Category: Eco Commmunities
Anna Guyer | 14.03.13
Incredible Edible is a community food initiative that shows how much can be achieved if ordinary people get together and start something themselves. Sometimes waiting for the council to implement lengthy sustainability reports can feel like forever. The beauty of Incredible Edible is that it eliminates fuss by getting going with what people can do on their own and then inviting local authorities to join in if they wish.
And who wouldn’t? It is hard not to once you glimpse the enthusiasm that goes into each part of the project, matched only by the astonishing outcomes for the town. Genuine grassroots action such as this demonstrates how to inspire people to take part in a cause and achieve lasting results.
The idea came about in 2008 when businesswoman Pam Warhurst noticed that public spaces in her hometown of Todmorden were underused and unattractive. She and her neighbours began planting vegetables in what they called ‘propaganda gardens’ wherever there was space, including outside police stations, by bus stops and in graveyards. People gradually understood that the food was there to be shared and enjoyed, sparking conversations and new friendships, local business received a boost from extra foot fall, tourism increased and crime even fell as the town came together with a renewed sense of pride in where they lived.
News spread quickly of this very local project, now a model that is being replicated in other countries. Part of the reason is the unswerving commitment to simplicity and relevance. In 2009, their Every Egg Matters Campaign encouraged people to buy their eggs from local farms through a combination of free pancakes, egg painting and feathery hen hard hats, providing fun for the children, turning around the fortunes of local businesses and resulting in cheaper eggs for the residents.
This pervades their communication style too. They do not talk on doorsteps about ‘environmental justice’, but about how they can help you feed your kids. Nothing here of ‘community action’, only how you can meet and get to know your neighbours a bit better.
What about creating lasting behavioural change? Volunteer Mary Clear is under no illusions. ‘It takes passion, commitment and the tenacity of a Rottweiler’, she explains.
According to theorists, people change patterns of behaviour if they are confident in their ability to begin something new, are able to learn gradually by imitating others and if their individual desires and expectations are aligned with those of their social surroundings.
Incredible Edible attains all of that in a way that is tangible, easy to understand and easy to talk about. Public veg gardens make the food journey visible, leading to a closer sense of connection between consumers and what they eat, and a closer connection to the land that originates and sustains it. We are more likely to care about how we treat the land when we see every day how it provides our food.
Behind the whole thing lies a conviction that people already want to do something; they just do not know what to do. Incredible Edible fills this gap with an opportunity for ‘ordinary people in an urban setting’ to get stuck in to something practical that can improve their lives and those of their community.
This post was guest-written by Max Lees
HJ Fantaskis | 05.03.13
Beacons: Stories for our not so distant future edited by Gregory Norminton, will launch this week on Thursday 7 March, during Climate Week.
We were given a preview copy of the anthology which includes twenty-one original short stories from some of the UK's most celebrated writers, including Joanne Harris, A.L. Kennedy, Toby Litt, and Alasdair Gray.
Beacon's Editor, author Gregory Norminton, told us, 'Beacons is a charity book looking to respond to the complexities of our ecological crisis through fiction.'
Beacons was years in the making, but thanks to the dogged persistence of Gregory and Mike Robinson (previously Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland who planted the earliest seed for the book in his mind), a host of eminent contributing authors, the perfect venue for a briefing weekend, and a progressive publisher were secured.
Talking to Gregory about Beacons, he said that from its origins, 'Mike and I knew that we wanted to produce a collection of original and provocative stories, but also to stimulate a discussion about what role, if any, story-telling has to play in our adaptation to the consequences of abrupt climate change.'
The short stories take us from Joanne Harris' techno-dystopia, to soldiers paroling the ravaged Welsh landscapes in Jem Poster's Visitation, to Clare Dudman's imaginings of the artist's place in a world where once rural areas are now deserts, to Toby Litt discussion of self and otherness through the gloopy analogy of the Knickerbocker Glory (really.) to many other weird and wonderful imaginings of our not too distant future.
Gregory's approach to the global problem of climate change is necessarily blunt. When discussing the brief with fellow writers, he said he quickly realised, 'we have to stop kidding ourselves that everything is going to be alright. It isn't. Global warming and resource depletion are already with us, even in the cushioned West.'
