Organise a Playing Out scheme or a street party now and bring sustainability to your street!

Street parties are fabulous aren’t they? Bunting, tables of people in the middle of the road, food and entertainment, laughter and music. As for Playing Out schemes, sessions might have less of a fanfare but, short and regular, they can be easier to organise and a sturdy foundation for the community on your road. They get children out in the fresh air and neighbours out onto the street to meet each other – while passing round a packet of custard creams.

With the Big Lunch in early June every year and the Great Get Together later in the same month, street parties are still a big thing and not just for royal occasions. More and more parties are being held simply so neighbours can enjoy each other’s company. This year there is even the big VE Day celebration which is a perfect excuse for a party. 

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Meanwhile, Sustainable St Albans and St Albans District Council have now made it possible for residents to apply to close their road more regularly than just a one-off party – up to 8 times per year for the purposes of play and community building through the new Playing Out Scheme introduced this January.

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Free information sessions

Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out project and volunteer group, Our Street Party, are organising a whole series of information sessions this March. Free to attend and no need to book, they are the perfect chance to find out all about how to organise a one-off street party or a regular Playing Out road closure scheme in your road. More details at the bottom of this article.

How do road closures bring sustainability to a street?

You might be wondering how street parties and Playing Out sessions are relevant to sustainability. Surely they are just about people sitting in the (fingers-crossed!) sunshine, enjoying a cup of tea or a barbecue? Yet it’s true – by organising a road closure on your street, you could actually be doing your bit for sustainability! One look at the Bioregional One Planet Living list of the ten areas of sustainability (below) and you start to realise that these types of community events tick an awful lot of boxes. 

Health & happiness as well as Culture & Community are the obvious ones. It’s not hard to see how pulling residents together on the street outside creates a community – one where cultures mingle, isolation is reduced and all the positives of a good neighbourhood can be strengthened. All those children running around in the fresh air has got to be healthy too!

Yet there are more. Getting to know your neighbours equates to becoming a part of the community. And doing that makes people care about where they live. People have more interest in Equity and local economy when they find out their neighbour runs a local business or charitable organisation. They resolve to shop locally when they hear another business is shutting on the high street. They organise a meal out in a local restaurant with new people they have met.

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And how about Local and Sustainable Food? We all love to talk about our gardens!  We can swap tips with neighbours about growing tomatoes, inspiring each other (or commiserating!). Encouraging one another to grow our own, hearing about local growing projects such as Food Smiles and Incredible Edibles, sharing our knowledge about local food sources – all this is natural conversation between neighbours on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

As for Land Use and Wildlife, there is so much to enjoy in your immediate neighbourhood. From discussions about sightings of garden birds, to plans for Hedgehog Highways (see Wilderhood Watch St Albans), it’s incredible what can come out of such community building events. Residents spend more time in their neighbourhood and see it in a different light – and suddenly there is a proposal to turn a patch of wasteland into a community orchard. 

Of course, Sustainable Transport has to be on the list. From an environmental point of view, children playing on the street immediately outside their house is better than driving to the park. Children learn to ride their bikes right outside their own front door. Before you know it, the parents get bikes and a whole family uses bikes instead of cars for local journeys. 

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From neighbours organising a litter pick (Zero Waste) to sharing information about solar panels (Zero Carbon), there is just no arguing that community building is an important foundation for getting people to care about the environment in the first place.

Organise an event on your street this Summer!

So if you want to do your bit for sustainability but don’t know where to start, why not start with your own neighbours? Get them out onto the street to meet each other and build a community. Who knows what small changes in sustainability your street party might make to your neighbours’ lives – and the ripple effect those might have.

Find out more

To find out more about Playing Out, visit our Playing Out St Albans District webpage.

Watch our new video:

To find out more about Street Parties, visit www.ourstreetparty.org.

Free information sessions March 2020

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Street Parties*: Mon 2 March, 7.00pm The Beech House, St Albans.
Playing Out: Mon 2 March, 8.00pm The Beech House, St Albans.

Street Parties*: Friday 6 March, 10am. The Harpenden Arms, Harpenden.
Playing Out: Friday 6 March, 11am. The Harpenden Arms, Harpenden.

Playing Out: Mon 9 March, 10.30am at The Enchanted Tea Rooms, 71 High St, Redbourn, AL3 7LW.

Playing Out: Tuesday 10th March, 8pm in the St Stephen Suite (upstairs), St Stephen Parish Centre, Station Road, Bricket Wood, St Albans, AL2 3PJ.

Playing Out: Mon 16 March, 10.30am, at Caledon Community Centre, Caledon Road, London Colney, AL2 1PU.

*Street Parties information sessions are run by Our Street Party.

