Anna Francis, Resilience Manager
Whilst employing a sustainability officer in times of austerity may, to some, seem an extravagance, Frome Town Council have found that the benefits – socially, economically and environmentally are manifold and this work has contributed to the success and national profile of the council. However, there are other ways to embed sustainability whether you have a dedicated officer or not.
With fuel poverty creating 3000 excess deaths a year and 40,000 people dying prematurely due to air pollution; acting to cut emissions, insulate homes and switch to clean energy has a direct benefit on wellbeing. The need to switch away from fossil fuels is also vital if we are to have any chance of limiting global emissions and reduce the impacts of climate change. The increase in extreme weather events and local impacts such as flooding highlight the importance of this work. With cuts to services the health and economic impacts around isolation are also increasing. Finally, with the UK using the equivalent of three planet’s worth of resources and the average drill being used for only 3 minutes in its lifetime there are significant issues around resources and waste.
Frome Town Council employs a Resilience Manager four days a week. The role focuses on reducing emissions from energy and transport and improving resource use. The role has brought in over £150,000 in external funding and enabled unique projects such as the UK’s first Library of Things and the UK’s first community fridge to set up and be replicated nationally and globally. Even if you can’t afford to employ someone currently there are many things you can do. Here are a few ideas:
Embed sustainability: ensure that environmental as well as social and economic impacts are considered and outlined in every project through your project initiation document. Borrow and adapt our environmental policy and ensure this is part of the staff handbook. Put sustainability at the heart of the neighbourhood plan – you could use the One Planet Living framework. Working with MSc students to support this work through summer placements for example, is a great way to further develop projects and provide useful sustainability experience.
Ride the waves: make the most of public interest in specific areas. For example, plastic is key issue at the moment and has meant engaging with the community and enabling projects to set up has been quick and easy.
Energy: Frome Town Council is working with Climate Works to replicate our ‘Clean and Healthy’ plan. This outlines how much insulation, roofs of solar, wind turbines, hydro schemes etc would be needed in your area to shift away from fossil fuels and become energy resilient. We are also exploring opportunities with Triodos Bank around providing finance to support businesses and communities to insulate and switch to LED lighting. This could be potentially replicated elsewhere. It’s also worth linking with local energy experts such as CSE in Bristol who may be able to provide free advice to households and help train fuel poverty volunteers. External funding can be secured to support these kinds of activities.
Transport: Working with local campaign groups such as Bus Users can be an effective tool to help secure local bus services and boost numbers. Providing an integrated transport leaflet to all households is an effective way to increase usage and awareness. If you can find parking spaces Car Club operators such as Co-Wheels or E-car club may be able to set up in your area for free to enable the community to share vehicles and access hybrid and electric vehicles. Engaging schools through an active travel challenge can significantly reduce car use, in Frome this went from 70% to 30% in some areas. Developing a transport strategy for your area which embeds active and fossil-fuel free travel is also key – feel free to adapt ours.
Waste: setting up a community fridge is relatively simple and there is currently funding available from the Community Fridge Network. The Frome fridge saves around 24 tonnes of food each year. There is an open source toolkit available here and here. There is also a detailed case study on how we set up the Library of Things. Plastic is a key issue for the public at the moment, switching away from single use plastic is an easy first step and Surfers Against Sewage have some free resources to help become a ‘plastic free town’.
For more information, toolkits and ideas visit: www.frometowncouncil.gov.uk/resilience