Communities encouraged to go DIY in making their neighbourhoods more sustainable

News item first posted on: 25/07/17

Local communities are being encouraged to have a ‘DIY summer’ future-proofing their local area and promoting the social, economic and environmental benefits of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.  

The advice is contained in a series of reports and how to guides published by a 'Learning Partnership' of five organisations, including the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens and Groundwork, on the back of the Communities Living Sustainably (CLS) programme funded by the National Lottery.   

It is hoped the advice will demonstrate that living and working in a greener way can help people cope better with the challenges of reduced public spending and deliver wide ranging benefits in terms of health, wellbeing and financial security.   

The original programme, ‘Communities Living Sustainably’ (CLS) followed 12 communities as they tested a range of activities designed to bring residents together to tackle social issues by promoting for environmentally responsible behaviours with project themes varying from gardens, to food growing, to renewable energy and tackling fuel poverty. 

Topics that the guides cover include: 

  • Meanwhile gardens – temporary community gardens built on unused land to help promote greener, healthier neighbourhoods. 
  • Strengthening the local food economy – encouraging the growth and distribution of local produce 
  • Developing flood plans – improving community’s local resilience to flooding and helping to safe-guard vulnerable people and businesses 
  • Community renewable energy - local people buy shares in a non-profit organisation to finance the installation of renewable energy projects  
  • Wellbeing walks - encouraging members of the community to exercise while simultaneously getting to know their neighbours 
  • Upcycling – reducing waste and putting a new lease of life into old and unused clothing and products 

The guides offer simple and easy tips for how communities can improve the economic and environmental infrastructure of their local area as well as promoting the benefits of community environmental action, such as saving money, learning new life skills and forming closer relationships with neighbours.  

The guides also provide suggestions for what more public bodies and funders could do to help community groups take more control over local assets and services. 

The guides are backed by a full report setting out what the 12 communities achieved with their lottery funding and drawing the lessons from what worked – and what didn’t work – to inspire others to get active in their own areas. 

The lessons highlight the importance of putting time into local partnership building, recognising that communities have a wide range of concerns that need to be addressed alongside environmental  outcomes and ensuring that communities are able to access support from experts and local authorities. 

Graham Duxbury, national CEO of Groundwork said:  “Communities Living Sustainably powerfully demonstrated what local community organisations can achieve when they’re given the right support and resources.   

“What CLS proved is that there is no shortage of appetite and ideas among communities, but it’s vital that we recognise that communities don’t have all the answers and need support to be able to implement a lasting change in their local area. 

“So this summer we want to help inspire and encourage local communities to take more control of their local services and assets and work together to deliver community-led social action that will help to keep the legacy of the programme going for even more local people, all year round.  

James Harcourt, England Director at the Big Lottery Fund said: “Thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players, people across the country will be inspired to take part in a range of activities to bring their communities together this summer, from developing community gardens to walks that improve wellbeing. It is great to see the Communities Living Sustainably vision in action.”  

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The Communities Living Sustainably Learning Partnership consisted of: 

  • Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens  
  • Groundwork UK 
  • Energy Saving Trust 
  • New Economics Foundation 
  • Building Research Establishment