Sustainable St Albans proud to support Community Business Awards 2021

Sustainable St. Albans was very proud to sponsor this year’s St Albans District Chamber of Commerce Community Business Sustainability Award.  It was a great pleasure to meet new friends and old at this glittering occasion. 

These five finalists have each put sustainability into the heart of their businesses:

Box Local, distributing local fruit and vegetables and other food products sourced as locally as possible, boxed in St Albans and delivered in the local region.

Leafy, the zero waste, plastic free salad bar here in St. Albans, where the coffee is carbon negative!

Lussmanns, the local restaurant group that has always prized its sustainability credentials and has MSC and Sustainable Restaurant Association certificates to prove it.

Sherrards, St. Albans based solicitors who have worked very hard to reduce the environmental footprint of their operation

JPA Workspaces, who not only source and supply sustainable office furniture, but also find the best possible use for the items their customers are replacing.  

There is no doubt that mitigating and adapting to the worst effects of global heating requires the wholehearted commitment of businesses the world over.  We weren’t part of the judging team, so that fact, and space, prevent us from giving a bigger profile of the finalists’ sustainability efforts and philosophies.  JPA were no doubt worthy winners, but what we really want to say is that it was truly heartening to see “net zero” not only alive and well within our local business community, but being celebrated.

Does your workplace have a sustainability agenda?  “Speak up at work” is one of the 16 steps suggested in St Albans Climate Action Network – Count Us In | Count Us In (count-us-in.org)   

3 ways to speak up at work about the climate crisis

Speaking up at work about the climate crisis can be quite a challenge for many of us. While we can make changes to our own lifestyles to reduce our carbon footprint, it can seem quite difficult to make those same changes in the workplace.  However, whether you’re a worker or a manager, speaking up at work can be a powerful action and is more achievable than you might think.


This is Week 15 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This week, Dan Fletcher shows us how achievable it is to “Speak Up At Work” as part of Count Us In. Dan is a trustee of Sustainable St Albans and is employed in the business services sector.


1. Informal conversation is a powerful way to speak up at work

Informal conversations at work can be highly meaningful. Your colleagues know you and will see the choices that you make, if you let them. You don’t need to be preachy about what you do. You just need to do it and be matter of fact about what you’re doing. Before long, it is inevitable that a colleague will ask you why. Sharing your reasons and how easy it can be is immensely powerful. It can also multiply the impact of your own climate actions.

Explain climate friendly choices you’ve made when asked

This year for holidays I’ve mainly travelled by train across the UK rather than drive. When I go out for meals with colleagues I don’t eat meat and am often plant-based in my diet. If I bring lunch to work, I’ll wrap it in beeswax instead of plastic or clingfilm. I cycle to my office in St Albans or to the station if I’m going into our London base, rather than drive. All of these things have sparked conversations about why I have made these choices. 

Encourage knowledge sharing

Talking informally creates a context for others to share their sustainability steps and tips, and helps to build community around sustainable living. Subjects from carbon-offsetting flights to supermarket plastic, green investment to food miles, can all take place in the office. Speak up about these subjects at work and share your knowledge. From there, it’s a small step to mention Count Us In and to invite colleagues to start taking their own Count Us In steps too. 

“Talking informally creates a context for others to share their sustainability steps and tips.”

Hold a Climate Conversation with colleagues

If a few colleagues are interested, why not organise a Climate Conversation held across a couple of lunch times? You just need a meeting room, a computer, an internet connection and a handful of colleagues who are interested to know what action they can take to help the climate crisis. Find out more about the free, self-serve Climate Conversation materials by visiting Sustainable St Albans’ Climate Conversations webpage.

Chatting at work
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

2. Join a Green Team to speak up at work

The concept of ‘Green teams’ or ‘Eco teams” at work is becoming more common, especially for workplaces that rely on cohorts of Generation Zers each year. We have a team at my work, and this becomes a simple route to influencing the direction of our work’s environmental policies. 

Start a Green team

If you don’t have a Green team at work, then why not start one? It can often be done by simply finding one or two like-minded people and writing to your CEO or even your manager with a proposal of what you could do and how it might work. Most businesses would value that kind of initiative. Many green initiatives, such as switching off monitors and lights at night, also save the company money.

Hold a Climate Conversation to get going

If your Green team needs a focus to get started, why not organise a Climate Conversation as mentioned above? Then use the Count Us In steps as your framework to help plan your actions.

“If your Green team needs a focus to get started, why not organise a Climate Conversation?”

office meeting - green team
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

3. Speak up at work about ESG

Lastly, it is worth thinking about the ESG movement. ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance. It is similar to concepts such as Planet – People – Purpose. It is a global movement that started as a set of criteria for investing and it helps evaluate a companies corporate behaviour and future performance. 

