 May  8 June, and 19 July. In April, Lizz was feeling the pinch about what she's doing - wondering if the cumulative effect of a new challenge every month was beginning to get to her. I spoke with her at the beginning of August, and she was feeling good about the whole project and 'back on track', as she put it.

Last time, we'd caught up with Lizz as far as May, so this time I'm looking at her exploits in June and July. June's challenge, Lizz explained, was,
"to do something free at least twice a week – preferably every other day and start a world wide campaign! OK you might think I’m joking but it’s not impossible! Everyone has to start somewhere – even Gandhi."
She started by surveying the possibilities:
"Monday is sometimes pub quiz night and Sundays I often go to Quaker meeting – but there are loads of other things I could do; choirs, crafts, art gallery openings, theatres, concerts, gardens, walks, classes, museums, festivals, fairs, fetes."
Living for free isn't a new idea, of course - going way back there was Thoreau and Walden Pond in the middle of the 19th century. And then there was Richard Mabey's famous book Food for Free, first published in 1972, still going strong, and perhaps the originator of what is now a whole foraging movement.

More recent attempts at living for free have been documented in the books written by the people who tried it. There's Tom Hodgkinson's  How to be Free;  Katherine Hibbert's  Free: Adventures on the Margins of a Wasteful Society; and The Moneyless Man: a year of freeconomic living by Mark Boyle.

If you Google 'free stuff for kids', you get loads of websites offering either experiences of 'stuff' that you can send off for; whereas if you Google just 'free stuff' (without the 'kids') you get mostly free offers of samples from companies who hope later to get your custom! More interestingly, Freecycle and Freegle create local networks for giving away things you no longer want or need, and getting things you now need, all for free.

But on this occasion, Lizz is talking more about doing things for free than getting things for free. She explains:
"As a child we didn’t have much money so I didn’t have much in the way of material things but we did lots of fun stuff – climbing over iron age hillforts, going to free fetes, static caravanning in Britain, walking in the woods, building sandcastles in the rain, flying kites (also often in the rain). As an adult I think I’ve worked quite hard to become financially secure but I have begun to see that I am a bit of a workaholic."
Reflecting at some length on all of this (you can read it all on Lizz's June blog), Lizz came up with her new campaign: 'all we need is love’ TM (yeah I’ve copyrighted it) and this is what it’s all about:

I’ve identified 7 different aspects of life that most of us (ok not all of us, but you know, whatever) either have to engage with or really want to engage with at some level:
- consuming resources, goods and services
- working for some kind of income (if we’re not doing so now we probably did in the past)
- maintaining relationships
- being creative
- creating change
- exploring a spiritual practice
- relaxing, chilling, having a good time!

Here are 4 principles or approaches for each of these seven areas of life based on doing something with love and which suggests that ‘all we need is love’:

Working for some kind of income should be characterised by it being:-

likeable, option giving, viable, enough

Maintaining relationships should be characterised by it being:-
lasting, open, valuing, exploratory

Being creative should be characterised by it being:-
learning, original, visible/victorious/value led, experimental

Creating change should be characterised by it being:-
listening, organise, volunteer, encourage

Consuming resources, goods and services should be characterised by it being:-
local, organic, vegan, equalising

Exploring a spiritual practice should be characterised by it being:-
loose, organic, varied, engaged

Relaxing, chilling, having a good time! should be characterised by it being:-
laughter, ordinary, vital, energising
Following this burst of inspiration, Lizz goes on to chronicle her month of doing free things. In the first week she went to two exhibitions in London, a committee meeting (well, I guess that's free!), worked on the allotment, stayed with her Dad, went to a party. In week 2, she helped run a beekeeping course, an exchange of labour/time for a free place on the course; and went to an exhibition of quilts. In week 3, she went to a food festival, had dinner with a friend and went to a trustee meeting in London. In the 4th week of the month, Lizz was on holiday, and writes:
"freebies have included – swimming, walking, seaside stuff, promenade concerts, some museums, a craft festival, and meeting some groovy bee-keepers. I also went to the free eco-film festival most of which took place in an open air cinema. I knew about it before I went - it was one of the reasons for going at this point in June. I also went to a knitting party! Before going I had an evening at the allotment, an evening at a friend’s house"
Half of a fifth week fell in June, and Lizz went to a party . . . and throughout the month carried on thinking about her 'all you need is love' campaign - read all about it on Lizz's blog for June.

For July, Lizz's challenge was "Do something constructive in the local community each week, do something positive politically each week – tithe time and money!"

In the first week Lizz started giving money away, did 4.5 hours of gift-work, and wrote to her local councillors to express appreciation for the work they were doing on recycling initiatives. In week 2, Lizz put money  into loads of collecting tins, did a bird count and a beach clean-up (she was in Orkney at the time), and left little cards randomly in public places, urging people to be politically positive. In the third week, she continued to give away the appropriate amount of money, volunteered at an archaeological dig, and wrote to councillors in Orkney and to her MP - being positive, of course. In the final week, Lizz gave away the rest of the allocated money, returned to work, but managed to fit in some volunteer time, and wrote some more letters to public people.

Read all about the rest of the detail on Lizz's own blog for July.

In August, Lizz's challenge is to wear or use something she's made every day! And, as if she had nothing else to do, she has also posted a good books guide.

Lizz is currently looking for suggestions for her December challenge - you can post suggestions below.
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