We continue to host Our Planet Our Future events with evening discussion events – open to everyone.
Discover our upcoming events – held on the second Monday of alternate months – below.
Additional #sustfest21 event:
Kiss the ground – film discussion
Tuesday 25th May 2021
A free online zoom event – book here
One of the biggest problems is right under our feet: the soil. This film awakens us to the possibilities of regeneration.
Watch the film (either on Netflix or via the link you will receive), then join us to discuss it on 25th May. The film is free for our members to watch sponsored by grant funds of Kiss the Ground.
Our evening discussion events are held on the second Monday of alternate months.
Currently the events are on Zoom from 7.30-9.00pm. When possible we will return to face to face events at Bennet’s Club, 21 Leyton Rd, Harpenden, AL5 2HU.
2021 event dates
- Monday 12 July 2021
- Monday 13 September 2021
- Monday 8 November 2021
Discover our past events:
- Creating a green recovery – from what is to what if? – May 2021
- Doughnut and Decision making: including the environment and nature in decision making – March 2021
- Rising to the challenge: A life on our planet – 11 Jan 2021
- Sustainable Holidays – who knew? – 9 Nov 2020
- Leave your car at home – 14 Sept 2020
- Sustainable Living: learnings from lockdown – 13 July 2020
- Rewilding – 9 March 2020
- Low carbon homes – 13 Jan 2020
- The Sequel film screening & discussion – 18 Nov 2019
- What can you fix? 9 Sept 2019
- Fixing Stuff resources following the ‘What can you fix?’ event.
- From riches to rags? 8 July 2019
- Images from #secondhandseptember following the “riches to rags” event
- Climate emergency open mic night, #SustFest19 – 13 May 2019
- Permaculture and Community Growing – 11 March 2019
- Our Chalk Rivers in Crisis – 11 Feb 2019
- A Low Carbon Lifestyle – 14 Jan 2019
- A Low Impact Christmas – 20 Nov 2018
- Low Impact Parties and Events resources created following the ‘Low Impact Christmas event.
- The Art Installation & Tree Plantings
- Programme and videos of our seriously sustainable local speakers who presented to the Our Planet Our Future event in March 2018, which launched the 2018 Sustainable St Albans Week.
About Our Planet Our Future events
Now a series of open talks for everyone to attend. It was originally a festival of ideas about sustainability, featuring local speakers presenting interesting and sometimes novel perspectives on moving towards a more sustainable life and lower carbon economy.
We also displayed an art installation with three trees sponsored by Ayletts, upon which delegates hung their sustainability pledges. The trees were then planted across the District.
The first of which, a Silver Birch, was planted in Leyton Green by Harpenden Town Mayor, Cllr David Heritage on 6 November 2018. The second, a crab apple, was planted in the William Bell Playground by Sandridge Parish Councillor, Cllr John Hale on 19 December 2018, and the third was planted in Clarence Park in February 2019, by the Mayor of St Albans City and District, Cllr Rosemary Farmer.
Since the event in April 2018, Our Planet Our Future has continued with a series of evening meetings in Harpenden at The Harpenden Arms, at Bennets Club and more recently via Zoom.
Creating a green recovery – from what is to what if? – May 2021
Many of us know it is necessary, but how do we actually go about ensuring a Green recovery? Our speakers discussed pressure from citizens and industry action:
- Pressure from citizens: Paul Thistlethwaite from Thinking Box will talk to us about about local democracy, including Citizens Assemblies
- Industry activity:Adam Elman, Group Sustainability Director at Klöckner Pentaplast, will talk to us about how companies are addressing climate change.
Doughnut and Decision Making – including the environment and nature in local decision making – March 2021
Our March event was a fascinating talk by Rob Shorter from Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL). He explained what doughnut economics is and how this being used in local decision making. We then had discussions in groups on how we might use the ideas locally.
The doughnut economics model looks at the planetary boundaries we need to work within as well as the social priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals. The are between the two creates the doughnut.
Using this model we looked at the state of humanity and our planetary home, and then looked at how Rwanda, Brazil and the UK are performing; showing how all have challenges. This gave a national and international context before we started looking at the questions to consider at a local level.
With a local viewpoint, its addressing social and ecological thriving, considering both local aspiration and global responsibility as the image shows.
Rob then talked about how different countries, cities and regions have use the doughnut approach, such as
- Amsterdam, where they see it as their compass.
- Melbourne, where they looked at it through 4 lenses to create their approach.
- Costa Rica where they used it to create a regenerative approach.
There have been over 500 expressions of interest to use it worldwide, and it has been used successfully in the UK, including in Cambridge, Devon and Cornwall.
