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.

Part 5: Plastic-free desk and gifts

Welcome to part 5 of the How to go Plastic Free guide.

I hope by now you have noticed that going #plasticfree not only drastically reduces the amount of waste in your recycling bin and in your landfill bin, it also makes you feel like you are actually DOING something for the planet.


This guest blog is written By Marianne Jordan – founder of local plastic-free support group Ethical Fridays (@ethical_fridays on Instagram) and winner of St Albans Mayor’s Pride Award “Environmentalist of the Year 2020”


The Big Picture

So to end, let’s go back to the beginning. Blue Planet II  got the world really talking about plastic; how baby albatross in very remote corners of the world are being fed plastic and dying of starvation. Watch this clip from the BBC’s Drowning in Plastic programme to see how much plastic was pumped out of a living chick. Seabirds, marine mammals, turtles, fish and even crabs have been found with plastic in their bodies. One dead pilot whale off the coast of Thailand was found to have 80 plastic bags in its stomach and….


“… in December 2019 a Sperm whale died off the Isle of Harris, Scotland, with 100kg of plastic in its stomach, including fishing nets, bundles of rope, plastic cups and a large blue plastic sheet.”


These whale deaths are all the more sad, not only because whales have an instrinsic right to live in the wild without being poisoned by human activities, but also because whales have been found to be a great help in the fight against climate change. Watch this amazing video, to find out how:

Whales stimulate phytoplankton growth (which take CO2 out of the atmosphere) and oxygenate the water column as they dive down to the bottom and bring nutrients back to the surface, allowing other creatures to thrive.

So if you don’t want your pen lid to end up inside the stomach of an albatross chick (this has happened), check out this guide to plastic-free things on your desk and giving plastic-free gifts.


Plastic Free Desk

Pens: Do you really need to write with a pen? Would a pencil do instead? If you really do need a pen, make sure it is refillable. Most fountain pens can be fitted with a converter to use bottled ink instead of plastic cartridges, but even cartridges are better than using ballpoint pens. Metal fountain pens need not be expensive, some start at £6.99 eg Helix Oxford.


If you haven’t used one in a while, you might have forgotten how smoothly a fountain pen writes, it is so much nicer to use than a biro.


Many types of ballpoint and rollerball pens can be refilled, so check online (eg Cult Pens) before chucking one away. Some local organisations collect old pens for recycling, check on Terracycle to find one near you (e.g. Rymans St Albans, Rothampsted Cafeteria Harpenden, some schools.) If you HAVE to buy a new pen, and don’t want a fountain pen, why not choose one made of recycled plastic or even wood! Cultpens has a good selection and has a tab to show which refill to buy. But you probably already have enough pens in your home to last a lifetime, use them first (and save old ones for recycling.)

Pencils: Once you get used to using a pencil most of the time, it will feel funny using a pen. Unless you have to sign a legal document, most notes you take will be just fine in pencil (shopping list, to do list, revision notes etc.) Any pencil made by one of the big European companies will be made from FSC certified wood. Just watch out for colourful patterned pencils which are wrapped in a skin of plastic (you can see the line where the pattern doesn’t match, if you have these at home peel off the plastic before sharpening) and some “eco” pencils are actually made with a mixture of recycled plastic, so you will be creating microplastics when you sharpen.

Better options are: recycled newspaper pencils from Peace With The Wild which purportedly last longer and sharpen better than wooden pencil, Fabula pencils made from coffee grounds and tea leaves (not yet available in the UK) or Sprout pencils which contain seeds in the top to plant once the pencil gets too small to use from Boobalou.

Pencil sharpeners and rulers: both can be made from wood, bamboo or metal, find in art supplies websites eg Conscious Craft, Myriad Online, Artway, GreatArt etc.

Erasers: Most erasers these days are made of plastic, so when you are rubbing out you are creating microplastics. Instead look for a “natural rubber eraser” (the old-fashioned kind), the rubbings can go in the compost.  I like the white Lyra India Rubber eraser (eg from Conscious Craft) others are by Koh-i-Noor or Faber Castell.

Highlighters: Pencil highlighters – who knew there was such a thing? We have been so conditioned to thinking highlighters are only those chunky plastic pens, that to find out there are highlighter pencils is a revelation! Lyra made a pack of 6 neon pencils, or for singles try Faber-Castell Neon Textliner pencil or Caran D’Ache Fluo line pencil, from art supplies shops. Plastic highlighters can be recycled with other pens, see above.


Felt pens: Sorry, there are no plastic-free felt pens ☹. However, a decent pack of colouring pencils will give you the brightness you are looking for eg Staedtler Super Soft coloured pencils, bright enough to show up even on black paper. A pack of these and a black recycled paper sketch pad is a great present.


