Volunteer to help St Albans reach net zero by 2030

When St Albans District Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 they set a target for the district to reach net zero as 2030. The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan needs the community to make a significant reduction in C02 to reach this target. Based on data currently available this amounts to an average of 50,000 tonnes per year until 2030.

With such large numbers and sometimes incomprehensible targets the climate emergency requires action from everyone on all different levels. One of Sustainable St Albans’ many actions is to recruit volunteers to help inform and inspire local people and community organisations, encouraging them to get involved in the effort to reach net zero.

We’re seeking people from across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages who have an interest in environmental issues and some existing knowledge who are good listeners and enjoy talking to people. If this describes you, join our community engagement programme by becoming:

Stall Volunteers
What you will be doing:

  • Help set up and organise stalls at markets and at community events (some manual handling possible: training will be provided) .
  • Have positive conversations with members of the public about practical changes they can make to their lifestyles which will make a difference.

Time commitment: Once a month at weekends: Volunteer for a few hours or the whole day. We would like you to commit to a minimum of 6 stalls events.

Two women stand in front of a green market stall with flyers and bunting saying Sustainable St Albans
Stall volunteers chat with the community to encourage them to get involved and take a few #CountUsIn steps too!

Climate Champions
What you will be doing:

  • Speak about climate action at a minimum of 5 events during one year. Events could include visiting a community group, business and public services. We aim to match your interests and experience to the audience you will be talking to. 
  • Help at a minimum of 2 Sustainable St Albans market stalls a year where you will talk to members of the public about action they can take on climate change.
  • Attend a regular monthly team planning meeting which could last up to 1 hour (via zoom and sometimes in person).
  • Support the team in arranging or hosting events which will inspire and help people take action.

Time commitment: We would like you to commit to a minimum of talking at 5 events and 2 markets a year which we estimate would take 50 hours in one year.

We have a variety of other ways you can volunteer and get involved in our projects and year round activities which all help people across the district live more sustainable lives.

If you would like to talk to someone about our community engagement volunteering roles contact Community Engagement Officer on sarah.kersey@sustainablestalbans.org to arrange a phone or video call.

5 steps to tell politicians you care about climate change

It is inarguable that a combination of individual action and government action is what is needed to combat the climate crisis. So why is governmental change so slow? By making our voices heard and telling politicians that we care about the climate crisis, we can influence policy and hopefully speed up governmental change.

This is Week 14 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, Jess Simmons (18 years old) looks at how you can take the step “Tell your politicians” as part of Count Us In. Despite only having been able to vote in one election so far, Jess and three other young people ran the event “Activism and Optimism with local politicians” as part of SustFest21, the 2021 Sustainability Festival in St Albans District. The event gave young people the platform to engage with local MPs and Councillors across parties about the climate crisis.

Step 1: Understand that your voice does matter to politicians

Although it can feel intimidating, simple steps like emailing your local MP or engaging with local councillors can have a big impact in highlighting priorities in your local area. After all, politicians are supposed to represent their area so they should be paying attention to the issues their constituents are most vocal about. The more of us who raise our voices, the more politicians hear the same message from their constituents and then the higher they will prioritise that action. So all of us raising our voices does matter.

Photo by Aswin Mahesh on Unsplash

Step 2: Find out who your local politicians are

A breakdown of who represents you:

Your local MP

In St Albans District, our MPs are Daisy Cooper for St Albans and Bim Afolami for Hitchin and Harpenden. They represent their constituency (which is their area) and their party in the House of Commons but they also have the wider national interest to consider when making decisions. In terms of climate, they’re most responsible for things like the national budget and decisions made at COP26 this November.

Your local councillors

Councillors have a sole focus on the community and are elected by the public in local elections. Their job is to represent the people who elect them and work with them and partners, such as local businesses and other organisations, to agree and deliver on local priorities. There are different levels of local authority such as county councillors and district councillors.

County Council

Here in St Albans District, we are part of Hertfordshire County Council (HCC). HCC are in charge of recycling and waste management facilities, transport, social care, libraries and some aspects of schools. You will have one county councillor representing your area.

District Council

District councils cover a smaller area than county councils. They are usually responsible for services like waste collection, recycling, parks and green spaces, council housing and housing planning. In St Albans District, we have St Albans City and District Council. You will have two or three district councillors representing your area.