In using it, groups, local authorities and cities go through the following process:
- Purpose – create and socialise a shared vision
- Networks – convene, engage and mobilise a diverse local stakeholders
- Governance – share and enforce policy
- Ownership – own, access or operate local assets and services
- Finance – raise, influence and direct finance.
Rising to the challenge: A life on our planet January 2021
David Attenborough’s inspiring film asks us to consider How do we put nature at the heart of our decisions?
Our January meeting followed from the film; we discussion we explored ideas for reducing our impact on the planet in the areas of Energy, Food, Restoring Nature and Finance. The event included breakout groups on the four main topics examined in the film. Participants generated lots of ideas as to what they could do at home, with their family, community or business to put nature at the heart of our decisions, and reduce our impact on the Planet. We have collected the ideas from the event into a note which can be downloaded here or viewed on this webpage; this includes:
- Resources from the “A life on our planet” project
- A summary of the resources by topic
- The pledges and ideas generated at the event, by topic
Sustainable Holidays who knew? November 2020
We heard from James about the YHA’s custodial role in looking after the countryside and the steps it has taken to make the organisation and its hostels more sustainable. In the context of Sustainable Holiday post COVID-19, James discussed how all our small choices about holidays add up. He noted how many people have been discovering adventure and exploration locally this year and the impact this might have on holiday decisions in the future.
Vicky described her journey to founding Earth-Changers, the social and environmental impacts of ‘all inclusive’ holiday offerings. She discussed how regenerative tourism can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries.
Further information about YHA
Further information about Earth Changers.
Further resources that were discussed during the event included:
Making business travel more sustainable
Many more business meetings are now happening virtually than even a year ago. For businesses that need their employees to travel…Climate Perks works with climate-conscious employers to offer paid ‘journey days’ to staff who travel on holiday by train, coach or boat instead of flying – empowering them to act on their values. In exchange, employers receive Climate Perks accreditation in recognition of their climate leadership. The employees get extra ‘journey days’ off work if you agree to travel by train rather than fly. https://www.climateperks.com/ .
B&B accommodation within sustainability centres
- The Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth: https://www.cat.org.uk/come-to-cat/stay/
- The Sustainability Centre in Hampshire: https://www.sustainability-centre.org/stay-with-us.html
Leave your car at home – 14th September 2020
Our September event was an opportunity to look at different ways to reduce our dependence on the car, as well as considering how things we order get delivered to us. We heard from three very interesting and different speakers:
- Brian Deegan, speaking about how we can make our towns more attractive for walkers and cyclists;
- Andrew Buchanan, talking about community transport;
- Marcus Vere, speaking about how we can change how things are delivered to our door.
Brian Deegan – Urban Movements – Creating a culture of active travel
Brian, an engineer by profession, reviewed the status of 12 conditions thought necessary to create and support a culture of active travel in St Albans, and found them somewhat ‘wanting’. They covered things such as political buy-in to the policy; stakeholder engagement in the design and delivery of a network; and its regular monitoring and maintenance; etc. In short, he concluded that St Albans is very far from a situation that could be described as having a culture of active travel.
One questioner asked how cycling routes in/around/through an urban area are decided. Brian explained how observations are made about how cyclists travel in and around the area already; and how a grid of cycle crossings over urban roads is developed.
Another questioner asked what evidence is there that developing cycle routes actually changes the behaviour of the cycling community. Brian provided information gathered between 2001 and 2011 in Hackney, demonstrating that the routes have been successfully adopted over time.
Andrew Buchanan – Harpenden Hopper – Community Bus
Andrew explained how the idea of providing a not-for-profit Community Bus service within Harpenden was sparked by concerns that especially older residents of the town were experiencing social isolation. It was thought that a Community Bus route linking residential areas that are away from the commercial bus route through Harpenden might encourage more physical social interaction between friends and family who live in different parts of the town. The results of a survey of 13,000 households conducted by Harpenden Trust did not yield evidence of social isolation BUT that there was enough of a requirement for a community transport option for other reasons from people who do not live close to the commercial bus routes.
It was also thought that a Community Bus service might help reduce the number of short car journeys into Harpenden town centre that were stressing parking provision and contributing to unhealthy air and noise pollution in the town. After discussing possible routes with social workers, GPs, Helping Hands, taxis and Dial-a-Ride etc two buses were bought and volunteer drivers engaged and trained.
Pre-lockdown the service was handling about 300 passengers/month, from an initial demand of around 25. The service resumed on 5th October.
