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Newsletter 18

Climate action news from Skye and beyond
'Dazzling Blue' kale seed pods.
Atlas Art's exciting new seed sharing project starts in October - read on! 
Photo: Dorothy Jackson
Welcome to October’s newsletter
with news and actions on the climate emergency in Skye and beyond

Skye Climate Action is a collaborative group, networking to share information and support and encourage all those who are taking action to reduce our carbon footprint and prepare for changes happening to our climate.

Whether you are taking a personal stand or are joining with others, whether on issues of food, transport, plastics, building, energy or anything else, do drop us an email to tell us what you are doing so we can share your story and inspire others.

If you use Facebook, please comment and post on our page, and invite new members by using the invite button. Visit our website for more news, events and information.

This month we’re continuing our focus on food, and the launch of Atlas Arts' October seed project, and also featuring local initiatives on plastics, a community forest and sustainable construction. There's also an update on Highland Council's actions on the climate emergency and overviews of how technology can work with farming to reduce climate emissions. 


At our last Conversation on 15th September we celebrated the first year of Skye Climate Action with brief reports back on agricultural plastic waste, Extinction Rebellion, sustainable building, transport, Highland Council, plastics, media presence, food growing and seed saving, communications, and advocacy. A summary of our last year's activities is here. All of this work has been done through volunteer efforts so far. Over the last twelve months the activities around communication, networking, outreach and advocacy (which are coordinated through the steering group) have increased.

Participants decided to carry on with Skye Climate Action's informal network structure for now. This enables people working on climate issues under their own steam to share information and provide mutual support for actions that are in line with Skye Climate Action's aims i.e. that help to reduce our carbon footprint or prepare for the changes happening to our climate. 
However, if the informal network is to continue successfully we need to share out the coordination and organisational work more. We're inviting supporters of Skye Climate Action to come forward if they have areas of interest they'd like to pursue, would like to join the steering group or would like to help in any way. This could be for just a month or two at a time, so it would not need to be an ongoing commitment. Drop us an email to share your thoughts and find out how you could help.
Our next Conversation will be on Wednesday 21st October at 7 pm

Launch of Atlas Art's Seed Project 

The Edinbane Zine Library, with seed swap envelopes. Photo: ATLAS Arts

October is the time when plants transform their energies into seeds for the future, and we look back at our gardening year and enjoy the bounty of the harvest in community with our family and friends. Reflecting this special time in the calendar, ATLAS Arts has woven together an exciting programme encompassing local seed sharing and growing, and events highlighting the importance of seeds for communities in other parts of the world. 

Connecting to our Grow Skye! Dùisg an talamh! project, ATLAS Arts are encouraging people in Skye and Lochalsh to save, deposit and share seeds from their harvest produce, and to share stories about growing on Skye. Accompanied by film, talks and publications focused on seed sovereignty and local and global food security, you are invited to take part and share your thoughts on what wakening the land means to you.

Throughout October and November, you can visit one of the Library boxes and deposit your own seeds in specially created envelopes for sharing with other local growers. You will find a supply of the seed envelopes in each box. Help yourself to seeds that others have shared too. ATLAS will be adding more information and resources on seed saving to their website and social media. You can also make your own zines for ATLAS to copy and distribute, to share your growing knowledge with people around Skye.

Viewfield Garden Collective in Portree will be sharing stories of their harvest produce, and tips on what has worked well for them in the garden this year. Check out their instagram throughout the Autumn season.

If you don’t have seeds to share, or are new to growing, don't worry - check out the free zines in the library anyway. The mini publications cover a range of subjects from seed saving to artist projects and activist knowledge.

ATLAS Art’s seed sharing programme continues with films, talks and publication sharings focused on seed sovereignty and global food security. The aim is to share the wealth of local knowledge and history related to food and land rights on Skye, and build solidarities with international activists who are dealing with the violent effects of food insecurity and environmental catastrophes as we speak.

