Clocking up air miles this summer? Or driving cross-country for a stay-cation? Abi Adams, 21 decided to abandon exotic destinations abroad this summer, in favour of going green at eco-village Brithdir Mawr.
GG: How was your eco-village experience different from other holidays you’ve been on?
“I don’t know if I’d really describe it as a holiday. If I were to compare it to other holidays, I’d say the biggest thing was the fact that I didn’t get on a plane. Brithdir doesn’t accept visitors that use aeroplanes in order to visit them due to the detrimental cost to the environment so to reach Brithdir, (which is on the West Coast of Wales in Newport, Pembrokeshire) I used public transport.
I felt so relaxed after my week there and was also immersed in a community of people with the same ideals as me. I wanted to experience life with as little carbon footprint as possible and some things I learnt included; how to milk a goat and how to live off the land around me, in the evenings, I ate food that I’d hand-picked from the garden. On a regular holiday, you’re generally kept in a bubble with other tourists and are away from people that live in the country permanently so you can miss out on a country’s culture unless you make a conscious effort to engage with it. The experience was very different to the all-inclusive package holiday often preferred by us Brits.”
GG: In what ways did the eco-village use energy, electricity and other electrical means that we’ve all got used to consuming?
“The eco village used energy and electricity like everyone else but much more responsibly! There’s sometimes a misconception that eco-villages live in the dark ages with regards to technology and electricity but that’s not true. All of Brithdir’s community members had TVs and laptops but the key difference was in their usage.
I noticed simple things, like lights not being turned on unless it was completely necessary and lights always being turned off when a room was empty. Personally, the only electricity I used was when I turned the light on to go to the toilet at night but even then I preferred to use a torch.
Brithdir is completely off the grid and their electricity was generated by three types of renewable sources – solar, wind and hydropower. The solar wasn’t as effective as the latter and although the wind turbine was constantly whizzing around it required regular, dangerous maintenance. The hydropower system was the most impressive and was basically just an old washing machine drum modified with magnets and motors to generate electricity that was placed in a downhill stream where the water was running fastest. It was very inspiring to experience living in a community that was completely off the National Grid for electricity.
Running hot water was heated by the cooker, which would be fired up every afternoon in preparation for the evening meal. The hot water would easily last until the next day so showers weren’t limited and there was always enough water to go around.”
GG: What was the highlight of your trip?
“I was there for a week and don’t know if I could pinpoint a highlight because it was all so good, though I really enjoyed milking the goats and helping with the communal meal. The renewable energy tour that took place was right up my street too so I was very happy that day!”
GG: Was it difficult adjusting to a different way of living during your time at Brithdir?
“It was more difficult coming home and adjusting back to living in a household where the TV makes up the majority of an evening’s entertainment, rather than a nice chat and long walk after dinner.
My boyfriend and I discussed at Brithdir how modern living has become really irresponsible and too convenient, it makes me quite upset.
I actually found it really exciting creeping around the house we stayed in with torches or going for a walk to explore the area around me before drawing the curtains at night. In modern homes, most people get home, flick the lights on and immediately turn on their TV or games console, without a second thought about going out to explore the area or doing something with each other.
The biggest difference at the eco-village was in the preparation of food, dinner would take several hours to prepare because we’d be cooking for fifteen of us. I’ve also never eaten so many tasty vegetables and fruit and that’s because they were all seasonal and grown in their natural cycle, not accelerated by chemicals or sprayed with pesticides. It was a case of going out to the garden and picking what you fancied, rather than taking a trip to the local supermarket and picking up food flown in from the other side of the world.
I imagine for someone that hasn’t had much interest in going green spending time at Brithdir might take a bit of getting used too, especially if you’re not used to communal living, but it took me and my boyfriend Jimi no time at all to settle in.”
GG: Would you recommend this type of experience to other people and why?
“I’d definitely recommend it to everyone! It was such a refreshing and important experience because the skills I learnt were so basic and can still be applied to my everyday life, I learnt so much in just a week. Not only that, the holiday was cheap – it didn’t cost me a penny, a consideration for people during the recession. I got free accommodation and food in exchange for four hours working in the gardens everyday.”
GG: Would you visit the village again?
“Definitely! I’m already trying to figure out when I can next go and visit.
Brithdir takes on long-term volunteers to help the community for up to 6 months so that’s a future option I’m interested in pursuing.”
GG: Was there much to do? What was your accommodation like?
“There was SO much to do that we didn’t end up fitting everything in! The village had 80 acres of land so lots of areas to explore and there was also a mountain called ‘the lying angel’. Sadly, we didn’t manage to fit in time to climb it. We stayed in this amazing rustic farmhouse with lots of staircases and hidden passages, it was pretty cool.”
GG: Do you think people should do more to be eco-friendly? In what ways would you encourage people to make changes to their daily lives?
“Where do I start? Yes, I think people should be more eco-friendly but not just for the environment’s sake. People are getting bored of being told to be good for the environment and it’s also pretty disheartening when you do your best to help and then see huge conglomerate companies causing the biggest environmental impact supposedly for your benefit, so I’d encourage people to make small, personal changes.
For example, by growing their own fruit and vegetables something that can be done by anyone. It’s so rewarding and not to mention healthier and cheaper than relying on supermarkets. To see things you’ve planted grow into food is very exciting.
Through growing your own food, you also learn vital skills even if you don’t realize it. These sorts of skills aren’t taught in school but I believe they should be as they’re so important to know. It helps people to understand and appreciate how our past ancestors lived and to realize how much is far too convenient and fast-paced today.
If you want to go green, making changes in your daily life is actually pretty easy. Just thinking to switch lights off when you don’t really need them on, turning appliances off standby and unplugging sockets are all green activities, which will also help your bills!
Abi emphasizes, “Learning is a massive part of being able to change. Learn about the things growing in your garden or the wildlife that visits it and you’ll soon notice a whole new world catching your attention. There are a lot of things that can have benefits to you if you just take the time to notice them.”
For more information on visiting Brithdir Mawr visit; www.brithdirmawr.co.uk