THE SO TOOLKIT

05. RESEARCH & IDENTIFY KNOWLEDGE GAP

RESEARCH

 

As most of us did not have a vast amount of knowledge in this area, we started educating ourselves by researching – starting with visiting a neighbouring parish (Low Waste Whitchurch) who had recently declared a climate emergency, and had produced an excel spreadsheet with short, medium and long-term goals on, which they kindly let us use as we wished. 

We also researched into other villages or towns that had declared a climate emergency, to see how we could learn from them. One example was the award-winning Ashton Hayes in Cumbria, who had started this in 2006, and produced a really useful website and free resources for others to share. You can access it here.

This provided lots of learning and options – such as the importance of starting working with the local school, and a nearby university if you have one. The school is key, as not only are they working with the new younger generation, but this learning they engages parents, grandparents, carers, which is a huge part of the village. With COVID, working with schools is likely to be difficult, as they have enough on their plates dealing with the COVID regulations, so some initiatives are on hold, and others have to be delivered in a different way (e.g. a banner outside the school for clean air day, and a social media campaign, as well as a school parent mail). 

Learning and researching is a continual process, as each project forces you to ensure that anything you are saying is fact-checked, that you can quote your sources, and that they are reliable. There is a lot of erroneous information out there on an unsuspecting internet search.  There is also some conflicting or negative information (e.g. my plastic bags in my shop are better than paper ones as they take less energy to make). Things are not always straightforward, and some issues are quite complex. It’s important that key team members are able to answer these types of questions (in a positive way) to retain and build the credibility of your group. It also made us realise that nobody knows everything, and we are all learning together. For this reason, and to fit with our values, we agreed to make it clear that we are a group of volunteers who are learning as we go, just as most residents will be, and we will endeavour to provide the most accurate information, to the best of our knowledge, but we also acknowledge that we may make mistakes. We therefore welcome constructive criticism from parishioners, as it helps us learn, and also shows a level of engagement.  This is also a good opportunity to encourage people with useful knowledge to help you. An example of this was we wanted to put up A4 posters for a campaign on some of our village centre lamp posts. As it tends to rain quite a lot in the UK, these needed to be waterproof. We decided a compromise with plastic was to use the most eco-friendly laminator pouches we could find. What we should have done is say that on the poster perhaps, and also that we used re-usable cable ties, and we will reuse the posters next year, as it did prompt some comments. 

 

We have also conducted some research into what residents think about climate change, and recycling, what the barriers are, and what ideas they have to help. A summary of this is here.

LEARNING POINT:

WASTE AND RECYCLING GROUP

  • Know who does what: BDBC collects waste, HCC disposes of it. 

  • Project Integra: What happens to our household waste? Grey bin contents gets incinerated with energy recovery, dry mixed recyclables (green bin) gets sorted and the "good bits" are baled and sent off to re-processors, glass boxes sent for recycling, garden waste (a collection residents have to pay for) gets composted.

  • Know what can be recycled via the HCC run Household Waste Recycling Centres: They currently take batteries, electrical items, fluorescent lights, wood, green waste, plaster board as well as general household waste. Some items have to be paid for (e.g. plasterboard)

  • Know what BDBC local recycling centres take: Local recycling centres, like our one at Overton Hill, currently takes glass, cardboard/paper, small electrical, aluminium, clothes, and shoes. 

  • Find out about other recyclers: Such as local Salvation Army banks, book banks, shoe and bag banks, charity shops, BEAD recycling, TerraCycle and so on. For example, we have a crisp packet collection at our playgroup and school, which volunteers pack up and send off to TerraCycle. TerraCycle will only allow so many collection points in a geographical area. Click here for more information. 

  • Data: Project Integra (PI) has some Council Area analysis of what is left in grey bins, but not down to Parish level and levels on contamination in green bins. The current levels of contamination are high, and we found that most people don’t know what goes into the green bin. There is confusion - other counties collect other things, BDBC used to collect more plastics when there was a market for them, some people put dirty or wet items in, etc. There is also confusion over details. Plastic bottle lids on or off? The same for glass bottles? Clarity is needed.

  • Data sources: WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has some great information and resources here

  • Environmental Bill: The Environment Bill now going through Parliament, which can be found here, could impact on collection systems, producer pays legislation (such as deposit returns on carbonated drink bottles etc). This is why Councils are reluctant to introduce any new facilities or services until they know what will be required under new legislation. 

  • The Smart Living team at HCC, whose Facebook page can be found here, are very useful contacts. We talk to Beth, Zoe and Jesse who are extremely helpful. They also have run a Waste Prevention Community Grant of up to £5000 for the last 3 years, for things such as repair cafes, nappy libraries, or other innovative projects.

  • The following document (here) also provides lots of useful information about waste and recycling in the Borough and County.  