'It is crucial that we find ways to communicate in the language and format that enables an emotional response and a deeper understanding of the facts around climate change and the impact on our planet. Give someone facts and figures and they are likely to run a mile. Appeal to their imagination through stories that are compelling and intriguing and we are begin to reach a new level of engagement. Expressive arts – whether painting, poetry, writing, or drama – are fundamental to our society and connects people to a narrative that is fundamental to our future,' says Anna at Greenhouse.
It a very special book and we heartily congratulate Gregory Norminton, the contributing authors, and the team instrumental in publishing Beacons, for their ambitious and stimulating book.
Beacons will be officially published on Thursday (7th March) as part of Climate Week 2013. The occasion will be marked by an event at the Manchester Literature Festival. You can pre-order a copy of the today from One World Publications. All royalties of Beacons will go to the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.
Here's an excerpt from Gregory's introduction to Beacons:
“The book you hold in your hands is the slow-grown fruit of our efforts – and the efforts of scientific advisers, community activists and, above all, the writers who have given of their time and talent. Every story was written specially for this collection. In making their contributions, the writers have had to find ways of approaching a seemingly forbidding brief.
How do we write fiction about the ecological crisis without lapsing into cliché? Is it possible to do so without becoming hectoring or portentous? We must tell the truth but is that done best when, in Emily Dickinson’s words, we tell it slant? How, indeed, can prose fiction, which is rooted in psychology and social drama, encompass planetary change?
“For global warming is a predicament, not a story. Narrative only comes into our response to that predicament. Yet the truth of the crisis almost defies comprehension. The scientists, working their way through the scepticism of their systems, give us their best guesses on our likely fate – and we shy away from their findings.”
HJ Fantaskis | 01.02.13
On Tuesday evening, Greenhouse was invited to join the The Hub Islington's Eco Series. The theme for the evening's discussion was Community Energy - a topic we're very interested in.
The expert panel included Howard Johns, founder of Southern Solar, Clare Hierons, CEO of Carbon Leapfrog, Agamemnon Otero from Brixton Energy, and Nigel Farren from Energise Barnet.
Delegates from as far as Brighton and Surrey, to Islington based social entrepreneurs came together to discuss the question: Can community owned renewable energy cooperatives be part of the solution to the UK's energy challenge?
We're pleased to report, the answer is: Unequivocally, yes.
Agamemnon Otero shared with us Brixton Energy Solar 1, a community energy cooperative, which has installed 50KW of solar panelling on top of social housing, in a partnership with Southern Solar.
The project, while being admirable in its ability to supply all 63 residents' energy demand on a sunny day, had a bigger focus. From its genesis, the team asked, 'how do we get the locals involved? How do we get the young people involved?'
Promoting well-being was as much a part of the project's objectives as taking the urban community off grid. A select group of young people were invited to work with the team on site. Some even went on to take up paid internships at Southern Solar, graduating with valuable job skills.
Howard Johns spoke with passion about the accessibility of solar power. 'It's easy, and has a proven track record. We're way behind Europe, but it gives us a huge opportunity.'
He shared the example of Transition Lewes' - his home town - how he had set up OVESCo, to run the renewable energy co-operative. It was decided, we were told, that the £300k investment for solar panelling raised by the co-operative would use the roof of the most important building in the community: the local brewery.
Clare Heirons introduced Carbon Leapfrog (more regularly known as 'Leapfrog'), a business-led charity which provides practical support to community groups keen to set up renewable energy co-operatives. Their network of leading services professionals has given the much needed boost to now growing number of grass roots low carbon projects.
We were also pleased to hear Energise Barnet's Nigel Farren's approach to spreading the word. 'We talked to everyone. The council wasn't listening, so we spoke to schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, local businessmen, and resident associations.'
As a community interest company, he described Energise Barnet's financial set up: 'Simply, profits go straight back to the community, and pay dividends.'
HJ Fantaskis | 17.10.12
London Rebuilding Society is a social enterprise that offers fair and affordable financial services to people excluded by conventional banks.
