What makes our city sustainable?

Place is such an important factor in identity. When you meet someone, your first question is most likely ‘Where are you from?’ The pride that may (or may not) come from the answer given is what I work to foster in St Albans. As #SustFest19 will tell you, sustainability is not just about reduce/reuse/recycle. While important, elements around community cohesion, mental wellbeing and business viability all contribute to a city’s sustainability.

Gin & Jazz 2018 Stephanie Belton (3)

Credit: Stephanie Belton 2018

Today’s blog is written by Helen Burridge, Business Manager of St Albans Bid – which is sponsoring the #SustFest19 St Albans Market Takeover on Sunday 19th May.

St Albans businesses care deeply about the viability of this city. The economic confidence of the community, the visitors, the employees and the residents will translate into economic prosperity for its businesses. Three years ago, the businesses in St Albans voted to become a Business Improvement District, paying a small contribution into a pot that collectively makes a significant contributor to events, public realm, safety and marketing of the City. The BID can also help to represent those businesses in various discussions with the public and private sectors on a local, regional and national level.

As the BID Manager of St Albans BID it’s my job to make sure that the investment made by the BID Members makes the city a great place to live, work and do business, both now and in the future, and of course a large part of that work then becomes looking at ways to make the city more sustainable, in the many and various ways that that covers.


While I will acknowledge the ongoing wailing and gnashing of teeth about the ‘death of the high street’ in fact, there is an argument to say that this change in retail is actually the death throes of consumerism itself. A change from ‘want/have’ economics to ‘need/consider’ economics: the desperate and hysterical consumption of the 80s and 90s now looks decidedly distasteful and is being replaced by a borrow/reuse/packaging free/fewer-better kind of purchasing.

TimeTurn 2018 Credit Stephanie Belton (42)

Credit: Stephanie Belton

St Albans as a City is well placed to survive this change in consumer behaviour. The self-selecting curation of our retail businesses (you will find an audience if your product is good) is continuing to be demonstrated by reliable, quality local (and national) brands weathering the current climate and providing confident, good-news stories about customer experience, quality product and curated taste-making. On the internet, endless choice is overwhelming. In St Albans you will find a quality offer, selected by informed businesses, helping you to make reasoned decisions about where you shop, where you eat and where you socialise.

small bid logo picture - 19.12.2017In the wider community there are many and various entrepreneurial and disruptive businesses considering these changes in consumer behaviour and working to appeal to a considered and engaged local population. Can you eat vegan or vegetarian? Can you buy locally grown or locally made products? Can you go plastic-free, or packaging-free? Can you travel in a way that is more kind to the environment while still being relevant to what you need to get through your day? There are so many options and it can be overwhelming to know where to start to live a more sustainable life.

With this in mind, St Albans BID is delighted to sponsor the St Albans Market Takeover on Sunday 19 May. Bringing together like-minded businesses to prevent the many and various ways that small interventions by individuals can make a collective difference will help to show that actually these changes are not that insurmountable.

St Albans BID supports the Market Takeover because it’s the right thing to do, but also because the day will be fun, engaging, illuminating and most importantly, it will encourage and support enough individuals to make small changes that will, collectively make a large impact. Just like BID. Looking forward to seeing you there!


I dare you to care: a Climate Emergency in St Albans

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you the Earth is getting warmer. The news has already told you that. You don’t need me to tell you that fossil fuels are bad, and renewables are good. You know that.  And you definitely don’t need me to tell you that, without change, we’re heading directly for extinction. But maybe what you don’t know is why should you care.

Today’s blog is written by Anna  Hardisty  age 20 years – university student at Warwick , and St Albans resident.

A Critical Junction

The Earth is at a critical junction. Imagine you booked yourself in for a driving test, nine months in advance. Now imagine that it’s almost two weeks before the test and you haven’t even stepped foot in a car. You’ve got your theory test tomorrow but that’s as far as you’ve got. I think it’s fair to say the appropriate response involves a fair amount of panic. And probably frantic searching for an intensive two-week course. This is the Earth’s current dilemma. The generations before us have spent the last 70 years ignoring the problem they were creating.  The consequence is a ticking time bomb with an expected explosion date of eleven years from now. Unlike a driving test, this can’t be rescheduled, and the ramifications are unbelievably more severe.