  • Our neighbouring town of Whitchurch have this informative Recycling Map to show the value of providing clear and locally specific information. We hope to do the same for Overton in the near future! 

  • We also have a recycling questionnaire, which can be found here

  • Take a look here at the work that Defra are doing around the waste resource strategy for a more national look at what we recycle and how products are packaged. For example, the recent ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds. 

  • Information on any local shops or producers where residents can buy zero waste products is a great starting point to arming people with where to start on buying less packaging. Websites like this can be useful. 

  • Low Waste Whitchurch have produced this fabulous local shopping guide covering local shops. 

  • Also, it’s useful to have a list like this of easy single-use plastic swaps for beginners, such as reverting back to soap bars, or buying bottles of refill hand wash to avoid buying the non-recyclable pump. We also have lots of these in our plastic free July leaflet and videos on our website. 

  • For help on recycling, please contact Maria Massarella at maria.massarella@hart.gov.uk, or Ashley Wild at ashley.wild@hart.gov.uk

WASTE PREVENTION COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS

Hampshire County Council provided a day

of training for 6 of us, with particular focus

on food waste prevention and home

composting. We are now able to run workshops,

write articles, and run stalls to help people

address the huge amount of food waste we

create in Hampshire (about 1/3 of all  black

bag waste in Hampshire is food waste, most

of which could have been eaten). This is a

huge issue! It can be tackled by education

about meal planning, shopping with a list,

portion measurement, food use by dates, fridge temperatures, knowing what can be frozen, learning better cooking skills, and using up leftovers. It would also save the average family an estimated £60 per month. From time to time the County Council also offers grants for innovative waste projects, as well as discounts on things like composters.

Two of our Food Waste Champions at a green fair.

RESOURCES

  • Find out more about being a community champion here.

  • Love Food, Hate Waste is a great resource, which you can also access here or through the Smart Living website here

  • Smart Living are currently in the process of updating some of their web content, and are hoping to launch a new community/get involved page soon. Food and composting remain the focus, but they will be providing additional information about reuse and repair of furniture, clothing, and electricals, and already have a swap event toolkit and a reuse locator on their website. 

  • They are also hoping to offer online training in the near future. 

  • Contact the Smart Living team by email, at waste.prevention@hants.gov.uk, or phone 0370 779 7985, for any inquiries and applications. 

  • Feel free to use the waste hierarchy or other relevant content from the Champion’s training or Smart Living / LFHW websites – it should be up to date but check with Smart Living if you’re unsure.

  • Click here for a video promoting the Champions scheme.

UNDERSTANDING

THE WASTE HIERARCHY

 

The best option is not to create the waste in the first place (e.g. why do we produce so much single-use plastics that we can’t recycle or reuse?), followed by reusing or refurbishing  (e.g. repair café), recycling and composting,  other recovery, and finally disposal (incinerator or landfill).  The most sustainable focus is to work on items further up the diagram. 

TRANSPORT GROUP

  • Information and resourced for the Clean Air Day campaign can be found here. You can also become a Clean Air Day supporter for free and use their logo on your website and access resources for free.

  • HCC have teamed up with the charity Living Streets to provide resources and information for walk to school week, which can be found here

  • Linked up with local e-bikes and e-scooter suppliers in the area.

  • Engine idling campaigns: this is an offence now, with a possible £20 fine. Living Streets also have information on this, that can be accessed here. We got hold of temporary banners for outside our school (engines off so we don’t cough), but if we want permanent no idling signs, we have to pay for them. We are currently getting approval on design from HCC/BDBC and production so that we can have them on lamp posts in prominent places. BDBC also have car stickers.

  • A useful resource is here.

  • You can email HCC at travelplans@hants.gov.uk for more travel resource. 

  • The ‘My Journey Hampshire’ website can provide lots of useful information on suitable travel for climate emergency groups. 

  • Here is a specific link to the air quality pages, where you can find free resources and ideas for Clean Air Day. 

  • The education pages here have great free resources for schools. 

  • Global Action Plan are a useful source of ‘greening the planet’ resources to use for clean air and ‘compassion not consumerism’ campaigns, which can be found here

  • The HCC team work in partnership with Sustrans and Living Streets, who have great cycling and walking resources. 

  • A useful quiz about pollution can be found here

  • For traffic and signage related questions for Hampshire County Council, the contacts you can email are roads@hants.gov.uk and traffic.management@hants.gov.uk

  • More information about engine idling from BDBC, click here

Research by Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas, 2017, which can be found here, is helpful in identifying key areas where individuals can reduce their carbon footprint (the figure quoted for having fewer children is very high and has been much criticised but the diagram is otherwise useful in identifying which actions have most effect) so that e.g. avoiding flying has a far greater effect than recycling (important though recycling is in other ways). 