Gifts and Wrapping

Wrapping paper: Individual sheets of wrapping paper can be bought from St Albans Market and some newsagents/card shops.


“Avoid anything with glitter or metallic as that is plastic and unrecyclable”


    • Wrapping paper made of recycled paper is available online eg. Re-Wrapped which is a London based company who design and make their own 100% recycled wrapping paper and use vegetable-based inks.
    • Wrapped by Alice is a small business based in Sheffield that designs and makes recycled paper, cards, gift bags etc.
    • You could also make your own wrapping paper out of recycled brown craft paper and a set of stamps and ink.
    • Alternatively look up Furoshiki (the art of Japanese fabric wrapping) on YouTube to see beautiful ways of wrapping gifts, including bottles or even bread, in fabric. This is great for giving gifts within the family so the fabric can be re-used again and again.
    • Check out Happy Wrap  for some ready-made fabric wraps (plus recycled wrapping paper.)  I have even been known to wrap a gift in a (new) tea towel – double gift!

String: Brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things…if Maria Von Trapp says so, then it can’t be wrong! Make string one of your favourite things by checking out all the amazing colours string comes in on the Nutscene website. They have been making string out of natural fibres (jute, flax and recycled cotton) since 1922 in their Dundee factory, still using the original machinery. Jute is fast-growing and will grow on wasteland without the need for watering or fertilizers, where it improves the quality of the soil and of course, once your jute string comes to the end of its life, it is fully compostable.


Why use plastic sticky tape when your presents will look so beautiful tied up with this string?


Cotton ribbon: For a more luxury look, wrap up your present with cotton ribbon printed with butterflies, hearts, polka dots etc. Have a look through a haberdashery department (Dunelm, Hobbycraft, John Lewis etc) or search on Etsy.com to find beautiful ribbons made of unbleached organic cotton, recycled cotton saris, vintage lace, recycled cotton yarn, hessian, ticking tape etc.

Plastic-free sticky tape: Is available online (e.g. Plastic Freedom etc.) and sometimes at The Refill Pantry. Yes it is brown, but at least it doesn’t sit around in landfill for hundreds of years. The tape is made of paper, the adhesive from rubber, both fully compostable and strong enough to tape up parcels.

Plastic-free greetings cards are becoming more easily available, Paperchase has a good selection and Panda Cards (Waddington Road, St Albans) also has some. Lots of companies are changing over to plastic-free, so it will soon be easy to buy them.

Gift ideas: There are so many things once you get thinking and my biggest suggestion would be to plan ahead, take some time to gather some ideas and keep a list (however you like to keep one).

  • The first place to start would be Olivia Rose Fairtrade shop in the Village Arcade, St Albans, which sell fair trade gifts from around the world.
  • Oxfam also has a range of fairtrade gifts and cards.
  • Online check out Namaste Fair Trade or Traidcraft.
  • Here are some of the gifts I have bought over the past year: plant from the hairy pot company, personalised enamel mug, recycled stainless steel pint glass, books (second hand if the recipient is OK with that!)

For younger children: books, look on Conscious Crafts or Myriad for natural and wooden toys and crafts. Older kids/teens: adopt a shark, giant jenga, wooden beach tennis set, compostable phone case, hedgehog pendant made of recycled silver by Silver Hedgehog , Zao make-up in bamboo containers, macramé gift set (Esty), books, audiobooks.


That sums up my guides to going plastic-free. I hope you have found them useful. For more information follow me on Instagram @Ethical_Fridays or contact me via Sustainable St Albans.


‘The future of humanity, and indeed all life on earth, now depends on us’    David Attenborough

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!

Market

Follow the Blue Dot trail

From May 11th ’til June 1st join in with Plastic Free St Albans Blue Dot Art Trail #SustFest19 event. Spot the dots and discover a variety of creative perspectives on the topic of single-use plastic through the lens of local artists.

• Over 30 incredible pieces of art created by local artists
• Covering a multitude of media from oil painting, photography to mixed media
• Being exhibited in many venues in and around St Albans incl Courtyard Cafe, Inn On the Park, St Albans Museum, Raft, The Refill Pantry, Headcase barbers, Fade to Black and many more…
• Can be experienced as a full trail or in separate visits, let’s see how many dots you can spot to protect our precious planet, the earth, our blue dot.
• Find the digital map @ https://plasticfreestalbans.org.uk/sustfest19-art-trail/

Don’t forget to share your thoughts and ideas about the trail and what we can do to reduce single-use plastic on our plastic free St Albans FB page, Instagram or twitter! Include #bluedotarttrail