Walking in the Lake District

How to save the planet: borrowing vs buying

Leigh Turner
Leigh Turner

How to save the planet: not buying stuff can be fun and rewarding. The sharing economy is a great way to decrease your ecological footprint.

Lord of Light

The novel Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny, opens with the following lines:

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha– and the –atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.

I was thinking of Lord of Light the other day, and the sharing economy company Fat Llama, when walking the last 100 miles of the Pennine Way.

Robert Pimm

This is not the Pennine Way, but the Lake District in 2007

Walking the Pennine Way

In 2017 I was due to walk the Pennine Way with my brother, with whom I walked the Dales Way in 2003 and who had done all the hard planning, including scoping the route, booking accommodation and so on (he had already walked the first 168 miles of the Pennine Way, on his own).  But for various reasons he then could not go – disaster.  Fortunately, my daughter volunteered to come with me instead.  You can read the results here.

How to save the planet: maps

The connection with Lord of Light is the maps for the Pennine Way.

I recall the novel as the setting for a religion based on carpentry (sic).  You visit a temple to collect wood and sacred tools.  You make a beautiful model.  Then you burn it on the altar and leave the temple feeling whole and purified.

(I have just skimmed through LoL and cannot find the temple – was it another book?  Advice, please!)

The quirkiness of the sacred carpentry concept has long stuck in my mind.  You create something beautiful.  Then you destroy it.  Why not, since you will die eventually?  If you buy today, say, a computer or a guitar or a dress, how long do you need to keep it before getting rid of it?

How to save the planet: no maps

In 2003, when we walked the Dales Way, we bought maps and a guidebook and set off.  By 2017, the navigational options had multiplied.  In addition to maps and a guidebook, we had a GPS system, plus an Ordnance Survey subscription which allowed me to see where I was on an Ordnance Survey map on my phone.

Pennine Way cognoscenti will have noticed the catch here.  The rugged moorlands of northern England are not famed for wi-fi signals or 3G reception.  Ordnance Survey, however, cleverly allow you to download bits of their maps so that they are available, with a GPS locator signal, when you are out of range of 3G.  I spent a enjoyable evening tracking the route of the Pennine Way on a 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey map on my iPhone and downloading segments of map along the entire route. I thus created a perfect collection of maps for walking the northernmost 100 miles of the Pennine Way.

Moreover, the GPS works even if the phone is in “flight mode”, meaning the battery is fresh and lively the whole day.

When you’ve finished with something, you don’t need it

When my subscription to the Ordnance Survey ran out, that collection of maps disappeared into thin air.  Does that matter?

In fact, those maps were as redundant, once used, as my 1978 Michelin map of Yugoslavia (sheet 991), which I still keep but have barely looked at since I drove with friends in a VW bus through Pristina and Titograd – now Podgorica – and along the coast to Trieste in the summer of that year.

Map of Yugoslavia

The road through Titograd (so named from 1946-1992) in 1978

The puzzle over the desirability and technology of retaining digital information is familiar to anyone who has contemplated their mortality and the future of their digital photographs and iTunes collection.  But it’s a real-world problem too, as owners of vinyl record collections or cassette tapes will know.

How to save the planet: “Eternal Life”

My comedy thriller Eternal Life, in which some people live more or less forever, posits amongst other things that living longer would make you want to own better quality stuff (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).  Is this right?  Thoughts welcome.

Eternal Life by Leigh Turner

How to save the planet: Fat Llama

One cool solution to this is the sharing economy.  Fat Llama is a sharing economy company whose slogan is “”rent almost anything”.    The concept strikes me as brilliant (disclosure: my son was one of the co-founders).  It also has a fine logo:

How to save the planet: Fat Llama

Borrowing or renting stuff instead of buying it (why own an electric drill?) is a brilliant idea.  It’s good for the environment; good for your wallet; and good for your quality of life.  A 2009 UK survey showed that 69% of British people in new homes felt they did not have space for all their possessions.  A US survey in 2012 showed mothers’ stress levels correlated to the amount of stuff jammed into a home.

I hope Fat Lama will continue to double its turnover every month and change the world.

As for my digital Pennine Way maps, I followed the teachings of Mahasamatman, god or not, and let them go with a smile.  Is this how to save the planet? Possibly. And if I ever need them again, I can re-subscribe.

P.S. to find out how to walk the Pennine Way, see my post How to find your way


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2 Responses

  1. Good morning

    I looked at the site of “Fat Lama” and liked the idea.

    I have been creating clothes for more than 25 years using recycled fabrics. I started this when I could not find anything which I liked and could afford and then it developed into more than a hobby but for a while a healer as I spent months going back and forth to a hospice. I hand sewed old cashmere sweaters (bought cheap from a time working in Asia) into stories with flowers, butterflies and symbols. Creating my own perfect, peaceful world.

    This then developed into a passion. I create individual items of clothing using items which are no longer used and people don’t want. Hey I am not saying that you should go to the office wearing an item made entirely out of newspapers, it might rustle:) but it has been done. I bought a man’s jacket from a souk in Libya and on dissecting it, it was lined with exactly that, old newspapers. Very innovative. Nor rummage through the local tip.

    You can reuse so much from your kid’s no longer wanted bedlinen (who says that Star Wars cannot be on the front of a 1950s style dress) or that an old diving suit’s fabric cannot be used for pockets or the back of a jacket, or why not use old scarves no longer used as lining or the hand sewn initials from a relatives handkerchief sew into the inside of an item. You know its there, no-one else has to.

    I revamp clothes for friends, and friends of friends who have items have not been worn for more than ten years as they are out of date, make them feel ugly or fat or are too small.

    Why not have fewer items and those you have something previous and unique and also lasting but also knowing that the textiles have a history.

    On another note, the fashion industry is a great polluter even if your cotton or linen t-shirt has not been dyed using the toxic colours, thanks to globalisation it has most likely travelled halfway around the world in a container ship fuelled by the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

  2. The Ramblers Inn in Edale is not bad for a beer. My dad lives in Castleton
    nearby 🙂

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