Updated: Nov 23, 2022
ZERO is 1 year old this week! We officially opened the doors to Zero Carbon Guildford's climate hub on Nov 20th, 2021 🎊 What a year it’s been!
It’s difficult to stand back and acknowledge progress when you’re knee-deep in a project, so it seemed fitting that after a year of hard work we take a minute to reflect on our accomplishments, and most of all to thank the hundreds of people who have helped push Zero Carbon Guildford forward, creating in ZERO the 'benchmark' of community-led climate spaces in the UK (not our words!).
We started out with nothing except the enthusiasm of about 15 Surrey locals from different volunteer groups. So let’s have a look at where we’ve got to a year later!
COMMUNITY COHESION & COLLABORATION
When we launched, we had grand plans to build community cohesion around tackling the climate crisis, focused on goals such as cutting waste, protecting our local countryside, and helping people to reduce their emissions. You can’t do all this in just 12 months, but what we have done is build a solid base for this, and a strong community with members from across the political spectrum, working together for the good of Guildford’s future.
As a result of this collaborative approach, 9 months after launch we became Guildford’s largest volunteer organisation! And in the past year we’ve racked up a whopping 5541 hours of volunteer time in 12 months. Our volunteers are ZERO's lifeblood. Without the hard work and dedication from everyone who turns up to keep the space open 6 days a week, contributes to projects, works the cafe or shop, sorts Terracycle or baby clothes, stewards events, or chat with the public, we would have closed by now. So above everything else, an enormous thank you to every single person who has helped get the charity where it is today.
But not only have we had an impact on climate action locally, we’ve had over 30 groups from across the UK come to visit, looking for advice on how we got ZERO off the ground and keep it running (a lot of hard work from countless people is the honest answer), meaning that we can realistically say that ZERO has had a significant impact on community organising on climate across the country.
It’s also worth noting some of the partnerships we’ve grown over the last year. This includes numerous schools and businesses, whilst strengthening ties with groups like Guildford Environmental Forum, who have been so supportive since the rumblings of an idea for ZERO, and building new relationships with charities like Big Leaf Foundation, where overlaps with refugees fleeing the impact of climate change are obvious.
And in particular we’ve managed to develop a strong relationship with the University of Surrey and many of its departments, working with the likes of GCARE, ANTICIPATE, psychology, sociology, CUSP and CES, and more!
REACHING OUT OF THE BUBBLE
One of the ever-present challenges for environmental and climate organisations is reaching out past the usual suspects, or the climate bubble if you will. From day 1 we have made a point of trying to ensure we build genuine collaboration across the community, and whilst this is clearly a huge and ongoing challenge, we've tried to do this in a number of ways.
Firstly, over the last 12 months we've hosted a whopping 263 events. To try to reach a broader community these have spanned a wide range of topics, from ethical investment to composting to bat walks to surplus food feasts to our ongoing series on home energy use & reduction from our resident energy experts. Some of these events help to drive behaviour change. Some, like those delivered through ZERO Climate Cinema are thought provoking and evocative. Some have a direct impact on Guildford‘s emissions - like the 100t of CO2e we’ve saved by hosting monthly Kilo Sales vs locals buying new clothes - and some are just good fun, like our Open Mic nights and quizzes.
Secondly, we try to approach how we talk about the climate crisis from the perspective of what the local issues are, and the impacts that we’ll feel from climate breakdown - and indeed already are, with extreme weather in 2022 causing havoc with power & water supplies in the surrey hills, landslips onto our commuter lines, and almost 40°C heat in Surrey during the Summer.
We’ve begun a programme of Climate Conversations, using shared values to speak to the things that are important to0 residents who wouldn't normally get involved in climate action, to demonstrate how whoever you are, and whatever you love, tackling the climate crisis is vital to protecting those things. This has been strongly reinforced by the brilliant research of Climate Outreach’s programme Britain Talks Climate, which provides a brilliant research-based way of understanding people's motivations.
