Skip to content
Home » Our Planet Our Future Past Events

Our Planet Our Future Past Events

Our Planet Our Future is a series of regular events and talks about sustainability, free for everyone to attend. Speakers are usually local, and present interesting and sometimes novel perspectives about moving towards a more sustainable life and lower carbon economy.

Our events take place in Harpenden on alternate months. Except for the walks, events are in the Function Room of The Plough and Harrow, 88 Southdown Rd, Harpenden on the second tuesday of alternate months.

Book free tickets for our upcoming events.

Resources from our past events can be found below.

What a Waste! And how can we Reduce It?

14 March 2022

Duncan Jones and David Birley from Hertfordshire Waste Partnership gave a very interesting talk about where our waste goes. We learnt about the different types of waste, the proportion that is sent to landfill and most shockingly, the enormous amount of food waste that is still being put in the regular collection bins and therefore not being composted.

Row of colourful wheelie bins

Climate Conversation

10 January 2022

This was a Zoom event, following the general principles of the Sustainable St Albans Climate Conversations material. Around 20 attendees joined together to discuss how the St Albans District should and might address the climate crisis.

Climate Conversation Resources

If you would like to hold your own climate conversation with friends, family or within a group or staff team, please download the leaflets and activity sheets here. In addition you might find the following resources helpful:

Sign up to and share the Count Us In Campaign. This features 16 of the most powerful steps people can take to address climate change.

Take action by talking up at work or with friends – these resources will give you some ideas to get started:

Thank you for the suggestion that this Which? resource is a good place to look for trusted tradespeople.

COP 26 Open Mic Night

9 November 2021

We are in a climate emergency! What can WE do? How can we change things?

An evening of shared ideas about climate change and the current state of affairs in the second week of COP 26.

We had such a wide variety of people come along to the open mic night, and there really was something for everyone. From tips on how to change your pension so it’s better for the planet and how to make your home leak less energy, to passive house myth busting.

People came and shared their experiences of changing to plant based diets, daring to  repair and joining in with Extinction Rebellion. We had an ‘insider’ view of COP26 from the Blue Zone from Mike Wilkins and even a song written for world leaders

Our open mic nights are an opportunity for you to get something off your chest or tell others about something you’ve discovered or just to come along and listen and meet others taking practical action towards a more sustainable lifestyle and low carbon economy.

Tomorrow – Film screening and discussion

14 September 2021

Filmed in 2015, this thought-provoking French documentary film directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent is still very relevant today.

It aims to inform and inspire, organised into five chapters: agriculture and food, energy, economy, democracy and education.

Read more and find out about future screenings
  • Agriculture (food): this addressed creating local, sustainable food supply – how to grow more food with no fertiliser, no pesticides and less mechanisation. This included discussing urban growing, incredible edible schemes, and permaculture; how we might introduce these into how we source our food and feed the world.
  • Energy: Looking at both energy and transport, it looks at how Copenhagen working to achieve zero carbon by 2025, as well as how Iceland has moved from a petroleum based economy to renewable energy. It also looks at agi-energy bringing farming and energy solutions together, looking at projects in Reunion.
  • Economy: Discussing how we can take control of our local economy, looking at local currencies, such as the Totnes £, Brixton £ and Bristol £, how they work and the benefits. It also looked at the dual system in Switzerland, where small businesses are part of a separate monetary system.
  • Democracy: Here they looked at how to bring democracy back to local people. They showed how people in Iceland reacted after the financial crisis in 2008, putting forward a new constitution and a new approach to democracy. They also showcased how a Mayor in India got his village to engage with democracy, setting the agenda, helping make it happen, and responding to how well the agenda has been met.
  • Education: Changing the approach to education, they showcased how it is successfully being done in Finland. A key part of this was how teachers interacted, sitting with children during lunch, properly interacting with them during the day.

Following the film, we had an enjoyable discussion on what we were inspired to do. If you missed the film, some other fairly local groups are showing it in the next couple of months. 

Tomorrow is being screened as part of Bishop Stortford Community Climate gathering in October – see:

Also watch Sustainable Sawbridgeworth’s Facebook group, as they are planning to screen Tomorrow in November. 

Creative Repurposing

12 July 2021

An evening exploring ways in which worn out items can be creatively reused.

Susheel Rao discussed repurposing and repairing clothing and alternative uses for items in the home and garden.  Attendees were invited to share projects that they had undertaken or that they wished to find out more about.