Town or Parish Councils

Depending on where you live, you may also have town or parish councillors representing you. Locally, this occurs particularly if you live outside of the central St Albans city: Colney Heath, Harpenden, London Colney, Redbourn, Sandridge, St Michael, St Stephen, Wheathampstead. The town or parish council may take responsibility for green spaces and allotments, as well as community needs and events. Many town and parish councils now have more interest than ever in local climate change. They may also be working on a neighbourhood plan that will shape the local environment for the future. Issues such as wildflower sites, carbon footprint, community event plastic reduction and sustainable procurement may all be on the agenda. You may have two or three town or parish councillors representing your area.

Find out who your MP, district councillors and county councillors are here by putting your postcode in. You can email them through this website. You can visit the St Albans District website to find similar information plus your Parish or Town Council.(Click on “null” in the Parish Council field: if it says St Albans District Association of Local Councils you don’t have a Town or Parish Council).

“simple steps like emailing your MP or engaging with local councillors can have a big impact”

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

Step 3: Contact your local politicians and tell them what you want

Make your voice heard. Tell your politicians that you care about climate change and what action you want them to take. Personal emails have a greater impact than those copied and pasted from a campaign Handwritten letters have a greater impact still. Remember to be polite, concise and put your address so that the MP/councillor knows you are from their constituency. Find more help about contacting politicians here.

Signing up to the mailing list of local environmental groups, like Sustainable St Albans or St Albans Friends of the Earth, will help you to keep informed of key local decisions that politicians may have a say on, from local airport expansions to public transport plans.

“Personal emails have a greater impact than those copied and pasted from a campaign.”

Step 4: Be inspired by seeing local politicians engage

In June, I, along with 3 other local young people, organised an event for Sustainable St Albans’ Sustainability Festival entitled “Activism and Optimism with local politicians”. It aimed to give young people a platform to ask their politicians questions on the climate crisis. You can find the recording of Activism and Optimisim with local politicians here.

Jess, Niamh, Nina and Maddie who organised “Activism and Optimism with local politicians”

Step 5: Get involved with local campaigns

Firstly, if you can vote, your vote is the simplest way to tell politicians what your priorities are. Please vote in any local and national elections you can.

However, the time scale of elections means that they often aren’t quick enough to trigger enough climate action. As pictured below, protest can be a great way of telling the government the importance of a particular issue to you (obviously please go about this in a Covid-safe and responsible way). Just think about the huge statement Greta Thunberg and #SchoolStrike4Climate made to the government and public about the passion of young people on this matter. At the St Albans November 2019 climate strike, we invited all candidates running for MP at the time. Daisy Cooper showed up which allowed young people to talk to her about climate policy.

Attending events with politicians about certain issues can also allow you to engage with them. Look out for public local events where politicians are speaking or attending or get involved with community groups who engage with politicians.

“Protest can be a great way of telling the government the importance of a particular issue to you.”

St Albans Climate Strike 2019

Add your voice to tell politicians you care about climate change

COP-26 is starting very soon, where leaders from all across the globe will meet to discuss policy to tackle the climate crisis. The series that this blog is part of (#CountdowntoCOP) is one of the many ways of creating noise around COP, and you can help our efforts by contacting MPs or talking to friends to highlight how seriously world leaders should take it. Raise your voice and tell the politicians you care about climate change.

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 Jess’s advice to help you choose the “Tell your politicians” 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 “Speak Up at Work” by Dan Fletcher.

Towards a Wilder St Albans

Would you like to see water voles reintroduced to the River Ver? What about the ‘wilding’ of some the green spaces across the district, to increase wildlife habitats? Good news!  In April 2021, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife, in partnership with St Albans District Council will be launching a pioneering project, Wilder St Albans.

Tim Hill, Conservation Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, describes how the project was developed and what it hopes to achieve.

Wilder St Albans aims to increase biodiversity – natural habitats and the species they support – across the District of St Albans. We will encourage and support practical action by the local community and look for natural solutions to the climate and ecological crises, like changing mowing regimes and allowing trees to grow.

“It couldn’t come a moment too soon… Hertfordshire’s ‘State of Nature’ report highlighted the immediate need for action to address the ecological and climate crises…”

It couldn’t come a moment too soon.  The Trust’s ‘Hertfordshire State of Nature’ report was launched in March 2020, highlighting the immediate need for action to address the ecological and climate crises, and to reach our target to secure 30% of land for wildlife by 2030.  Wilder St Albans is a great example of how communities and organisations can come together to make a real difference and play their part in nature’s recovery.