ESG covers carbon footprints and more

ESG is about more than companies reducing their carbon footprints. It includes issues around how a company adds value to the communities where it exists. It also takes seriously issues around how it is governed – how inclusive and diverse it is, how open its decision-making is and how it complies with regulation. ESG resonates with issues of carbon justice and the importance of being a part of the community. 

You can help your workplace by speaking up at work about ESG and the business case for taking it seriously. Businesses that are not aware of ESG will be the ones that won’t thrive in the future. This may be a great opportunity to get involved and help your company to start its sustainability journey in the right direction. 

“Businesses that are not aware of ESG will be the ones that won’t thrive in the future.”

Chatting through ESG at work
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash

Speaking up at work really makes a difference

Speaking up at work may seem challenging, but it is a simple way for you to have a wide and deep impact on the climate crisis. If you’ve reduced your food waste, have changed to a green energy tariff, jumped off the fast fashion bandwagon and minimised your transport emissions, speaking up at work is a great way to multiply your own contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions. From informal conversations through to your work Green team or ESG project, Speaking Up at Work really is a Step worth taking.

“Speaking up at work is a great way to multiply your own contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions.”

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Dan’s advice to help you choose the “Speak Up at Work” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog “Green Your Money” by Simon Grover.

Support our local shops this christmas

Six Reasons to #ShopLocal & Support Small Businesses this Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… but not as we know it with the pandemic affecting everything from who we spend it with, how we prepare for it and in particular, how we shop for it. 


According to Visa, almost half of small business owners say that if everyone in their community just spent £5 extra per week it will help to keep them open long term.

By shopping locally, not only will you help boost the local economy, but you are also much more likely to receive a better standard of service and advice on products.

In this week’s guest blog, Denise Parsons, Manager at St Albans BID, shares some of the best reasons for doing your Christmas shopping in our wonderful independents and markets, and highlights just some of St Albans’ many independent stores who can meet all your Christmas needs.


Carpenters Farm Shop where you can also find the Refill Pantry

1. Boost the local economy

Research shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium business, 63p benefits the local economy, compared with 40p in every £1 spent with a larger business.  By shopping local, you are helping to create economic growth and more jobs.

2. It’s ethical

Boost your eco creds by shopping local. St Albans is home to a host of growers, producers, and makers and whether you buy at our markets or shops, you will know that your food is air-mile free.  

3. Unusual finds!

Our retailers have a brilliant eye for the quirky, one-off’s items that simply you won’t find online or anywhere else.

Books on the Hill

4. Drives local entrepreneurship

A thriving business community is driven by dialogue between sellers and customers. It’s this feedback and conversation that sparks ideas, drive product development and creates new business ideas and revenue streams. 

Eat Wholefoods

5. Exceptional customer service 

Small businesses really do care. They will go above and beyond to make customers feel special. A coffee on the house or free wrapping to save you doing it at home. Or some great advice and guidance when shopping for an important outfit.  It’s an experience you don’t get when you shop big.

6. It’s Easy!  

Before you start filling your Amazon basket, remember YOU CAN SHOP ST ALBANS ONLINE!  Local clicks really will save bricks, so think local and enjoy the same excellent delivery and click and collect services as you would when you shop with larger companies. For Harpenden stores, try the ShopLocal list

Our amazing Independent shops have everything you could possibly want and need for Christmas. Here are our top tips to inspire you to shop and support local this year, and beyond. 


Top Tips #shoplocal

  1. Unique cards and gift wrap at Panda Cards
  2. Make your own mulled wine, get herbs, spices, fruit, nuts for festive meals from Eat Wholefoods warehouse
  3. Gifts for the Grown Ups at The Beer ShopBooks on the Hill , The Odyssey and Katy’s hampers
  4. Perfect gifts for girls that love sparkle at Mini Megan Turner 
  5. Great for kids of all ages Brick Traders 
  6. Your Christmas dinner and all the extras from Carpenters Farm Shop , Box Local and The Fleetville Larder
  7. Quirky and Cool items at Cositas Gifts , Raindrops on Roses and L A James 
  8. Choose your own locally grown tree at George St Canteen 
  9. Christmas Day Outfits at Chloe James Lifestyle 
  10. Food and natural products with zero waste The Refill Pantry on London Road and new at Carpenters Farm Shop too!
  11. Perfect gift experience for those that love a pamper Ginger Natural Health

There is a complete directory of all the businesses in the district on our website www.enjoystalbans.com along with some themed Gift Guides for more inspiration. 

Cositas

You can find a local food map here with over a dozen local suppliers.. 

Wishing you all a safe and Happy Christmas,

Denise Parsons.

