Pick one step. Learn about it. Do it (with our help).

Momentum towards the COP26 climate talks is building. It’s in the papers, on the news, on social media. Yet that focus shouldn’t only be on Glasgow; it needs action at all levels. We can also turn the spotlight on ourselves and ask “What action will I take during COP26? How will I raise my voice?”. Well, here’s an easy place to start. Simply pick one of the 16 climate actions below that interests you. Get inspired by our blog, get informed by our resources page, and then commit to take that step with Count Us In. Do one thing more, during COP26, and be part of a movement of change.


Over 16 weeks, we have run our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We have had a guest blog each week since July during the countdown to the UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps. The blogs are backed-up by detailed resources pages, to help you get started.

In this wrap-up, we lay out all the 16 blogs and resources pages in one place.

Our call to action is for you to pick one climate action below, let us help you get informed, and then take that step with Count Us In.


As a small, local environmental charity, Sustainable St Albans has always had some key principles at its heart. We are ordinary people like you. We care about the amazing district of St Albans. By finding positive ways to act, we want to empower local people to take a step to live more sustainably.

16 blogs by extraordinary ordinary local people

Over the last 16 weeks, some truly extraordinary ordinary St Albans District people have told us their own inspirational stories, shared with us their passions and taken time to tell other residents like you their secrets to success. Each has taken one of the 16 Count Us In steps and shared their knowledge so that the rest of us can positively act to live more sustainably in one area of our lives.

“St Albans District people have told us their own inspirational stories.”

Meet our Count Us in bloggers

The great thing about the 16 Count Us In steps is that there is something for everyone. You just start with one step.

Food and Fashion

If you love your food, take inspiration from Becky about Eating More Plants, from Juliet about Eating More Seasonally or from Caroline about Reducing Food Waste. How about fashion? There’s Emily’s look at Wearing Clothes to Last. Plus, Philip’s Repair and Re-Use blog is also great on thinking about what we already have before we buy new.

Fly less, Drive Electric, Walk & Cycle More

Susheel gives practical ideas for those wondering about how to cut down on short journey car use with her Walk and Cycle More blog. For medium and long journeys, try Shaun’s Drive Electric blog. Planning a holiday? – read James’ idea for a plane-free holiday in Fly Less.

Repaire Fair in St Albans

Home Energy

On the home front, energy use is top of the agenda. Don’t miss Judith’s blog about how she Insulated her Home – a Victorian end-of-terrace, no less. Ian has great advice about how to use less heating in Dial It Down. In a second blog, he gives easy steps to help you Switch Your Energy provider. Plus, Will tells his real life experience of having solar panels installed in Get Some Solar.

Money and Speaking Up

An area of our lives many of us have yet to tackle is Greening Our Money. Simon’s blog is eye-opening on that subject.

Finally, we must not forget the impact that we can all have by talking about climate action with other people. Each person we influence expands the ever-growing population of people who are making changes. Catherine’s blog about Talking to Friends introduces Climate Conversations as a framework. Dan encourages us to Speak up at Work. 18 year old Jess’s blog on Tell Your Politicians turns a daunting prospect into an achievable and necessary step.

“Each person we influence expands the ever-growing population of people who are making changes.”

And meet some people who have taken their first step

It’s great to be hearing from those have already been inspired by our #CountdowntoCOP campaign. Meet three people who have signed up to take a step on the special St Albans District Count Us In page.

Isobel is Eating More Plants

Fleetville resident, Isobel, says: “I pledged through ‘Count Us In‘ to reduce the number of meals I eat containing meat. I enjoyed being creative in the kitchen, using tofu and soya mince. I was pleased that I managed to convince the kids to try some new dishes, some of which they were impressed with. Meat-free meals will continue to be on the menu some nights, and when we do buy meat we will go for locally produced and high welfare standards.

Read Becky’s blog “Quick and Easy ways to Eat More Plants” so you can take the Eat More Plants step like Isobel.

 Banh Mi from Taste of Vietnam. Photo: Taste of Vietnam

Lizzie is Wearing Clothes to Last

Lizzie, also from St Albans says: “I pledged to buy only second hand clothes for two months. I often go to the charity shop but it’s a bit hit or miss. This time I decided to look on Facebook market place as I wanted a new warm jumper. I found one just round the corner from me and it’s become a new staple. I’ll definitely look there again in the future.

Read Emily’s blog “Easy Ways to Wear Clothes to Last” and pledge like Lizzie.

