About us.....

Abingdon Carbon Cutters is a Community Action Group formed to help reduce the carbon footprint of Abingdon in response to climate change, and to promote a sustainable and resilient lifestyle for our town as fossil fuel stocks decline. We meet on the third Wednesday of each month at St Ethelwold's House, which is here.

At some meetings, we have guest speakers to present various topics, and at others we discuss our own personal actions to address climate change. The group has a focus on encouragement, both of one another, and of the town community.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Public speaker training session

Simon Kenton, our CAG minder, is keen that at least 2 people from Abingdon Carbon Cutters goes to this, ideally at least one "new" member. Do consider it!

In response to feedback generated from CAGs during the last year, we are pleased to announce that we will be holding a public speaker training session on Saturday 4th July. The course is aimed at people who wish to communicate the aims of their group to members of the public, be it in large formal public meetings or one-to-one over a coffee. It is especially well suited for people who want to talk within a peer group, for example within an organisation, church, or workplace team.

COIN's (Climate Outreach Information Network) intensive one-day training course gives participants the text, information, skills and confidence to prepare and deliver a persuasive talk, including how to put a point across, form an argument and deliver your message in the most appropriate way. The course uses climate change as a topic but participants will find the skills equally valuable for presenting other issues, such as waste and energy reduction, sustainable transport, etc. Participants are guided through an example talk on the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change, and work in pairs and small groups to find their own language and practice their presentation. Through role-plays participants explore what qualities make a good (and a bad) public speaker and in small groups they explore their own fears about public speaking. The training also gives them advice skills on dealing with sceptics and ‘difficult’ audiences.

New speakers will gain the confidence to speak powerfully by talking of their own experiences, hopes and fears. Seasoned speakers will obtain new skills for communicating more effectively. The course is accompanied by a template talk worksheets and a pack containing pull-out fact sheets on ‘Moving People’, ‘Engaging your audience’, ‘Speaking Skills’, ‘Climate Change Impacts’, ‘Dealing with Counter Arguments’, and ‘Managing Discussion’.

We expect the event to be oversubscribed so we are limiting places to two per CAG – if you have more than two people who wish to attend, please let us know and they can be placed on a reserve list. In order to finalise numbers and offer out any spare places, please confirm your attendance by Monday 8th June.

Please note: In order to provide the best possible training, we are paying to use the expertise of COIN who have many years of training experience. In order to help us pay for this course, we are asking for a contribution of £10 per participant. This can come from your annual maintenance grant and should be paid on the day.

Hot and cold drinks will be provided and we are also suggesting a ‘bring and share’ lunch – please come along with a simple, cold dish that can be shared - let us know if you’d like some examples of what you could bring.

CAG Training Event: Public Speaker Training

Saturday 4th July 2009. Folly Bridge Inn, 9.30am - 4pm


09.30 - 10.00 Reception and coffee
10.00 – 13.00 Training session 1
13.00 - 14.00 Lunch – ‘bring and share’ (see note above)
14.00 - 16.00 Training session 2

The venue we’ve decided on is central to Oxford , with really good public transport links. Note that we will be using a room on the 1st floor, so please let me know if potential participants have difficulty using stairs. The address is:

Folly Bridge Inn,
38 Abingdon Rd
Oxford, OX1 4PD.
Tel: 01865 790106

How to get there.
Use the postcode to get directions, using one of these:

AA Route Planner
Google Maps

By train: Oxford train Station is also about 1 mile away, easily walkable, and the X3 bus runs regularly from the station.

By bus: Check your local services for details. The venue is about 1 mile from the Oxford bus station.

By car:

Redbridge Park and Ride is also about 1 mile away and, if you don’t feel like walking, there is a regular bus service (X3 or X13)

Or, if you really need to drive all the way, there is a car park to the rear of the pub. Please try to car share with people near you. If you have spaces free and would like help filling them, please let me know.

If you have any trouble finding the venue or you require any further information, please call 07793 647190.
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Abingdon Efficient Energy Centre showroom open day

This information has been received, inviting us to the launch of the Abingdon Efficient Energy Centre showroom.

