This week was the first week of Parliamentary recess. In addition to my normal surgeries and constituency business, I decided to dedicate a whole week to environmental issues to raise awareness of this vital issue around Leeds North West. Please see below for a break down of this week of action.
We started the week with a litter pick in Yeadon. Environmental action starts by looking after our local environment. Thanks to the local volunteers and Jakob and Zac for helping out!
Later in the day I visited one of my constituents at their home, a retrofitted super-insulated house complete with solar panels and hot water heating.
These low carbon homes are the standard to which houses should be retrofitted with new houses built to even higher ‘Passivhaus’ standards. We must prioritise energy efficiency to reduce energy consumption and production with a national retrofit programme which would also create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I visited a bug hotel in Bramhope, which encourges biodiversity. It is great to see parish councils taking a proactive approach to environmental problems.
On Tuesday I travelled around the constituency planting wild flowers and sowing bee friendly seeds. The flowers will brighten up dull areas and provide accessible pollen and nectar for bees. There is lots of great work going on in Leeds North West with ‘in bloom’ groups leading the charge locally. I want to see wildflower-friendly road verge management in Leeds and am actively lobbying the council about it.
I visited a local beekeeper to learn about how responsible urban beekeeping and pollinator gardening can help bee populations recover and thrive. My sons and I took part in the Big Butterfly Count. Butterflies are great biodiversity indicators and by counting them we can help take nature’s pulse.
The next day I went to Leeds Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF), where waste from our black bins is sorted. The centre saves 62,000 tonnes of carbon from being emitted compared to landfill. However we must strive for a circular economy with no waste going to incineration. The circular economy is one in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible.
There is much work yet to do and we must fix the broken market in waste, the UK system needs serious reform. I support an export waste ban and producer responsibility to ensure they remain responsible for their products through the lifecycle.
These measures could ensure that the RERF’s recycling rates move from around 2% to 10% and recyclables don’t even reach the RERF in the first place.
I then completed a shift at’Revive’ Social Enterprise at Kirkstall Recycling Center. The shop intercepts goods destined for landfill and sells them to the community at affordable prices.
I was shown around the facility and was impressed to learn that revive saves tonnes of items from incineration every week. This is an example of the circular economy. This year I’ll be redoubling my efforts to shape the circular economy, starting with an inquiry into electronic waste.
I wanted to get constituents involved this week as much as possible.
Thursday was ‘Walk to work day’ to raise awareness around air quality. Thanks to all those who sent me pictures.
For my visits this week, I have been using an electric car (Nissan Leaf). It was brilliant therefore, to visit Phoenix Works. They install electric vehicle charge points all over the UK. I have been leading the charge on this issue (sorry!) and am looking forward to the first public charge point to be installed in my constituency soon – something I have called for four times in Parliament.
Before my Saturday surgeries, I joined Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery in their monthly action day.
They do excellent work and it was an enjoyable and heart warming activity.
Later in the day I attended Hyde Park Unity Day where the Labour stall made the case for the Climate Emergency and the radical action that is needed. I also met with extinction rebellion; a movement that is all too needed.
I asked businesses to take part in a ‘sachet away’ pledge to get rid of plastic sauce sachets. I am delighted with the response and that businesses like Heart in Headingley were willing to pledge. Whilst big interventions, like restricting the types of plastic that can be produced like the system they have in Japan, a Deposit Return Scheme or ensuring a 50% Recycled PET rate are vital in the war against plastics, so too is the small action we take to reduce our waste.