Linda is Driving Electric

Harpenden resident, Linda, says: “I pledged through Count Us In to try the step ‘Drive electric’.  We completed this step after a 2-month transition from running a diesel car each (blushes…), through sharing 1 car, to swapping that for an electric car.

The hardest part was overcoming range anxiety – after deciding which colour EV to buy, of course.  We tackled that by installing a charging point at home, powered by our own solar-generated electricity. We also found out where the neighbourhood ‘fast’ charging points are.

Looking back, the question to ourselves is – ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’

Read Shaun’s blog “The Road to My First EV: “Ill never own an electric car”” to help you take the Drive Electric pledge like Linda.

“Looking back, the question to ourselves is – “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”.

16 steps – just pick one

The 16 Count Us In steps are below. Pick one that interests you, read the blog, check out the resources and then click through to take that step on our own special St Albans District Count Us In page.

Remember when you register to tick to say you are part of the team “St Albans Climate Action Network”.

Which step will you pledge to take?

Talk to Friends

Read Catherine’s blog: 5 Good Reasons Not to Talk about Climate Change (and Why You Should Anyway)

Switch Your Energy

Cut Food Waste

Walk and Cycle More

Eat More Plants

Get Some Solar

Eat Seasonal

Drive Electric

Repair and Reuse

Dial It Down

Fly Less

Insulate Your Home

Wear Clothes to Last

Tell Your Politicians

Speak Up At Work

Green Your Money

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to each of our bloggers for their fantastic and inspirational writing.

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.

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. 

How to green your money so it helps the planet

For most working adults, by far the most effective way of reducing your personal carbon footprint is to kick the carbon out of your cash. If you have a mortgage, or a pension, a savings account or even an insurance policy, you have put your money in someone else’s hands and they are doing something with it. That something could be helping the planet, or harming it.


This is Week 16 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We have had a guest blog each week since July during the countdown to the UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

In this blog, Simon Grover, Green Party District Councillor in St Albans District, discusses the various ways we can make our money work for the climate rather than against it.


How much difference can you make if you green your money? Well, one pension provider estimates the average UK worker’s pension finances 23 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. That’s on top of your personal footprint of 10-13 tonnes on average. Another pension provider estimates that moving your pension savings is 27 times more effective than giving up meat, flying and driving combined. 

Stop and reflect on those numbers for a minute.

“Another pension provider estimates that moving your pension savings is 27 times more effective than giving up meat, flying and driving combined.”

Of course, unlike avoiding the car, moving money around doesn’t usually stop emissions immediately. That coal mine you had invested in still produces coal if you sell your shares in it. But the more of us who move our money, the more is invested for good instead of not-so-good. And the more the finance industry is encouraged to do better things with our money.

A small note: as with all financial decisions, if it involves a lot of money, it’s a good idea to get some independent financial advice before doing anything.

Green your banking and saving

Your current and savings account money doesn’t just sit in a vault. Your bank uses your money to invest, to make money for itself (and perhaps a bit for you too). So what is it investing in? It’s not easy to find out, but you can switch to a bank that is rated highly for its ethical operations. There are lots of lists, including this one at New Money, which rates the following banks most highly; Triodos, Ecology Building Society, Nationwide, Co-op and Monzo. Switching bank accounts used to be impossibly difficult, but is now much easier and quicker. 

“Switching bank accounts […] is now much easier and quicker.”.

Green your pension

Your pension is probably your largest investment that you don’t even think about. What companies are your workplace or private pension savings invested in? There are likely to be some horrors in there. Not just coal mines and oil companies, but tobacco, arms and gambling too. Look at the Make My Money Matter campaign for ideas on finding out, and asking your employer to make sure their scheme is a good one. If you want, you can usually choose a more ‘ethical’ option in your employer’s scheme. If you have pension savings from a previous employer, you might move them to a greener provider. Have a look at Good With Money for ideas.

Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

“What companies are your [..] pension savings invested in?”

Green your mortgage

Although a mortgage is a loan to you, you pay interest on that, so you are significantly supporting your mortgage provider, which is a financial institution. Is your mortgage provider genuinely part of the low carbon transition? Or are they dragging their feet? The Ecology Building Society is well known as a ‘green’ business, even giving better deals to eco-friendly homes. But there are others too. For example, see this article at This Is Money

If you have installed energy efficiency measures in your home, or want to put the cost of doing so on your mortgage, you might be able to get a discounted ‘green’ mortgage. As well as The Ecology Building Society, there are other banks and building societies that offer these.

