Satish Kumar and family sit down to a vegetarian lunch of home-made sushi
UK ‘Greenest Family’ share eco living tips
Satish Kumar and family have won the UK Greenest Family award at the P.E.A. (People Environment Achievement) awards. Satish is founder of environmental education centre Schumacher College, and Britain’s longest-standing editor (now emeritus) of Resurgence magazine, which he ran with his wife June Mitchell for over 40 years.
Their children, Mukti and Maya, run Carbon Savvy, which provides online carbon footprint calculators and helps individuals, councils and businesses reach net zero targets. The youngest generation, 11 year old Samay Ball, is also passionate about the environment and attends quarterly meetings with her local council to help keep their carbon reductions on track.
Former Jain monk, Satish Kumar, famously walked around the world for peace, delivering peace tea to the four nuclear capitals in 1962. He later settled in England with his wife June and took up editing Resurgence magazine.
When their children reached secondary school age, June and Satish started the Small School in Hartland with other parents, where the curriculum was 50% practical, including cooking, farming, pottery and carpentry. In 1990 Satish founded Schumacher College at Dartington, which runs environmental courses by the world’s leading thinkers.
Satish says, “We need to keep a balance between soil, soul and society, which means seeing nature, ourselves and our communities as equally important. They are all interconnected, so if we harm nature we harm ourselves and our communities. At the same time, when we care for nature we care for ourselves.”
Satish’s wife June was co editor of the magazine for 30 years, while bringing up her family, and has since switched her focus to making their 17C farmhouse environmentally sound. A keen gardener, she grows most of the family’s fruit and vegetables.
June tells us that it all started with water. “I wanted to channel rainwater from our roof into water butts and the pond, to use it for watering the garden and put less strain on the mains water system. I then realised the same applied to heat in the house. With Mukti’s help we installed loft insulation, draft proofing, secondary glazing and then wall insulation, which has completely changed the experience of living in this old farm house. During the pandemic I felt it was important to grow as many of our vegetables as possible to put less pressure on national food supplies. At 79 years, I’m still doing Qigong to stay healthy so I put less pressure on the healthcare system.”
Their son Mukti read about James Lovelock and was inspired to dedicate his life to saving CO2. He wrote an award winning carbon footprint calculator in 2002. A keen sailor, he designed and built a tiny 15 foot yacht that was small enough to row, yet seaworthy, and zero CO2 emissions. He sailed around Britain in 2007, giving talks on how to reduce your carbon footprint. Together with environmental entrepreneur Paul Dickinson, chair of CDP, he then founded Mitchell & Dickinson, an insulation company helping owners of period and listed properties to save money on heating and save carbon. Last year he founded Carbon Savvy, to help promote ways to save CO2 in daily life.
Mukti says, “I find that reducing my carbon footprint has made life more fun, and it’s improved my quality of life: Organic food is more tasty, international train travel is more relaxing, and having high quality products is more satisfying – and these things all reduce your carbon footprint. I also get excited about little things like my electric over-blanket which I discovered last year – it keeps me warm at my desk without the heating on. I think electric blankets are the solution to the fuel crisis!”
Satish and June’s daughter Maya was a tango dancer and teacher, and has also co-edited various books on environmental values. She lives in Spain with her 11 year old daughter. She describes their family life, “My main focus has been eco-parenting. This simply means not getting distracted by consumerism in relation to kids, but rather having more time to do things that are really enjoyable, like being outdoors, creating plays and dancing.”
Her daughter Samay insists on going by train and ferry on their annual trip to the UK, which has a fraction of the carbon footprint. She loves to crochet, and sells her creations to raise money for environmental organisations, including Carbon Savvy. After writing to her council last year she was asked to attend their environment meetings: “I wrote to my local council asking what they were doing about the carbon footprint of our town and suggesting a few ideas. They wrote back inviting me and my friend to a meeting so we can stay informed of the actions they are taking to make the town more green.”
Mukti thinks the family is so green because they make it fun. He says “we enjoy low carbon living because we focus on how to make it fun, and we never felt under pressure from our parents. Now it’s a family project and we talk about eco ideas over dinner. I hope everyone can find out how enjoyable eco living can be, so that we can work together to save the climate. I really believe that life after net zero will be more fun and healthy and we’ll enjoy nature more too.”
This festive season the family are taking part in Carbon Savvy’s Shop4good campaign, finding ways to shop in a way that’s good for wellbeing and the planet. Read on for their top ten tips on shopping:
The Kumar-Mitchell family’s top ten ways to shop4good
- Love long-lasting: Do you have hand-me-down items from your grandparent’s kitchen? Buying high quality, long lasting products is one of the best ways to save CO2, and sometimes they last for generations.
- Think end-of-life:Is the product we are buying easy to repair or recycle? Will it compost into the earth at the end of its life? Natural materials give you a yes.
- Choose pollution-free:Try to get a chemical-free version of the things you need – buy natural and organic.
- Avoid packaging:Avoid plastics and other packaging as much as possible, and reduce the excess rubbish created.
- Make low impact shopping trips: When you can, go shopping with other members of your family and reduce the number of cars on the road. Better still, take the bus or train when it’s a convenient journey. You can save a lot on parking.
- Minimise manufacturing:Make, mend, buy handmade or buy second-hand. Britain has wonderful second-hand markets – you can often buy a much higher quality product for a low price when you buy it second-hand.
- Shop Local:Buying things made as close to home as possible cuts product miles. It also supports the local economy, giving jobs to our neighbours.
- Buy less at higher quality:A great way to save CO2 is to buy few, but high quality, long-lasting presents. With only a couple of present to make or buy you can spend more time and money on them.
- Buy energy-saving presents: A prime example is an electric blanket to cosy up on the sofa in – at 1p an hour to run, they are typically 50 times cheaper than an electric room heater and 200 times cheaper than central heating.
- Give experiences, make memories: Taking someone out for a meal, visiting a special place, getting tickets to the theatre, or a class in surfing or art, can be really memorable and avoids manufacturing and packaging.