For just a pound per week, the Change Account will offer customers a full range of services including direct debits, standing orders, a visa prepaid debit card, budgeting facility and full mobile banking but with no hidden fees or charges.
Available from next month, the Change Account is being launched following recent research by Which? shattering the myth of ‘free’ banking. The research found that some consumers are paying up to £900 per year simply being overdrawn - as well as missing out on hundreds of pounds of interest.
Danni Pafford, a Move Your Money campaigner says, "Despite the fact that banking services are an absolute necessity, the Big Banks have ignored millions of low-income customers because they don’t think they are worth serving. That's why its so great to see a social enterprise proving that, with a little innovation and by putting customers first, you can deliver fair and affordable banking services.”
The launch of the Change Account comes at a critical time for the retail banking sector.
The introduction of Universal Credit in 2013 means all benefit recipients will receive a single monthly payment into their account on behalf of the entire household. This means that it’s vital that households have access to proper payment services which enable them to manage their money.
Steve Round, Chairman of London Rebuilding Society says, “There are over 3 million people in the UK who either don’t have a bank account or are stuck on a basic bank account which simply isn’t fit for purpose - with millions more with accounts which are inappropriate for their needs.
Even if these families - who tend to be on low incomes - can get a proper account, many refuse because they know they will be hit with unfair fees and charges which could send them headfirst into a spiral of debt. "
The Change Account will cost customers just £1 per week for the full range of basic payment services. Additional fees for services such as international transactions, lost cards and additional named cards on the account will be clearly highlighted in all the literature.
At Greenhouse, we're very excited to hear news of alternative banking options, like the Change Account. Will you be opening an account? Have you already changed accounts? Drop us an email, or a tweet!
HJ Fantaskis | 01.10.12
Earlier in September, on an typically British (overcast) Friday, Juliet Davenport (CEO of Good Energy) and Andy Atkins (CEO of Friends of the Earth) toured Westmill, one of the most inspiring examples of community-owned energy projects in the UK.
Westmill was the very first 100% community-owned scheme in the UK and it combines wind and solar to provide more than 11MW of energy on one site. Co-operatives, such as Westmill, provide inspiration and a replicable model for other communities, and community-owned energy is a growing sector.
Westmill, owned exclusively by the community, is a combined wind and solar farm and has the capacity to generate 10MWs of electricity per annum. The wind farm alone produces pollution-free electricity for over 2500 average homes and helps reduce carbon emissions. It has been led by the relentlessly energetic activist and local farmer, Adam Twine, and it has taken more than ten years to come together, requiring an enormous amount of passion and commitment.
On the impact that the Co-Operatives are having on a national scale Juliet says, 'In Germany, over 65% of renewable energy is owned by individuals or communities; compare that with the UK's 10% ownership, and it's clear that we've a lot of catching up to do.'
Now, projects like Westmill are under threat. The government's Electricity Market Reform (EMR) could stunt the growth of community-owned, decentralised energy projects. The current proposals for EMR, which are about encouraging investment in generation for medium- and large- scale renewables projects, show an alarming lack of emphasis on decentralisation and the potential investment that could be attracted by taking a more open approach to the energy market.
Juliet and Andy's visit was part of the Clean British Energy Campaign, led by Friends of the Earth, supported by Good Energy and Ecotricity. The campaign is designed to raise awareness of the potential of renewable energy to power the UK and to ask people to sign their name to a petition to to ask Ed Davey to recognise that potential and ensure that de-centralised energy is a reality across the UK.
Juliet of Good Energy says, 'Westmill Wind and Solar Co-operative is generating more than just kilowatts. It’s also empowering people by offering them a stake in their future. It's not easy to get people enthusiastic about energy, but Co-operatives are proving very popular with local communities. We need to see more community energy schemes like this sprouting up all over the UK.'