Green your investments

There are now a huge range of ‘green’ investment funds, that you can invest in through ISAs or other investment products. You could be investing in eco-minded companies through shares and bonds, or even in low carbon property and infrastructure. Watch out for greenwashing and ‘too good to be true’ offers. Perhaps try a well-known platform or investment manager like Nutmeg, Hargreaves Lansdown or M&G. For more on this, try Your Ethical Money.

Remember that it’s not all about taking money away from high carbon companies. Some of those companies might need encouraging to transition to the low-carbon future. Oil and gas company Orsted has already moved 100% into renewables, for example. Different investment providers will have different attitudes to this issue.

“Watch out for greenwashing and ‘too good to be true’ offers.”

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Green your bills

Of course, the money you spend also has an impact on the world. Green shopping gets a lot of attention, but what about your everyday household bills? As well as switching to a ‘green’ energy supplier, you can invest environmentally to reduce your bills. This is also an example of moving money that DOES have an immediate effect on reducing emissions. For example, getting solar panels and insulation to reduce your heating or electricity bills. Getting an electric car can even be seen as an investment in reduced fuel bills over time. Recent Sustainable St Albans blogs cover many of these topics.

Not sure where to start?

It can feel hard to know where to start with greening your money. But it’s well worth a try as it can make such a huge difference. An easy way to start is with Make My Money Matter  who can help you ask your pension provider to improve the green credentials of your pension, in just a few clicks.

“An easy way to start is with Make My Money Matter.”

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 Simon’s advice to help you choose the “Green Your Money” 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. 

The government’s ‘green recovery package’ – what does it contain?

Today, the Chancellor set out £3b of ‘green’ spending. It includes £2b grants to improve the energy efficiency in homes and £1b investment in public buildings.

What is the Green Homes Grant?

Under the Green Homes Grant, the government will pay at least two-thirds of the cost of home improvements that save energy, up to to a maximum of £5k. For the poorest households it will be more generous; the grant could be as much as £10,000 and cover the cost of the renovations in full.

For example, a homeowner of a semi-detached or end-of-terrace house could install cavity wall and floor insulation for about £4,000 – the homeowner would pay £1,320 while the government would contribute £2,680.


The scheme will launch in September, with online applications for recommended energy efficiency measures, along with details of accredited local suppliers.

Once one of these suppliers has provided a quote and the work is approved, the voucher is issued.  The vouchers will be made available to use on environmentally-friendly additions such as insulation, low-energy lighting, double glazing and energy-efficient doors

What is being invested in public buildings?

 The government is investing £1b in improving insulation in public buildings such as schools and hospitals including funding of £50m to pilot innovative schemes to retrofit social housing at scale, with measures including insulation, double glazing and heat pumps.

Is this enough?

The Conservative manifesto pledged £9.2bn for energy efficiency, including £2.9bn for public buildings and £6.3bn for low income homes and social housing. Ed Matthew, associate director at climate think tank E3G, said: “If this funding is the down payment on their manifesto commitment then it is a welcome start.  If this is the total level of energy efficiency investment they are pledging then it is peanuts – barely enough to get us to the end of this year if we are to get on track to net zero.”

The pressure group Plan B is planning a legal challenge, on the basis that this is insufficient funding to meet the UK’s obligations under the Paris climate agreement and the UK’s own emissions targets.


Rosie Rogers, senior political advisor at Greenpeace UK, said the UK still wasn’t “playing in the same league” as other countries, such as Germany, which is investing €40bn (£36bn) in green jobs and energy efficiency, or France, which pledged €15bn to tackle the climate crisis in June. (The UK Treasury said the figures are not like-for-like.)

What don’t we know yet?

  • Who is eligible? (Are landlords? Can tenants get vouchers?)
  • How do they define lower income households?
  • What work is eligible to be covered? For example, does it include solar PV and heat pumps?
  • Do you need to demonstrate the environmental benefits of the measures?
  • Who accredits the suppliers? Who will be the accredited suppliers local to here?
  • What if you already had work planned between now and September, when the scheme starts?

Sustainable Money by Catherine Ross

How green is your finance, and does it matter?

Where we save and invest our money has an enormous environmental impact, that most of us don’t even stop to consider.

With most of the choices we make, the impact on the environment is pretty direct … whether we drive or walk, for example, or whether we recycle.  With our money, it’s trickier, but just as important. Do you know what companies your pension fund invests in, and does it matter? Is the degree of climate risk that your money is exposed to at a level you are comfortable with?  How can big companies be encouraged to act environmentally?  How transparent are companies about their environmental standards in the first place?  And if we did want to move our money, what choices are there?

