Doer of the month – Marlon’s SW Coast CO2 Challenge

We are very excited to celebrate our Doer of the month, Marlon Richardson who completed a 330 mile trek along the Cornwall South West Coast Path, raised over 350 pledges, and saved over 12 tonnes of CO2. Here’s what Marlon has to say about it:

Earlier this year I learned a great deal having completed a personal challenge with an important purpose at its heart. It surpassed expectation for two reasons:

1) I trekked c.300 miles self-sufficient along the renowned characterful Cornwall SW Coast Path in less than 13 days, tackling over 13,000m elevation rise and fall

2) I was supported by friends, family, colleagues and followers who in combination offered over 350 pledges to deliver 12+ tonnes of CO2 reduction through changing their daily habits and routines

Research has suggested that up to two thirds of CO2 is derived from household behaviours and lifestyle. In the lead up to COP26 Climate Change Conference, at KPMG we’ll be introducing new ways to drive positive environmental action, both at home and in the workplace. Do keep an eye out over the coming weeks as we launch our new sustainability challenge.

My goal

My goal was to combine adventure and personal (physical and mental) stretch to trek the path in a quick time (less than 13 days) with an outcome that could make a small but lasting difference to the planet, and one that might inspire others to replicate (targeting a CO2 reduction pledge for at least every mile walked). As many of us will know, incremental individual changes if sustained and scaled can make a big difference to achieving a necessary low carbon future.

Defining the environmental purpose was immediate. I just had to find a reliable mechanism to galvanise support and very quickly identified Do Nation as my chosen platform. So, how to identify and plan the challenge?

Planning & Preparation

At the rudimentary level it was the long-running fascination and lure of the path, as my wife (Claire) and I often talked about walking the whole path in our later years – as many others do. I joined the SW Coast Path association and social network groups, leading to a deeper dive into what it would really take to work my way round Cornwall solo in under two weeks. There were some very brief moments of questioning: was it possible for me to achieve this? Would I enjoy it? Are the risks stacked against me? … I formed my answers, tried a few practice hikes with a loaded bergen and made the final commitment – it enabled me to begin visualising and feeling the trip, leading to detailed planning…and ultimately a daily build up of excitement blended with healthy doses of trepidation over several months. In parallel, pledges from my supporters started to come through which reinforced my preparation and determination.

Setting Off

It felt like a momentous occasion as I set foot on the path on Day 1 – this was a half day given my 3.5 hour drive from home that morning. Sad to see goodbye to my family for c.2 weeks but so ready to build intimacy with Cornwall’s coastline -it was an overriding feeling. So, there I was with goosebumps crossing the Devon border savouring that special moment like many others before me. I was joined by a former colleague (ky Moore from North Devon) for that first day – thanks to Ky and her family for their support with rich conversation and good food during that first afternoon.

On the Path

So, over the days that followed I carried my self-sufficient pack bearing down a load through my poor little knees and ankles of up to 17kg (>25% of body weight), and my feet weren’t too grateful either with blisters galore at one point. The terrain was notoriously undulating as I endured a daily average 1,000m elevation challenge – a few locals offered wry smiles as I entered their well-trodden sections and personal ‘rollercoaster favourites’.

I found a daily routine pretty quickly and I could feel my emotions change too. Of a morning I would feel empowered and full of gusto, keen to crack on but a little held back with the packing up of the tent and my scarce but carefully selected (and weighed) belongings. I would march through to a late much-needed lunch, and often found myself wanting to join other walkers who were taking a moment to spend a few hours at their favourite havens.

The ‘6 o’clock blues’ would hit me and last for half an hour as: temperatures started to drop towards an inevitable 1-3C range at night; hunger and fatigue arrived in a stark way; the change in light created a more daunting atmosphere; the prospect of walking many more miles to then pitch a tent and find (hot) food before dark was another mental mountain. I actually enjoyed working all that through in my mind and digging deep for a few more hours to get through to a settled position, having washed, eaten and eventually bedding down in my tent. The nights were indeed cold but a warming glow came from writing my daily blog, and seeing the numerous messages of support spurring me on.

Despite the lack of welcome party, arriving in Plymouth some 300 miles later was a wonderful feeling. So very positive inside about the dual challenge and a sense of both personal and collective achievement. I had achieved my goals!

So, what to conclude from the experience?

People are generous – all those behaviour change commitments and messages of support were an intrinsic part of this. Furthermore, the many unforeseen obstacles on the trek could often only be overcome through the gracious selfless kind acts of the people I met on the path providing: food when unobtainable; shelter from a raging storm and conversation driven by curiosity or hospitableness.

‘Me time’ is valuable – so much of our ambition can revolve around our careers. It was refreshing to find a contrasting set of non-career goals, plan for them and achieve them. Quite often there is no substitute for good old-fashioned grit and determination – this experience was a perfect reminder. A big block of time to myself was also invigorating and led to a large dose of ‘mind purge’. I also reset a little too, as I was reminded every day of the hierarchy of needs (… nutrition, shelter and warmth at the core) and how so many people out there endure a daily struggle just to get by.

Cornwall really is a gem – the SW of the UK is such a lovely part of the world. I was fortunate to visit out of high season, so there were many moments of tranquillity that I really savoured. The Cornish identity and positive welcoming culture really shone through. I was keen to ensure a ‘leave no trace’ approach to my trek, and hope that others will continue to do so.

Our environment is precious – preserving our environment and reversing the trend towards irreversible climate change is at last getting the global attention it deserves. Raising awareness on the need to change is one thing, but actually delivering the change is another. We have a goliath of a global challenge ahead of us to make change stick, from inter-governmental policy to the corporate world, into daily habits and routines of the consumer and the increasing population at large. I thought about this a great deal on the path and made decisions on how I could increase my involvement in helping to solve this global crisis in both my career and personal life over the coming years … I challenge you to find your own paths to achieve the same!

The daily blog of the trek can be found on my Facebook page, and I would like to once again say a big thank you to everyone who supported me – it really made a difference.

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