Sustainable St Albans Week – a model for engaging the local community towards change
By Ainslie Beattie 9th July 2018 Culture & Society
“Creates good opportunities to discuss Sustainability with friends and colleagues as they become more aware of the issues’’
We endlessly promoted the programme online and distributed thousands of brochures through the organisers and at market stalls. The Herts Advertiser, our media partner, gave us excellent coverage, as did our local Radio Verulam and local magazines.
Across the week the events open to the public had a good turn-out. The launch events for Plastic Free St Albans were very popular with over 80 people coming along to the #plasticfree Community Picnic, and 300 attending the Plastic Ocean film event at our local independent cinema. The Week kicked off with 80 attendees at ‘Our Planet, Our Future’ with 10 short talks – from edible insects to sustainable money.
‘I ’m a store manager with Boots Pharmacy, I will sit with our senior management and discuss how we can cut out plastic bottles, bags. We must change!’
‘I wanted to say an enormous thank-you to all the organisers of this year’s Sustainable St Albans Week. The energy, vision, positivity, and community motivating power of what you have created over the last three years is just wonderful, and St Albans is very lucky to have you all’
The bookable events were all sold out: the Food Waste Tour, Vegan Cookery, Bread-making and the After-School Nature Safari.
‘..I think you… have created a real community festival with momentum and quantifiable engagement. We were able to hook our sustainability agenda on the back of your programme which made it easier to talk about and more straightforward for us to find funding for the reusable coffee cups we gave away..’
All nature walks and events were very well attended with 44 people at Verulamium Park’s guided tour; 70 came to the Repair and Upcycling Fair, 40 helped to open St Albans’ first ever ‘Little Free Library’ and 38 to the Sustainable Swish clothes swap. 40 people attended AECOM’s talks on the built environment and 25 turned up for the Eco-Church talk.
The finale on the last Sunday attracted 400 people to the Know How Festival – with workshops and information on bike maintenance, repairs, food waste, composting, #plasticfree lives, electric cars, safe cycling and play streets, great vegan food and live music.
‘What started as an outlier is now a core part of the St Albans events calendar and a key element of the identity of our City’
...(This event)... “facilitates conversations that could otherwise be deemed frivolous or irrelevant.”
23 schools/colleges ran activities or events with their pupils, with three of them linking to another school.
One school even designed and sold their own reusable plastic water bottle! Schools created food growing gardens, ran food waste campaigns, environmental assemblies and litter picks.
- 90 events open to the public
- 23 schools/colleges/ private events
- 4 young people’s groups e.g. brownies, scouts, Woodcraft Folk
- 4 private community events
‘Sustainable St Albans Week has given us the incentive to kick start our plan: to introduce recycling bins in every department, nominate recycling champions and think of ways to reduce the single-use plastic we use. We have even been getting our residents involved too, by taking part in a little pick, helping to clean up our local community!’
‘Came to the film screening – was shocked and inspired. Am going to try one change per month to take small steps without feeling overwhelmed. April: no more plastic drinks bottles!’
‘..thanks to Sustainable St Albans for giving me the impetus. This is much more what I would like to see us doing as a Residents’ Association. ‘
‘Well done to all of you, and to your teams and helpers, for organising such a fantastic week of Sustainability!...I have been to the equivalent of one event per day and have visited three different churches, one swanky town-centre office, one research establishment, one cinema and one school. .. I know more about lighting, heating, and cooling, and investing my money (such as it is!) than I did and loved the re-usable coffee cups display in Oxfam. The ideas for up-cycling have amazed me. I got a few of my gardening questions answered and a few bright growing ideas, too. All good stuff! And on top of all that, I have eaten an awful lot of excellent cake with some very nice people.’
Public Event themes – using Bioregional’s One Planet Living Framework.
See the programme here https://sustainablestalbans.org/get-started/download-a-brochure/
See the full list of local groups who supported the Week
2018 Feedback/Evaluation methods
- Feedback Forms
- Organiser online surveys
- Public evaluation and discussion event in June
Key points from evaluation so far
Why did the organisers take part?
71% said they hoped to raise awareness about what they do
61% wanted to be part of something bigger
How did people hear about it?
In equal mix it was mainly (a) brochure (b) social media
What did people get out of attending an event?
92% said they were better informed
84% said they felt motivated to make changes
What changes will attendees make following the event?
The top areas of change were around recycling and waste, followed by saving energy/installing renewables, encouraging others, sustainable transport.
What are the top environmental issues for St Albans District?
Feedback so far indicates that top choices are ‘decreased use of single-use plastic’ and ‘increased rates of recycling, with the next ones on the list being ‘maintaining biodiversity and natural habitats, and clean air’.
We would love to share the Sustainable Week model with any interested groups. Please get in touch email email@example.com