Green Lancaster Goes to Eigg

The Green Lancaster student teampose alongside a Welcome to the Isle of Eigg highway sign

Between the 4th and 8th April 2022, Green Lancaster organised a Sustainability Leadership Development Residential on the Island of Eigg, off the West Coast of Scotland. As part of this we explored today's great challenge of the Climate and Ecological Emergency through the prism of the islands' unique natural and cultural heritage.

Green Lancaster’s two full-time staff members – Darren and Lea – led the trip, accompanied by our student teams working on the ECO and Don’t Ditch It projects – Harshil, Luca, Anna, Caitlin, and Amelia. We were pleased to also be joined by Students’ Union CEO, Misbah Ashraf for the duration of the trip.

Green Lancaster’s history with the Isle of Eigg dates back to 2011, when Green Lancaster Manager, Darren Axe led the first student volunteer week on the island. Since then, a further four trips in 2012, 2013, 2019 and 2022 have taken place, with the next one already in the pipework.

The trips have a significant impact on those participating. Following from the deep impression the trip had made on him, Rowan Jackson, a former Green Lancaster volunteer now a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh set up a field trip to the island for the MSc Environmental Sustainability programme as part of his new position to give his students the opportunity to experience Eigg in a similar way to he did in 2012.

We travelled all the way from and back to Lancaster by train, boat and on foot! The scenic journey took us through beautiful remote parts of the Highlands, over the world-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct and across the Sound of Arisaig to the small harbour at Galmisdale on Eigg. From there, we made our way on foot across the island to the small village of Cleadale where we set up our “basecamp”, nestled at the foot of Beinn Bhuidhe and overlooking the breath-taking mountains of the neighbouring Isle of Rum.

The Isle of Eigg is a unique island with a forward-thinking community, keen to steer a course for their own future. In 1997, the community bought the island off with the financial help of supporters around the world and formed the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust Fund, which manages and stewards the island’s development for current and future residents. Since 2008, the community has been working hard to reduce its dependence of fossil fuels and instead make the most of the island’s natural assets: water, sun, and wind. They founded Eigg Electric, a community owned, managed and maintained company providing electricity for all island residents from renewable sources. They have since installed four wind turbines, solar panels, and hydroelectric generators. These enable Eigg to not be connected to the mainland electricity supply at all. Moreover, they also grow as much food as they can on the island, make efforts to reduce waste, and encourage retrofitting and sustainable travel. For instance, tourists cannot bring cars onto the island, but instead are encouraged to travel on foot or by bike. To use their words “without action our future in uncertain”.

As part of this residential,the team learned about the island’s forward-thinking community, its geology, and its history. We explored its diverse natural environments from sea to summit, such as Laig Beach, the Singing Sands, coastal caves, and the mountain of Beinn Bhuidhe.

We worked collaboratively to make vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. The simple kitchen facilities of the basecamp means that ingenuity and teamwork is essential!

We spent most of our time outdoors, being only indoors for sleeping. The rest of the time was spent out in nature or at times in our Green Lancaster bell tent, which doubled up as workshop space and dining room. Being outdoors, exposed to the elements come rain or shine and in contact with the rest of nature has an inherently grounding quality. It attunes our senses to the natural world, something that is of undeniable importance when working in the environmental sector.

And last but not least, we spent time discussing via immersive workshops the concepts of complexity, systems-thinking, holistic sustainability leadership, as well as the qualities and skillsets needed to address the multi-dimensional crises we are facing. It became apparent that some perhaps overlooked or undervalued attributes such as care, intergenerational thinking, brave vulnerability, resilience to the weather, diversity, self-sufficiency, and openness are in fact essential to creating something different and building a more sustainable society.

If you are interested in learning more about the Island of Eigg, head over to their website, a wealth of fascinating information.

Back to News