Brimstone butterfly

This all began with the community taking action. Loss of biodiversity, along with the climate crisis, caused a group of concerned residents to form the St Albans Environment Action Group during 2019. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust together with elected members of St Albans Council worked with the group to address how these concerns could be tackled at the District level. 

“This all began with the community taking action”

At the same time, the Council was developing a Net Zero Carbon Action Plan and Sustainability Strategy. Based on experience gained through biodiversity action planning and conserving Hertfordshire’s globally rare chalk rivers through a partnership approach, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust proposed ‘Towards a Wilder St Albans’ to the District Council – a collaborative project to enable people to act locally to address these global issues.

The project will raise awareness of the habitats and species of the city and facilitate community participation to achieve more wild places, bigger wild places, better managed wild places and connect them up to create a resilient ecological network. 

A collaborative Wilder St Albans Action Plan will be developed through the project and shared online, with the opportunity for local action groups to update and highlight their own local activities and contributions..

In March, the Trust recruited a Wilder St Albans Project Officer, Heidi Carruthers who will run the project and help local people to become involved.

Heidi Carruthers – Wilder St Albans project officer

The first piece of work will be to carry out a full audit of the habitats and species of the District, working with the Herts Environmental Records Centre. This will inform project development and decision making, and will include the production of maps to be incorporated into the Wilder St Albans plan.

The online plan ‘will be used to engage local residents with the project so that they can join in with or take forward their own practical action.’

Core to the project will be the design and development of a new web-based plan, with the aim for this to be a live record of action and proposals. The online plan will be a powerful tool to promote the project, gather ideas and record positive activity and progress. It will be used to engage local residents with the project so that they can join in with or take forward their own practical action. Local stakeholders will be trained to help  manage the online plan, ensuring it remains fresh and up to date.

In addition to the project webpages and local media coverage, the project will be promoted in partnership publications and online. National and regional media coverage will be sought by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust as part of the Wildlife Trusts’ national programme of activity.

 One of the first major wilding projects will be the reintroduction of water voles to the River Ver in 2021.

Nationally, water voles have declined by over 95% over the last 60 years and were last recorded in the Ver in 1987.

Working in partnership with the Ver Valley Society and landowners in the Ver Valley, the Trust will be introducing 75 pairs of water voles to the river in July. In addition, across the city, ‘wilding’ of open spaces will be taking place through the revision of mowing regimes aimed at increasing wildlife habitats.

Wilder St Albans will be launched in April. If you would like to get involved in making the city a wilder place in any way, please contact Heidi Carruthers, the project’s People and Wildlife Officer – heidi.carruthers@hmwt.org

Tim Hill – 3rd March 2021

Editor note: Kenneth Grahame wrote Wind in the Willows just over a hundred years ago. Since then, many of the UK’s wild places have been lost…. See more about rewilding on the Herts Middlesex Wildlife Trust website

SADC Climate Crisis Strategy Event follow-up

In November 2020 Sustainable St Albans hosted a panel event discussing the council’s new Sustainability and Climate Crisis strategy . We focused on how we, as a community, can help to implement it. 

We had some great questions from the audience with answers from our panel that was made up of: 

  • Cllr Chris White (Leader of SADC)
  • Cllr Will Tucker (Chair, SADC Working Response Group)
  •  Tim Hill (Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust) 
  • Amanda Yorwerth (Friends of the Earth)  
  • Catherine Ross (Sustainable St.Albans)
  • Jess (UK Student Climate Network Herts) Unfortunately Jess couldn’t make the event see info from Jess re schoolchildren at the end of this blog.

Watch Event Again here

The Strategy

St Albans City and District Council’s Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy sets out a 3-year action plan to reduce its environmental impacts, improve the environmental sustainability of its operations and services, ensure that the district is resilient to changing environmental conditions and act as a strong community leader to ensure action continues to be taken across all parts of the community. Read the full report here: Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy

The strategy sets out plans to reduce emissions to Net Zero by 2030 and focuses on the following core themes: 

  1. Governance and Leadership    
  2. Energy Use    
  3. Transport and Air Quality
  4. Waste
  5. Nature and Sustainable Food
  6. Climate Change Adaptation and Water

Note: we have grouped the remainder of the blog according to these 6 themes..