Our Eco Church Journey – St Paul’s church, St Albans

“St Paul’s church’s journey began in the early 2000s, when a group of us talked together about ways in which the church could be more sustainable in our use of energy and resources…”


Today’s blog written by Philip Nalpanis and Sheila Wright, both members of St Pauls.


What is Eco Church?

Eco Church is an award scheme set up in 2016 and run by A Rocha UK, a Christian conservation/ environmental charity, to motivate and resource churches in establishing caring for the environment as an integral part of their everyday work and mission. It’s supported by denominations and charities across the length and breadth of the church in England and Wales.

The Eco Church award requires self-assessment against a questionnaire in 5 categories (numbers in parentheses are the numbers of questions in each category):

  • Worship & teaching (10)
  • Building (25)
  • Land (17)
  • Community engagement (27)
  • Lifestyle (15)

The full question set, slightly updated from the one we used, can be found here (it has since been further revised in the light of experience). The questionnaire delves into all areas of the church’s life and management – not only those obviously relevant but others such as whether we promote Fairtrade, our teaching (if any) on how we use our money, and how we encourage sustainability in our individual lifestyles as well as what we do as a church.


The Diocese of St Albans is holding an Eco Church conference online – “Working Together to Net Zero” – on Saturday 10th October. Find out more here


The Start of our Journey

St Paul’s church’s journey began in the early 2000s, when a group of us talked together about ways in which the church could be more sustainable in our use of energy and resources. Initially we just changed the light bulbs; we also wrote articles encouraging environmental sustainability which were published in our Church magazine.

As our building project started (2009), we consciously sought to make the whole building – existing and new parts – as environmentally sustainable as possible. Our architects both supported and enabled this. The key elements were material selection and energy efficiency. How did we achieve this?


Material Selection

For the construction, we endeavoured to maximize use of existing materials and, where new materials were required, we sought materials with a recycled content.

  • We retained the existing halls rather than replacing them with new-build;
  • We reused existing materials for hardcore, e.g. for the concourse floor;
  • Enviroblock  (80% minimum recycled/secondary aggregate content) was used for new internal walls.

For flooring, we used

  • Tirex (made from the rubber from the recycled tyres) in some entrances;
  • Carpet tiles with 40% recycled content in the concourse and chancel;
  • Carpet with 25% recycled content in the church itself;
  • Marmoleum in the Large Hall and elsewhere: this is made from natural materials such as linseed oil, wood flour, rosin and jute, renewable resources that do not contain oil-based products.

Energy


Energy efficiency is about using and losing as little energy as possible, so we’ve:

  • Made use of as much natural light as possible, reducing the need for artificial lighting and also saving money.
  • Installed energy saving bulbs (although they’re not yet all LEDs).
  • In many places lighting operates by detecting movement using PIR (Passive Infra Red) detectors.
  • Lighting in the church is zoned, so that it can be switched on only in the areas where it’s needed.
  • We installed high efficiency gas-fuelled condensing boilers.

The control system (in the boiler room) regulates temperature and timing independently in each room/area, so we don’t heat areas we are not using.

  • Thermostatically controlled radiator valves also make sure we do not overheat individual rooms.
  • Underfloor heating in some of the new areas uses less energy to achieve comfortable temperatures.
  • In the new extension, windows are double-glazed units. In the In the hall and other existing rooms, secondary glazing was installed with window bars to match those in the original windows, preserving the external appearance.
  • Existing walls and some ceilings (notably in the Large Hall) were lined with insulated board; all new walls were cavity insulated.

So why didn’t we install more efficient heating? We investigated a biomass boiler but it wasn’t possible to guarantee access for fuel delivery.


Grounds

We retained a small car park (a planning consent requirement) but paved it with Formpave blocks, which allow water to permeate, reducing run-off.


Other Measures

  • We have recycling bins in several places around the building, clearly marked to ensure rubbish is sorted correctly, in line with the District Council’s recycling policy.
  • Our WCs have a low-volume flush: 4 litres rather than the modern standard 6 litres.  Older WCs use 9 litres.
  • We’re a Fairtrade church (all our tea, coffee and sugar is Fairtrade; where possible we use Fairtrade products for events such as lunches).

So how and when did we achieve our Eco Church award?

We carried out our self-assessment starting in 2016, when the Eco Church award was set up, and received our Bronze Eco Church Award in 2017.


And since then?

We’ve re-evaluated our scores according to the current questionnaire as we aspire to reach the Silver Award standard. This figure shows our scores in the 5 categories. We’re well over the threshold required for Silver in three areas, just over the threshold for Land, and only just over the threshold for Bronze in the Lifestyle category, so this is the area where we need to make significant improvement.

