Exactly a year ago I posted a link to Malcolm Baldwin’s wonderful short film about community renewable energy systems on Eigg, a small island on the West coast of Scotland. In September I was fortunate enough to visit Eigg to see for myself what this small community have achieved. You can see my embarrassingly inferior but thankfully very short film here.
Since the people of Eigg wrested control of their island from the former owner in 1997 they have moved from dependency on diesel generators to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. Wind, water and solar power meet the needs of the island’s 100 people. Homes are limited to 5kW and businesses to 10kW but insulation, AAA electrical appliances and OWL meters to monitor usage make it easy to stay within these limits.
Not content with these achievements the community have ambitious 10 year targets to reduce their carbon footprint and become a more resilient and sustainable community. They aim to:
* Reduce reliance on fossil fuels to a minimum by using alternative fuels and reducing demand.
* Make homes and businesses more energy efficient.
* Use low or zero emission transport on Eigg and the mainland
* Produce most of their food on the island and source the rest seasonally from nearby and with less packaging.
* Reduce waste and the need to use a mainland landfill site to the minimum.
The story of the community buy-out is told in Alastair McIntosh’s book Soil and Soul: People Versus Corporate Power, published in 2001. At the time of the buy-out the population was around 60. When I visited in 2012 I met a young man who proudly claimed to be the 100th resident. Eigg is becoming a thriving community with many young people returning to the island or moving there to make it their home and set up in business.
Among the new residents are Norah and Bob who moved to the island in 2004 to set up a sustainability education centre. I stumbled on the Earth Connections Sustainability Centre, which began running courses in 2012, after getting lost on my way down from climbing An Sgurr and coming on their retrofitted building hidden in a dense wood and surrounded by orchards and a forest garden. So this mention is the result of my poor navigational skills.
Eigg has an excellent website with lots that will tempt you to make the long journey – you can go to Mallaig by train on the Harry Potter line (the Glenfinnan Viaduct and Jacobite Steam train feature in the films) and then take the ferry, so no need to drive or fly.
I’ll leave the last word to the island:
“The world is made up of small communities and any community can be a green island…If we each look after our own island we will all take care of the world” Quoted from ‘Big Green Footsteps – Island Going Green’.