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Sustainable Communities

TOPIC: How do you tackle sustainability in the community?

How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 5 months ago #1

Imagine that the UK has fallen under the control of a highly efficient dictatorship who has introduced one new rule, which is that every person has a strict carbon ration. Overnight the new regime installs meters to measure our use.
The next morning, we have a shower and we can see the meter ticking. The meter speeds up as we tuck into our bacon sandwich - are bacon butties really that carbon intensive? The drive to work inevitably hits the meter, but we hadn’t accounted for our empty house eating into our carbon allowance with its sloppy heating timers.

In just five hours the inevitable has happened: the lights, our computer and the heating have all shut down. We can’t buy food and have to walk home to a dark, cold house. We can’t even listen to the news to find out what has happened.
It sounds ridiculous, but is it that far-fetched? UK legislation states that by 2050 we have to cut carbon emissions by 80%. We have just 39 years to achieve a colossal level of change.

The average council, according to WWF-UK, produces at least 30,000 tonnes of carbon per annum. Combine this with the businesses and individuals in that area and the number rises to over 1.5 million tonnes.
Carbon reduction targets, combined with huge rises in energy bills, have left councils needing to keep costs down. In order to do this, the local authorities and social housing providers that we work with are undertaking technological changes and engaging their staff in behaviour change programmes. They want to be role models who inspire their residents in sustainable living.

Many of their residents will be suffering from fuel poverty so it’s important to help them benefit from warmer homes and lower energy bills. Technological changes, such as the smart meter roll out, won’t solve the problem although it is part of the solution. It is as much about efficient people as it is efficient technology and by galvanising behaviour change, these organisations can really make their investments go further.

Inspiring and motivating residents to change their behaviour not only enables them to save money but helps build leadership and new skills in residents who are motivated to get involved. Resident involvement leads to a better sense of community and engages the unengaged, thus improving resident satisfaction.
Global Action Plan is using these key motivators to help organisations hit their carbon reduction targets, and improve resident satisfaction. We do this in a number of ways, such as resident doorstep engagement, employee engagement and long-term engagement projects.
Be inspired by Newlon Fusion and Global Action Plan’s Eco Family project.
Last Edit: 2 years, 5 months ago by Scott Buckler.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 5 months ago #2

Fundamentally the Govenment is at fault in not taking the carbon issue seriously. For whatever reason (other priorities, not a vote-catcher, etc?) crucial global draft treaties are not being signed up to.
If they were to be signed up to and then acted upon, we would perhaps have a Department of Environmental Sustainability adequately funded to get a broad-based media message across, rather similar to the War Effort in 1939. "Your Planet Needs You" - as opposed to "Your Country Needs You". Misuse of scarce resources has to be everyone's problem or it will be no-one's problem and we will all head lemming-like over the cliff.

The new DoE would do two things

1. Improve the specificational and enforcement/implementation aspects of the Building Regulations to ensure genuine environmental sustainability in buildings, and

2. Effectively educate all users/inhabitants of the buildings as to the functioning and functionality of energy-efficiency features.
Last Edit: 2 years, 5 months ago by Scott Buckler.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 5 months ago #3

Does anyone have any really practical ideas about how to get local communities to make lifestyle changes for themselves?

Perhaps as part of the neighbourhood planning agenda or otherwise?
 
I am thinking of focused web resources, using social media, practical facilitation tools for communities to use. Perhaps tools like calculating footprints, using sustainability indicators and checklists, life cycle assessment, or simpler methods. More specifically there are things like travel plans and car clubs. Does anyone have any experience they could share that works as a "bottom up" approach coming from the community as envisaged by the government?
Last Edit: 2 years, 5 months ago by Matthew Abbott.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 4 months ago #4

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that is why a Climate Change Strategy was adopted in 2008 and the Council is currently working with residents, businesses and other stakeholders to tackle the issues around the impact of climate change

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 4 months ago #5

The Converging World is a charity which works with community groups in the West of England area (and nationally, although less intensively) to help them produce sustianable energy plans for their area and take forward low carbon projects. In our experience there are many groups out there (often Transition Towns) that are keen to take ownership of the carbon reduction agenda in their area. The support they need is often in-depth initially as they often don't have expertise in renewable energy or finance which is necessary to design successful projects. They do however have the local connections and knowledge which are essential to success. We have been developing guidance and tools to help groups overcome these barriers and standardise the process to enable anyone to participate (e.g. a standard renewable energy co-op share issue).

The Government needs to recognise that some of these community groups are quite ambitious in their plans and stability is required for their projects to be successful. Reducing the solar FiTs for > 50 kW affected many groups and the profits would have returned to the community. 