1. Governance and Leadership 

Cllr Chris White noted on funding that the District council is having to make significant budget cuts (you will have seen the plans in green waste announcements already) to make up for lost income that the government has only partially compensated for. But environmental projects, such as Wilder St Albans, mentioned by Tim Hill, have been protected.

Networking across Herts 
The importance of networking across Hertfordshire to make this strategy a success is recognised. Herts councils network intensely, the Herts Growth Board is being formed, which looks for sustainable growth in the county and there is also a Herts wide Sustainability Forum (HSF) , the website of which is currently being redeveloped. 

Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy Pages 43-43 outline what the Council will be doing in regards to governance and leadership.

HSF 2019 inaugural Award presented to Sustainable St Albans

2. Energy 

Many resources were shared regarding sustainable energy. Lots of companies currently can help you switch to greener energy. Do your research and find what best suits you and your household’s needs but here are some recommended by attendees:  

  • Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy Pages 44-47 summarise how the council plans to tackle energy use. 
  • St Albans Solar streets: Want to make your home more sustainable? Have a look at our page on the Council’s Solar Streets initiative as a start – Note that with Solar Streets, for every house that has solar installed with the scheme, £50 will be donated for solar installations at a local community project (to be decided) and if there are 6 or more houses in one street having solar installed, the donation goes up to £75 per installation.
  • Eco Homes: Our Eco Homes event discussed the government’s Green Grant and you can read information on Green Grants locally here. N.B. Government Green Grants are available to help you make sustainable improvements to your homes – and can be used up to March 2022.

3. Transport

20mph zones: Cllr Chris White has been working with fellow county councillors on introducing more 20mph zones as people feel safer when traffic is slower. Implementation of these zones could see a rise in people cycling in the district, for example to and from schools. St. Albans Friends of the Earth is also campaigning on this so have a look on their website if you did want to get more involved:

Holidays in the UK: Transport was seen as an area that individuals can take a lot of control over. Stopping flying is a great start. You can make your holidays more sustainable by finding one of the beautiful places in the UK to travel to. The Our Planet Our Future event team recently  ran an event on Sustainable Holidays with some great guest speakers.

Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy Pages 48-51 outline what the council will be doing in regards to transport and air quality in the district. 

4. Waste 

Phase Out Plastic stall at the St Albans market

Reducing Waste at home: There is so much you can do on an individual scale to make your lifestyle more sustainable. We have some great blogs on our website see the series on How To Go Plastic Free

  • Council Recycling: Take a look at the council’s website for more information on recycling in St.Albans:
  • Hard to recycle items? TerraCycle is trying to eliminate the idea of waste by finding solutions to recycling the “non-recyclable”.  
  • Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy Pages 52-53 outline what the council will be doing in regards to waste. 

5. Nature 

Crisis in Nature: Tim Hill from the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust stressed there is no doubt that there is a nature crisis going on. Hertfordshire’s State of Nature Report came out in March 2020, comparing the state of nature in Herts now to 1970.

“In the last 50 years we have seen 84 local extinctions in Hertfordshire”

Wilder St Albans: The Wildlife Trust is working with SADC and St Albans Environment Action Group on a new project called Wilder St Albans. The project started in 2019 and is expected to be launched around April 2021.The project will facilitate and enable residents and communities to make St Albans wilder by increasing biodiversity.  It is all about individual action, but funded by SADC. A website is soon to come, along with the launch early next year so keep an eye out for this!

  • Hedgehog Streets: Find out how you can help the hedgehogs:
  • Blue Hearts Campaign: Putting out blue hearts over areas to communicate to neighbours that they are being rewilded
  • World Soil Day is Saturday 5 December 2020, “Keep soil alive, Protect soil diversity”

Tree planting 

For years now in our district we have seen some great efforts to reforest the area.

Creating Heartwood Forest in 2016

Amanda Yorwerth from Friends of the Earth St.Albans said: SADC and Friends of the Earth are working to find an area to plant the saplings that everyone has been growing at home (thank you) and to sort out a COVID safe regime for members of the public to do the planting. SADC thinks that money can be found for the protection materials that the new trees will need and we’re hopeful that a tree planting event will be possible in the new year. 

