The superhero world was abuzz this week as it welcomed three new heroes to its ranks. But these were very special heroes – Earth Hour’s Hidden Heroes.
Hidden Heroes that were quietly going about their business of saving the planet. But in the build up to Earth Hour 2015, WWF-UK and People’s Postcode Lottery joined forces and tracked them down, gathered them from as far as Edinburgh, Cumbria and Wiltshire and brought them to its UK headquarters, the Living Planet Centre to recognise their phenomenal work.
Workplace Wonders, Young Superstars and Community Champions
Recognised in three categories, each winner received £500 to fund further green efforts, which was kindly donated by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Workplace Wonder winner: Diane
Diane is a cook who creates healthy and delicious meals for nursery children every day. She promotes an eco-friendly attitude to the children by using the nursery garden to grow their own food and educate them about the natural wonders of the planet. Diane will be using the prize money from players of People’s Postcode Lottery to create a tunnel for hedgehogs to pass safely across a busy street and to plant fruit trees in the school garden.
Young Superstar winner: Jessie
Jessie wowed the crowd with her pedal power. At eight years old she’s got off to a remarkable start. Claiming her biggest achievement to date has been learning to ride a bicycle as she hates driving in a car, Jessie inspired an audience with her passion for the environment. A great supporter of WWF, Jessie tandem cycled with her mum from their home on the Irish Sea, to Whitby on the North Sea (160 miles) raising over £1000 and completing the journey in just five days! She will be passing the money on to the Wild Ennerdale Project, who help protect red squirrels in Ennerdale Forest.
Community Champion winner: Jen
Jen is the author of my make do and mend year, a blog documenting her incredible and successful new lifestyle decision to not buy any non-perishable item for an entire year… which has now been extended to a lifetime! Jen’s stand against thoughtless consumerism and throwaway culture has inspired an army of fellow bloggers and creatives to think about what they really need and the impact their lifestyles have on this beautiful planet.
Presenting these Hidden Heroes with their awards were WWF ambassadors, impressionist Alistair McGowan and ex-England footballer Graeme LeSaux as well as Earth Hour supporter YouTube vlogger Lex Croucher. We got a chance to catch up with the award presenters, here’s what they had to say.
Should there be more incentives for people to do good for the planet?
There are so many people doing good for the planet and we don’t hear enough about them.
Environmentalism is a difficult word, somehow it sounds a bit scientific, and it’s not – it’s just the love of the world. It’s the only one we’ve got, why would you not love it? Why would you not want to stop every species from being extinguished.
There is something very innocent and pure about environmentalism. It’s about the simplest things in the world. I can’t understand how anybody can not be an environmentalist.
Should governments do more to protect the planet?
It’s an equal balance between individuals and governments. The government have to promote things, they have to look at making industry more accountable, but there are a huge number of companies that are doing an awful lot, without being told they have to, for example improving their environmental performance, improving their sustainability and reducing their impact on the planet.
That only usually happens because one person within that company, a hidden hero, has said “why don’t we do this better? Why don’t we try and have less waste?”
Marmite, for instance, partially power their factory with the methane gases produced by the waste products created in the process of making Marmite. And that’s happening around the country with different industries, like breweries, using the waste yeast to create energy. You see it again and again. Companies don’t sing about it, the papers don’t pick up on it.
We talk about governments having to do it, but there’s an awful lot of stuff which people are doing through work which is very beneficial.
You don’t fly much. What else do you do for the planet?
I use the ‘Stop. Look. Listen.’ approach to environmentalism. You can apply it to every single thing in your life. Stop, look at an action or a product, listen to yourself and think do I need to do this? I apply it to practically everything in my life, but you can choose what degree you take this to.
Take something like shaving. I used disposable razors and shaving foam like most people in this country 20 years ago. Then I thought, I don’t want to use a disposable razor because I’m throwing it away every time. So you think ‘Ok what can I do instead?’ So I got a razor you can reuse, of course you still need to throw the blades away but at least it’s not six inches, it’s a tiny bit of blade each time and I don’t shave that often. Then I looked at the soap and I thought I’m using one of these canisters every two months, so you try and use less of the soap, so then they lasted four months, so you’re throwing less away.
