Eco-linguistics meets biodiversity in my language school in the ancient Cornish capital of Lostwithiel. I am a Cornish person with a life-long love of Cornwall and a deep concern for green issues. My business involves offering a year-round combination of residential and non-residential language courses. I also provide organic vegan and vegetarian Bed and Breakfast.
My Language Teaching Business
My business is ethical, intentionally holistic and sustainable right from the core.
My residential ‘Experience Cornwall’ course is designed to stimulate awareness of the Cornish culture, landscape and environment and to offer a language learning experience. Traditionally, this has been the English language. I now offer this course with a Cornish language component.
The Cornish language is a fragile and endangered language. As both a Cornish person and a professional language teacher I am passionate about protecting, promoting and nurturing the Cornish language.
I believe that linguistic and cultural diversity is important in the same way as other aspects of sustainability and biodiversity.
The aim of my business is to maximise a concern for our cultural inheritance with a concern for our landscape. This is what makes my small business so special and so unique.
Energy in my Business
I focus on running my business in the most energy-conscious way possible. Following an energy audit in 2004, I made significant changes to the way I manage my home and my business. I continue to keep a careful watch on issues of energy use. I am improving in small, steady steps. For example, I now use a green tariff for my electricity through Southern Electric. This is based on hydro-electrics in Scotland. I have recently joined a scheme with Southern Electric in relation to my gas supply. In this scheme, called Power 2, trees are planted to balance out the CO2 that my gas heating produces.
Regarding catering, I provide vegan and vegetarian food for my B&B and residential courses. It is an established fact that a vegetarian, and even more so a vegan diet uses less of the earth’s finite resources than a carnivorous diet. I feel that this is one of the most significant ways in which I support the environment. I am a member of the Vegan Society, which campaigns to promote more ethical and sustainable lifestyles.
Processed or convenience foods are not used. Local food is sourced wherever possible for homemade meals, saving food miles and extraneous packaging.
Even the vegetable water here gets re-used as part of a totally integrated approach to a holistic, green lifestyle. Every piece of waste is carefully sorted into the recycle bins for paper, tins and vegetable waste. This is composted and goes to nourish the plants, indoors and out.
The few plastic or paper bags that find their way into the house are delivered to local shops for re-use, but usually a ‘Farmer’s Market’ cloth bag or a bio-degradable, jute bag is intentionally carried for shopping trips.
Resources and the control of waste are managed by not buying into excess or waste at any level. Again this is part of a holistic approach to managing finite resources. This integrated system is central to the ethical basis of my business.
No chemical products are used for washing, washing-up or bathing. The bath water is recycled to nourish a jungle of potted plants and flowers adorning the front of the building. In fact the use of Tea Tree shampoo actually helps to keep the plants free from pests and diseases. The plants outside attract wildlife to a town centre area and even Hummingbird Hawk Moths have been enjoying them this year.
Mebyon Kernow, of which I am a life-long member, supports the development of indigenous enterprise, which is environmentally acceptable and inwardly invests. Thus it favours the development of small-scale, local tourism initiatives.
In line with this, wherever possible I use local services or those nearby in preference to those further afield.
For example, the local Farmer’s Market is a regular source for local products. Local foodstuffs are also delivered to me via Riverford organic vegetable box scheme (which has its own environmental policy).
If organic and local is not available as a first option, then Fairtrade products are bought locally from Mountchase Pharmacy, Watt’s Trading, Carley’s or the Co-op – all of whom have environmental policies. Out of town supermarkets are rarely used.
When circumstances permit I will directly exchange work, for example French lessons in return for odd-jobs.
Thinking Global and Acting Local
In terms of the services I provide to the local economy, many of my language students are local. I teach people from age 2 to age 75. I teach language at Kaleidoscope Nursery (2 5 year olds) and teach French to individuals, couples and groups of all ages from my home.
In a true-hearted application of ‘Think Global – Act Local’, purchasing of products and services is always sourced to a local level. Again these choices stem from an ethical centre to the business of Learn English in Cornwall demonstrating my belief in and commitment to supporting and growing as part of a self-sustaining local economy and community. I also guide my visitors to access and use local resources wherever possible.
I make the most of my space at Learn English in Cornwall by creating multifunctional space and mixing residential and business use. For example my office at the top of the house doubles as my bedroom when guests are staying. Alternating language holidays and B&B also helps me make the best use of available space in procuring an income for this business.
I have a strong and developed sense of who I am, my values and my place in the community and local culture. I express and bring together my interests in caring for people, the unique place of Lostwithiel, Cornwall and the planet through the work I do.
I was born into a Cornish farming family. My father was a farmer and miner. My uncle, Nelson Tamblin, was the World Horse-ploughing Champion and was described as ‘the poet of the soil’. My mother is a nurse, as are two of my sisters. My brother is a farmer, and my other sister grows plants for a living – all in Cornwall. My great-aunt Sophie was a teacher in Lostwithiel in 1893 and two of her sisters were gifted linguists. So I have a sense, in all that I do, of following in a strong family tradition.
I am presently completing my dissertation for a Masters Degree entitled ‘Contemporary European Culture: Language, Literature and Society’, with a dissertation on the Cornish Language. In addition I am having regular one-to-one Cornish lessons myself. I see promoting Cornish as involvement in cultural activity at a community level – a local language for local people. It is also a way of bringing our past into our future.
I enjoy sharing my strong sense of self, of Cornish identity, of European and global kinship with my students. I involve them in all sorts of situations, discussions and activities within my community. I am sensitive to issues of disability and aim to be as inclusive as possible in the services I provide.
I promote environmental awareness at the level of my local community through my Experience Cornwall courses, which include at least 15 hours of field trips a week for both my English and Cornish courses.
An integrated involvement with community at this level creates community dialectic. A whole range of discussion and exposure to green thoughts occurs as experiences and ideas are exchanged at a local and then global level.
For example this is the experience of one student: ‘I am doing what I do now just because of my experience with Julie in Cornwall, where I understood that getting in different cultures and different languages was something that I really adored‘. This student is now working in the field of international development and co-operation.
At the heart of what I do lies my desire to build bridges, both locally and internationally. I passionately believe in and am constantly working towards building a more peaceful world through cultural exchange and friendship ties at a local community level.
I have no employees. Instead I employ a whole range of carefully selected, local subcontractors as described above.
I choose people to help me run my business who I believe are ethical themselves and share similar values. However not all of the people who have helped me to develop my own green business have necessarily been green themselves. They may have simply been trustworthy, local and willing.
Each step that I have made has been carefully discussed with my subcontractors and I have explained the reasons for my choices. I hope that through this process I may have been modelling for others how I face and overcome issues of budgets and ideologies.
For some subcontractors there has been a learning element in being part of this process with me. They had to confront their own practice because here was somebody doing it differently. I encouraged my subcontractors by telling them that I saw them as part of my ‘Green Team’ and that I would be happy to promote them amongst other local green businesses. I also told them that one day I would publicise their help to me. I believe that this helps us to support each other in going forward.
On the positive side I have achieved much over the past 5 years. A recent upgrade in both leaflets and on-line marketing has helped me focus on the core sustainable objectives and mission for my business. I am now feeling very happy and looking forward to the future. I am especially pleased that I am able to combine my concern for our endangered physical environment with my passion for our endangered language in the shape of the small but unique professional and educational business venture at Learn English in Cornwall. I am equally pleased to have just been highly commended in Cornwall’s Sustainability Awards, taking third place for ‘Cornwall’s Best Small Business’.