My Green Story - Karen La Borde
Green Party candidate for Camborne & Redruth
My husband and I set up our first business when I was 27. It was a small engineering company which serviced the garment manufacture industry. When the industry moved abroad to places like Vietnam, Morocco and Bangladesh, we decided to semi-retire. In 2006 we set off on a mid-life gap year and trained to be ski instructors in Canada. Back then, we did not consider our carbon footprints nor did we realise how climate change was impacting on our lives. I studied politics at Leeds University in the early 1980s and knew about global warming, but during the 80s and 90s I put all this information at the back of my mind while I raised a family and earned money to keep them. I cannot explain how or why I was able to do this, it just happened, as it probably did for many other people. During this time I retained my ‘green’ credentials by recycling as much as I could, not having a dishwasher (still can’t explain that one), and being a member of Greenpeace, fundraising annually by delivering and collecting donation envelopes from neighbours.
In our semi-retirement we set up a ‘lifestyle’ business, the Winter Sports Company, and from 2009 until September this year trained young people to be ski and snowboard instructors. We recently sold the business as I was unable to continue selling a product I could not condone. I am now investigating starting a cooperative in a greener business.
My life began to change in 2012 when I lived in Praa Sands and took my dog on the beach daily and began collecting plastic. I soon realised how far removed we were becoming from nature and how we were damaging our environment. In 2014 I decided to join the Green Party so I could become involved in helping to make a difference. The more I read and the more I discussed the climate and the death of species, the more my life changed. I don’t use single use plastic, I don’t fly, I have an electric bike instead of a car, I moved to mid Cornwall to be nearer transport links, and the last piece of the pie was to get rid of the family business and move to a smallholding where I now live multi-generationally with my husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandson. We have started to grow vegetables and keep chickens. I travel much less than I ever did. I own far less and yet this is the happiest time of my life.
Climate activism has now become a way of life for me. I attended the first XR meeting in Cornwall in September 2018 and was part of the very first Extinction Rebellion protest to hold the 5 bridges in London where I sat on Southwark bridge with friends from Penzance and Falmouth. In December 2018 I lobbied Cornwall Council to declare a climate emergency and have since been involved helping to inform the emergency plan and ask questions at cabinet and full council meetings. I set up a small group of people to present climate talks to parish and town councils, of which 50% in Cornwall have now declared a climate emergency. I was arrested in October alongside George Monbiot and Jonathan Bartley for sitting in the road in Whitehall, and I helped lead the protest to stop Cornwall Council spending £12 million on the Spaceport.
The Winter Sports Company is now owned by a younger couple who are embarking on changes to reduce its carbon footprint. Although the business relies on flights to get people to resort, the majority of sales are for 18 weeks courses or full season internships. Many of those on internships stay in Canada for up to 2 years, so this is an opportunity for them to travel and work and not just a holiday. The Green Party policy on flying is to introduce a frequent flyer levy to deter the 15% of the population who take 70% of the flights every year from flying so often. The tourism industry will have to see many changes over the next 10 years, and having been involved within it I am hoping to help the Green Party come up with some of the solutions.