Community organising to reduce our carbon footprint

Alison Crane writes about Gloucestershire Area Meeting's supportive approach to community carbon footprint reduction, and offers up a training for Quakers interested in doing something similar.

Footpaths food workshop
A community carbon reduction workshop in action. Photo: Alison Crane

In 2016, two Friends travelled from Gloucester to attend the Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW) Sustainability Gathering. Inspired by what they learned there, they reported their experience to Gloucestershire Area Meeting with enthusiasm. Of all the things they shared with us, the meeting was particularly struck by the importance of sharing stories.

As local meetings began to share more stories of witness, the area meeting felt increasingly inspired to live out our faith through action. We resolved to address the challenges of the Canterbury commitment to sustainability by working together.

Discerning our approach

We identified that joint action on sustainability as an area meeting is lacking, despite the number of committed individual members. To help connect people we decided to set up a Gloucestershire-wide sustainability support group. We envisioned this group as a place for offering each other encouragement, and empowering each of us to act even more positively in our local areas.

Our first step was to agree on applying for a QPSW Sustainability and New Economy Grant. A grant would allow us to provide training for facilitators to run community carbon footprinting sessions in their local areas. Despite having a wide range of community-led sustainability projects in the county, we were not aware of any current carbon reduction groups.

This process of engagement and discernment throughout the area meeting, together with a clear plan to work with existing non-Quaker networks in our communities, convinced QPSW to provide us with the funding we needed.

Practicing the skills

We knew that previous QPSW funding had supported training by people from Transition Leicester (offsite link), who have developed their own carbon footprinting programme 'Footpaths for a greener life'. We were impressed by what the Footpaths group had achieved in Leicester through training people in local communities to facilitate their own sessions.

So trainers in Leicester came to Gloucester to run a weekend workshop for would-be facilitators. When we experienced it ourselves, we liked the way the sessions focus on the emotional aspects of making changes. The trainers encouraged us to move beyond simply counting carbon emissions, and emphasised the effectiveness and joy of working as a group.

Encouraged by this workshop, six Quakers from different communities in the county are now working with others to recruit participants and then facilitate carbon footprinting groups in their local communities. The co-facilitators and participants might be friends and neighbours, or come from churches and other groups. A local community carbon footprinting group is now running in Cheltenham, and others are ready to start in autumn 2017.

Word of the programme is spreading, in Gloucestershire and further afield. Non-Quakers are looking to run sessions in their own groups, and Quakers from other Meetings are looking at introducing community carbon reduction in their areas. Gloucestershire Area Meeting has arranged for the trainer from Leicester to visit again this autumn and train people to be able to run the local sessions themselves. In this way, we hope to enable others to become carbon reduction facilitators in the future.

If your Meeting is looking to deepen a commitment to community carbon reduction, read on for details of the training below.

Become a Footpaths facilitator

Footpaths: routes to a greener life training

30 September–1 October

Footpaths is a carbon reduction programme for local communities. The programme's seven sessions look at home energy, waste and water, consumerism, food and transport. The aim is to help us to work together to reduce our individual carbon footprints. Transition Leicester developed the programme and has been running it for several years. Find out about their work at www.leicesterfootpaths.org.uk.

The training will be held in Gloucester. There will be a small charge.

Because places are limited and we want to take the maximum value from the training, we ask that participants are actively recruiting a group in their local area, and have a start date for sessions. There should be two people from each group at the training, who will then co-facilitate their group together.

Please contact Alison for more information, including ideas about recruiting, and to book places.

Contact Alison about the Footpaths facilitation training