Charles: the green prince

His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, is well known as a strong advocate of sustainability. He is able to be a voice in support of this important cause due to his high profile. Whether via contact with government ministers or through his public comments, the Prince has made sure that sustainability remains on the agenda, no matter what political ephemera is dominating the day’s headlines. While the latest political spat will be reduced to tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper, the need to live eco-responsibly is permanent.

Not only does the Prince’s role give him a unique opportunity to campaign for us to live more renewably, but his position also gives him a special perspective. Unlike politicians who tend to be career-oriented and take a short term view of affairs, usually limited to the term of a Parliament and the next general election, our Royals are there for the long term and following a vocation. This gives them the opportunity to see things differently from the very centre of our constitutional system and to take a long term view. The issue of sustainability seems especially relevant to our Royal Family. Politicians answer to their specific constituencies, dominated by large towns and cities, while the Royal Family’s legitimacy and roots lie deep in this nation’s countryside as well as urban configurations. The Royals understand the countryside along with agriculture in ways that many in the media or politics simply do not.

Furthermore, being a member of an ancient family and having inherited duties to a country is exactly the sort of upbringing that would make one mindful of what one has received on trust to pass on to the next generation. Such values are strongly reflected by the Prince’s passionate commitment to ensuring a responsible approach to Nature – and Nature is a living gift to us, not a consumer product. Certain gifts are never ours in quite the same way as something we have purchased. We feel more as though we are stewards rather than owners. Similarly, monarchy is about stewardship and a man waiting to inherit the Throne of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and other Commonwealth Realms, is inevitably deeply aware of the duties of such stewardship. Different times and different personalities mean different interpretations of this duty and Prince Charles’ concerns and passions are particularly contemporary and must surely resonate with so many of his future subjects. Long before sustainability became a fashionable objective, The Prince of Wales was proving himself to be a pioneer by making Duchy Home Farm organic in 1986. Duchy products are now a leading brand which has transformed how we view organic produce. The underlying beliefs behind Duchy Home Farm are now widespread. The Prince was, and remains, ahead of his time.

The Prince is not merely an advocate, he walks his talk. His Royal Highness grows his own vegetables at Highgrove and relies on renewable energy in his homes. When travelling, the Prince minimises his carbon footprint by using biodiesel to power both the Royal Train and his Aston Martin; flights are organised in the most energy-efficient way possible. Other energy efficiency measures include replacement of older boilers with more efficient models, improving building insulation, upgrading computers to low-energy models, using low-energy light bulbs and ensuring staff switch off lights and equipment. About half of the Household’s office and domestic energy use comes from renewable sources. Such sources consist of woodchip boilers at Highgrove, Birkhall and Llwynywermod, ground- and air-source heat pumps at Highgrove, solar panels at Clarence House and Highgrove and alternative electricity purchased from renewable sources. Steps are also taken to reduce fossil fuel use.

A ‘conservation tillage’ machine that reduces fuel use by tilling the soil to a shallower depth continues to be explored; energy-efficient heat exchangers and solar thermal heating help decrease electricity consumption used in the dairy, while a large array of solar panels produces renewable electricity. Between 2007 and 2012 the Household has nearly halved its greenhouse emissions. The Household also balances its carbon emissions with a U.K. tree planting scheme and sustainable overseas forestry projects.

His Royal Highness’s conservation work is based on a holistic world view. He believes that environmental challenges in our interconnected world are best met by adopting an integrated approach. The Prince’s Rainforests Projects attempt to find solutions to deforestation that would be economically viable, bring rural improvement and social benefit for people living in and around forests, while also protecting the vital eco-systems that harbour so many of the world’s wildlife species, store carbon and sustain water cycles.

For over 40 years The Prince of Wales has worked with businesses, charities, governments and other organisations to raise awareness of and to help promote sustainable ways of living and working. He offers solutions via his speeches, articles, books and films. He is the Patron of countless organizations working for sustainability, offering support and encouragement for their work. Opponents of the Prince’s passionate beliefs have often tried to dismiss him as an eccentric, but inevitably it is his critics who end up appearing behind the times. Whether it is the ugliness of post-War architecture, the importance of harmonious intercultural relations, the future of farming, the mentoring and practical support offered by the Prince’s Trust, or his passionate commitment to the environment, the Prince always ends up looking wiser and more in touch than his detractors.

Article by Matthew Groves.