Find further information including resources discussed in the meeting here:

Kiss the Ground – Film discussion

25 May 2021

Our discussion included guests from the farming community (Ian Piggot from TheFarmSchool in Harpenden), a community growing group (Ian Langford from FoodSmiles) and permaculture guide Nigel Crawley.

We discussed how attendees could promote the ideas in the film, how we as consumers could encourage regenerative agricultural practices, and how we could apply regenerative ideas to gardens and allotments. Themes included Regenerative Agriculture, Permaculture, No Dig and Forest Gardening.

Kiss the Ground is available to watch on Netflix.

Creating a Green Recovery – From ‘what is’ to ‘what if’?

10 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 talked to us about local democracy, including Citizens Assemblies.
  • Industry activity: Adam Elman, Group Sustainability Director at Klöckner Pentaplast, talked to us about how companies are addressing climate change.

PDF Downloads

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 discussed in groups about 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 area between the two creates the doughnut. 

Read more and access further resources including Rob’s slides

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

11 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 collected the ideas from the event into a note to either download as a PDF below or view on a webpage; this includes:

  1. Resources from the “A life on our planet” project
  2. A summary of the resources by topic
  3. The pledges and ideas generated at the event, by topic

Sustainable Holidays – Who knew?

9 November 2020

Our November meeting was on the theme of Sustainable Holidays.  Our guest speakers were James Blake, CEO of the Youth Hostel Association and Vicky Smith, founder of Earth Changers.

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 and resources


Earth Changers 

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.

B&B accommodation within sustainability centres

Leave your car at home

14 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. Our working lives
  3. Our leisure activities
  4. Our community interactions
Read a summary of the event discussion

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.

Changes made:

  • 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.

Visit our Lessons from Lockdown page for resources to help you maintain the sustainable living changes you made during lockdown, or download as a PDF:


9 March 2020

Tim Hill of Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust

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.

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.

Read more and view event photos

Wild Stevenage

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.

Tim Hill 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.”

Wilderhood Watch

Nadia Bishara explained, “Wilderhood Watch is about connecting neighbours at a street level to work together to protect and enhance the natural environment on their doorsteps.”

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.

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!

View more event photos

The Sequel – Film screening and 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

This event at the Harpenden Arms 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.

Lots of attendees asked us to share the resources discussed, so we’ve collated these below along with a summary of the event. We hope you find this useful and that you might be inspired to get involved with these two projects.

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 Repair Shed

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 and resources

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.

Restart resources

  1. The Restart Project website:
  2. The Restarters’ community (Forums, Fixometer, Wiki) – registration required:
  3. The Restart Wiki (no registration required for read access):
  4. London Restart groups:
  5. Right to Repair on Wikipedia.
  6. The Restart Code (video – 1 min)
  7. Our Story, Our Community (video – 4 mins)
  8. Poulomi Holds a Restart Party (video – 2 mins)
  9. Janet Gunter (Restart co-founder) at TEDx Brixton: Putting an end to electronic waste (video – 12 mins)
  10. founder and CEO Kyle Weins interviews Janet Gunter (video – 5 mins)
  11. A recent presentation given by Ugo Vallauri – no commentary but contains interesting statistics.

From riches to rags?

8 July 2019

The Harpenden Arms was packed on Monday to hear Caroline Jones of #KnickersModelsOwn and Lara Davis from All Dressed Up. 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.
All Dressed Up

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 second-hand outfits. Join in by sending us your photos to


Take a look at these stylish local St Albans residents who took the #SecondHandSeptember pledge – No new clothes for 30 days.

Climate Emergency open mic night at #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! 

More photos from the night

Permaculture and Community Growing

11 March 2019

Our speakers for the fourth Our Planet Our Future event were Permaculture Guide Nigel Crawley, Incredible Edible co-ordinator Sahir, FoodSmiles site manager Jayne, and Louise and Helen from Plot 31.

Read a short summary of the event

Permaculture Guide Nigel Crawley 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 Plot31 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.

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.

What’s the crisis and what can we do?

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.

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.

Read more about Feargal’s mission in this Guardian article (Dec 2018).

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 encouraged the audience to:

  • Reduce their water consumption
  • Respond by 12 March 2019 to the current Defra consultation
  • 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.

Presentation Downloads

A 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’.

Event photos, pledges, and more about Carolina

Carolina has extensive experience from the clean energy/sustainability sector. She is an inspirational blogger, writing guest blogs for 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. Our speakers were:

See the Low Impact Parties & Events resource page for ideas for gifts, celebrations and how to enjoy your festival low-impact style.

Pledges made by attendees at the event
More event photos