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English village leads ‘no carbon’ drive

March 14, 2007

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ASHTON HAYES (England): A small English village last year set itself the aim of becoming the country’s first carbon neutral community — only to be swamped with requests for advice from around the world.

“I simply didn’t want to tell my grandchildren that we knew the effects of the climate change and that we didn’t care,” said Garry Charnock, the man behind Ashton Hayes’ “Going Carbon Neutral” campaign.

“On Tuesday, about 40 villages and cities such as Manchester, Abu Dhabi and Rotterdam have contacted us for advice on what to do,” he added, also citing interest from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The village is set amid the rolling hills of Cheshire, north-western England, a short drive from the well-to-do city of Chester and not far from the Welsh border.

Charnock first had the idea of spearheading a carbon-cutting drive after going to a debate on climate change at a literary festival in Wales. His first act was to ditch his high-powered BMW for a less gas-guzzling, compact car.

Today, the most visible signs of his campaign can be seen in the village primary school and the pub, which he and others who have joined the bandwagon describe as the “lungs” of the community.

“They influence our community, the school is an excellent catalyst. And the children involve their parents,” said Tracey Todhunter, another member of the 40-strong project team.

The campaigners have fitted a small wind turbine and solar panel on the roof of the school to heat its water, while an “eco-team” of a dozen pupils ensure as much as possible is recycled, and turn off any unused electrical device.

The school choir has written a rap song, dubbed “Carbon Neutral,” which they hope to sing on July 7 in London when “Live Earth” concerts are scheduled to be held around the world.

Barry Cooney, manager of the Golden Lion pub, agreed to join the campaign in December, even though he admits to being “a bit incredulous” at first. His monthly electricity bill has gone down from 1,000 pounds to 650 pounds after he changed his light bulbs, turned down the heating and switched off devices not being used.

“Ideas pop out all the time. Each initiative is a step forward but we can’t do everything at the same time. You can’t change your way of life in one day,” said Charnock.—AFP