As can be seen in several rural communities in Scotland (e.g. Isle of Eigg), people can quite easily take control of their own energy usage, reduce it and actually bring more money into the community. These initiatives come from the community itself, rather than from the council or big business, so anything we can do to help these groups succeed is very important. Local ownership is essential.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 3 months ago #6

In Harrow we have seen an increasing gap in the wealth of households around the borough. With atough winter forecast and utility bills threatening to spiral out of control, governments should be increasing community funding- that would tackle the fuel poverty agenda quicker. Add on benefits would see increased community spirit and perhaps go someway to preventing rioting, an unneccessary strain on an already creaking public purse.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 2 months ago #7

Here at Lancaster City Council, sustainable communities are seen as crucial to the reduction of carbon emissions. The role the council takes is one of encouraging partnerships with the many community based groups in the area which are actively involved in improving the environment and promoting living sustainably. We at the Council try to get involved in as many ways as possible and acknowledge that partnerships moving forward are crucial. Through the LDLSP (Lancaster District Local Strategic Partnership) of which we are a member, the council has been involved in many local projects. We also report on independent community projects such as MORE renewables who have just launched a co-operative in the Morecambe area to provide Solar PV. panels to certain community builidings, thereby providing free electricity and generating further finances through the Feed in Tariff for future renewable projects.

Lancaster has just had The One Planet Festival organised by LESS; a community interest company which promotes and provides sustainable solutions. This included practical sessions and talks throughout the week aimed at the public and focusing in on information regarding reducing our carbon footprint through draught proofing homes and the use of renewables in the domestic sector. Public participation is key and getting public opinion onside regarding sustainability is key. Perhaps we should look at success stories across the world where this has been successful. The City of Freiburg would be a case in point where civic leaders from the political, professional and community realms come together and work in tandem.

Reducing budgets are making the path forward more challenging; and the creation of a new Climate Change Action Plan which will include actions in-house and also with the LDLSP is an ongoing project. Any thoughts that other delegates may have regarding new ideas which are self sustaining financially would be welcome.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 2 months ago #8

I have invested public funds (our money) in community projects in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that had to demonstrate a strong element of ‘future proofing’. Not only did they need to develop energy efficient new buildings, but wherever possible they used the opportunity to install wind, solar PV, ground and air source heating, rainwater harvesting etc. I also included a requirement that they used local material and labour where possible and if they were trading (shops, cafes, village halls) that they used local produce as well.

They also had to provide a realistic income and expenditure forecast that demonstrated a financial viability for the project. Advice and assistance is available through the Rural Community Council – social enterprise (we now also have a School for Social Entrepreneurs); commercial advice through board members who ran similar businesses; renewable energy advice from Community Energy Plus and the Cornwall Sustainable Energy Partnership (CSEP) and Construction advice through the Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust. Community Power Cornwall provides advice and financial assistance to groups wanting to set up local energy service companies.

Cornwall Council (and before becoming a Unitary Authority, Kerrier District Council) invested (our money) in solar PV on council office roofs. Cornwall Council runs a Green Cornwall Programme – Tim German leads this, having gained wide recognition for managing the CSEP.
Behaviour change at individual, community and corporate levels is what is required and notoriously difficult to achieve, as we are wedded to our living, working transport and dietary habits. By investing in visible, catalytic community projects we can demonstrate the benefits of different behaviours and show how these can be scaled up or down as appropriate for households or businesses. I am convinced that we all need to take more responsibility for our own future and that of our community (local and global), drawing back from decades of reliance on the state.

As James Robertson said in ‘Future Wealth – A New Economics for the 21st Century’ written in 1989; “The 21st century economy must be systematically enabling, instead of systematically creating and extending dependency. It must systematically foster self reliance and the capacity for self development, but not meaning self sufficiency or selfish isolation”

If people are able to gain more control over the local economy, food production, jobs (small scale local workspace), housing to retain those who want to stay in the community; minimise and manage their waste (rather than considering the atmosphere as a good alternative to a hole in the ground), surely this should provide a resilience against external change beyond our control and consequently aggregate to a stronger macro economy! I have found it very frustrating that excellent local projects creating/retaining local employment can be refused planning permission following letters from influential holiday home owners who visit a few times a year.

I am currently assisting a small charity setting up a community garden, with a view to developing social enterprises around energy production, growing and cooking for a vegan diet and providing a place where people can learn how to minimise their local/global footprint.
As for the Isle of Eigg I think it is a fantastic case study of a potentially resilient community, although I did hear that once they had control of their energy there was a considerable rush of imported domestic electrical equipment, so it would be interesting to have a look at the record of before and after regarding energy use. I am sure all the new equipment will have been ‘A’ rated.

The bigger question is how are going to cope with a global population of 9 billion, within the context of peak oil, peak water, peak soil etc, etc, etc, when people aspire to our standard of living. I seem to remember Shumacher explaining that the western economy was like being on a plane not only going in the wrong direction but accelerating towards the ground, yet economists from other parts of the world wanted to know how to catch up!

