I am heartened to read today that at last supermarkets must within a year cut down on the amount of packaging they use or else laws will be brought in to ensure they do. Apparently, a former environment minister has even made the drastic suggestion that the public should dump packaging at supermarkets – whether stores want it back or not!
Well minister, you are not the first to come up with this ‘drastic’ action. Back in 2006, when the WI's campaign to reduce packaging began in earnest, this was one of the actions members were urged to take. But we used the word return, not dump. Some members did return their packaging and may still do. I understand this practice is a matter of course in Germany. And what about refunds on glass bottles like we used to have in this country? It is done in Germany, along with plastic bottles too.
In 2006 we called for cucumbers not to be wrapped in plastic and for the sale of single fruits and vegetables, rather than the ubiquitous set of four in a double, and sometimes triple, wrapping on a plastic tray.
I remember taking with me into the Radio 4 studio a pack of four parsnips to illustrate to Jennie Murrie on Woman's Hour exactly what the WI meant by over packaging. Right on cue a liquid oozed from the pack on to the presenter's desk!
The WI has been on the packaging case for years and I do believe we have made great inroads. I am now able to buy parsnips singly, even if I need four of them. The option is at least there – in some places. Supermarkets still have a long way to go.
Another long-standing campaign has been the struggle against climate change. I represented the WI in Poznan in 2008 and Copenhagen in 2009; the latter being classed as a summit. How far did Durban talks progress? I heard a reporter comment this year that the talks have provided “a roadmap to secure a roadmap of an over arching global deal”. Yet it seems the gap between pledges, and what is actually required, remains vast, while all the time the sense of urgency remains somewhat lacking.
And therein lies the issue. How urgently do we care about the sort of world we leave to our grandchildren? I tend to think in terms of the next two decades. The WI all along has raised the issue too, of women being part of the discussion, decision making and solutions. It's worth taking another look at our award winning film ‘A World Without Jam’, because sadly the message is the same now as it was six years ago, and the 100 months to tipping point is down to around 30. How about a new year's resolution to think again as consumers, about all the rubbish we produce and where it goes and what happens to it after we put it in the right bin.