Sustainable living: Chris Martin’s goes green for a day at work

Chris Martin made only small adjustments to his working day in order to make a sizeable contribution to a more sustainable lifestyle. Here’s how it panned out


Foolishly, the day I have chosen to live as a “green social worker” coincides with my early morning gym session. Usually my routine involves falling into the car and driving to the gym. But today the car is off limits, so somehow I cycle the short distance to the gym. My friends stare at me aghast. I do my session and peddle home for breakfast. I’m knackered before the day has even begun.


With twin babies in my house there’s a lot oferwaste. We’ve invested in some Terry nappies but changing the twins is like a tag wrestling bout. The twins win I call for their mother. I remind my family to save the bath water for me but, after my two daughters have taken a dip, it doesn’t look inviting. In fact it’s cold and looks like sheep dip. I bathe – quickly.


I’m fortunate enough to live close to work so today I walk in. But the weather is not pleasant and I can’t say I enjoy the walk. I’d feel much more uplifted with the sun shining and the birds singing, of course. I get to work, land at my desk and check my schedule for the day.


Public transport links in Havering are good. I have a meeting with a primary care trust colleague at the other end of the borough and a bus turns up on time to take me to the door. However, it takes an age to reach my destination – the traffic is bad and the route somewhat circuitous (although it does take me past one of our two Green Flag-Award parks). Consequently, I’m late – but my gracious PCT colleague is ever forgiving.


Back in the office and I’m greeted with the usual pile of e-mails, many with attached documents. I’m in the habit of printing these attachments but I’m determined to give the printer a day off. I struggle to read through papers and articles on the screen and I give up before my lack of discipline gets the better of me. I spend some time reading the blog posted by the lead member for Havering Council discussing his support for the London-wide ban on plastic bags. I call home to find my wife has given up with the Terry nappies. It’s not that the nappies don’t work, it’s just that the twins won’t stay still long enough to allow them to be put on!


After an afternoon clearing files and paperwork, I am conscious of the amount of paper I consume. Multiply this by the number of people in my office and it becomes a mountain. Of course, I place all my unwanted papers in the recycling bins. But I also resolve to use less paper in future.


Home time, but as I leave the office I notice that all the lights are on throughout the building. I have no idea when the lights are cut. So I do my bit and turn off the lights in the reception area. I walk home in the cold and dark – but at least the rain has abated.


It is now apparent that we have seriously underestimated our average daily nappy intake – if nothing else, this exercise has made us realise just how many we get through. We have failed miserably with the Terry nappies and I conclude that we’re probably well on our way to filling our very own landfill site with disposables. I watch the amount of water in the bath – all the children take a dip in the same water and then, with barely a light on in the house, the children retire to bed. My eldest daughter wonders why our house looks like something out of a gloomy Victorian period drama. However, the bags we fill to recycle our rubbish are definitely of this era.


Bedtime, and a chance to reflect on green living. There are two main things that I have gleaned from the experience: first, how much both my family and I actually waste and, second, how relatively simple it is to make minor adjustments to daily life or to make a contribution to a more sustainable lifestyle. Oh, and third, I have discovered that the buses in London are great – I’ve already invested in an Oyster card to get me about and save me money.

Chris Martin is partnerships service manager for children’s social care at Havering Council

This article appeared in the 10 January issue under the headline “I trimmed my waste line in a day”

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