Heelas Heating and renewables are launching their eco-show room on the seventh of June, Abingdon Efficient Energy Centre will incorporate displays of a solar hot water system, ground source heat pump, high-efficiency oil and gas boilers and all of the other essentials involved with installing a super energy-efficient heating system. Anyone wanting to attend the launch day on Sunday the seventh of June ( 10 a.m. till 4 p.m.) could be in with a chance of winning a new boiler and £500 towards installation.

Heelas Heating & Renewables
83 Vineyard
OX14 3PG

Tel: 0844 800 1682
e-mail: info@heelasheating.co.uk
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Monday, May 25, 2009


Several websites have come to my notice in the last week that have a real bearing on what we could do to reduce Abingdon's carbon footprint. It seems there are people out there who have done a lot of the legwork. I would really appreciate if you could find time to look at one or two of these and give us some feedback!

First up is Ashton Hayes, who made a decision to aspire to be "the UK's first carbon-neutral village". They have had funding to help spread the word to others, so they are very professional! The main website is http://www.goingcarbonneutral.co.uk/ and the advice for other communities is at http://www.goingcarbonneutral.co.uk/getting-your-project-off-the-g/
I will request a DVD from them for the group.

Secondly there is Chester, whose plan, Vision 2050, has undergone academic review and (but?) is very well written. They wrote: A group of us in Chester wrote this document for the new unity council here. It outlines a low carbon vision for 2050 and lays out how the council, communities and business can start to work together to get there. We'd like it to be used as far and wide as possible as the majority of it can be used elsewhere. Please send it to councils, communities, business, anyone you think may be able to use it. http://www.chester.gov.uk/pdf/Vision2050.pdf

Thirdly there is Blewbury Energy Initiative just down the road from Abingdon, who are a small group who have a very comprehensive webshttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifite: http://www.blewbury.co.uk/energy/energy.htm

Fouthly there is Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group http://www.gssg.org.uk/ who have donw a lot of the legwork on the feasibility of getting electricity from the Thames - with a nice picture of how their hydro-electric scheme will look - a giant Archimedes screw! If they can do it, so can we....

So get surfing and let us know your thoughts - either to me or on the blog - http://carboncutters.blogspot.com . But please don't just suggest something for other people to do - if you think something should be done, offer to get involved in making it happen!

All these ideas will be thrown around at our AGM on Wednesday July 15th, 7.30pm at St Ethelwolds House, 30 East St Helen Street, OX14 5EB

See you then.
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Bike Week - June 13th-21st - Requests

Do you know someone with a modern unusual bike e.g. recumbent bike, adult disabled bike, tandem, tricycle etc? We would love them to bring it along on Saturday 13th to show people what a wide range of bikes are "out there", and what a variety of uses one can make of them. We have heard of at least one person who takes all his tools to the allotment in his bike trailer and has room to take a picnic too! We promise to take photos of all the bikes and put them on our website!

Also, Eleanor is still looking for helpers in Bike week, particularly Sat 13th June (9.30a.m.-4.30 p.m.) and Sunday 14th June (1-4p.m.) . Do get in touch with her if you can help - eledanger@hotmail.com
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Sunday, May 24, 2009


Last night Pete and I went to an event at Science Live Oxford, an evening discussing biofuels with Ben Mayo (who works in the local biofuel industry).

Ben’s presentation centred around using biofuels for bin lorries, which have a surprisingly (until you think about it) high carbon footprint. The loads they carry, and the stop-start nature of the routes, means that they are very fuel hungry vehicles, and they can account for 15% of a local authority’s carbon footprint. They’re also difficult to run on alternative fuels – hybrids would need too many batteries and an LPG conversion compromises the load space to a large degree.

But the fact that they return to the depot after each route makes them ideal candidates for conversion to biodiesel – they can refuel at the depot rather than requiring a biodiesel distribution system.

Local authorities have been given ambitious carbon reduction targets by the government, and reducing the carbon footprint of their waste collections could be a very big step in the right direction. But what are the downsides?

