Rabbie meets resource efficiency – really?

As many of us were raising a glass to toast the Bard last night, and at Burns Suppers across the world in the next few weeks, it gives rise for reflection on some of the themes which pervade Robert Burns’ work and why they endure.

Written By Iain Gulland - Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland  |  26 Jan 15

Burns was a unique man for his time in many ways – a self-taught ploughman poet, with a great respect for nature, but unlike other poets, no great respect for those in authority. The ‘unco guid’ as Burns described them, came in for excoriating criticism in his 1786 poem, ‘ Address to the Unco Guid’ a very funny lampooning of those ‘sae mighty’ in 18th century Scotland.

The poem cemented Burns’ reputation as merciless exposer of hypocrisy and a man of the people.

I’m going to be neither nearly so funny, so clever, nor brutal, in this blog as Burns is in the poem. Rabbie’s themes of the importance of looking at yourself before judging your fellow man or woman, and trying to lead by example, are timeless, and the poem made me think of some of the questions we should all remember to ask ourselves. 

In my job, I’m often asking people to change their behaviour – whether organisations or individuals – thinking about the way they use resources and how they might use them better. That brings some responsibility for myself and Zero Waste Scotland to consider the challenges people face, barriers we can help them overcome, and importantly, are we doing everything that we can ourselves? So I asked myself, am I using the recycling facilities available to me to their utmost? Am I looking at re-use options before passing on or purchasing something new? Am I switching off lights and consoles, taps and heating when I don’t need them? Am I trying to cut down on buying products with unnecessary packaging? And am I thinking about my meals in advance, to avoid wasting food? 

And, if I’m already doing all that, what else could I be doing?

I’d urge everyone who reads this blog to put the same, and other, questions to themselves – it’s the best place to start. And the more we give thought to try and understand the challenges that others face in making changes to the way they live, or run a business, the more we can help them to make improvements. And remember we can’t all be perfect, all the time!

As Burns put it (with allowances for the 18th century attitude to gender):

“Then gently scan your brother man, 

Still gentler sister woman; 

Tho' they may gang a kennin wrang, 

To step aside is human.”

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