Event programme in short: (More details on the events calendar on the SCA website)
1 Oct – 30th Nov: Share and borrow seeds and stories through The Skye Zine Library, free, all ages, location map
10 Oct, 2pm: The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, Online talk and participatory event, free, all ages, Book here
24 Oct, 7pmWild Relatives (2018) by Jumana Manna, Online screening, free, all ages, Book here
26 – 30 Oct, 10am – 6pm: In person screening, Wild Relatives (2018) by Jumana Manna, ATLAS Arts, Portree, Book here

If you have a story to share, get in touch and join the conversation. Get all the latest news on the programme on the ATLAS website.

A film to watch
Kiss the ground is a documentary released last month with a positive message on responding to climate change by regenerating the world’s soils, restoring lost ecosystems and creating abundant food supplies. The film shows how, by drawing down atmospheric carbon, soil is the missing piece of the climate puzzle. You can see the trailer on the website  and watch the full film on Netflix. It may be possible for SCA to screen the film at a future date.

Grow Skye! Dùisg an talamh! 

Seed saving, harvesting and storing food for the winter


Seed saving and human rights

The Seed Ambassador’s Zine: Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship & Seed Sovereignty is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of seed saving. It explains why the freedom to save and steward seeds helps to safeguard the foundation of our food system and lies in the realm of fundamental human rights

Support the Lemon Tree Trust’s project to help families who are living in refugee and internally displaced people camps in Kurdistan during the Covid19 crisis.  “Gardening has long been a source of solace and purpose for people who have been forcibly displaced. But now, more than ever, we need to support people to garden at home. For food. For flowers. For the future.” Find out how to donate your spare seeds by emailing

The Gaia Foundation is leading a Seed Sovereignty programme in collaboration with growers and farmers to create a biodiverse and ecologically sustainable seed system in the UK and Ireland. See their video and visit their website for more information. Maria Scholten is the Regional Coordinator for Highland and Islands, and is working with crofters and growers and advising on seed issues and policy, including identifying local land races.

Learning about seed saving

Saving your seed is the best way to propagate your garden – and the cheapest! But it is also a way of protecting our vegetable heritage: varieties that are adapted to a local area or have particular qualities that we enjoy. 

Garden Organic (which houses the Heritage Seed Library) has detailed guidelines on saving seeds from 15 different types of vegetables and runs a course in advanced seed saving, covering open-pollinated varieties and post-harvest techniques for a good shelf life for your seeds. You can find out more about their work, and even become a seed guardian yourself, here.

One of the UK's leading No Dig experts, Charles Dowding has demonstrated through comparative plots that No Dig is as productive, or more so, than conventional digging, but with much less work involved. His approach is to nourish the organisms of the soil, and their activities will feed the plants. Check out Charles’s website  and watch this video on principles, timings and techniques of seed saving.

Vital Seeds have an online course in saving seeds, with modules and quizzes. Learn and test your knowledge!

Real Seeds produce seeds of heirloom and modern strains, and encourage people to save their own seeds at home. They have written freely-copyable seed-saving guides, and sell a more detailed seed-saving book at a subsidised price. There’s really no need to buy new seed every year - you can just save your own. More information on the Real Seeds website.

What to grow in October

Liz Zorab of Byther organic homestead suggests 16 vegetable varieties that you can sow now for cropping over winter and early spring.

Storing your harvest

When you have harvested your vegetables, what is the best way to store them?

Charles Dowding explains easy ways to store vegetables for several months through autumn and winter, showing best methods for each one.

Garden Organic also has advice on storing a range of vegetables from root crops to alliums and cabbages.

Let us know your favourite tips for storing or preserving Autumn produce

Tormore Forest:
community well-being and a carbon sink on Sleat

by Peter Roberts
The Tormore Forest was purchased by the community of Sleat in the summer of 2011 from the Forestry Commission and initially run as a commercial forestry operation. The challenge was to discover how this asset could be developed for the community as a sustainable productive area into the future. As the timber was being removed it was important to develop access for people to use for recreation and exercise, and also to consider how a sustainable forestry operation could be developed for the longer term as a crop cycle is in excess of 40 years.
With these objectives in mind a review of the planting schedule was undertaken to have a mix of broadleaf and commercial conifers in the replanting strategy rather than a mono-culture which would be prone to disease and insect predation.
A small group of volunteers started to reopen old tracks into the area. These had been used prior to planting, as a sheep grazing area and as a supply of peat to the estate house in years gone by. A major early focus was to recycle the old sheep fank into a BBQ area with a stone seat in memory of local environmental activist Annabel Pendlebury. This provided the hub for a number of walks within the area and an opportunity for community celebrations for the mid-summer solstice and the New Year, not to mention November 5th.