Biodiesel is essentially plant oils treated chemically to make them less viscose (thick) (or you can use a twin tank system, which starts an engine using mineral diesel and then uses waste energy heat to heat the biodiesel until it’s runny enough to go through the engine properly).

Virgin vegetable oils (VO) are expensive – and controversial, since it is essentially converting a food product into a fuel. There’s also wider environmental impacts to consider. But they’re readily available, high quality and can be converted into a reliable, consistent and high quality biodiesel.

Waste vegetable oils (WVO), from the catering industry, have a superior environmental profile and are cheaper. But the fragmented sources and the varying product quality make it harder to produce consistent and high quality fuel. The problem here is that although older diesel engines aren’t fussy about their fuel, modern high-tech engines are. And commercial vehicles have tighter emissions controls than the domestic fleet.

Biodiesel has a different emissions profile than mineral diesel, and emits more nitrous oxides (NOx, which causes problems with local air quality but is also a greenhouse gas), but new technology allows NOx to be removed from exhaust gases.

If the technical problems can be overcome (and they can) then converting bin lorries to run on biodiesel made from waste oil is cheaper and more environmentally friendly – so it looks like a simple decision. Biodiesel gives effectively the same mpg as mineral diesel, and if made from waste oils have an 85-90% reduction in CO2 over the lifecycle of the fuel.

However, even if we convert all of our waste vegetable oil into biodiesel, we’re still only looking at a few percent of our total diesel requirements here in the UK. Biodiesel isn’t going to solve all of our problems, but what it does do is start to break away from the mentality that fossil fuels are the only answer. Other alternative fuels (fuel crops that grow on otherwise non-productive land, algae and seaweed, and renewable energy in general) can then benefit from a more positive environment and increased investment and research.

After Ben's presentation there was a group activity, looking at the various stakeholders who would be involved in a decision to convert bin lorries to run on biodiesel – the environmental officers, fleet managers, vehicle managers, the public, local catering outlets, environmentalists, etc.

One of the main concerns is that using biodiesel voids the manufacturers warranty on the vehicle, especially if fuel cannot be manufactured to the European standard (which is tricky, from WVO). Ben's solution to this is to define a reachable standard and then find a third-party insurer to take on the warranty – which makes the conversion a no-risk choice for the local council.

However, there are only two vehicle manufacturers in this sector (Mercedes and Dennis Eagle), and so a large fleet manager would have considerable sway over them. And as waste collections are generally outsourced (to companies like Biffa and Grundon), if they could be brought on board then the process could be made considerably easier.

Here in Oxfordshire, biodiesel is available to the general public via Golden Fuels (http://www.goldenfuels.com), a well-established co-operative that collects waste oil for processing into biodiesel that is then sold to consumers and local businesses.
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the nef / Ecologist essay competition: What price carbon?

On hearing of the death while riding of one his more stubborn ideological opponents, the champion of evolutionary theory, T H Huxley, said that it was the first time that the man's head made contact with reality, and the experience had obviously proved fatal. Gordon Brown claims that the world needs "a new paradigm that moves the environmental challenge to the centre of policy", and yet, in spite of the fact that both the UK and the world as a whole are already in ecological debt due to overconsumption, he remains convinced that the global economy can double in size over the next twenty years.

A lot of faith is being put into carbon markets to tackle climate change. But the markets we do have, like the European Emissions Trading Scheme, are out-of-line with the carbon cuts that science tells us is necessary. In other words, without much more dramatic caps on emissions, we could end up trading ourselves over a global warming cliff. It's the paradox of environmental economics. Sometimes in well-intentioned attempts to put a price on natural resources, we can miss the bigger picture.

So, to connect our politicians with reality before it is too late, we've come up with a question. And, we'd like to know what you think. nef has teamed up with the Ecologist to run an essay competition. The question is:

"How do you price the extra tonne of carbon that, once burned, tips the balance
and triggers potentially catastrophic, irreversible global warming?"

All submissions must be under 1,000 words, submitted electronically to mark@theecologist.org and andrew.simms@neweconomics.org and be received by June 30th.