ENVIRONMENT GROUP

  • Take stock of your local environment:  the local ecology, land use, landowners, development plans, stakeholder/interest groups and more. 

  • Connect with like-minded groups in the area. In our case, the Overton Biodiversity Society, the Incredible Edible Basingstoke Group or the Transitions Towns Basingstoke team. The local Wildlife Trust organisation (Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust) is also a good resource base to learn from and get support.

  • One of the major applications of an environmental group will be practical implementation of eco-friendly projects that enhance the local environment. Examples of this could include one or more community gardens, hedgerow maintenance, tree plantings, endangered species surveys, building/village square maintenance and more. These require a team of volunteers who are willing to get involved and so we have found that recruiting energetic and engaged volunteers should be high priority. Furthermore, a willingness to lead community activities is important, as people are generally inclined to join pre-organised activities/projects if they have time.

  • In terms of making large-scale positive environmental impacts, the two most important sources to connect with are large landowners and local MPs/Borough Councillors. Having an understanding of the Environmental Land Management scheme in agricultural policy is helpful in supporting landowners in their transition to more environmental land management and farming practices. This can be found on the government website here.  

  • Furthermore, having an understanding of and sourcing a demand for ecologically produced agricultural products can be a benefit for the environment. Working together to demonstrate to the Borough Council and local MP what the community wants is also a way to positively impact the environment (for example, requesting a food waste collection scheme for mass composting; developing a community orchard on unused borough council land).

  • We found that our local Biodiversity society had a huge overlap with our group, so we are now endeavouring to either merge them or have one as a subset of the other.

  • Free tree packs are available from the Woodland Trust if you are successful in applying.

  • Have a limited number of achievable objectives. It’s easy to set too many objectives and find that some of them were not really within your ability to influence. 

  • The reason why SO was set up was in response to HCC, BDBC and Overton Parish Council all declaring a climate emergency, and the different SO activities lead into and support that objective. So, it makes sense to choose things that are easy for people to do (such as recycling or tree planting), but also things that will make the most impact (such as getting people to switch to a green energy supplier, insulating their house/flat better, or setting up a community energy project. 

LEARNING POINT:

  • Check all your sources and ensure they are credible.  

  • Accept you will make mistakes, and own up if you do.

  • See any criticism as an opportunity to be better or even recruit. 

  • Be polite and thank everyone who provides feedback or criticism, and ideally ask them if they would like to share their knowledge or join us in some capacity. That way a comment that may upset some of your volunteers can have a positive and unexpected outcome. 

BUSINESS, SCHOOLS, CHURCH, CLUBS AND SOCIETIES GROUP

 

This group concentrated on forming relationships with key groups in the community, and doing joint initiatives, where COVID allowed.

  • Local school 

  • Local churches

  • Local businesses – both individually and via our local business association

  • Guides/Scouts/Explorers – this is difficult to progress at present with COVID

  • Other useful societies such as U3A, photography/art clubs, amdram, crafting/sewing, men’s’ sheds – anything that can have a link to climate change, or might be a source of volunteers. Again, difficult currently due to COVID

  • We produced a business survey

  • We produced a green audit (on excel) which we developed with a number of different businesses to help them look at their current operations and where they might be more sustainable. COVID has meant there is a lot of pressure on businesses, so this is not the priority of most, so this has been put on the back burner for now.

ENERGY GROUP

 

The energy group concentrated on these key objectives:

  • Information on helping people draught-proof their homes

  • Information to help people switch to a green energy supplier

  • Looking at a community energy project

 

You can read all about our RCEF bid in our toolkit about setting up your own community energy project here. 

COMMUNICATIONS & EVENTS GROUP

  • We keep our tone positive and uplifting. Guilt’s not the best motivator, so we try never to make people feel bad.  We also don’t pretend to be perfect ourselves.

  • People lead busy lives, and don’t always want to lead, but are often happy to follow a group. So we make it clear that’s what they’d be doing - instead of saying ‘volunteers needed,’ which sounds exhausting, we say ‘come and join our ever-expanding group,’ ‘we welcome new members’ etc. We try to be open about our meetings, about who we are, about what we’re trying to do. We aim for friendliness and optimism, there is no secrecy, and everyone is welcome. We want volunteers to see the whole experience as enjoyable, not a virtuous chore.

  • To prevent fatigue, we try to highlight good news, so that people don’t feel they may as well give up.  Instead of saying ‘single-use plastic is awful - stop using it’ we might say ‘join the millions of people around the world who are committed to reducing their use of plastics.’

  • To avoid being intimidating, we stress that people don’t need to have specialist skills or knowledge to join the group, only enthusiasm. If people can’t commit to huge amounts of time, or sometimes need to take a break, that’s ok. It has to be sustainable in the deepest sense: that people can juggle it with their own lives over the long term.

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