There’s strength in numbers when it comes to protecting the planet.
You recycle, turn the lights off when you leave the room and take public transport where you can, so you’re already doing your bit to fight climate change – but what can you do if you want to make an even greater impact? Think big with community initiatives.
1. Investigate community renewables
There’s a big misconception that domestic renewable energy is solely a matter for individual homeowners – community energy projects are gradually gaining traction in the UK as well. In fact, community groups have funded and built over 200 renewable energy schemes around the country, operating wind, solar or hydro. And while you would be forgiven for thinking such projects are the sole preserve of rural residents, or those with a lot of cash in the bank, you’d be wrong. In urban Brixton, for example, five housing blocks were fitted with solar panels that will save approximately 16 tonnes of CO2 every year. Residents could get involved with a contribution of just £250.
2. Streamline the school run
Researchers recently revealed that the twice-daily school run was contributing to dangerously high levels of toxic pollution, damaging both the climate and children’s young lungs. In fact, children are exposed to 30% more particulates and nitrogen oxides than adults thanks to their journeys to school and back. Figures indicate that a quarter of all cars on the roads during peak times are collecting or dropping off school children. As a result, hundreds of schools are piloting bans on cars near and around their premises. Speak to your children’s head teacher to see if it’s something their school would considering implementing. If not, enlist the help of the PTA to at least set up a car pool network – removing even a few cars from the roads is better than getting rid of none at all.
3. Grow green spaces
Green infrastructure such as green roofs, roadside plantings, wild areas and street trees bring a lot of benefits, including absorbing carbon dioxide and lowering the temperature. And, of course, bringing nature into your neighbourhood creates an attractive environment for everyone. Consider the opportunities for doing this in your local area. Is there a patch of unused land somewhere that could be planted with wildflowers? Could school grounds or parks benefit from some extra greenery? The Woodland Trust gives out a variety of free trees and hedges designed for all kinds of environments. Find out more here.
There are all kinds of individual climate challenges facing communities around the UK, from the destruction of green belts to the closure of parks – make your voice heard! It’s easy to assume that the Average Joe is unable to influence the outcome of such proposals, but there’s so much evidence from community groups around the country that campaigning can and does make a difference. For example, the Gwent Levels in south Wales would be ruined by a new road were it not for local pushback. Meanwhile, dirty coal mining on the coast of Northumberland was originally protested by a group of eight people – now it has enormous resistance with widespread media coverage.
5. Share the knowledge
Create a local climate care group, sort of like a neighbourhood watch association for the environment. Encourage people to come along and discuss their thoughts on local climate issues, and explore ways to tackle those challenges as a community. You don’t need any funding, technology or government assistance to do this, either. For example, residents in the rural village of Ashton Hayes have achieved a 24% reduction in emissions over the last decade thanks to collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Individual action against climate change is important, but community efforts are even better. Bringing people together, spreading the important climate message and making a real difference to the places that we live is a vital part of enacting even wider-spread change. Whether you live in a small village or sprawling city, the whole world is your community.
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