Then my wife said to me, “Why don’t you use soap and a brush?” I had never thought of that, so she bought me a soap and a shaving brush and that has lasted for three years. So all those canisters of shaving foam I would have used I no longer throw away at all.
In every aspect of your life you think ‘how can I do this better?’ Stop. Look. Listen. It’s not difficult, it’s not penury, it’s not hair-shirtism, it’s efficient, it probably saves you money and it’s a feels good to be doing good things for the environment.
What got you interested in WWF’s work?
Looking after the environment is essential for the future of mankind, we have to stop the folly of destroying habitats for short term gain. It’s great to hear that the tide is turning in some places. I actually saw last week that there was good news for tigers in India which was amazing!
Does the younger generation see issues like climate change differently from older generations?
It’s human nature just to think ‘the next generation will sort it out’, I think that’s kind of what has happened over the last few decades and to an extent I’m sure our generation will be thinking ‘oh the next generation will sort it out’.
But we can’t rely on the next generation; we have the power to act. We have to start doing things, Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world…”
It has to start with little things, you can’t save the whole planet in one day but making tiny changes to the way you behave, the causes you donate to and the products you buy can actually end up adding up to making a huge difference.
Do you have any top tips for people to do something for the planet? Is there anything you do yourself?
I recycle literally everything. I never take plastic bags because I feel so uncomfortable taking a plastic bag knowing that it’s just going to be around… forever. It makes me feel really uncomfortable knowing that a plastic bag that I’ve taken because I can’t be bothered to put something in a rucksack is going to exist forever.
Graeme Le Saux
How do you try to do your bit for the planet?
I suppose like most people you never quite feel you’re doing enough. It’s very easy to look at parts of your life and think ‘well that’s not very environmentally friendly’.
We’re renovating our house at the moment, so we’ve done as much as we can to make our house as environmentally friendly as possible within the budget. There’s a lot of good insulation and good windows, all our appliances are A-rated. We’ve invested in being the most efficient we can around the house.
On a day to day basis we compost, we’ve got a meadow and we leave part of our garden to grow wild. We’ve got a log wall that I was messing around with today. There are the most incredible eco-systems living within there, that then feeds the chain of birds or mice and voles, there might be a few hedgehogs under there. We’re lucky we can do that in our garden, some people don’t have gardens where they can do that but you can do your bit.
We try to eat seasonally and source our food locally as well. So actually from thinking I’m not doing enough, when you look at what we do, it’s actually quite a lot. It’s a question of how much more we’re prepared to do and that’s what hidden heroes is about.
When you were growing up you worked at the Durrell wildlife park. What did you learn about conservation when you were there?
I learned a lot of things about tamarinds and marmosets because I was basically cleaning up after them. They stink! But that was my job. It was a real privilege.
Growing up in Jersey I was very aware of my environment locally. I played football on the beach, on pitches and parks, cycling on my bike. I was very lucky that I had the outdoors to explore. When the outdoors went wrong we were really aware of it. There were a couple of oil spills in the Atlantic and that had a direct impact on us and you make those connections.
Do you think football clubs should do more to encourage supporters and players to lead greener lifestyles?
I would love to see clubs doing more to improve their environmental credentials. Several high profile stadiums have signed up to Earth Hour this year already like Old Trafford (Manchester United) and Wembley.
I’d love to see football clubs engage with their supporters more in terms of the environment. Imagine putting on a game where fans cycle to the match, instead of having the concourses full of people milling around you put bike racks up and get them policed. Then if people come on their bike they get money off their ticket.
You could do that in London quite easily, I think it would be brilliant. It would engage with both sets of fans, it could be different from the tribal atmosphere and bring people together a bit.
Thanks to Adam Barr, Earth Hour intern, WWF-UK, for his help putting this blog together.
Do you know someone who’s being a hero for the planet? Share their story in the comments below.