Background on Project Westmill
The Westmill Farm was the first wind farm co-operative in the South of England, giving local people an opportunity to invest in the production of renewable energy. Today, it produces 6.5MW of electricity. The success and popularity of the project amongst the local community, co-operating and investing in a decentralised energy supply, led to plans for the Westmill Solar Co-Operative. Established in March 2011, with intentions of enabling community ownership of a 5MW solar park, the shares offered to the locals was met with huge enthusiasm, and together they raised the necessary £4million in a mere 8 weeks.
Share the link with your friends through Twitter, Facebook and email, and help us earn our own CBE together!
Admin | 28.08.12
If you've not come across the Earthrise series before, the team sets out to explore solutions to today's environmental challenges, taking an upbeat look at ecological, scientific, technological and design projects around the world.
Earthrise's producer-presenter Russell Beard is on a quest to meet the best of the inspiring individuals and communities, and in this episode, he talks to Tristram about the F5k event hosted in Trafalgar Square, and the active campaigning he's doing to tackle food waste in the UK.
If you're short of time, you can skip to 9.19 minutes to see Tristram taking Russell to harvest a crop of cabbages - perfectly nutritious and delicious, but rejected from the big supermarkets. If you've got time, it's definitely a good watch for a rainy lunchbreak!
Back in November, we featured Tristram in our Eco Hero series, and worked with F5k to promote their fantastic food-waste-combatting campaign.
In a time of global food shortages, bizarrely, we still waste at least a third of all global food supplies. UK households waste an average of 25% of all the food we buy.
An estimated 20 to 40% of UK fruit and vegetables are rejected even before they reach the shops – mostly because they don't match the supermarkets' excessively strict cosmetic standards.
Tristram has dedicated his career to reducing food waste in the UK, by educating consumers and forging partnerships with local food markets and charities - and, as you'll see in the video, he's not afraid to get his hands dirty!
This is our favourite quote from Tristram in the latest episode of Earthrise:
"At least a third of the world's food supply is currently wasted. We're chopping down forests in places like South America, South East Asia and Central Africa to grow more and more food.
If we need to increase the global food supply, and if we need to reduce our global impact on the environment, what I'm saying is, the amount of food we're wasting is really good place to start."
Also, keep an eye out for the new 'How it Works' animation from Circular Economy - we blogged about them a couple of weeks ago!
Admin | 22.08.12
The incredible Move Your Money UK campaign is reaching more and more people, and they've now hit the half a million mark, with over 500,000 pledges from consumers to move their money.
We featured them in a post a few weeks ago, but now they are looking to hire a Campaign Manager (details below), so we thought now was a good time to take a look at them in a little more detail.
For those of you not already familiar with the fantastic work Move Your Money are doing, watch the video - and make your pledge today!
Move Your Money is a brilliant example of people-powered, democratically-driven campaigns for social justice.
The US division has inspired over 10 million Americans to move their money to local financial institutions.
Launched in the UK in February this year, as a response to endless scandals and news of irresponsible banking practises hitting the headlines, Move Your Money have been gaining traction in the media. The unfair division of profits and unethical investment of the Big Banks have led many consumers to question how they invest their hard-earned cash.
Move Your Money offers guidance and resources - answering questions like, 'okay, what are the alternatives to the Big Banks?'
They've been working tirelessly to promote the better alternative to banking, and we love their video that they released in advance of Barclays' AGM: "Dear Bob, the thing I hate most about your bank is..."
And this was before the Libor scandal...!
We're making noise about them today because they're hiring!
The UK arm is seeking a Campaign Manager to take the movement up to the next level. They've already secured national and international coverage and building a strong public profile in the public eye.
"We need a sharp organiser, a passionate campaigner and a confident communicator to make the most of Move Your Money's enormous potential. This is a great opportunity for someone with initiative to grow a campaign that will have a direct and significant impact on social justice in the UK.
This role requires strong project management skills, and experience managing a team and a tight budget. Fundraising experience is hugely helpful. But most important is your ability to take the initiative, work independently and cooperate well in a dedicated, passionate and diverse team running a fast paced, news-driven campaign." - Move Your Money
Get your completed applications in by 5pm on 24th Aug. You can download the full job description and view the vacancy on Charity Job.
Admin | 20.08.12
We love Do The Green Thing.
