There is no doubt that 2019 has been a year when many heavy topics have come to the forefront. Whilst much of this has resulted in online squabbles and real-life division, one particular subject has used both the virtual and the real to raise positive awareness of a cause that only an idiot wouldn’t get behind. That’s right, the plight of our planet, our lives, and our future.
Huge international demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion brought environmental issues essentially and uncomfortably into public consciousness, and the recent announcement of teenage climate change protester Greta Thunberg as Time Magazine’s ‘person of the year’ confirms its global importance and impact. Leeds, as is its way, both joined in the communal uprising powerfully and continued on its own positive path towards environmental improvement.
For this city has had people and projects championing the good cause for a long time, and have this year grown on the wider momentum. Many are making vital movements, personally and locally, leading the way for others to follow sustainably. The hashtag #LeedsByExample has been popping up to rightly celebrate these actions, by individuals and businesses across Leeds, to promote admirable eco-friendly activity.
A scroll through the hashtag provides hope and pride. Within it are actions great and small, covering a range of issues, creating positive impacts, passing on tips, educating, encouraging and inspiring others to get on board and do their bit. From zero waste packaging and clothes exchanges to organic food production and energy efficiency, there are an array of ethical behaviours displayed.
The underlying ethos to #LeedsByExample is on-the-go recycling, targeting waste caused by eating and drinking on the go. Official efforts by organisers Hubbub UK began with a survey on waste to help to educate on the impact of individual actions and how easily these can change. 186 brightly coloured recycling bins have been in Leeds city centre for just over a year to collect and recycle food and drink packaging – coffee cups, cans, plastic bottles – something which is otherwise not happening with the standard city bins.
The aim is to reduce the billions of needless products thrown into everyday landfill, and the first year results, announced at the beginning of December, made impressive reading and national news. Such was the success of over 1.2 million coffee cups being recycled, triple that of previous years, that the scheme is to be replicated elsewhere and accelerated here.
This is a movement both at grassroots and above. Local partners Zero Waste Leeds, Forge Recycling, HW Martin and Leeds City Council are making things happen, alongside Cromwell Polythene and WRAP, whilst corporate superpowers are also on board, with support from the likes of Starbucks, McDonald’s and Coca Cola. Part of the problem, perhaps, but therefore necessary to be involved in the solution. There is a lot more to be done, but Leeds is proudly at the forefront of this essential change.
Leeds has now declared a climate emergency and committed to becoming a carbon-neutral city. As with the worldwide argument, control of whether this can be achieved appears to belong to those at the top; city councils, national governments, world leaders, global corporations. But, of course, the power actually lies with the people, our small individual actions and our large collective demands. This is what will be responded to, and it has only just begun. Leeds has led by example as a city to be proud of in 2019, and as one that can do so much more in 2020.