The winner will receive a copy of Andrew Simms' book, Ecological Debt: Global Warming and the Wealth of Nations, and will be considered for publication in the Ecologist.
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National liftshare Day is coming - how much could you save?

National liftshare Day is the biggest car-sharing event of the year - a time to give it a try and see how much you could save - so make sure you have a sharer or two lined up for Tuesday 9 June. Last year, 16,000 new members signed up in June alone, dramatically increasing your likelihood of finding someone to share with.

There are lots of ways to get involved and help spread the word:

* If you haven't already got a car-sharer or two, try running another search by logging onto your account at www.liftshare.com. Hundreds of people join the network every day, so there is every possibility that someone going your way has joined since you last logged on. And don't forget that you don't need a car to car-share; lots of drivers are happy to offer a lift in exchange for a contribution to fuel costs and some friendly company!
* Add an automated signature to your personal emails which encourages people to try car-sharing. We have created one you can download - just go to www.liftshare.com/sig.asp
* Encourage your friends, family and colleagues to give car-sharing a try on National liftshare Day by sending them an email telling them about the benefits;
* Suggest your employer does more to promote car-sharing in the work place. They can find out more about how we can help at www.liftshare.com/business.

According to the Drivers’ Alliance, the cost of using a car has risen in real terms by as much as 35% in the last six years. That’s on top of the financial pressures of the current recession and the rise in fuel duty of 2p per litre from September announced in the Chancellor's budget speech last week. Yet commuters who car-share every day often save many hundreds of pounds a year (such as these happy sharers!)
Keeping your profile up-to-date

You can update your profile with information such as whether you’re a smoker, whether you want to receive these occasional e-newsletters and whether you want email alerts - you can also change your contact details. You’ll find it all on your ‘My Settings’ page.

And don’t forget that you can personalise your profile by adding your photo.
Join us on Facebook and Twitter

Have you found us on Facebook yet? Keep in touch with events and news, and share your thoughts and photos, by becoming a fan of ‘liftshare - car-sharing network’!

And if you are Twittering... you can follow us at @liftshare_team.
Ever thought of walking or cycling to work?

If you do not live too far from work, you might have considered walking or cycling sometimes - but were maybe put off by the idea of doing it alone. Well now is the time to give it a try! This is Walk to Work Week (27 April-1 May) and Bike Week is from 13-21 June. You can use your liftshare account to do a search for a WalkBUDi or a BikeBUDi to keep you company.
You are invited to The Big Lunch!

The Big Lunch will involve millions of people sitting down to eat lunch at the same time - in their street, with their community, on Sunday 19 July.

Just as car-sharing is all about bringing individuals together, so is The Big Lunch. It's really easy to get involved; to find out how to organise a Big Lunch - and for tips, ideas and resources - just go to www.thebiglunch.com or call 020 7636 8152.
And finally... help us to help you to car-share!

The more members there are on the liftshare network, the more chances you have of finding more matches.

Stick a car sticker in your rear windscreen and you’ll be getting the message to countless people travelling the same way as you. Just send us a stamped addressed envelope to car-share stickers, liftshare, Butterfly Hall, Carvers Lane, Attleborough, Norfolk NR17 1AB, and we’ll send you 3 stickers at no cost.

Best wishes and happy car-sharing!

Everyone at liftshare
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Veg bags?

Have you considered reducing your Carbon Foot Print with a nutritious, local, organic veg bag?

Tolhurst Organic Produce in South Oxfordshire, founded 30 years ago by Iain Tolhurst, a well known and inspiring figure within the organic movement, make a weekly delivery of freshly harvested, organic, seasonal vegetables (and fruit) to Central Abingdon. You cannot choose the precise contents of your bag (this keeps the price down) but you can add to it from the extras list of such items as potatoes, onions, carrots, and salad leaves when in season. You can have the bag on a regular or irregular basis. The prices are comparable to, or less than, super market non-organic / non-local veg. They come in 3 sizes.

