Consumerism – Sustainable Orkney Conference

Food, products and tourism were three main topics in the first event of the Sustainable Conference in Orkney which for 2020 has moved online.

On the 6th of October we heard from 3 speakers who put forward their arguments on what happens now in Orkney and the way to take the issues forward. There was also an opportunity for participants to go into break out rooms to discuss things in more detail. The discussion also continued on the Facebook page.

Rosemary Moon, a food consultant, showed us the fabulous range of quality food and drink products locally made in Orkney. The islands economy, so reliant on tourism, has been hit adversely by the impact of Covid. Like everywhere else, particularly places which have come to rely on tourism for income – Covid and the restrictions to travel have had serious economic consequences.

Rosemary spoke of the need to ‘close the circle of our food economy’ by consumers in Orkney accessing more local food and drink products. She explained that for 1 cow raised in Orkney two thirds of its retail value would be going elsewhere. There is a need for a local abattoir and of keeping the value of products in the local economy she said.

For many, local produce is out of their food budget – shopping on a low income necessitates looking for value products. Rosemary suggested that a food mapping project was needed to support making Orkney products more affordable for people in the islands.

Adele Liddledale introduced participants to her EcoOrkney business. : ‘goods that do good.’ This is about ethical trading and sourcing products with zero waste in mind.

Steve Sankey covered the issue of tourism which is a huge issue – and not just for Orkney where we were to welcome over 140 cruise ships in 2020.

Orkney has become so reliant on tourism that housing supply has been affected by holiday and short term lets. This was highlighted when we were in lockdown and the streets of Stromness, in particular, became deserted of folk – so many of the properties in the main part of the town being for visitors were now unoccupied. This at a time when there is a shortage of affordable housing in Orkney.

Steve Sankey explained about the carbon footprint of visitors who travel to Orkney and wanted to see all the ferries replaced with electric/hybrid vessels. He also suggested that all tourism providers in Orkney should carry out a green audit of their properties.

This was an excellent start to the Sustainable Orkney Conference which will be on for 6 weeks..

Eibhlin Lee, joint organiser said:

‘Covid-19 has limited what many of us can do day to day but despite this there are lots of things going on in Orkney. We need to know where we are to take the next steps towards Net Zero Carbon together as a community,’

Becky Ford, joint organiser added:

‘This is about finding out what is already happening in Orkney and what is about to come along.’

The conference is held online using Zoom and there is also be a Sustainable Orkney Conference Discussion Group on Facebook.

The events are free. To find out more and sign up go to

Related article: #Covid-19, Slow Tourism and Green infrastructure

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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