Ed note: The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. UN Report on Climate Change

The UK is currently failing to reach its target of reducing its carbon emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change has just recommended the UK aims to be carbon neutral by 2050

Climate Refugees

By 2050 the World Bank predicts that 140 million people are likely to be climate refugees. That’s 140 million mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, babies, grandmas, grandpas, friends, neighbours, husbands, wives, doctors, soldiers, bankers, bakers, engineers, teachers, classmates, lawyers, and scientists displaced directly by global warming. They are unable to live in their homes and are forced to seek shelter and help; this would be an unprecedented refugee crisis. To give you some perspective, that’s equivalent to the whole of Russia becoming homeless. Or three UKs. Or half of the USA. The UN estimates 13.5 million were displaced by the crisis in Syria. Cast your minds back to a few years ago to the panic created by the refugee crisis then and multiply it by ten. 2050 is catastrophically too late

Let’s create a sustainable future for our world

The  Climate Emergency Petition calls for carbon neutrality for St Albans District Council by 2030.*  Eleven years sounds like a long time but in the grand scheme of things, it’s equivalent to that two-week intensive driving course you were panickily googling for earlier. Ambitious but not out of reach. We’re calling on the St Albans Council to act and use their power to make decisions that will benefit us and all those that follow. It’s time to do what the generations before us failed to do- create a sustainable future for our world.

And the truth is, it is change or have our lives changed for us. I’m twenty years old and, by current UK statistics, have another sixty years or so left on this planet. I want to have the freedoms my parents did. I want to pick a house not based solely on its likelihood of flooding. I want my children to grow up not in constant fear of famine, wildfire or war over resources. I want to be able to watch ‘Bananas in Pyjamas and ‘Happy Feet’ with the kids I babysit, without them thinking the casts are mythical creatures.

“Are we being good ancestors?”

This is a question posed to us by Jonas Salk, pioneer of the first polio vaccination. It’s not a question that crosses your mind often, if at all, as we’re understandably preoccupied with the demands of the here and now. But our future depends on keeping that question in mind constantly- when we’re choosing how to travel, what we buy at the supermarket, and who we vote for.

Sign the Climate Emergency Petition

So, sign the petition. Tell your friends. Tell your parents. Get them to sign it. Sustainable St Albans has a great list of events where you can learn about the difference you can make.

And the next time you hear about the greenhouse effect, the next time you see yet another hurricane on the news, the next time you see MPs shy away from the subject, I dare you to care. 

Anna Hardisty

*Editor note: Net zero by 2030 should be achievable for a district council with no airport or shipping in its patch, and no major imports to tackle

What difference can one person make?

I lead a busy life, in a busy city, surrounded by busy people. I have a car, take flights now and then, buy things, charge my phone, eat out, buy coffee… agh, I am killing the planet!

It is very easy (and tempting) to think, sod it, it’s too hard to make changes that will help the planet, but this week’s blog is about easy things we can all do.

Yes, there are people who are really good at this stuff. They cycle everywhere, never go abroad, eat vegan food, and recycle everything. This blog is for those of us who know we could do a bit more. Sounds like you? Here are 10 painless ways to make a difference:

This week’s blog is written by Becky Alexander, food columnist for The Herts Advertiser.

1. Get involved with the Sustainability Festival starting this week (11 May until 1 June). There are 160 events across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. Most are free.

2. If you do one thing, make it the Market Takeover on Sunday 19th May on St Peter’s MarketStreet. The food will be great – Peddling Pizza, Farr Brew, Pudding Stop, Tara’s Vegan Treats, The Green Kitchen, Redbournbury Mill, Rainforest Creations, Crumbs n’ All and many more. There will be live music, shopping, try out an electric bike, see electric cars and more. The market is on 11-5 – see you there!


3. Book at least one of the cool events during SustFest. How about Dining with a Conscience at Lussmanns St Albans with Rubies in the Rubble; Bread-making for beginners; Bee-keeping; Vegan buffet and quiz night; or the Eat vegan cookery lesson. Dates and info are on sustainablestalbans.org.