Children playing at the burn in Tormore Forest. Photo: Dorothy Jackson

The area is now entering the next phase. As replanting is gaining importance, the primary school has been engaged with germinating acorns, conkers, ash and sycamore to be planted out along the new pathways through the area. This has been enhanced with a wide range of free trees from Trees for Life, again planted out by families and individual adults during the Covid-19 restrictions. A polytunnel provides the base for more seedlings to be brought on and planted out, so giving real ownership of the land and the trees, a truly community forest and carbon sink.
In addition to this engagement for all ages in getting closer to the soil, there is now the opportunity for some essential sustainable projects. The most notable are the peat restoration scheme* and the development of a local community-owned micro-hydro scheme on one of the burns flowing through the forest area.
It is encouraging that the purchase by the community of a commercial forest has created a real community asset where people can take time out and be with nature; they can walk the paths at all times of the year and watch nature begin to grow back the land and develop into a balanced environment both for well-being and longer term sustainability. In 40 more years time there will be a thriving forest which has been acting as a carbon sequestration asset and recreational area, as well as a significant timber resource.

*See the report in SCA's September newsletter.
Plastic Free Broadford and Beyond

by Anne MacLennan
Plastic Free Broadford and Beyond recently met by Zoom for the first time since February. We started by considering concerns about plastics, including escalating manufacture (especially of single use products), impacts on climate change, toxicity, consequences for wildlife, along with inappropriate and polluting disposal. The main responses therefore, are to reduce demand, to repurpose or recycle as much as possible, and to remove plastic waste – for example by beach cleans.
Currently, we are each using about 46 kg annually. More than one third is used once and thrown away, but only 5-10% of produced plastic is truly recycled. UK supermarkets distribute 112,000 pieces of plastic packaging per minute, 28 wet wipes are found per mile of beach, and a ‘disposable’ nappy takes 450 years to degrade. I wonder how many ‘disposable’ gloves and masks will end up on our beaches or be swallowed by or entangle marine creatures.
Prior to lockdown, the group had initiated liaison with the Co-op to reduce single use plastic. Workshops were held to make produce bags from recycled net curtains, and our stock of plastic-free household and personal cleaning materials was promoted. There was progress on a water bottle refill project. Plastic waste was re-purposed into Eco-bricks, and methods of upcycling into new products were being developed.
A number of exciting potential future projects were discussed at this meeting. Funding is being sought for a trial scheme recycling agricultural plastic waste. The Selkie Collective will soon be setting up a pop-up eco-shop beside Siaway on Shore Road in Broadford. We are communicating with Terracycle to set up a reycling point for currently unrecyclable materials, also in Broadford. There is interest in setting up repair workshops in the future. Note that International Repair Day is on 17th October.
Plastic-free October: can you cut out or reduce single-use plastic for the month of October? Those who attended the meeting have undertaken to reduce some form of plastic and we’ll find out how that’s going on at our next meeting on October 29th.  Please Zoom in, by emailing We’d love to hear about your strategies to avoid, re-use, or remove plastic from your everyday life and environment. Share your ideas and concerns. Joining in doesn’t commit you to anything.

GOOD NEWS! The Co-op in Broadford will collect single use plastic bags during Plastic-Free October. From Monday 5th October, there will be a collection point in the electrical goods corner, for you to deposit any amount of single use plastic (not just the Co-ops). Please ensure it is clean and dry. The plastic will be returned to Newhouse Co-op Depot, and we will follow up to find out what happens further down the line. Thanks to Marc at the Co-op for his help in setting this up. If successful, the collection of single use plastic wrapping could be a permanent feature. 

Contact Anne for more information on any of these topics.

Sleat beach cleans
Sleat Community Trust's Environment Group coordinated local participation in the Marine Conservation Society's annual Great British Beach Clean during the week of 18th September. Due to Covid19 restrictions the cleaning was done in family groups or social bubbles, observing social distancing rules.

