THEY were not only the first children to climate change strike in the UK, 12-year-old Finlay Pringle and his 10-year-old sister Ella have also managed to cut their carbon footprint dramatically. In the process they have converted their parents Geoff and Rachel to a greener lifestyle so that the entire family has a less harmful impact on the planet.

While some of the changes have been drastic, others have been easy to make and the family are keen to point out that if everyone made even one small adaptation to their lifestyle, the world would be a better place.

It’s a message they are working hard to get across, particularly Finlay, who has been asked to speak at numerous conferences since he began climate striking in his home town of Ullapool on December 14 last year.

He has hit the headlines on several occasions, most notably for telling Bear Grylls “you suck” after the adventurer swam with captive sharks.

Meanwhile, his parents oscillate between feeling proud of their children and slight apprehension about what’s in store next.

Here they each talk about the changes they’ve made and how others can follow in their very green footsteps.


The National:

“I AM very pleased the family has changed. It did take a lot of badgering but it happened. You don’t need to do big things to make a difference – any one person can make one change, even just eating meat for one less day a week. You don’t need to buy a car that is very expensive.

My main message is anyone can do anything.

When I was younger we started going snorkelling and we would see dog fish and sea bass and other sea creatures. We went whale watching and we saw a minke whale. It opened our eyes as a family to the environment, especially mine. I love sharks but they are suffering from plastic pollution as well as being killed for their fins.

Ella and I started climate strikes to raise awareness on December 14 so this is our 38th week. Politicians are getting there I think, but they are not doing enough.

Small things make a difference. One person started the climate strikes and now five million people take part. So small ripples can make a big effect.

I have also been doing a bit of work with the teachers and persuaded my geography teacher and a teacher in my primary school to sign up to the UN Climate Change Teaching Academy.

I’ve had some great experiences through this. My trip to Strasbourg was incredible as it was fantastic just to meet 60 other like-minded people. It was also great to go to Lausanne where I met Greta Thunberg.

The Peoples’ Walk for Wildlife was good too as I was on stage with Chris Packham and talked to 10,000 people.

I do get nerves about public speaking but that makes you feel alive. When I get worried I just tell myself that it is going to be fine and I have to get on with it.”


The National:

“I GOT involved mainly because of my brother, although when I went to the Walk for Wildlife I missed his talk because mum let me go and get a hot chocolate.

I am climate striking to raise awareness. We have to understand that our planet is burning down because of the heat. We can’t just leave it.

I help out on stalls when there is a big event and I’ve done a sponsored swim for whales. I was sponsored to do 80 lengths but I did 120 and I’ve raised £350.

I also went on a march round Edinburgh to protest against Japan catching whales and I have given up fish because of the entanglement problem.

I don’t eat much meat now. I think quorn is nicer.”


The National:

“AS a family we are quite keen on the marine environment anyway but the climate strikes have made us re-evaluate what we’re doing and we’ve changed quite a bit in the last year.

I work for the government now but when I was younger I studied ecology and what is surprising is that these issues were talked about 30 years ago and nothing has been done about it. People get cross about the kids striking, but good on them, because we didn’t bother doing anything at all.

Finlay is completely vegetarian now. He started at Christmas. The rest of us have been dragged kicking and screaming along and we are 90% of the way there as well. We always did cook from scratch anyway and the meat we were eating was local but now we are just cooking some different things and have gone from eating meat around five times a week to maybe once a week.

It’s not been too much of a change – we’re just using different ingredients. Rachel and I went on a diet at the same time. We got the Slimming World diet vegetarian books which are really good and I’ve a lost stone and a half and Rachel has lost three stone since February.

We’ve changed to an electric car and our energy supplier is Bulb as they supply energy provided by renewable energy. We’ve changed our lighting to LED and we walk everywhere we can.

The electric car is an investment. They’re not cheap but we were able to make that choice. When we are not using the car, we use public transport. For Finlay’s Lausanne conference we went to Switzerland by train which took 16 hours.

I can’t deny that it’s more expensive than flying but we made a conscious decision to do something differently. And the people that came from Ireland took 40 hours to get there so our paltry 16 hours was nothing compared with that.

In this country public transport isn’t the best. You notice the difference when you go into Europe. The transport system is so much more efficient, better quality and faster as it has not been privatised.

Ullapool is a remote area. We are 60 miles from Inverness and it means if we have to go anywhere we have to drive to Inverness first, which is where the electric car comes in. Charging points are a little bit of a problem as Scotland is not quite there with them yet and we could do with more.

However, I was glad to hear Nicola Sturgeon announcing that the Scottish Government is going to be investing a lot more money in trains and will be giving out grants for second-hand electric cars, as a brand-new one is a lot of money.