Refill pantry portrait

4. Try a refill shop. I love The Refill Pantry on London Road – you fill up paper bags or your own containers with all sorts of goodies, from chocolate buttons to granola. Eat WholeFoods in Fleetville and on the market is great too. It’s an easy way to cut back on the amount of single-use packaging you buyBuy your veggies from a local box scheme or farm shop – Box Local are offering a Sustainable Local Produce Box for £16 during SustFest and Carpenters have a 10% discount on all their fruit and veg if you take in a SustFest programme – these are fab places to shop for super-fresh veggies and fruit, so low food miles.

What difference does one water bottle make? Ask 69 million people. *

5. Stop buying water and drinks in plastic bottles. We are lucky to have freely available tap water in our homes and offices; if you don’t like the taste (really?) add refillcucumber, squash or lemon. Take an old bottle out with you; many places will refill it for you – and if you download the Refill app you can find places around St Albans that have signed up to do this. Did you know St Pancras station has a policy that you can ask any outlet for a water refill?

6. If you’re feeling really guilty take yourself off to a local litter pick or do a beach clean this summer – it’s an eye opener to see how much plastic rubbish lines our streets.

7. If you work in an office do you really need to buy a take-out coffee in a single-use cup? It doesn’t make you look busy and buzzy like in an American police drama; it just looks wasteful. You could save, what, 200 disposable cups a year by taking your own? Even if the cups say they can be recycled or composted, we don’t have enough facilities in the UK. Most are going to landfill and incineration – look it up.

Nkora St Albans

Nkora St Albans

8. Eat veggie and vegan food more often. See my last blog for ideas, but this one is pretty easy. Apparently, Brits eat twice as much protein as we need and eating cows is even worse for the planet than flying. Stop eating beef and that’s an easy change.

9. Recycle your food waste. I do this by putting it in my green caddy in plastic bread bags (you don’t need to buy special bags, the machine shakes it all out). It all goes to the Agrivert site over by Willows Farm. I’ve been on the tour around there and it’s magic. The food waste gets used to make electricity and fertiliser. Easy win. If you fancy the tour to see how they do it sign up during SustFest.


Carpenters Farm Shop

10. Try and grow something. I went to an open edible garden a couple of years back and was inspired; I am not a natural gardener but we now have an apple tree, raspberries, blackcurrants and herbs (borage for your Pimms this summer?). You’ll be chuffed, and its good for wildlife (the slugs loved all my salad leaves). Visit one of the open gardens and allotments during the festival, and ask any questions you like.

I’m still working on stuff, but if we all do something, it’s a start. It’s much easier than gluing yourself to a building.

Becky Alexander

* Population of the UK, 2019

Making the case for angel investment in the Green Economy

Imagine the world in 10, maybe 20 years time. What will it look like? If we are to believe the conclusion of COP 24 in Katowice at the end of last year, and the publication of the IPCC Report shortly before it, the natural world is now irrevocably committed to the warming trend.

We are urgently in need of transformative science and the technology that can change the inevitability of this trend within the next 10 years. Our problem is that these technologies have not been invented – yet. The need is visible, the solutions are not – yet.

That ‘yet’ is the case for angel investment in the Green Economy.

Today’s blog is from Nick Lyth, Founder of Green Angel Syndicate, a Silver Sponsor of the 2019 Sustainability Festival. If you’re interested, book to come along to their #SustFest19 event at Lussmanns St Albans on Thursday 23rd May

Intervening in the Green Economy

Humans have always intervened in the Green Economy to modify, accelerate, improve, divert and harvest the resources nature has presented to us, so that we can make more of them. But we have never before tried to change the direction of nature’s travel.

We have diverted rivers, built dams, formed mill-streams, created fish stocks, we have built huge agrarian developments for the growing of crops, we have fenced off land, deforested regions. And so we have surrendered parts of the world, like the Nile Valley, as it grew hotter, allowed other parts of the world, like the US, to become free of the huge stocks of bison as the human population took over. We have made no attempt to preserve the cold regions of our planet.

So what is the technology that we need now to reverse the warming trend and create a world that will effectively support a population well in excess of 8 billion, and quite probably closer to 10 billion?

We need transformative technologies, capable of deep change, quickly.

Technology in action

Rovco photoSolutions are being worked on. This is one of the most active areas of innovation certainly in western development and possibly in global development. Inventors and innovators are turning their attention to the problem. This is where the smart money is going and the pace of innovation is increasing in proportion to the perceived rewards of success.

