In 2018, over 50 organisations based in Oxfordshire, including Bioregional, got together to create a blueprint for a sustainable future for the county. A ‘shared vision’ to ensure that unsustainable systems are transformed, so our future is one where everyone enjoys healthier, happier, and greener lives.

But at the meeting to share the finalised vision, a representative from the Eid Extravaganza team (who planned a green theme for that year's end-of-Ramadan Eid celebrations) stood up and asked fellow attendees to look around the room and see, apart from themselves, how many ethnic minorities were represented. There were none.

The exclusive ‘green bubble’

The UK’s environmental sector is one of the least ethnically diverse in the UK – a 2017 report found that just 3.1% of environmental professionals identify as ‘non-white communities’. Oxfordshire is no different. Sustainability action in Oxfordshire and across Britain is predominantly led by a homogeneous group of campaigners – typically those who suffer fewer adverse effects from inequality – and who can struggle to connect outside their ‘green bubble.’

And yet, it’s the people outside that bubble, such as those from ethnic minorities and poorer communities, refugees and the disabled, who stand to endure the most from the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation – from the poor health caused by damp homes and living in areas of high air pollution, to the lack of access to gardens and green spaces, to the devastating floods that are becoming an annual occurrence.

While bearing the brunt of all these impacts, they are left out of the sustainability narrative and can feel powerless to make others listen and act. This exacerbates inequality further.

At Bioregional, we want to ensure all sections of society are involved in setting the sustainability agenda and can act on it.

Hannah Scott, Bioregional

Working with Aspire to make One Planet Oxfordshire accessible to all

The One Planet Living® sustainability framework developed by Bioregional has one of its ten principles focused on ‘Equity and Local Economy’. Equity is a fundamental part of what we want to achieve with One Planet Oxfordshire, but how can we make this happen?

Bioregional’s concerns are matched by a One Planet Oxfordshire participant, Aspire - an award-winning employment charity and social enterprise that helps people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage to find employment and change their lives.

In April this year, we launched our One Planet Oxfordshire inclusion pilot project with Aspire. Advised by a focus group of organisations working with a range of disadvantaged groups in Oxfordshire, Aspire will fund two part-time One Planet Living Community Champions, for whom we’ve developed bespoke training to enable them to stimulate action in the community.

The One Planet Living Community Champions will work with ethnic minority associations, community groups, housing associations, refugee groups and many others to give them a voice on green issues in Oxfordshire. These groups will be supported to develop their own One Planet Action Plans, tailored to ensure sustainability efforts are right for their communities.

Aspire are recruiting for these roles now, so please encourage people to share and apply.

The training of these Champions, as well as their interactions with communities, will initially be conducted online to mitigate Covid-19 infection risk. We are adapting our approach for this and Aspire will ensure digital equipment is available for the Champions and their target audiences wherever needed.

We hope to see a good number of disadvantaged communities in Oxfordshire create their own action plans to achieve One Planet Living by March 2021. If this pilot is successful, we plan to roll out the approach more widely in the Thames Valley.

Hopefully, our initiative will join with other similar ones across the UK and the world.

With this year’s Black Lives Matter protests demonstrating the huge thirst for change across all sections of society, the time to act is ripe. At Bioregional, we want to ensure all sections of society are involved in setting the sustainability agenda and can act on it. And we need your help.

How you can help burst the "green bubble" in Oxfordshire

  1. Share or apply for the OPL Community Champion Job Description
  2. Spread the word to any communities or organisations you are connected with and encourage them to get involved
  3. Sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date with this project and One Planet Oxfordshire

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