Well, yes, that's true - I did once give a lift to George Monbiot. It's a few years ago now, but we were coming home from The Big Green Gathering. I was driving, but George was hitching a lift. So, a man who lives by his principles: he doesn't (or didn't) own a car. You have to admire him for that. Not that he introduced himself as George Monbiot - that only emerged during the conversation on the journey back. Still, I doubt that he realised that he was being given a lift by davidthedesigner.
But the reason I mention this is because, as I said here, I've been pondering green issues of late. Probably because of the blog discussion around the Applied Green conference that happened while I was away in Belgium, and mentioned in the blogosphere by Ben and Michael, who both spoke at the 'festival of minds' (well, that's what it says in the blurb). Mind you, I always think about green issues when I stay in Gent, not least because the attitudes and culture are just that little bit different than they are in the UK. And I'll come back to that later.
But I'd also been thinking about all things green because I happen to live in the little city that, while I was away, lost it's crown as the 'Location, Location, Location' best place to live in the UK. (Now, I have to step in here to dispel any misconceptions that this fact might conjure up in your mind: you know, middle class designer swanning around Britain's most desirable cathedral city. In my defence, I will tell you that I've lived in the same house for more than 25 years and that happens to be within a mile of where I was born. So that hardly makes me a typical resident - at least not in comparison to my immediate neighbours. And, no, I'm not landed gentry either.)
Now the local paper reported the loss of this little city's crown with the headline 'city needs to improve green image'. And there's the rub: it's not what we are, it's what we appear to be that's deemed to be important. We just need to polish up our image.
Which is where the designer is usually called in. To polish up somebody's image.
And that's precisely where we (those of us who are designers) need to be careful. That we don't simply get drawn in to the whole 'greening' thing just to polish up somebody's image. As Ben quite rightly points out, 'I'm a designer. Use me better'. But more forcefully put by George Monbiot in his article (which I urge you to read) 'Eco Junk' - 'green consumerism is becoming a pox on the planet'. The myth that we can all save the world by doing a bit more shopping.
And while I'm on the subject of shopping, here's where we can all (whether you're a designer or not) make a start:
Get rid of the plastic bag. They truly are a pox on the planet. And you know what? At least in this little city in which I live it seems impossible to get through a day without amassing at least half a dozen of these things. They're thrust upon you everywhere you go. If I go into to Tesco Express to buy The Guardian I'm asked 'would you like a bag?'. No, I don't want a bag. Don't you know that Guardian buyers never ask for plastic bags? And if I pop in to Sainsburys to buy a bottle of wine they want to wrap it up in two plastic carriers bags before putting it in to another carrier bag for me to carry home.
Mr Tesco, Mr Sainsbury (and while I'm about it, Mr Waitrose, Mr Morrison and Mr Asda): here's my message to you - WE CAN ALL LIVE WITHOUT YOUR PLASTIC CARRIER BAGS, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Which brings me back to Gent. Because if you shop in a Belgian supermarket you'd better take a shopping bag with you, because there won't be free plastic bags. And do you know what? It works. It's no hardship. It just requires a tiny shift in attitude. But that shift in attitude is far more effective if it's collective. If we all do it together.
I'm ready when you are.