The challenge is to find the right investments to make, and that is where Green Angel Syndicate can help.

Green Angel Syndicate

We are an angel syndicate making early stage investments in the development of the technologies we need. We aim to select those which are destined for success long before such success is necessarily obvious, but the need is so great that success or failure will happen quickly. We concentrate on those sectors which will have the greatest influence – energy, food, water, transport.

Green Angel Syndicate is the only angel syndicate in the UK specialising in this way, which makes it unique, and uniquely-well equipped to judge what will succeed and what won’t.

A flavour of where we invest

The Green Angel Syndicate portfolio companies are diverse in both scale and sector. A full list is on our website at https://greenangelsyndicate.com/portfolio. Here are some examples:


Entomics photoEntomics develops targeted value-added engineering and biological tools for optimising the insect-based bioconversion of low value waste feedstocks – such as food waste and manure – into high value agricultural products like chicken and fish feed.


Swytch photoAn easy-fit conversion kit that can turn any bike into an eBike at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a new electric bike.


Piclo Flex is the independent marketplace for buying and selling smart grid flexibility services. The platform takes the proven model of running flexibility auctions and supercharges it with the latest web design and matching algorithms.


Spinetic’s radical ultra-low-cost energy harvesting panel technology will replicate in wind the success of solar PV at community scale.

SustFest dinner

Green Angel Syndicate are delighted to be supporting the Sustainable St Albans Festival from 11th May to 1st June 2019.

We are hosting a dinner at Lussmanns St Albans for any high net worth investor who may be interested in angel investing in the green economy. More details, and booking, are available at https://greenangelsyndicate.com/events

Do come and see how your investment and your involvement can make a substantial impact for companies developing the technologies we need to combat climate change.

How do you cope with the nappies, wet wipes, sippy cups, plastic spoons….

My children used 12,000 nappies and 36,000 wet wipes between them by the time they were 2 years old. They also used 12 toddler sippy cups, 20 plastic plates, 18 bowls, and 30 plastic spoons and forks.

All of which ended up in landfill.

Today our guest blog is from Laura aka Mama Bamboo – a SustFest19 Silver Sponsor and organiser of the 1st June Verulamium Park Sustainable Picnic and taking part in the Market Takeover 19th May

The council doesn’t offer industrial composting for nappies, the wipes were the polyester kind from the supermarket and the plastic tableware was so scored and worn that I couldn’t pass it to charity.

Guilt! Guilt! More guilt! 

I started my company, Mama Bamboo, to try and reverse the awful damage I had inflicted on the environment in 4 short years. Bamaboo eco-nappies are made from bamboo, corn starch and chlorine free wood pulp. We use semi degradable SAP and package them in biodegradable wrapping. Bamaboo wipes are 100% compostable bamboo fibre. Our products offer babies a luxuriously soft and gentle product for their delicate skin. Bamboo is naturally antibacterial, temperate regulating, breathable and moisture wicking. All of which means less chance of nappy rash.

It’s also very sustainable. Bamboo grows at an amazing rate during its growing season and when harvested following the FSC guidelines it actually promotes forest growth. It requires no pesticides or fertilisers or even irrigation.

It’s also super adaptable. In addition to providing a soft cushiony fabric for nappies, it can be used to make hardwearing tableware! Amazing.

babyI’ve carefully developed a range of bamboo fibre tableware for toddlers and young children, featuring 8 adorable characters from the ENVU Cubs Club based on the WWF endangered species list. They are dishwasher safe, durable and wonderfully tactile. Each set is accompanied by a little storycard introducing your chosen character and giving little ones a few fun facts. It also explains why each animal is on the Endangered and Vulnerable species list, thereby engaging youngsters in early discussion regarding conversation. 5% of all profits are donated to WWF.

We will be supporting the St Albans Sustainability Festival because it is so important for conservations to start at home. We live just outside St Albans in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside and I think it’s an environment worth protecting. We’ll be at the SustFest Market takeover on the 19th May and we’ll be hosting a Sustainable Picnic in the Park on the 1st June. We would love to see you there.


Laura a.k.a. Mama Bamboo