On Tuesday 24th April, we will get insights into important questions like these at Sustainable Money: Climate Risk and Investment.  Expert speakers from CCLA, S&P Global, and The Big Shift will speak and then take your questions.

Caring For The Environment Is Cool Again!

PhotoFunia-1517672426.jpg

By Catherine Ross.

For a long time, it felt like caring about the environment was something a bit weird … a bit alternative.  Not something you would talk about at parties, let alone in boardrooms.

But recently, it feels like something is changing; in the last year environmental concerns have become mainstream in a way they haven’t been in my memory.  

Why? Three things: moneyairand plastic. Three of the basics of our modern lives.

Money

With money, it is the growing awareness of climate risk. Just this week, we see the World Economic Forum in Davos (hardly sandal-wearing vegan lefties) list environmental risks as 3 of the top 5 global risks in their Global Risks Survey.  They are telling us that the top 5 global risks include extreme weather events, natural disasters, and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Companies around the world are starting to pay significant attention to the issue of climate risk, both in their business models and in their investments.  Extreme weather events are estimated to have caused a total of $306 billion in damage in the United States last year, making 2017 the most expensive year on record for natural disasters.  New York City is divesting of around $5 billion of fossil fuels from it’s investments and meantime suing big oil for their part in climate change. The Norwegian trillion dollar sovereign wealth fund is dumping its oil and gas holdings.  They believe doing this will make the country’s wealth “less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil and gas prices”.

Interested in hearing more on this issue? Come to our “Sustainable Money: Climate Risk and Investment” event during Sustainable St Albans Week : Tuesday 24th April, 7:30pm at Trinity United Reformed ChurchBeaconsfield Road, St Albans, AL1 3RD.  There will be speakers from CCLA, S&P Global, and Christian Aid.

Air

With air, it’s about the poor quality of the air we breath and it’s impacting on our health.  According to the UN, some 7 million premature deaths are linked to poor quality air every year worldwide.  The number of early deaths in the UK resulting from toxic air could be as high as 40,000 a year. Recent studies link poor air quality to mental health and even to suicide rates.

In St Albans, we’re conscious of the issues around the district, in spots like the Pea Hen junction.  Tests have revealed air pollutants at places in St Albans that exceed EU limits.  Both St Albans Friends of the Earth and the Green Party have been running local campaigns. St Albans Council has been encouraging us to take practical action by turning off our engines when we can, with their anti-idling campaign.  

Interested in hearing more on this issue? There will be sessions on air quality and what you can do to help at the Know How Festival, the final event of Sustainable St Albans Week: Sunday 29th April, drop-in 10am-4pm at Fleetville Junior School, 228 Hatfield Rd, St Albans AL1 4LW.

Plastic

And with plastic, of course we have seen the “Blue Planet effect”.  This powerful programme has brought right into our living rooms the issue of plastic waste damaging the world’s beautiful oceans and amazing wildlife. People are increasingly asking, “why are we taking such a precious commodity as oil, turning it into single-use items like straws and coffee cups, and then throwing it away?”  Blue Planet II has shown us that there is no “away”.  Just this morning, we hear that the coral reefs are entangled in plastic.    

Recently, there has been real progress.  The EU has “declared war” on plastic waste.  The rapid rise of the fabulous #RefusetheStraw campaign, including locally in St Albans and Harpenden, has seen the ditching of straws by chains like Weatherspoons and Wagamamas.  Pret a Manger have doubled the discount for bringing your own cup. 

Around nine billion fewer plastic bags have been used in England since the 5p tax was introduced. Will it soon become as strange to get a disposable coffee cup as it now is to get a plastic bag?

Interested in hearing more on this issue? Come to the launch of Plastic Free St Albans during Sustainable St Albans Week at the Plastic-free Picnic: Sunday 22nd April, 12-2pm in Highfield Park,  or at the film screening of A Plastic Ocean at The Odyssey, London Road on Sunday 22nd April in the evening – hopefully with a panel and discussion about how we can reduce single use plastics.

During Sustainable St Albans Week, well over a hundred local organisations will be showing that they care about the environmental by running events and activities.  Schools, community groups, faith groups, and local businesses will all be taking part.  You can take part; join our mailing list today and look out for the SustWeek18 programme from mid-March, online and at many locations around the district.  And let’s make talking about the climate just as normal as talking about the weather.