Merry Christmas from Friends of the Earth Falkirk

As the festive season reaches fever pitch remember that there are ways of reducing the mountains of waste produced at this time of the year. Don't waste Christmas.
  • You could reuse and recycle wrapping paper if you need it.
  • Give homemade cards and gifts to friends and family.
  • Take your own shopping bags on your last minute shopping or when you go to the January sales.
  • Don't cook too much food for the Christmas meal


Thrifty Christmas

The local group held a successful event in the Mall in Falkirk on Saturday 6th November to promote the idea that there was another way to prepare for Christmas without unlimited consumption.

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening in Falkirk- first step Litter Pick of site> FoE Falkirk have an aim of making some of the forgotten patches of land in the area tidier.


A vision for Cycling in Falkirk 2020

Friends of the Earth Falkirk would like to hear what people in Falkirk think would be the best way to tackle the main barriers to cycling in Falkirk over the next 10 years. The event "A vision for Cycling in Falkirk 2020" will be held on Monday 25th October, at the Christian Centre, Glebe Street, Falkirk 7pm to 9.30pm. This would be the first step in starting to collect a vision of what Cycle facilities in Falkirk could be, or should be, in ten years time. The event is free to attend and all contributions will be welcomed.


Getting out on my Bike

Over a year ago I decided to get rid of my car and share a car with my wife. The aim was to share the daily 10 mile return commute to work and on the days I didn't need a car at work I had hoped to cycle. I live near the Union Canal and my workplace is only about 4 miles along the canal- so no excuse really. I wish this article was about how I took to cycling really easy and have been cycling regularly since. However, it is only since the beginning of the year that I have been getting into the habit of cycling and this article is about how I overcame some of the usual barriers to cycling. I make no claims about being a super cyclist, but I have enjoyed cycling more regularly and I would like to encourage as many people to consider cycling.

Inspired by Copenhagen
There were two things which encouraged me to cycle more. Visiting Copenhagen in December with Friends of the Earth Scotland and seeing so many people making the most of the great cycle facilities was the main inspiration to get on my bike more. The second source of encouragement was listening to the Guardian Bike Podcast and reading the newspapers bike blog: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/series/bike-blog

Starting to cycle more during the winter requires a bit of preparation. I have a hybrid bike with full mudguards which makes cycling in the wet a bit more comfortable without water in the face or a streak up the back. As my main cycle is to work I usually wear waterproof over trousers so that I can wear my work clothes to work and not get covered in water or mud. In Copenhagen I liked that people used their bikes with their usual clothing and there wasn't much Lycra on show. There are some tips I have found useful which enables me to cycle to work or a meeting and arrive fresh and clean. I always have a complete set of waterproofs which provides a shell against the rain and wind. I quickly learned that you need to avoid wearing too many layers of clothing even in the winter. Even when it is cold outside you soon heat up when you pick up a bit of speed wearing a waterproof shell. I also bought a couple of bike bags which can be packed up the night before with waterproofs, spare clothes and shoes, ready for the morning cycle. Preparation is key to cycling in the rain or the cold. If there is any excuse not to cycle in the rain it is too easy to jump in a car.

There is research into cycling which shows that cyclists who commute regularly do not get caught in the rain as much as people would think. If your start time can be flexible, by even ten minutes, you can often avoid cycling in the rain. In the first three months of the year, cycling up to four days of the week, I only cycled during a rain shower on three occasions- two of these were cycling to Friends of the Earth events. That is not to say that it only rained three times over these months but when I needed to cycle rain was not an issue. When it has rained I have actually enjoyed the experience of taking on the elements and arriving at my destination dry under my waterproofs. I have not had a puncture yet but I am aware that this will only be a matter of time. I carry a spare inner tube and have already been in a position to share my spare to enable a fellow FoE member to cycle home when his tyre exploded.

When not using the canal paths I have been surprised by the response of fellow road users. I have found car drivers to be considerate and the only criticism so far is that I have often been given too much room on the road and cars have held up traffic waiting behind me. I always wear a hi-vis vest when cycling on the road and use a number of lights at night giving drivers no excuse not to see me. As I prefer to be on the road with cars as little as possible I have worked out a number of regular routes using Callendar Park as a hub to a number of Falkirk destinations.