We’ve identified the following areas where we could easily make the necessary improvement:

  • Encouraging the members of our church to undertake a personal carbon footprint audit;
  • Encouraging the members of our church to reduce their personal energy consumption;
  • Encouraging the members of our church to limit their waste by adhering to the principles of reduce, re-use, recycle;
  • Personal use and consumption of Fairtrade and/or ethically sourced goods is promoted in our church;
  • Our church encourages members to use food at home that is LOAF (Locally grown, Organic, Animal-friendly, Fairtrade);
  • The ethical investment of personal savings is encouraged at our church.


We’ll be looking at how we can best do these over the coming months. As a start, we recently held a Creation Sunday service (online) when we considered some of these issues and encouraged church members to make changes in their lives that would benefit the environment.

We’re also intending to include more about Creation Care in our regular services, with the support of the church leadership. This would further improve our score for Worship and Teaching. This could include hymns and songs which praise God for his creation, prayers of repentance for how we’ve damaged the environment, suggestions for how members of the congregation can reduce their carbon footprint and take better care of the environment in other ways, as well as teaching on the biblical mandate to care for the environment. We’re in the process of making a short video of our church garden, which we’ll show in a service and may put on our Facebook page @StPaulsStAlbans


Embracing Slow Fashion & Upcycling

Covid-19 has given us all a lot of time to consider the impact of our lifestyle choices on the planet – and not being able to spend time outdoors has made many of us appreciate the environment more than ever.


Emily Southcombe reflects on clothes, fashion and the environment – as part of Sustainable St Albans series of  #LockdownBlogs


Even before we had ever heard of the coronavirus…

..many people had been trying to have a sustainable Christmas in 2019, with some reaching agreements to only buy gifts from charity shops – whether it was for colleagues at work or presents for family. Many people then took on the ‘no new clothes’ challenge for 2020 including Deborah Meaden from Dragon’s Den.

photo by Volha Flaxeco-unsplash
Photo by Volhar Flexico from Unsplash

Divert clothes from landfill through charity shopping and alterations 

The Charity Retail Association states that on average, every charity shop diverts 29 tonnes of textiles away from landfill per year. Charity shops are therefore a vital part of the effort to reduce waste in the clothing industry.

Last year Oxfam launched their #secondhandseptember campaign to draw attention to the fact that buying new clothes can have as much impact on the environment as flying, and since then many fashion retailers have looked to adapt their range including John Lewis who have recently launched a sustainable fashion line.


“We have become too dependent on the fashion industry”


Emily Southcombe blog photo - navy cotton dress upcycled with ivory lace detail to the neckline

Who made my new jacket?

In her book How to break up with Fast Fashion’ Lauren Bravo brings to light the fact that we have become too dependent on the fashion industry. People used to make clothes themselves, or from patterns, but in recent times cheap mass-produced clothes and constantly changing fashion trends has led to people losing touch with how or where their clothes were made. Unethical production methods have given rise to campaigns such as #whomademyclothes by Fashion Revolution – an organisation which publishes an annual ‘Fashion Transparency Index’ assessing fashion companies on a number of social and environmental issues.

Environmentally conscious people are looking to charity shops and second-hand outlets more and more – seeing buying second hand as a win-win situation for both their pockets and the planet.

Buying natural fibres will help protect marine wildlife 

It is estimated that 35% of microfibers in the oceans are from synthetic clothing and home furnishing textiles, making the case for natural fabrics stronger than ever. Although certain fashion houses have brought out clothing lines using recycled plastics, in an ideal world we’d like our clothes to be made of natural fibres such as cotton. The Soil Association suggests organic cotton as opposed to non-organic cotton, which has been touted the ‘world’s dirtiest crop’. Organic linen, silk and wool are good alternatives.

ocean clean wash

“Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year was Upcycling

Another alternative is upcycling. The Cambridge dictionary’s word of the year 2019 was ‘upcycling’ and it has taken off not just for clothing and accessories but for homeware.

Sewing for the NHS

Upcycled clothes are not yet mainstream, however with more and more sustainable shoppers shunning fast fashion they are bound to look for products with a smaller carbon footprint that reuse existing materials. Many people have been sewing to provide PPE for the NHS and crafting to get through the long days of lockdown and hopefully people will continue to use their sewing machines long after it has finished.

scrubhub herts

It is a big shift that will be needed for us to reduce the impact of our fashion buying habits on the environment but if lockdown has taught us nothing else it is the difference between the essential and the non-essential.

Hopefully coming out the other side we will consume more sustainably and be better off for it!

written by Emily Southcombe

Slow Fashion Resources

Where to shop

Charity shops St Albans & Harpenden

Vintage

Buying second hand online

Upcycling/recycling

For more information on the impact of fashion on the environment: 

  • www.fashionrevolution.org
  • Follow on Twitter:
  • @laurenbravo
  • @TRAID (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development)
  • @CharityRetail
  • @Fash_Rev
  • @SoilAssociation