Marcus Vere – Box Bike Delivery Service
Marcus described his sustainable delivery service over the final mile for product/mail distribution, using cargo/box bikes. His customers include schools, a vegetable box franchise, parcel delivery companies, pharmacies and manufacturers selling small artisan products online.
After their manufacture, using cargo/box bikes provide a delivery service that emits zero CO2 greenhouse gas, takes up less space on roads reducing traffic congestion, enables healthier lifestyles for employees and creates less particulate pollution than motor vehicles.
Sustainable Living: learnings from lockdown – 13 July 2020
On 13 July 2020, we held our first online event – on sustainable living and what we have learned from the coronavirus lockdown. Four breakout groups discussed the changes they’d made in the following four areas 1) at home, 2) in our working lives, 3) in our leisure activities and 4) in our community interactions. The discussion from the events is summarised below.
Four breakout groups shared and discussed the sustainable living changes they made during lockdown – at home, in their working lives, in their leisure activities and in their community interactions; and how far their new sustainable behaviours will become ‘keepers’ for the future.
- at home included more gardening and DIY; where from and which foods were bought; research on future home energy supply options etc
- by workers included travelling less; becoming virtual meeting experts; eating healthier lunches; better home/work-life balance etc
- to leisure activities included more walking and cycling; heightened awareness of nature; engagement in online activities eg quizzes, socials, club meetings, classes, church services, watching plays and virtual tours of cultural organisations etc
- to community interactions included supporting local mutual aid initiatives such as volunteering with local care homes; collecting prescriptions and for food banks; sharing home-grown food and plants; assisting the national Covid response by contacting and supporting vulnerable neighbours, making masks etc
You can read a detailed review of the meeting here which also includes an Annex of Resources and Further Information to help you maintain the sustainable living changes you made during lockdown or you can download a pdf here.
Rewilding – 9 March 2020
Forty people heard from local experts about how to make their town and district more wild. Tim Hill and Heidi Mansell from Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) inspired the Our Planet Our Future audience with an update on the Wild Stevenage project and how it could translate to their part of Hertfordshire. By letting nature take its course, HMWT has successfully turned some areas into scientifically important havens for insects and plant-life, including bush crickets, spiders and bee orchids.
In Harpenden, Heidi has worked with the Town Council to introduce children to the natural world, including a novel volunteering project with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award’s scheme. Nadia Bishara introduced Wilderhood Watch, a grass-roots project that has sprung up across St Albans for neighbours to work together to create Hedgehog Streets, Pollinator Highways and Buzz Stops. The audience debated the relative importance of tree planting compared to the amount of carbon captured by the soil, as well as identifying ways to start community initiatives for people renting properties or living in flats.
Tim Hill, conservation manager at Herts & Middlesex Wildlife, said, “Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is working for wilder places, working collaboratively with organisations, landowners, local authorities and communities in our counties. By working together and recognising the value of all habitats we aim to reduce biodiversity loss and address impacts of the climate crisis through nature-based solutions.” Nadia Bishara added, “Wilderhood Watch is about connecting neighbours at a street level to work together to protect and enhance the natural environment on their doorsteps.”
Low carbon homes – 13 January 2020
Fifty people gathered at Bennet’s on a cold wet Monday evening to hear our two speakers; Heather McNeill, Passivhaus Designer from AdPractice Ltd and Simon Robinson, Director, Solinvictus. Heather spoke about “Retrofitting your home to low carbon standards” and Simon on “Alternatives to gas boilers“. Both talks stimulated much discussion! A very clear message from both speakers was that three things we need to do are insulate, insulate, insulate!
The presentations from the evening can be viewed here
The Sequel film screening & discussion – 18 November 2019
Forty people joined us at Bennet’s Club in Harpenden for the first Our Planet Our Future film screening.
This new film recognises the fundamental unsustainability of today’s society and dares to ask the big question: What will follow? What would it look like to create economies that can thrive without endlessly growing? This film shows a future built on community, carnival, and conviviality… “The Sequel”. It looks at the influential work of David Fleming, who dared to re-imagine a thriving civilization after the collapse of our current mainstream economies and inspired the Transition Towns movement.
What can you fix? 9 September 2019
Many people at our ‘What can you fix?’ event at the Harpenden Arms asked us to share information and links to the resources discussed, so here is summary of the event and some resources. We hope you find this useful and that you might be inspired to get involved with these two projects.
This event featured inspiring talks about the The Repair Shed and the Restart Project, with practical ideas about how the St Albans district can reduce waste and consumption at the same time. Our guest speakers were Doug Root from The Repair Shed and and Philip Le Riche representing the Restart Project.
