Thursday, 12 December 2019

Right climate for green festival

Right climate for green festival

MORE than 200 people attended the first Greener Henley Festival on Saturday.

Businesses and community groups set up about 30 stalls at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road to show people how to lead more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

These included exhibits by Henley Plastic Reduction, Clean Air for Henley and the proposed Henley car club, which will offer electric vehicles for hire.

Members of the town’s branch of Extinction Rebellion also attended while Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council showcased their green strategies.

The festival was organised by Greener Henley, formerly known as Henley in Transition.

Visitors were served cake and soup and Mayor Ken Arlett presented prizes to the winners of a children’s competition to make a two-minute film about how people could reduce their reliance on plastic.

Luca Wells, eight, and his sister Jemima, five, of Market Place, Henley, won the under-12s competition and received a £20 book token.

The runner-up was Olivia Samyui-Adams, 10, of Niagara Road, who was given a £10 book token. The over-12s competition was won by Alexandra and James Sampson with Gillotts School’s eco team the runners-up.

Town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak spoke to visitors about planting more trees in Henley.

He said the town council and Greener Henley were working in partnership with the Woodland Trust to encourage each of the 6,200 households in the town to each plant two trees in their gardens or other spaces.

He said the trees would help to tackle the CO2 in the atmosphere as well as providing habitats for wildlife and make the town more attractive.

Andrea Mica, of Paradise Road, was dressed as Santa in a green robe and offered advice on how to have a sustainable Christmas.

He said: “People can make presents rather than choose ones that they may throw away.

“They can plant trees and go and enjoy the forests during the festive period. More trees are a great thing — it makes it easier to fly my sledge.

“Young and old should also have more fun together, spending time playing games rather than just buying presents.” Martyn Chidwick, of Pearce’s Orchard, explained how people could reduce their carbon footprint. For example, not using a car could prevent 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year.

Buying a more efficient car, using public transport, flying less and eating a plant-based diet would also help reduce emissions.

He encouraged people to switch to a renewable energy provider, reduce the temperature of their homes, use less water and improve home efficiency, among other suggestions.

Mr Chidwick said: “The science is showing that extreme weather events are happening with increasing frequency because of climate change.”

Julia Samyui-Adams, of Greener Henley, said the festival was to make people aware of green initiatives in the town.

She said: “We are trying to reach out and build resilience as a community. Together we can and are making a difference and there’s a lot going on.”

Katie Mulé, of Extinction Rebellion, who was helping children decorate their own Greener Henley badges, said: “I think this is a wonderful event for Henley.

“It’s vital that people are aware of how serious the situation is. It’s so bad that probably in the next 10 to 15 years the crisis could lead to the breakdown of society.

“Some people are ignoring the problem, which I think is sad. We need to do everything that we can to ensure that our children and grandchildren are not going to suffer.

“We have been living in a wonderful world and what are we going to be leaving for them?”

Jo Robb, the Green Party candidate for Henley in the general election, said the festival demonstrated community cohesion.

She said: “I think it’s a fantastic example of how communities can come together to bring about positive change.”

Organiser Dave McEwen said: “It was really about raising awareness about what we are doing in town and how important and necessary it is because there’s such a problem to tackle with this climate emergency.

“Hopefully we can now get people involved in more projects and make more things happen.

“We have also launched a Greener Henley directory. If people are looking for green businesses then that will be their point of call really. So far we have 25 businesses signed up.”

He said the group was planning to hold a larger festival in the spring.

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