The move that's been being planned in the background for months is finally happening this week. After 14 months in Preston I'm moving down south (even further south than I grew up!) to Exeter and starting work as the new RSPB Membership Development Assistant in Devon (look out for me in my van and at events). As my last blog from Preston it seemed fitting to look at how green this city is and how it's helped or hindered my green living efforts.
As you enter Preston from the M6 you see a big sign saying PRESTON: A FAIRTRADE CITY. I blogged about this last year here and since gaining the status back in 2004 the city's Fairtrade establishments have grown. Starting with 29 shops and 17 cafes that sold fairtrade products back in 2004 there's now a huge choice for buying Fairtrade in town. There's no excuse not to find a Fairtrade coffee or bananas now and in 2008 the university UCLan gained Fairtrade status too.
One of my favourite Fairtrade haunts is the Beautiful Planet cafe on Friargate. You can't really miss it as it's painted a lovely green outside. But inside it's full of brilliant Fairtrade products, cups of tea, coffee, hot chocolates, pasta, cakes, biscuits, tins, everything really! It's also full of green magazines and posters that have been donated. Whether you want to find out about local green groups (like the Central Lancashire Green Party group I had a small part in setting up), learn some new vegan recipes or catch up on ethical banking you're sure to find what you need. Run by local volunteers the cafe is a little piece of green heaven in the midst of a busy shopping street and a very different place to the Tesco's just doors away. If you're ever passing by pop in, I never do as much as I want to and it's so lovely!
Closer to home there's the Co-op. Almost my nearest shop and definitely my prefered one for every day foods. I've grown up on Co-op food and so a constant supply of their own brand Fairtrade 99 tea is an essential. If you're fed up of big brand supermarkets then joining the Co-op is a refreshing change. Not only is there a great supply of Fairtrade, organic and local foods in the shop but you get loyalty points when you go shopping and you get a share of the profits twice a year! The Co-op campaign on lots of environmental and social issues and with regular local updates it's fantastic to see how the group are helping community groups and projects. So much more than just a shop (they're my bank too) and since the North West has lots of historic links with cooperative movements it's great to see this tradition thriving here in the city.
On the same road as the Co-op are lots of charity shops (at least three) full of interesting second hand items that need a new home. I can think of few things better than charity shops. You get a new top/dress/set of glasses, charity gets some money and things get reused/recycled. Brilliant! And it's certainly a good way to get rid of old items that you don't need or want anymore so get giving to charity shops.
Beyond the Co-op and charity shops is one of the many parks that are sprinkled throughout the city. One of the best things about Preston is the many and varied Victorian parks and green spaces dotted around. Whether it's Moor Park with playing fields, trees and playground, Avenham Park with pretty flowers beds and river bank or Haslam Park with it's wildlife garden, sensory garden and canal path. Finding wildlife in a city isn't hard, but having trees and green spaces close by means you get a lot more variety and (to be honest) makes searching for it and watching it a bit more pleasant sometimes. Wildlife highlights for me have been long tailed tits along the canal, (grey, red would be better) squirrels collecting acorns, and ivy plants covered in red admirals. I haven't managed to see the nesting peregrine falcons on St Walburge's Church but knowing they're there flying around and hunting has been nice over the summer. There's so much happening in our local parks and they're brilliant places for community projects whether it's walking groups or children's clubs or getting hands on with a bit of conservation volunteering. Here's hoping that they're be there for years and year to come.
A little way out of town is the local recycling/rubbish centre. I'm always impressed with how much gets recycled here. Last year 79.52% of the rubbish brought to the centre was recycled or reused. The staff are helpful with finding where different items should good (is it metal, glass, hard plastic...) and also good at quickly taking out items that can be reused before they get damaged. Having a good doorstep recycling and food waste system, as well as this brilliant tip means that we throw much much less into landfill than in the past and that can only be a good thing.
So there we have it. My green memories and highlights of Preston. I'm sure there are many more places, projects and events that I've missed so if you know anyone I'd love to hear about them. For now I'm packing up ready for the move south and next Monday I'll be checking out the new city and seeing how it measures up against Preston's greenness.