The Repair Shed in Dacorum is part of the Men’s Shed movement, the aim is to help, men aged over 50 to stay healthier and happier for longer by making, mending and learning (though it does have younger members and women members). Shedders work on their own project and also community project and commissions .. so do contact them if you have a wooden something that needs fixing!
If you would like to join the Repair Shed in Redbourn, volunteer with them or have some wood to donation, you can find all the details here. The Shed also has a Sewing Cafe which runs sessions on Thursdays from 10-12.30am at St Luke’s School, Redbourn. The cost per person per session is £5.00; the money raised will be equally supporting both the school and the Repair Shed – more information and booking details are here.
The Restart Project aims for a more sustainable relationship with our electrical and electronic devices by encouraging and enabling community-based repair. Our speaker Philip has taken part as a fixer in many “Restart Parties” in London, and organised one as part of St Luke’s Upcycle and Repair Fair during SustFest19. He described his own involvement and also how Restart is growing a global network of affiliated groups supported by an online community, a repair wiki and a “Fixometer”, which tracks CO2 emissions and waste averted. Restart is also increasingly active in lobbying for “right to repair” and design for repairability.
There was also considerable interest in the idea of holding Restart Parties in Harpenden or St Albans and of setting up a Repair Shed (their being large waiting lists to join the local Repair Sheds). If your organisation would like to host a Restart Party or have a venue that could be a home to new repair shed do get in touch with Philip, Doug or us.
- The Restart Project website: therestartproject.org
- The Restarters’ community (Forums, Fixometer, Wiki) – registration required: restarters.net
- The Restart Wiki (no registration required for read access): wiki.restarters.net
- London Restart groups: meetup.com/Restarters-London
- Right to Repair on Wikipedia.
- The Restart Code (video – 1 min)
- Our Story, Our Community (video – 4 mins)
- Poulomi Holds a Restart Party (video – 2 mins)
- Janet Gunter (Restart co-founder) at TEDx Brixton: Putting an end to electronic waste (video – 12 mins)
- iFixit.com founder and CEO Kyle Weins interviews Janet Gunter (video – 5 mins)
- A recent presentation given by Ugo Vallauri – no commentary but contains interesting statistics.
From riches to rags? 8 July 2019
The evening included inspiring discussion with those present making a variety pledges to reduce the impact of that they wear including:
- ‘buying once’ – aiming to buy clothes that will really last
- ensuring no clothes are sent to landfill – taking unwanted clothes charity shops, and bagging up unusable clothes and shoes for ‘rags’
- sharing a ‘fashion bag’ with a group of friends
- joining the #SecondHandSeptember campaign
- encouraging the use of charity shops
Prom Dresses needed – can you help?
Lara Davis from All Dressed Up is now collecting prom dresses for next year. Lara’s project is to re-use prom dresses and provide them free for Year 11 students in Herts and Beds who would not otherwise be able to afford them.
Do you have one to donate? You can either drop them off at The Mall, Luton or post dresses – all sizes, ready to wear condition – to: All Dressed Up, c/o The Mall Luton, Mall Management – Gallery Level, 37 The Mall, Luton LU1 2LJ
Have you taken the pledge? #SecondHandSeptember – No new clothes for 30 days. To inspire everyone, during September we will be posting pictures of our stylish local volunteers and supporters in their secondhand outfits. Join in by sending us your photos to ourplanet@sustainableStAlbans.org
Climate emergency open mic night, #SustFest19 – 13 May 2019
We are in a climate emergency! Action needed! What can WE do? How can we change things?
As part of SustFest19, we opened up the floor for 3-5 minute slots with Dave Hampton, Carbon Coach, kicking off the session. Thank you to all the speakers. What an inspiring evening! Here are some photos..
Permaculture and Community Growing – 11 March 2019
Permaculture Guide Nigel Crawley, was the first guest speaker at our fourth evening event. Nigel described permaculture as a framework for creating low-maintenance, nature-friendly lifestyles. It’s about observing how nature works and applying these principles to our own projects. Anything from design of a food garden up to a whole way of life design.
Nigel is a Certified Permaculture Designer and he runs Introduction to Permaculture workshops across the Chilterns and Vale of Aylesbury – see Nigel Crawley. See here for information about a workshop in June. Nigel is also involved in local community growing projects including the award winning Duckmore Lane Community Garden in Tring, which uses Permaculture Principles and includes a Forest Garden. The garden has regularly gardening parties, see here for further information.
Incredible Edible supports local food growing projects across the country. Local co-ordinator Sahira described her role in supporting local projects and encouraged anyone who would like to start an incredible edible garden – a piece of land is available for this. Incredible Edible has funding to support new projects!
