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One Planet Living champion – Q&A with Tom Hayes, Chief Executive at Elmore Community Services
Tom Hayes is the former Head of External Relations at Restore, an Oxfordshire-based mental health charity that supports people to take control of their recovery, develop skills and lead meaningful lives. He is now Chief Executive at another Oxfordshire mental health charity, Elmore Community Services, which ensures nobody falls behind and between the cracks of existing services.
Restore is taking part in Oxfordshire’s involvement in Bioregional's One Planet Cities project and helping shape the county’s new sustainability action plan. In our Q&A he explains how Restore has also created its own One Planet Living Action Plan.
When did you first come across One Planet Living?
At the launch of Oxfordshire Greentech where we heard about all the exciting stuff that was happening across the county for sustainability.
What do you like about it?
Going through how Restore was performing on the ten One Planet Living principles was a bit of an audit for us. We saw we were already doing things that we hadn’t really realised, and found things we could do that we hadn’t thought of before.
The visualisation process we did on oneplanet.com made a very complex and often overwhelming process simple and accessible. It’s now easy for the people who are implementing One Planet Living to understand and take it to the next step.
We’ve had the visualisation laminated and it’s quite fun that our service users, volunteers, staff and trustees at our six recovery sites across the country are picking up sharpie pens and annotating it.
They’re saying: “Well actually, we’re not doing that in our recovery group but we’re doing this.” A second, larger visualisation is being built out of the original one.
What were the things you didn’t realise you were already doing?
That we’re doing a heck lot of a lot cycling and a lot less car travel. But then we realised we can do more if we just had a pool cycle scheme with bikes available for use.
One of the big outcomes is we’re getting a rickshaw to help us move our produce around the city instead of having to drive it in a van.
Tell us about implementing One Planet Living at Restore – what’s been your experience?
Climate change is something which is big, it’s global, it’s powerful, it’s hard to understand how at a local level you can tackle it in an effective fashion.
But if you’re aware of these issues and challenges in the context of a One Planet Action Plan, then it becomes a lot more doable because it’s broken down into chunks. You can do A, B, C – it’s not like you’ve got to get straight to Z. it’s not so scary.
And that’s interesting in the context of the language being used about the climate which is of a ‘climate breakdown’ and ‘emergency’ – those are quite overwhelmingly negative words to be used in the context of mental health services (Although obviously there’s a benefit to using that language to create behaviour change).
One Planet Living is a much more positive framing and it’s very simple to understand, we don’t have a second or a third planet – we have this one planet, let’s really take care it.
There’s something interesting there about not treating the planet as disposable and exploitable but treating it as your home, something you should be proud to live on and be a good steward of. Those are all qualities that we take very seriously as a mental health charity.
How did the One Planet Cities project help Restore?
It’s a really helpful way of circulating knowledge we otherwise wouldn’t have access to. It’s a great opportunity for the different partners to come together in a structured and helpful way and share their thoughts about how each can do even better.
If you were approached by another small charity, what piece of advice would you give them?
I’d remind them the UN’s top scientists are warning about the impact of inaction. So always think about what happens if you don’t act. Think about the role that you have to play as every other organisation does. Don’t get concerned by the short term and what seems most important – rethink what is important and take a longer-term view.
For mental health charities, prioritise environmental degradation and be mindful about the framing that’s used. Embrace the One Planet Living framing because it’s hopeful and optimistic. It gets you to the solution instead of focusing on the problem, which can cause extra levels of concern in people who are already exhibiting signs of mental distress.
Do you have any anecdotes about the changes you have made?
Last year our Elder Stubbs Festival had the goal of zero waste, which was a challenge. But that was because it was a goal alongside many others. This year it’s a whole agenda item we’re giving time to, rather than having it as a vision and then prioritising other things. We can no longer treat environmental sustainability as a vision – it has to be a priority with an action plan.
And I love the fact that we’ve got staff here who will now make the time to go out to sustainability events and form friendships – it’s becoming a community.
What makes One Planet Living different from other sustainability frameworks you have come across?
It’s simple. There’s always a temptation to reinvent the wheel or have the sexiest, most glamorous thing. But often there’s no thinking through about how it will be beneficial.
The One Planet Living approach is stimulating, it’s exciting, it’s simple, but it’s also extremely functional. It gets the job done.