We went to London last weekend as Finlay was speaking at the Nature Conference at the Natural History Museum and the journey took eight hours on the train. By plane it’s an hour and a half but we just make the journey part of the trip.

We do recycle but I feel there’s an issue with the authorities, as I don’t think they’re doing as much as we would like them to. I suspect they don’t have the facilities at the moment.

We do put our plastic in the blue bin but I’m not convinced that 100% of it is recycled by Highland Council. That’s a general problem, I think.

Hopefully, if we get this deposit return scheme, the infrastructure will be built to deal with it. What we don’t want to happen is for the stuff to be exported to the Philippines or some other country as that’s just shifting the problem.

We have no plastic in the bathroom. We use soap and shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes and we don’t buy our toothpaste in tubes but get it in jars. Again, that’s a little bit more expensive, but we’re not looking for everybody to be perfect.

We don’t want 1% of the population being 100% perfect – we need 99% of the population doing as much as they can or what they can afford.

There are things you can do – when we’reout and about we’re always picking up litter as 80% of what we drop will end up in the sea.

Don’t use disposable coffee cups – buy reusable ones – and don’t buy bottled water.

Why on Earth would you buy water in bottles – it’s just a fad. Having said that, chlorine is an issue. Finlay is wanting one of these refillable stations at the village but it’s not going to work if the local water tastes horrible. That needs to be sorted out, as someone seems to have made the decision to increase the chlorine in the supply. Ullapool used to have good water but around six months ago they started to chlorinate more.

Some of the changes can be driven by the Government – we swapped plastic bags for hessian ones years ago, but the 5p charge has helped people to change their habits so there are things the Government can do.

Another issue is the amount of energy that fast fashion uses. It’s one of these more hidden problems but it’s massive. We wear second-hand clothes and in Glasgow Finlay gave a talk to a school in a deprived area and told the pupils he was wearing them.

The teacher was so happy because it let the kids see they don’t have to compete over designer gear. If someone they respect like Finlay is saying he wears second-hand clothes it makes it more cool.”


The National:

“I DO wonder sometimes about what will happen next, but both kids are amazing and it’s made us think more about what we’re doing.

We’re just a normal family, we really are, and our kids can only do what they do because we work hard. We don’t go to the pub and have big days out. This is what we do.

It does mean some sacrifices – for example, normally in October we would take time off to go and see family, but we can’t this year because we have no holidays left. They’ve all been taken up with climate change conferences. However, it’s important to the kids so it’s important to us.

Some of the changes have been really easy. Swapping the shampoo and soap bottles for bars so we have less plastic was easy but cutting our plastic consumption is hard partly because of where we live. We only have a Tesco in Ullapool and there is very little there that doesn’t come in plastic. We try to buy locally and in season or buy from the EU so there are fewer airmiles. Even if you swap Australian wine for French that can make a difference.

I use cloth sanitary products so I can wash them. You do have an initial outlay but you can stick them in the washing machine so you don’t have all that plastic to throw away. You can get a moon cup as well which is more like a tampon but I use the pads and they’re brilliant.

You can go to extremes and buy an electric car but not everybody can take on an extra job to pay for that. I’ve now got four jobs.

I work in one of the local shops, clean the village hall, take bookings and clean some offices. I took on the extra cleaning job to pay for the car. We man stalls at different events and Geoff and I are Wildlife Watch group leaders as well.

We’ve cut our meat consumption and although we always said we’d never go vegetarian I don’t think I’ve eaten steak all year.

None of us eats fish. We’ve all given up anything that comes out of the sea due to the entanglement issues and how much plastic there is on beaches because of the fish industry.

We do a lot of beach cleans and every time we pick up a huge amount of stuff coming from fish farms and netting. It’s just not fair on marine life.

We wear second-hand clothes as well. There is only one charity shop in Ullapool so we use Ebay or swap. I did buy a new pair of jeans but I will wear them until they are unwearable. I have clothes in the wardrobe that I’ve had for 20 years.

Don’t just buy something and bin it. Rather than buying fast fashion you can buy from a company like Rapanui where the clothes all have traceability.

After you’ve finished with them you can post them back and they will give you credit as well as recycling them.

For Christmas this year the kids don’t want any plastic so that’s going to be a change. They just want a couple of meaningful gifts rather than throwaway rubbish so I’m quite proud of them for that.

It’s a good idea to just try to change one thing a month. That way you don’t notice things as much because for most things there is a cost. Just do it gradually, which is what we’re doing.

There’s no point in one person doing it perfectly – we need everyone to do a bit. Everyone can change something.”