Residents of the Isle of Eigg, in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, are leading the way in environmental action.
The tiny community of Eigg, off the west coast of Scotland, is sparking a trend of islands going green’ by reducing their carbon footprint by 50 per cent. The stunning Hebridean island, with a population of just 85, already has its own electricity supply, powered by wind, solar and hydro energy. Now, the residents are cutting their carbon output even further, through insulating their homes, fitting solar panels, encouraging more walking and cycling, growing their own food and investigating options for an island-based wood fuel business.
Eigg is the only Scottish finalist in the £1million NESTA Big Green Challenge, designed to encourage people to work together and find new, improved ways to tackle major challenges, such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
‘We believe every small community can become a green island and we want to inspire as many others as possible to take action to avert climate change,’ explains Tasha Lancaster, project officer for the Big Green Challenge. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re surrounded by water or not! A village, a street, a block of flats or an office can work towards becoming a green island ñ and as a community of green islands, we can do so much more than working on our own.’
Now, the residents of Eigg are sharing their progress and encouraging others to follow in their green footsteps through a new website. ‘We want communities to share experiences, news and tips with other islands that are trying to make a difference,’ Tasha says. ‘Whether or not they have projects up and running or they are just thinking about it, we want people to share their ideas for green futures.’
The challenge has brought the strong, vibrant community of Eigg even closer together in working ñ and playing ñ to achieve their goal. Recently, the island hosted a Giant Green Footsteps Festival, which saw visitors of all ages and from across the country, gather to share ideas and enjoy the local hospitality.
Teams have been working during the summer to fit two traditional stone built houses with insulation, draught proofing and double glazing. Households on the island are monitoring fuel consumption and transport use. Solar panels have also been fitted to the Pier Centre, as well as to three other homes.
Residents of Eigg are among the most energy-aware consumers in the modern world. Last year’s launch of the renewable electricity scheme became the death knell for the polluting diesel generators people had relied on. Delighted with the new 24 hour supply, they have learnt to match their energy use with the power that is available.
A traffic light system’ of notices and emails warns when reserves are low, so use of high-energy appliances is avoided at these times. During storms, the turbines and hydro system provide plentiful sup-plies, with any excess being stored and used to heat the island’s public buildings.
Left: view of Eigg. Photo: © Megan Frey
Above: windswept children say goodbye’ to the island’s old diesel generators
Photo: © Tasha Lancaster