Thirdly, the projects we run are just common sense. Many based on the shared values mentioned above, such as waste reduction, like supporting Surrey Hills Baby Clothes Library with a physical display, or the fantastic work by our community fridge team. Which leads us in nicely into.....
We have a ton of great projects running inside and outside ZERO, run by fantastic teams of dedicated volunteers. You can check them all out on our website, and get involved in any that you might fancy - we always need more help! We can't cover them all, (though they're all great!) but it’s worth giving a nod to a few of them which have had a demonstrable impact on cutting emissions and waste locally.
Early in 2022 we launched Guildford town centre’s first community fridge (our friends up at The Hive in Park Barn also run one). We secured some funding from Co-Op to get the ZERO fridge off the ground, and now with the support of local partners including Aldi, Sainsbury's and Waitrose we save over 1.2 tonnes of food per month!
If you use the Fridge, you’ll know we also always have a great range of delicious cakes and pastries, made possible through support from Hoxton Bakehouse, who give us their leftovers 5 days a week.
There are a number of community fridges across Surrey, check out the great work our pals over at Mid-Surrey Community Fridges do, saving a ton a week through their partnership with Fareshare!
We teamed up the River Wey trust and international water monitoring group Water Rangers, allowing us to monitor Guildford’s local rivers and waterways at several different points. We now have 16 test sites along the River Wey, which get tested and fed into open source platform Freshwater Watch, allowing scientists across the globe to access our data for studies. A nod to Action Funder and Surrey County Cllr Angela Goodwin for supporting this programme with funding, and to Kat Kavanagh, head of Water Rangers who by a stroke of fate moved to Guildford as we opened our doors last year!
Sustainable Business Network
Also this year we launched Surrey’s first and only Sustainable Business Network. In partnership with the Innovation & Research department at the University of Surrey, we researched the local need and created a programme designed to cut through the overwhelm small & medium business feel when trying to cut emissions.
We launched the SBN in September, and by teaming up the SBN’s activities with LoCASE from Surrey County Council, in the last 3 months we’ve managed to help 25 businesses build carbon management plans implementing Science Based Targets Initiatives programmes, with 2 more courses still run run before January. You can sign up to join the network here, and book your free spot on the Net Zero 360 course to build a carbon management plan here.
We've got exciting news coming this week! As part of our birthday celebrations we're launching a brand new project to help reduce waste and consumption across the community. Using some funding from The National Lottery we're about to launch the ZERO Library of Things,
Another chunk of the TNL funding we received was dedicated to revamping the space itself. Last year we raised £25,000, generously donated by the local community, which we needed to use to not only spruce up a former New Look which had seen no love for 3 years, but to rely on as security for running costs during our initial uncertain period. We cobbled together displays from what we had, using elbow grease and scraps, but with some funds we've been able to give the place a decent overhaul.
Given that we're all volunteers at ZERO, it's not always easy to find the time in between busy lives to do major overhauls of the space. But our display team is now putting the finishing touches on a jazzy new look ZERO. They can always use more help, so if you've got a good eye for design, drop us a line today!
Next up we hope to launch projects on Fashion and Food Systems. Fast fashion is a major contributor to environmental degradation, and an enormous drain on the world's limited fresh water supplies, putting many communities at severe risk so that global fashion brands can knock out 10 seasons of clothing per year. Food meanwhile is critical to all of us, and given the risk to crop yields across the world from climate-related drought, The UK imports 40% of the food we eat, putting us a serious risk of food shortage, and demonstrating that food concerns should be the catalyst for the UK to step up to become a leader in tackling the climate crisis, whilst communities explore alternative, regenerative, and low impact growing methods to ensure we can feed ourselves when food-exporting countries stop exporting food to ensure they can feed their own populations.
If you'd like to get involved in these blossoming projects - or any of the other projects ZERO runs with it's passionate and welcoming teams of volunteers, give us a shout today.
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