The not-for-profit public service is now active in 207 countries around the world, and aims to inspire folk to live a greener life.
The opposite of wasted is SAVED
SAVED is a new anti-waste initiative from Green Thing, where unwanted and unloved t-shirts are reclaimed, upcycled and saved from waste. SAVED calls for donations of your unloved, unwanted t-shirts and, by adding a design and a story, offers them a new loving home!
Do The Green Thing have got a Boutique on ASOS Marketplace and we've picked out our favourite t-shirt from their SAVED collection below.
Do The Green Thing
For those of you who don't already know Do the Green Thing - here's their fantastic Meet Green Thing video.
Like all good campaigns, they've got simple steps to help you achieve your goals:
1. You get from A to B without any C when you Walk The Walk
2. It’s delicious but it causes more CO2 than cars so go Easy On The Meat
3. Resist the urge to buy the latest and Stick With What You Got
4. Turn down the central heating and turn up the Human Heat
5. The art of wasting nothing and using up everything: All-Consuming
6. Instead of jetting your way around the world, Stay Grounded
7. Don’t leave it on or even put it on, Plug Out
(click on the links for more of their great ideas!)
You can subscribe to their newsletter email@example.com (we definitely recommend you do) - and get some great ideas about going green.
Admin | 10.08.12
Catalyst for change
Describing themselves as a 'think-tank in action', The Global Summit is small, decentralised and flexible - serving to crowd source what’s working, innovate, experiment and re-design a few out-dated policy, philanthropy and technology systems. It is an incredible platform, allowing communities who don't usually have direct input into global policy-making systems, to inform the development of new approaches and policy systems, right up to UN-level discussion.
At Greenhouse, we think their mutually-reinforcing objectives are nothing short of inspiring:
1) Empower all voices to be heard in addressing humanity’s most pressing issues;
2) Advance a universal framework for sustainable community development;
3) Find and spread the world’s most sustainable technologies and social innovations.
"The Global Summit does not do all this, but brings together the best of those who can and will." - theglobalsummit.org
Declaration of Interdependence
We LOVE the Declaration of Interdependence from The Global Summit -
For more of their inspiriational videos, you can explore The Global Summit's YouTube Channel.
Sign up for the summit
The summit will be preceded by a cultural benefit soirée on 15th August (tiaras, as we understand it, need not be worn).
A full schedule for the 16th and 17th August has been planned and looks set to be the global sustainability event of the year (and probably more effective than Rio+20...).
Nick Jankel, founder and CEO of We Create (and fellow Hub member), will be giving a keynote speech on the neuroscience, psychology and philosophy of breakthrough social innovation.
Places start from £20 per delegate, so definitely worth booking a place before they all sell out!
PS. If you do attend the summit, we'd love to hear about your experience, and what you've come away with. Drop us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Lemmer | 30.03.12
There’s something new under the Brixton sun, and it’s a UK first. Today, Southern Solar is to turn on the UK’s first community owned, inner city solar PV system. The project, named Brixton Energy Solar 1, has used local volunteers from the Brixton Energy Group and staff from Southern Solar to fit solar panels to the top of the Loughborough Estate. These panels will provide the area with over 33,000kWh of energy. That’s enough energy to keep 1,833 televisions running per hour, saving roughly 17,000Kg of CO2.
And it’s not just sustainable - it’s profitable as well. Thanks to the feed-in tariff scheme, the project will see a 2% return on the original investment made by the Community Energy Efficiency Fund. This fund is tied to the Repower South London initiative, who have a further ten projects in the pipeline. So Brixton could see more shiny panels glinting on top of its high-rise rooftops.
Agamemnon Otero, artist, green community leader and founder of Repower South London, has high hopes for the project and others like it.
“This is a true a community project that has been possible through co-operation, hard work and dedication. We want to make Brixton Energy a shining example of inner city community resilience for the next 25 years.”
Projects like Brixton Energy Solar 1 are reliant on businesses like Southern Solar to ensure their green plans can become sustainable realities. Southern Solar is providing 60 people with green jobs in offices across the country and was voted by Which? As the top UK solar installation company in the south of England.
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