They use a system of distribution that relies on dropping the produce to collection points* around the delivery area. Orders are placed with the reps, and produce collected from them. There are many reasons for doing this:

* It reduces the cost of delivery and gives better value for money.
* It reduces energy use and lowers their carbon footprint**.
* It allows for the efficient re-use of packaging. Customers are able to return their bags which are used over and over again
* It is a more friendly and informal way of buying veg than the supermarket
* It provides a local link to the farm and reduces their administration time

** A recent audit of Tolhurst Organic Produce by the University of Surrey found that they created just eight tonnes of carbon a year, 45% of which is from electricity to produce and distribute the veg to over 400 customers. This is the same annual carbon footprint as that of an average household which makes the business an amazing 90% more efficient than non-organic produce grown and delivered to the supermarket.

‘Tolly’ offers a fascinating, educational annual tour of the farm and crops to his customers.

*The collection point in Abingdon is in East Saint Helen Street. If you would like to try a bag please contact Susie Howard Tel: 533278 / email: susiehoward1@gmail.com

For more info please see their website: www.tolhurstorganic.co.uk
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Challenge Cameron's (green) Credentials.

If you don't plan to see "The Age of Stupid" next Friday evening, do you want to go and challenge Cameron's green credentials? See below for how to get a ticket.

Nicola Blackwood, Conservative Candidate for Oxford West & Abingdon, invites you to attend a free 'Question and Answer' session with David Cameron MP, Leader of the Conservative Party, in Abingdon on Friday 22nd May.

It's a return to the old-style town hall meetings, where David Cameron answers questions from local residents - there are no scripts or planted questions.

CAMERON DIRECT gives you the chance to discover David Cameron's thoughts on issues that concern you.

Time: 1815hrs
Venue: Larkmead School, Faringdon Road ,
Abingdon , OX14 1RF
Date: Friday 22nd May 2009

To register for your free ticket please email:

Everyone welcome - refreshments provided.
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CAG Project - something for Churches?

The CAG project has been approached by Ruth Conway of SS Mary and John Church, in the Cowley Road, Oxford to see if church groups could be more active in the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle. We would like to explore how church congregations could work along side CAGs , borrowing their expertise and experience. Many churches are part of eco-congregation which aims to encourage churches to consider environmental issues within a Christian context and enable local churches to make a positive contribution. Many have churchyard projects, as does SS Mary and John to have a wildflower remembrance garden, and create habitat for wildlife.

Ruth wants to expand church members’ activities, and start ‘green groups’. Selly Oak in Birmingham have a green group that have been active for about ten years and involved in many projects including; car share/hire scheme, cycling, raising awareness of carbon reduction, and encouraging growing your own – all things that CAGs do! In their entrance to the Church they have a “Green Machine”. This is a collection point for recycling about 14 items, items that are not currently collected by their Council but things that could be useful to other people. This seems a great idea, if every church in Oxfordshire had a group of people responsible for dealing with the collected items, much more could be reused or recycle. CAGs are being asked to share their local knowledge and suggest items that could be collected, that have a use. For instance the Selly Oak group collect knitting wool to be distributed to housebound people who knit for Oxfam – is there such a group of people here in Oxford , knitting for Oxfam?

What do CAGs collect and what do they do with the items? Is there use for?:

· used stamps
· spectacle
· used envelopes
· foil
· printer cartridges
· mobile phones
· Other suggestions and outlets for disposal please………

Please send your ideas to me by the 26th May so that I can collate them all together when I get back from holiday and then take this further. We will share your ideas and what to do with such items with all the CAGs , possibly with a leaflet, but certainly on the website.

If you have not yet seen the new look CAG website, do have a look and sign up as a member. www.cagoxfordshire.org.uk

Frances Buckel | CAG Project Officer


c/o Waste Management Group|Oxfordshire County Council | Speedwell House| Speedwell St|Oxford OX1 1NE
Mob 07903 037290|Tel +44 (0)1865 815871| Fax +44 (0)1865 815787| www.cagoxfordshire.org.uk
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

GoingCarbonNeutral website

A colleague from Henley alerted me to this website at the Transitioners meeting. It looks very interesting with plenty of ideas for us to think about following the CarbonCutters meeting on May 20th.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Swapshop - 27th June - Larkmead School

27th June 2009
10-11:30 am
Larkmead School ( Main Hall )
Faringdon Road
OX14 1RF

Admission, Bringing and Swapping is FREE
Refreshments, BBQ and Cakes for sale ( proceeds to go to Lark Rise )
We would appreciate no traders or dealers, please as this is a school and community event.

