Climate change is one of the defining challenges of the 21st century. But a small village of England, Ashton Hayes teaches the lesson to the rest of country by becoming Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”

Frustrated by the lack of strong environmental action by political leaders, 10 years ago, residents of the village decide to take matters into their own hands. Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

Ashton Hayes Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.
Ashton Hayes Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.

The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales.

“We want to show our children, grandchildren and future generations that we have done our best to stop Ashton Hayes contributing to Global Warming.

The effort which started in 2006, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.But beyond the statistics, the measures have captured the world’s attention. More than 200 towns, from those in Norway to places in Taiwan, have visited or been in touch to find lessons worth taking home.

No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.

As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

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