Along the east of the peninsula at least six stretches of beach were tidied from Ardvasar to Mill Bay plus the beach at Isleornsay. The beach at Camus Daraich has also been tidied recently, with an estimated 10 bin bags of rubbish removed. On the west side, beaches at Achnacloich and Tokavaig were cleaned, roughly nine bin bags worth with eight collected at Tokavaig alone. Bearing in mind our only disposal method is through domestic waste (due to lack of council skips at the moment) this is quite an achievement.

Most of the litter found originated from the fishing industry – ropes, lines, plastic ties and packaging. Amongst the more unusual items were five golf balls and four fire extinguishers at Isleornsay, an intact 1930s mineral water bottle, a 1960s glass bottle, an old brass bath/sink plug and a cow’s hoof! 

Plastic beach rubbish collected on Sleat. Photo: Andy Cook
Sustainable construction on Skye

by James Wilson, Skye Sustainable Building Network

Over the last 12 months we have been working to raise the profile of low impact, sustainable construction on Skye. By engaging with the building industry and homeowners we aim to increase knowledge and skills, reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and look at ways to make construction on Skye more resilient. 

We organised two workshops with Zero Waste Scotland looking at the challenges of reducing waste and implementing circular economy principles in a rural location. Each event was attended by around 28 construction professionals from the area including architects, planners, housing association representative, tradespeople and self builders. 

These workshops highlighted the following issues for Skye

  • the need to improve the knowledge base for using sustainable/ecologically sound materials and alternative methods of construction
  • the local supply chain only supports a narrow range of materials
  • the cost of alternative materials, and of transporting them, is often prohibitive 

During the last year, we have set up the Skye Sustainable Building Network on Facebook to share ideas, events and knowledge around sustainable construction. We also took part in a webinar hosted by Zero Waste Scotland and The Pebble Trust promoting The Sustainable Renovation Guide, which adopts a holistic approach to the renovation of existing properties. 

We have also connected with other organisations in the area with similar interests, including CLIMAVORE, West Highland College, Broadford and Strath Community Company, the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust and Historic Environment Scotland. 

CLIMAVORE has been looking at creating a circular economy (based on establishing an intertidal farm in Skye growing saltmarsh plants, seaweeds and shells) that uses waste mussel and oyster shells. They are collaborating with West Highland College researching uses for crushed shells to produce new materials, as well as potential uses of seaweed in construction. They are also incorporating sustainability into the College's Construction Skills course with a special CLIMAVORE unit. 

We are also looking into opportunities for developing locally produced building materials, including sheep's wool and plant based insulations, and we are researching the potential for Skye Diatomite. 

Seaweed can be used in construction -  see The Modern Seaweed House  
 Photo: Titus Tscharntke on Pixnio


Electric vehicle charging stations: Slow (yellow), fast (orange), rapid (red) and proposed (blue).
See the full map of Scotland

Highland Region and the Climate Emergency

Highland Council's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Vision was presented at the last meeting of the Climate Change Working Group:

"Factoring in the unique challenges of the region, we will deliver Highland solutions for Highland challenges. Our ambition is to create Scotland’s greenest transport system across its largest area." The Council's plan comprises

  • Ensuring equality of access to EV charging infrastructure
  • Supporting economic recovery through investment in local EV infrastructure
  • Enabling integrated transport initiatives for all by expanding provision for local residents, tourists and visitors
  • Wherever feasible, maximising our use of natural resources to deliver sustainable, locally generated solutions
  • Considering emerging technologies to ensure appropriate solutions are appraised as the sector and market evolves
  • Supporting climate change targets through the electrification of The Highland Council fleet
  • Attracting external investment to progress our vision.

Highland Council is consulting on the expansion of the EV charging network across Highland. The map above shows the current and proposed stations on Skye and nearby. The Council is also carrying out a survey on the needs of Highland communities in respect of low carbon travel. Click here to participate in the survey.

Community groups interested in installing and maintaining a rapid EV charger may be able to obtain assistance through contacts of SCA supporter Alan Drever. Email Alan for more information.           