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 1 month ago #9

The talk is that the Council will sell off their property within 12 years. If this is true and is it only alleged at the moment, there is little incentive for them to lower the carbon ration on their properties.

If the lack of people who are prepared to re-cycle around me, is anything to go by, Global Action Plan have their work cut out.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 1 month ago #10

The Transition Town Movement sets a brilliant example of how to tackle sustainability in the Community. However, it's ability to deliver is somewhat hampered with larger players being potentially let off the hook through the recent / proposed changes in the planning system (NPPF) and Localism Bill, the former reduces / removes a number of the policy cross checks for "Sustainability" placing the emphasis on "Sustainable Economic Growth" (which is somewhat an oxymoron in itself). Furthermore, while the localism bill places further emphasis on community planning and Neighbourhood Plans, there are still huge concerns how these Plans will be managed & funded at the local level, opening the playing field for large developer's to be "helpful" and pay for the plans to be developed, notwithstanding of course the role of Neighbourhood Plans are so people can call for either more or modifications to development proposals, not for reduced development or protection of sites. If they missed the boat on that front during the Local Plan consultation, then they have missed their chance. At the moment there is the risk that the Planning System becomes less able to push for quality and appropriate development and with the emphasis placed on Economic Growth, I can't help feeling this does not bode well for the "Sustainability in the Community" agenda. Where is the incentive for the "big players" to build and operate in a truely sustainable mannor? Up against this where does the Sustainable community get a look in?

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 1 month ago #11

Community Energy Fit, run by national charity NEA and E.ON, will train unemployed people to deliver energy saving advice to friends and neighbours to help them save money on their bills and keep warm in their homes.

Participants will be recruited from existing job creation schemes to undertake an initial half-day energy awareness course. They can then, if they wish, undertake additional training and mentoring and become fully-fledged Community Energy Champions, able to provide advice and assistance to the wider community.

The scheme has launched in Stoke-On-Trent and Coventry, where it is being delivered with a range of local partners. It will run in an additional three areas of England, to be announced shortly. For further information visit www.nea.org.uk/community-energy-fit/ or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 2 years, 1 month ago #12

In Bath and NE Somerset the Council and community groups are working together on projects to reduce carbon emissions and fuel poverty through energy efficiency initiatives. We have groups in individual neighbourhoods who have been awarded grants, trained and issued with equipment such as electricity monitors to spread the word on how to save energy with their neighbours (e.g. Energy Efficient Widcombe) and we are supporting projects run by heritage lobby groups and Transition Bath to develop strategies for making our historic buildings stock more energy efficient - including targeting hard to reach neighbourhoods. The offer of grants to community groups and officer time to facilitate and support community projects has been very successful and there is now a real momentum in the district to tackle energy efficiency in our existing buildings stock that is backed up with emerging planning policy at the same time.
We are happy to share information with other local authorities and community groups - please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 1 year, 4 months ago #13

An example how communities tackle sustainability is the Brighton Energy Coop. Over the past year, I have been privileged to follow their journey of trying to set up a community-owned solar energy project in Brighton, attending director’s meetings and public meetings (as part of the Community Innovations for Sustainable Energy project). I witnessed the numerous challenges that had to be overcome during this journey, in particular the tenacity they had to demonstrate when having to postpone their first launch in November 2012 because of the sudden Government announcement of cuts to the feed-in-tariff.

This sudden announcement could have been the end of the project but this was not the case. After only two weeks of recovering from this setback, the team became active again: contributing to the feed-in-tariff consultation and receiving some of the LEAF funding – a project that has been successfully accomplished in April 2012. Mastering the setbacks that have arisen throughout setting up a community owned renewable energy project was fascinating to observe, in particular witnessing the team’s constant persistence and determination in trying to reach this point.

Although each team member brought a mix of skills and knowledge to the project, the past year involved a steep learning curve for all of them. The team had to engage with the multiple aspects of setting up a community owned renewable energy projects that are extremely diverse in their nature. This required the team to pick up skills quickly and competently through, for example, engaging with other groups, by visiting conferences and project sites, organising and facilitating seminars for groups to learn from each other’s experiences, and creating local links with people who have become early investors and sometimes even advisors for the team.

This determination has involved a lot of hard work and sleepless nights for the team members that will hopefully be paid off by installing the first community owned renewable system in Brighton within the next month. Their work will continue… seeing that the team members have gained the confidence to realise even more sustainable energy projects.

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 1 year, 3 months ago #14

Sabine - this sounds fascinating: what's the latest news?

Re: How do you tackle sustainability in the community? 1 year, 3 months ago #15

Community Energy Fit sounds a great initiative - what's the progress been like in the last year? Best wishes
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