Next we heard from FoodSmiles site manager, Jayne. FoodSmiles is a Community Benefit Society, based in St Albans District, which aims to encourage people to grow and eat more sustainable local food through building a community of food-growers. It has sites in Harpenden and St Albans, and also manages two Incredible Edible projects in St Albans. FoodSmiles is open to new members and has open days – do visit the site for a tour.
There are two Incredible Edible sites in St Albans which are part of FoodSmiles. Anyone can join growing sessions at these sites and also pick the produce – see Incredible Edible St Albans for dates.
Louise and Helen from Plot 31 spoke about their Community Flower Garden and also their newest initiative, a Community Growing Project in Harpenden, which is open to all on Tuesdays. Do get in touch with Louise find out more and get involved.
Our Chalk Rivers in Crisis – 11 February 2019
Feargal Sharkey, the punk-star turned fisheries chairman and environmental activist, was guest speaker at the third Our Planet Our Future event at The Harpenden Arms on 11 February 2019.
Feargal showed the audience images of our local chalk streams explaining that since the 1980s, many streams have dried up in part, and where they do run, they are polluted by sewerage works and surface water run-off. They are running out of water because of intensive water abstraction at their sources. Hertfordshire residents use on average more than 160L of water per day, but our rivers and streams can only support usage of around 110L. In Germany and Scandinavia, better use of grey water systems means householders only need to use around 80-90L per day.
The packed audience learned how important our chalk streams are. All of the world’s 200 chalk streams are in England and they were formed 79 million years ago.
Feargal lobbies the Environment Agency and Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency and local water companies in his role as chair of Amwell Magna Fishery to improve the ecological status of the UK’s rivers. In 2018 the proportion of rivers in England meeting ‘Good’ ecological status had dropped to just 14% (from 24% in 2016 and 36% in 2012). He encouraged the audience to:
- use less water
- lobby their water companies and DEFRA to protect chalk streams
In particular, we were asked to write to DEFRA by 12 March 2019 responding to their consultation Improving our management of water in the environment; the link to respond is here.
Our second speaker, John Pritchard, chair of the Ver Valley Society, then described the work that the Ver Valley Society does to protect the lower stretch of the River Ver (the upper part having dried up). John’s presentation can be viewed here. John encouraged the audience to:
- reduce their water consumption
- respond by 12th March 2019 to the current Defra consultation (see above)
- respond to the forthcoming Affinity Water consultation on their Water Resources Draft Management Plan which will be issued in March 2019
- join the Ver Valley Society, their monthly working parties or become Ver Valley Society River Bailiffs watching the Ver.
Low Carbon Lifestyle – 14 January 2019
Our guest speaker was ‘Low carbon Woman‘, Carolina Karlstrom – a mother, partner, blogger, entrepreneur, hobby-poet, sister and daughter – wanting to make positive change in the world.
Carolina discussed the opportunities and challenges to living a low carbon lifestyle, her inspiring motto being ‘No one can do everything but we can all do something’.
Carolina has extensive experience from the clean energy/sustainability sector. She is an inspirational blogger, writing guest blogs for edie.net and The Planet Mark. Aiming to show how individual passion can create change, she leads the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) network in London. This is a grassroots network of change makers raising awareness, connecting people and inspiring to action towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Carolina loves walking in nature – in fact her MSc thesis was all about walking.
Low Impact Christmas – 20 November 2018
Over 40 people gathered at The Harpenden Arms for an evening of talks, discussion and inspiration. Ideas shared can be downloaded here.
Our speakers were:
- Tania from The Refill Pantry – getting rid of packaging
- Amanda from Plastic Free St Albans – making Christmas plastic free
- Heather from The Green Kitchen – ideas for a greener Christmas
- Susheel from Sustainable St Albans – giving low impact gifts
See our Low Impact Parties & Events resource page for ideas for gifts, celebrations and how to enjoy your festival low-impact style.
Our Planet Our Future Speakers and their videos
The Art Installation & Tree Plantings
Our initial event in April 2018 featured an art installation with three trees sponsored by Ayletts, upon which delegates wrote their sustainability pledges on parcel labels. These trees are being planted across the District.
The first of the trees, a Silver Birch, was planted in Leyton Green by Harpenden Town Mayor, Cllr David Heritage on 6 November 2018.
The second of the trees, a crab apple, was planted in the William Bell Playground by Sandridge Parish Councillor, Cllr John Hale on 19 December 2019.
The third tree, a copper beech, was planted in Clarence Park, by St Albans Mayor, Cllr Rosemary Farmer, on 6 February 2019.