In addition to this, SADC has been awarded funds for tree planting at 2 sites, one in St.Albans and one in Harpenden, which will happen this year. Schools, including STAGS and Sandringham, are also planting trees on their own land.”

Join the Trees of St Albans Facebook group to keep abreast of tree planting and more about trees or email stalbansfoe@hotmail.com to join the St.Albans Friends of the Earth mailing list and receive information about this and other initiatives.

Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy Pages 54-55 outline what the council will be doing in regards to nature and food.

6. Water

#Save10aDay: Here in St Albans District we use more water than almost anywhere else in the country. Each person uses about 10 litres more than the UK average every day. Affinity Water doesn’t know exactly why we use so much water in St Albans. They want us to use 10 litres per person less water per day as a start. Sustainable St Albans is currently supporting this Affinity Water initiative to encourage local residents to reduce water use.

Water Resources:

Engaging school children – UK Student Climate Network Herts 

Jess S. 17 years old, from the UK Student Climate Network Herts had hoped to be part of the panel, but was unable to attend. Here is her response, after the event, about how school children can engage with the Strategy.

“Climate activism has taught me that young people are capable of incredible things and can create real change”

Jess S – UKSCN Herts

Q: School children have driven significant change at a national level in how we understand the gravity of the climate crisis. What do you want them to do here in the District?

A: “Obviously strikes aren’t as feasible at the moment with social distancing and lockdowns, but I would encourage young people to help keep up the momentum and pressure on the government that striking created. Whether that’s through things such as petitions, writing to MPs or school based action, all of it keeps the climate crisis in the minds of those who have power to change legislation and ensures our voices as young people are not ignored. 

Climate activism has taught me that young people are capable of incredible things and can create real change; over the last two weeks, students all around the globe came together for MOCK COP26 and globally, students have had a huge impact on public perceptions on climate change so never underestimate the power of young people uniting.” – Jess S.

Sustainable Schools 

Involvement from schools and young people is so important. See more and have a look at the Sustainable St Albans’ Sustainable Schools project

a one-stop shop for St Albans District schools seeking help to reduce their environmental impact and teach children about the climate emergency

Resources: Where to Start? 

If you are new to wanting to make your life more sustainable and eco-friendly or want some guidance and framework on how to do so, here are some good resources.  

  • Calculate your Carbon Footprint with WWWF -a great place to start!
  • Count Us In encourages people to commit take practical steps to reduce their carbon impact and persuade others to do the same: 
  • Take the Jump has six simple principles to help you take the first jump to start saving the planet
  • Ethical Consumer is also a good website to use if you want to find out how ethical your consumer habits are by rating almost everyone from banks to kettles. 

Want to get involved more? 

It’s important to stay up to date on what is going on on a wider scale. Have a look at the UK Climate Assembly report to see the actions that residents on the UK Government’s Climate Assembly want to see.

At the event we asked our participants, ‘How will you respond to the Sustainability Strategy?’ and here were the results…

We hope that you will also be able to start thinking about ways to implement the Council’s Sustainability Strategy so that we all stand a chance of living in a more environmentally sustainable district.

St Albans Environment Action Group

A group of Residents and Councillors

St Albans Environment Action Group was formed in 2018 by a group of residents and councillors, with the aim of connecting local environmental groups and individuals more strongly with local councils. The emphasis, as the name suggests, is very much around action – both supporting the councils’ efforts to improve the environment and pursuing new ideas and projects. It meets at St Albans Council but is very much independent of it.

Transport, Buildings, Water, Wildlife…and more
Meetings are usually based on a theme – transport, buildings, wildlife – and start with a guest speaker followed by discussion.

The Group is open to all, and has grown into a popular force, so much so that it’s now moved from a committee room to tha largest space at St Albans Council – the Chamber. 

It’s also got a new website, with information about past and upcoming meetings, a sign-up form and a suggestions box. See stalbansenvironmentaction.org

Wilder St Albans
The group’s most exciting project so far is Wilder St Albans. A sub group of our members are working with Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust and St Albans District Council to create an action plan for enriching nature and increasing biodiversity. The project is still at the discussion stage, but we already have a huge amount of interest and we hope that formal planning  will start very soon.


Meeting dates for the coming months are:

Thursday 2 January 2020

Tuesday 10 March  2020

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Please see their website for contact details