My Green Story: Annabel Foley from Rickmansworth

18th March 2022


Across Three Rivers there are people making changes to their own lives in order to make a difference and help the fight against climate change. In the first of a series of interviews, we meet Annabel Foley from Rickmansworth, who is one of the organisers of local group Sustainable Three Rivers. She answers our questions and explores the "powerful ripple effect" of sharing positive changes in her green story.

Why do you think you are passionate about living more sustainably?

Listening to facts from scientists around the world, I know that we have only a limited time to reduce carbon emissions and avoid wiping out millions of species and delivering a planet to future generations that has been damaged beyond recognition.

What changes have you made to your daily life to live more sustainably?

  • I became vegetarian and then plant-based, although I eat vegetarian food sometimes, if plant-based only isn’t practical.
  • We’ve started growing vegetables at home – learning more about plant cycles – and we’ve rewilded an area of our grass, planting wildflowers and fruit trees. We are hoping to continue 'No Mow' this year. We researched pollinator-friendly flowers and planted as many as possible.
  • I drive a hybrid car and my husband drives an electric car. I try not to fly where possible and we travel overseas using public transport or the electric car. I also lift share where possible.
  • We’ve just replaced our broken boiler with a heat pump, using the government grant available. We’ve checked that our insulation is all up to optimum standards. We’ve explored fitting solar panels but our garden is north-facing and we’re lucky enough to have a big oak tree close-by, so too much shade.
  • We switched to a renewables-based energy supplier.
  • We researched eco-friendly banks and switched our personal banking to Starling.
  • I shop at local refill store The Green Stores and recycle all possible materials in council-provided recycling bins, plus I take soft plastics to the local Co-op for recycling.
  • We buy vegetables from an eco-friendly veg box provider and compost all vegetable waste in the garden.
  • We Freecycle items we no longer need or give them to charity. I keep my clothes a long time and buy clothes from charity shops. I’m hoping to go to a clothes swap soon, run by local charity Loved Up.

How did you decide what you could do?

I spoke to friends and other people in the community. During lockdown, my friend Rosi Jordon and I started local group Sustainable Three Rivers, hoping to bring more people in the community together to focus on being sustainable. So I speak to people in the group and other people I meet and get tips on new ways to be more sustainable. I also read online resources – is a great source of independent info on what’s sustainable.

Is it difficult to make meaningful changes?

I think it’s easy to make meaningful changes, so long as you take it step by step. Pick the areas first that are easiest for you, so you can feel good about achieving something, and work from there.

What is the easiest thing anyone reading could do right now to make their life more sustainable / environmentally friendly?

Probably reducing the number of meat meals that they eat – the meat and dairy industries are such massive contributors to deforestation and carbon emissions. Also, making sure their house is insulated up to recommended standards and switching to a planet-friendly bank and switching any investments (pension etc) away from banks with bad sustainability records.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

Reducing travel, I guess. It is a passion of mine and I’ve just reached a stage in life where I can travel more but now I weigh-up the impacts of any trip I plan and travel less than I’d like to

Do you think changes we make in our daily lives make a difference to the world?

Yes! Everything we do, however small it feels, is contributing to the greater whole. That’s how things work in the natural world – fungi, insects etc. If every one of us made just a few changes, that would add up to so much. And if you talk to people about what you're doing as well, the impact is even greater – there's such a powerful ripple effect in sharing positive changes. With all of the difficult news around just now, we need to look after our mental health. Knowing that you are personally acting to help the planet and that you are part of a community doing the same thing, is very heartening.

Would you like to be doing more?

There are always new lifestyle changes that I can make but I also think it’s important not to get overwhelmed with eco-guilt. I’d like to connect with more people and talk about how we can be more planet-friendly as a community. I’d like to get involved with local projects, grow Sustainable Three Rivers and help influence our local council and MP to become more and more engaged with the climate emergency.

What are your future plans to make your life even more environmentally friendly?

I’d like to learn more about sustainable gardening, maybe swap to a plug-in hybrid car for local journeys if it makes sense sustainably and to continue to be part of initiatives which push Central government to honour and speed up its Net Zero plans. Also, I plan to spend as much time as possible out in nature because, when we feel connected to the planet , we remember to care and to act.

Please give five top tips for living a greener life.

  • Reduce meat and dairy
  • Buy fewer new things
  • Reduce and recycle packaging
  • Make sure your home is well insulated
  • Spend more time walking in nature and thinking about how we’re part of an amazing, complex natural world that we need to look after.