Organised by Lark Rise ( the Parent Teacher Association of Larkmead school ) with the aims of encouraging community links and of raising awareness
of Reuse/Recycling and saving items from going to landfill.

We have some details on our website and more to be completed soon. www.lark-rise.org.uk
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Age of Stupid - screening in Abingdon, 22nd May

Further to conversations after the Power of Community screening, it has been confirmed that "The Age of Stupid" will be screened in Abingdon

It will be shown at the Peachcroft Christian Centre (community cinema) on Friday 22nd May, which corresponds to the national release of the film. Doors open at 7pm with the screening starting at 7.30. We have to pay a licence to show the film, so there will be a small entry charge of £2.50.
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Further to the notes from the last CarbonCutters meeting, and thoughts on land available for cultivation, some of you might be interested in this site: www.landshare.net

This tries to link up people who want to grow with available land.
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Bike Week - June 13th-21st - Events in Abingdon

Saturday 13th June 10a.m.-1p.m. - Stalls by St Nicolas arch - Sustrans, event information, security marking, unusual bikes, cycling survey.

Sunday 14th June - 1-3p.m. - Bike Treasure Hunt - Follow an easy, circular course starting in Abbey Meadows with clues to look out for on the way. Bring a picnic. Suitable for families.

Sunday 14th June - 4p.m. - Cycle ride around the modern boundaries of Abingdon, led by Andy Watt. Meet by St Nicolas arch.

Wednesday 17th June - 7.30p.m. - St Ethelwold's House, 30 East St Helen St. - "How to look after your Bike" - a qualified bicycle mechanic will demonstrate bike safety checks and simple repairs to small groups. Also fun cycling films to watch, bookstall and refreshments. Entry £3.

Sunday 21st June - 2.30 -5.30 p.m. Historic Abingdon ride - Mike Ellwood will lead a ride around the historic sites of Abingdon, both ancient and modern, with frequent stops for explanatory talks.

Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult on all rides.

For more information, contact Eleanor on eledanger@hotmail.com
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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Green Economics Institute - introductory training course

The Green Economics Institute is pleased to announce that it is running
an introductory training course in Green Economics on May 16th 2009 at
The Old Music Hall in Oxford.
There are few places left and we encourage early booking to secure

Everyone is very welcome. No prior knowledge of economics is needed to
be able to enjoy this course- which has lecturers from and with
experience of several continents, including Europe and Asia with an
emphasis on Africa.

The course will explore green solutions to the economic downturn, to
climate change and to the current mass extinction of species. It will
also focus on prevention of poverty and also poverty as a gendered issue
especially in the context of Africa and will feedback from the important
women's unequal pay and poverty conference just held in March by the
Green Economics Institute.

The course is designed to introduce participants to some of the major
themes in economics and in the development of green economics and some
of the main theories and writers and practitioners. It is designed to
help them to share their own experiences and to be confident in dealing
with economics, and economists and economics techniques in their future
activities of all kinds.

It will appeal to government officials, business people, campaigners and
NGOs and academics in all sorts of fields. We take a wide holistic and
multidisciplinary approach to the practise and theory and implementation
of economics.

The course is participatory, and will include case studies, and lectures
and workshop. The material and course has been run in a variety of
countries and situations as varied as at Oxford University, in Poland,
in Germany, and also in the open air in fields and tents.

If you would like to come along please pre register and fill in the
booking form. There are a few places left and this will be the
last reminder sent out to fill these places.

More details and booking form are here

Miriam Kennet
The Green Economics Institute
00 44 1189841026
Editor International Journal of Green Economics
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