I have enjoyed cycling and would like to be on my bike more. Promoting cycling will be one of Friends of the Earth Falkirk's local campaign issues this year and we have a number of ideas to encourage people to cycle more. The first is an event where people can bring their underutilised bike and be talked through a check up and given tools and advice to fix any minor repairs or safety concerns. We hope to adopt a couple of cycle routes and ensure they are litter and glass free and we have already had a couple of cycle events which have been good for getting out on our bikes as a group.

Norman's cycle types
1. Be Safe/ Be Seen
Always wear a helmet and hi-viz jacket when cycling on the road. Don't give drivers an excuse not to see you.
Always use lights when cycling at night.
2. Be Prepared
Prepare your waterproofs, lights and tools the night before your commute so you don't have to scrabble about in the morning
3. Choose you own route
You don't have to use the road route- be creative and find your own short cuts and off road options.

Norman Philip


No Lentils this Lent

As one of the group members I'm trying to do something environmental and food based for Lent this year- so my idea was to only eat things from the UK- a big version of the Fife Diet. I've set up a blog to do it so if anyone wants to see how I'm getting on you can click this link to find out.
The idea is to reduce food miles and try and like a bit more sustainably.
This picture is not my family- they are American but they don't eat a whole lot differently to my family.


From Falkirk High to Copenhagen
Once you have campaigned locally and nationally the next stage is the global stage. After a couple of years of campaigning for strong climate legislation between Falkirk High Street and the Scottish Parliament Friends of the Earth Falkirk wanted to take their campaigning to the next level- to the streets of Copenhagen during the UN climate change talks.

In the run-up to a busy month in December, members of Friends of the Earth Falkirk spoke to local residents and local groups to explain the urgent need for a global agreement to tackle climate change and to demand climate justice. Local people, young and old, were asked to contribute to our community banner for the group to take to the Wave, the climate march in Glasgow, and to the Flood, the Friends of the Earth International march in Copenhagen.

Three people from Falkirk joined 30 people from Friends of the Earth Scotland who took the low-carbon route to Copenhagen, two days travel by train and coach across mainland Europe. Corrie Cuthbertson, Norman Philip and Des Tinney, the Falkirk 3, stopped off at the House of Parliament to meet their MP, Eric Joyce, as they passed through London. This provided an opportunity to lobby on both local issues as well as discuss the need for government action on climate change.

The Friends of the Earth International march in Copenhagen on the morning of Saturday 12th December brought together 5000 FoE activists from across the globe, the majority in blue ponchos, to represent a flood of people demanding climate justice with a single voice. For the Falkirk 3 this was a great inspiration and a reminder of the global network our local group belongs to. The community banner was carried with pride as we flooded through the streets.

In the afternoon we joined the 100,000 strong climate march from the centre of Copenhagen to the conference centre where the climate talks were taking place. Representatives from NGO's, civil society, political parties and the Danish public took to the streets to show the leaders that the people of the world were looking for a global climate agreement. Although the outcomes of the talks were disappointing the politicians could not claim there is not a public mandate for positive action.

Inspired by Copenhagen

The weekend in Copenhagen was an opportunity to hear about so many positive climate solutions which we could promote in Falkirk. On the Sunday there was an international march by the la via campesina, the global peasant movement, which gave a global context to our local food campaign which will be the main focus for the Falkirk group this year. Copenhagen is the cycle capital of the world and every street corner gave us inspirational ideas for what we would like to see in Falkirk. Cycling will definitely be a FoE Falkirk campaign this year. We have come back with so many ideas for this year that you will just have to join our group or attend our events to keep up with the developments. All environmental groups will continue to campaign on climate change and we will be demanding climate justice, with the echo of the chants from the streets of Copenhagen in our ears.

Norman Philip

Check out more photographs at http://www.flickr.com/people/foefalkirk/



Join us for a walk around the proposed Helix site on Saturday 16 January

This year we would like to try and hold one event a month. These events will be held at the weekends or on evenings and will complement our speakers and campaigns but hopefully add a more relaxed and social element to the group and our campaigning.
The first such event will be a walk of the Helix site on Saturday 16th January.
Many members of the group have concerns over the plans for the Helix development so we thought it would be a good idea to go and see what will be happening and where it will take place to make us more knowledgeable when discussing plans with others.
Meet at the parking space where Etna Road meets the ring road (see http://www.multimap.com/s/jTtvm3iZ) at 9.30m.
Please dress appropriately as we plan to walk through some areas which are not tarmaced and do dress up warm.
If you would like to come by bike and check out the proposed changes to the cycle paths, please do so.