Climate Change in the Highlands seminar
"Large scale changes and policy implications"
 on 10th September, featured Alistair Rennie (Dynamic Coast) speaking on coastline changes and planning, Steve McFarland (SEPA) on flood management and Keith Masson (Highland Council Climate Change Officer) on planning partner plans for dealing with the climate and ecological emergency. Watch the seminar here.

Highland Council Food Growing Strategy
Under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, every local authority in Scotland is required to develop a food growing strategy to encourage more local food growing amongst communities. Contribute your views to the Highland Council’s draft food growing strategy via this form. The consultation closes on Monday 23rd November.

Scotland's Clean Air Day - 8th October
We are lucky on Skye to have some of the freshest air around, but there are still things we can do to reduce air pollution. Visit the Clean Air Scotland site to download lots of free resources for schools, communities and work places. Post any actions you take to our Facebook page.
Carbon Capture and Farming
by Thomas Prentice

Carbon Capture has recently been in the news, as the International Energy Agency suggested that without it, reaching global climate targets will be “virtually impossible”. This call comes as various projects are being piloted to attempt “carbon capture.”

An analysis published earlier this year suggested that farmland may be key to offsetting our carbon emissions. The process is relatively simple, spreading waste basalt rock from mines onto farmland. This rock is then gradually weathered, reacting with CO2 in the air to form carbonate, which can eventually run into the sea, forming limestone. 

Along with helping the environment by capturing CO2, this process improves the fertility of the farmland, improving soil health and food security. A study has suggested that carrying out this process on half of global farmland could capture 2 billion tons of CO2 a year, roughly the emissions of Germany and Japan. While carbon capture is in no way a “magic bullet”, such methods pave the way for capturing our emissions, improving the quality of the food we eat, and ensuring global food security.

Agricultural And Solar Farming

by Thomas Prentice

Even as renewable energy continues to break records, with 40% of European energy coming from renewable sources, it is still clear that we are far short of our emission targets. This makes speeding up the transition to renewable energy increasingly urgent. Solar energy is a rapidly increasing part of the renewable picture, as new innovations improve efficiency and reduce cost. 
In 2019 half of all habitable land was used for agriculture, with 77% used for livestock and the rest cropland. Global energy requirements could be met if only 1% of this farmland was converted to solar panels. However, it is not a case of agriculture against solar as they can be beneficial to each other, helping boost renewable energy generation, and increase crop yields.
Elevating the solar panels above the farmland while planting crops below keeps the crops warmer in winter, decreases water evaporation, and shields the crops from summer heat, which is damaging an increasing number of crops due to climate change. The solar panels also benefit from increased efficiency due to the cooling effect of evaporation from the plants. Even greenhouses could play their part, with solar glass producing power, without impeding plant growth.
These dual land uses show that even while tackling the problems of land usage we can produce more renewable energy, as well as improving crop growth, reducing water usage, and protecting our crops from the heat of climate change.
The events below and more are on our website calendar.
Check out the site as events are continually being added.

8th October:  Clean Air Day

8th October 1-2 pm: The fourth of six weekly briefings about COP26 : "The big issues in climate politics". Check our website for the fifth and sixth briefings.

9th October 7-8.30 pm: Closing down big oil.

10th October 2-4 pm: The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library. Online event with artist and activist Vivien Sansour

12th October: start of 4 week course in Climate Emergency training for Community Leaders.

12th October: 7-8.30 pm Informal meet up with Creative Carbon Scotland on COP26

13th October 6.30-8.30 pm: Start of 6 week course with the Centre for Human Ecology on the gains and problems of economic growth.

14th October 1-4 pm: Garden Organic: the principles of organic gardening

17th October 10 am to 12.30 pm: Just transition for Scotland's housing.

17th October: International Repair Day

21st October 7 - 8.30 pm: Next meeting of Skye Climate Action. Contact us for info.

24th October 7-9 pm: Virtual Screening of Wild Relatives by Jumana Manna - seeds, Svalbard and Lebanon

29th October: Next meeting of Plastic Free Broadford & Beyond. Contact Anne MacLennan for information

26th-30th October: In person Screening of Wild Relatives, at Atlas Arts.

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Skye Climate Action Group · Sleat · Isle of Skye, IV44 8QL · United Kingdom

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