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One School’s Journey to Cutting Single-Use Plastic

Six year-old pupils on a school Eco Team complained to their teacher about the waste generated by the free school milk programme so their teacher, Andrea Bootle, decided it was time they took action.

Binning the cartons

“Every Friday, our bins were overflowing with little milk cartons”, says Andrea, Eco Teacher at Crabtree Infants’ in Harpenden. “Each child could get five of them a week. Each carton had its own straw. And with 180 children in the Infants’ school, even if only half of them had milk ordered for them, the maths was staggering. 90 children, 5 cartons a week, 39 weeks a year….17,550 little cartons and straws to landfill a year.”

The Department of Health in the UK states that every child under the age of five in the UK is entitled to a free 189ml serving of milk whilst in attendance at a registered day care provider for two or more hours a day.  For many children at Crabtree Infants’ School, as at other schools, parents continue to pay for milk after the free entitlement has ended and the children very much enjoy their break-time drink.

“The children loved getting their milk but the waste upset them”, continues Andrea. “We looked at options for recycling the cartons, but since many still contained liquid, we couldn’t see a sensible way to deal with the waste. Adding to that all the plastic that the blocks were shrink-wrapped in and the waste was extraordinary. The Eco Team really felt it was time to act. During the Sustainability Festival, the children pledged to make change happen.”

With the help of their teacher, the Eco Team wrote to the school’s designated milk provider who offered them an alternative – a supply of re-usable plastic beakers and large containers of milk delivered to the school instead of individual cartons.

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“Obviously, we were nervous at first.” explains Andrea. “Particularly with the new Reception children – we had visions of floods of milk all over the carpet if they were given open beakers. And the washing up was also a bit of a concern. However, all the staff have been amazing and supported the Eco Team’s changes with no objections and the children have coped with it well.”

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Georgia Frost, Reception Teacher, agrees: “The children in Reception enjoy socialising at the snack table. They have gained independence by pouring their own milk, whilst being eco-friendly. It allows them to take some responsibility for the whole world around them; something we encourage in all aspects of school life.”

Stopping the flow of single use water bottles

Soon beakers of milk became the norm for the school and the bins are no longer overflowing. But the children did not rest there.  The Eco Team came up with another type of single-use plastic they wanted to stop: single-use water bottles for school trips.

“The children already brought in their own water bottles every day”, says Andrea. “Yet on school trips the school-provided packed lunch came with one and sometimes two disposable bottles of water. When it all arrived for our Year 1 and 2 trip to Southend the children were horrified by the stack of 240 throwaway plastic bottles of water just for one day.”

Again, by raising the issue with their provider and changing their school policy for trips, the children were able to make a big impact. Children now simply take their own reusable water bottles on school trips just like they do on an ordinary day.

The children were so right to challenge what we do”, concludes Andrea. “Their determination has saved thousands of cartons and straws from ending up in landfill and hundreds of unnecessary single-use water bottles. I’m extremely proud of them.”


Check with your school milk provider and caterer about their policies and how you can work together to cut single-use plastic. Crabtree Infants’ School receive their milk from Cool Milk and uses Herts Catering for their school meals.

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St Albans District streets celebrate World Car Free Day

Seven streets in St Albans and Harpenden closed for up to 3 hours on Sunday 22nd September  for World Car Free Day.  Neighbours took the opportunity to socialise as their children played on the road with bikes, scooters and skipping ropes. They were all taking part in the trial of a new Sustainable St Albans project called Playing Out.  The project enables residents to apply to close their own road to through traffic for the purposes of children’s play and community building.

The Playing Out scheme is being launched throughout the district including St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. It is being run in conjunction with St Albans District Council and is now open for applications from the public for 2020. 

Sustainable St Albans’ Playing Out co-ordinator, Nicola Wyeth, said:

“Playing Out sessions enable children to play out in the way that we all took for granted when we were young. It is a fabulous way to build communities, for parents to find a support network and for isolated residents to enjoy a cuppa and a chat all while the children get fresh air and exercise. It was wonderful to see multiple streets celebrating World Car Free Day in this way.”

A Playing Out scheme is always run in a way that minimises any inconvenience to residents who need access by vehicle to the closed area. Neighbours volunteer to steward the road closure points and if a driver needs access, they are escorted to their property at walking pace after children have been cleared from the road. 

Sustainable St Albans will help you through the necessary steps of the application and lend you the necessary kit such as high viz jackets and road closed signs. Interested residents can find out more at by visiting our Playing Out page or get in touch by emailing us. There will be free information sessions in November – one at the Harpenden Arms in Harpenden on 11th November at 10.30am and one at The Beech House pub in St Albans on 15th November at 10.30am. Come along to find out more.

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