Happy New Year to you, if it’s not too late to still say that! After years of being involved with HEAT I took over as Chair last January. I certainly didn’t envisage the year it turned into. We were already in the midst of the ‘climate and nature emergency’, when the Coronavirus struck. I was skeptical about how much we could do and how much interest we would get moving meetings on online, but we’ve collectively worked really hard and achieved an awful lot in 2020. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on not only HEAT’s achievements, but also the environmental achievements of various community groups across Hungerford and our local area:
- We planted over 1,000 trees and created a community lockdown memorial wood on Hungerford Town and Manor land, along with St. Lawrence’s Church and Friends of the Earth Newbury.
- We picked copious amounts of local apples, which have been turned into apple juice with local company My Apple Juice, and donated apples and juice to our local food banks. If you would like to order some HEAT apple juice, please email us to place your one-off order by 22 January for collection at the end of January: 1 x 750cl bottle for £3 or 4 for £10.
- We worked with West Berkshire Climate Action Network to promote the Solar and Warmer Street initiatives, and the new Government Green Homes Grant, for home insulation and low carbon heating.
- We have a new HEAT notice board on the High Street, under the railway bridge.
- We successfully moved our last Wednesday of the month HEAT meetings over to Zoom.
- We finally got a HEAT Instagram: heat_hungerford and Twitter accounts: HEAT43152028
- Hungerford Primary School set up an Eco-group following the planting of a tree for every pupil in their grounds.
- John O’Gaunt School held their first successful Environment Week, set up their Environment Club and have become an Eco-School.
- St Lawrence’s Church was presented with a Bronze Eco Award.
- West Berkshire Council installed electric car charge points in the town centre.
- Climate change expert Dr Mike Morecroft’s Climate Change Adaptation Manual was launched by Natural England.
- Belle Chic has been a community collection point for Thatcham Refillable deliveries of household cleaning and personal care products.
- The Facebook group Thatcham & Newbury plastic free, recycling & zero waste uk has kept us motivated and informed about recycling and reducing our waste throughout lockdown.
- Tesco has started donating food that can’t be sold to OLIO for distribution to those in need in our local area.
- Packaging Not Included zero waste shop in Marlborough has adapted their business to continue to supply customers throughout lockdown.
One thing that has really struck me about the Coronavirus pandemic is the impact it’s had on mental health. The five ways to wellbeing – being active, connecting, taking notice, learning and giving – are often cited as ways to help us feel mentally healthy and happy, and working with HEAT and the community has certainly helped me do many of these things, during these challenging times.
I’ve always thought that Hungerford is a great community and since so many more of us have been based at home, it feels like it’s got stronger and is such a lovely place to live. It’s been really inspiring and motivating to work with members of our local community and other groups and to have this opportunity to reflect on all of our environmental achievements.
A friend once advised me not to make a long list of unrealistic New Year’s resolutions that I couldn’t achieve, but to commit to making one positive change each month that can help the environment. My challenge is for us all to do the same in 2021, so we can look back in December and all have achieved 12 things. Some may be big, such as investing in solar panels, and some small, such as swapping household chemical cleaning products for vinegar, but collectively we will have achieved a huge amount. It’s just been announced that 2020 concluded the hottest decade on record, so let’s work together to help combat climate change and make a positive difference for the environment and for each other in 2021.
New notice board!
Despite lockdown measures and the reduction in human activity which ensued, 2020 is still likely to be our planet’s hottest year on record. The startling reality is that the potential consequences of climate change are far worse than those of the Coronavirus, and yet it is possible that this pandemic has shown us a way to mitigate environmental disaster in the future.
Before the current situation developed, we would have thought it impossible for UK road traffic to reduce by 70% and air traffic by 90% compared to a year ago, and for this to happen overnight! On account of our restricted behaviour, we very quickly noticed the air getting fresher, birds singing, and the re-emergence of wildlife all around us. Scientists told us that nitrous oxide emissions had significantly reduced in many areas, and that if continued this would save thousands of people each year from an early death. This evidence highlights not only how quickly we can make positive changes, but also what longer-term measures taken today could do to combat environmental disaster in years to come.
As government restrictions are steadily lifted, we will not continue to hold off climate change with lockdown measures, but what can we do to continue to be a positive influence on our environment? Here are some ideas…
1. Be travel conscious – Before jumping in the car on a plane, think about other options you could take. Regularly swapping the car for a walk or cycle is beneficial both for your health and of those around you, and using public transport or car sharing can be more sociable and better for the community.
2. Use your purchasing power – Be more demanding as a consumer where possible. Doing this can help bring about positive change from manufacturers and legislators alike. Try shopping for food without packaging, find out where products come from, and check that fair, ethical, and sustainable methods have been followed.
3. Do more with less – In the past, sewing, mending, and not wasting were all a part of everyday life, but these skills and similar ones have seen a decline over the past few decades, meaning that we rely more heavily on buying new things where it is not necessary. This trend only enlarges our carbon footprint. Keep an eye out for repair cafes and opportunities to care for household items which need fixing, instead of replacing them. This not only reduces waste, but also means these skills can be shared and passed on to others.
4. Grow your own – Growing your own vegetables can keep you fit and healthy, and give you a greater appreciation for the food we eat. It is also a great way for children to have a better understanding of where the food they eat comes from. Food grown in your garden or allotment will not come wrapped in plastic, nor with any air miles. Eating seasonally is more sustainable, more nutritious (food contains more antioxidants when grown in accordance with natural cycles), and growing your own helps you save money too.
5. Make things last – We don’t have to get a new phone just because our network provider tells us we can, the most environmentally friendly option is to make things last as long as possible. In a world of finite resources with a growing population, making things last is becoming increasingly important.
6. Plant a Tree – Planting a tree from seed or sapling is not only a very rewarding experience which brings us closer to nature, but it will also help keep our environment habitable for years to come. If you don’t have a place to plant a tree, why not donate it to the local Lockdown Woods project?
7. Sign petitions, write letters, peacefully protest – If you have an opinion on how something should be done better, done more sustainably, or maybe with the community more at heart, make your opinion count. You could join a protest for your cause, or write a letter to our local MP, sign a petition (or even start your own).
8. Shop locally – There are shops in and around Hungerford promoting environmentally-friendly business practices. Whether not using packaging, or selling local produce, it’s important for us to support these businesses to encourage similar behaviour from other vendors.
9. Be tech savvy – Some technologies, available today, will play a large part in reducing our carbon emissions in the years to come. These technologies will need to be embraced by us so that they become the new normal. Solar panels and electric vehicles will mean that energy can come with less cost to the earth. Look out for the West Berkshire Solar Streets Initiative, which we’ll be promoting once it starts up again after lockdown. Join us at the HEAT Electric Vehicle event in September to learn more about the vehicles already on offer, which we’ll confirm as soon as we know we can go ahead.
10. Join HEAT – Share your ideas and thoughts with us at the monthly meeting and collectively we can lower Hungerford’s carbon footprint through community-lead action. Monthly meetings are currently being held via Zoom at 7pm on the last Wednesday of every month – please visit the Monthly Meeting Page for details of how to join.
Please follow us on facebook