As we turn attention to recovering from the pandemic, we need leaders to show us real-life scalable solutions for healthier, more resilient, sustainable cities, says Ben Gill. The City of Fremantle is one of these
I’m proud to work in Oxfordshire – it’s a hotbed for thought-leadership, innovation, community action and green-minded enterprise. And that makes it well-placed to make the changes we so urgently need to address the climate and ecological emergency – transforming our unsustainable systems into a future where everyone enjoys healthier, happier and greener lives.
This is a challenge at a scale we’ve never faced before but, after our recent One Planet Oxfordshire webinar, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s possible.
In 2018, Oxfordshire was one of the four locations that took part in Bioregional’s One Planet Cities pilot project. We supported the county to create a collaborative ‘shared vision’ of a better future – drawing on the experience and thoughts of local authorities, businesses, community groups and citizens alike.
This vision was published in 2019 and now, through the One Planet Oxfordshire initiative, these organisations are creating their own ‘One Planet’ sustainability action plans to help achieve it. They are structured using Bioregional’s One Planet Living® sustainability framework: ten simple principles – from health and happiness and sustainable food to zero carbon energy – that help plan, achieve and communicate sustainability.
Our webinar late last month shared the progress so far, including the inspiring stories of the diverse organisations already making the sustainable change we need to see.
Pioneering local authorities
Change is hard without support from the top, which is why it’s fantastic that Oxfordshire County Council has been involved throughout the whole process and has reaffirmed how important the One Planet Oxfordshire journey is. In its Climate Action Declaration, the Council commits to being carbon neutral across its estate by 2030. Actions are planned across all its service areas, aligning with many, if not all, of the One Planet Oxfordshire goals.
It was also great to hear how both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are using the One Planet Living framework to help them respond to the climate emergency. I am in awe at the level of their ambition, both aiming to be carbon neutral districts - by 2030 in South Oxfordshire and 2045 in the Vale.
Eleanor Watts of the Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon community action group in south Oxford shared how people are coming together to create sustainable change across a whole neighbourhood.
Volunteers – or the ‘Rose Hill Warriors’ as I call them! - from the local community centre, school, church and low-carbon group are using the One Planet Living framework to work towards a happy, healthy, equitable community, with an ambition to be the first zero-carbon neighbourhood in the UK. They’ve undertaken so many fantastic projects, from solar panels on the Community Centre and school to successful tree planting schemes and community repair cafés.
Forward-thinking social enterprises and businesses
It’s always inspiring to hear from Aspire, an award-winning employment charity and social enterprise. Its mission is to empower people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage to find employment and change their lives, for good. CEO Paul Roberts spoke about Aspire’s own One Planet Action Plan and how, stemming from that, we are now working together on a project to make the sustainability agenda in Oxfordshire more inclusive.
We also heard how Oxfordshire Greentech, a dedicated business network for low-carbon growth, has thrived since its launch in 2019. With more than 100 members, it’s supporting companies and social enterprises to speed up the transition to a low-carbon future with events, advice and training.
One Oxfordshire Greentech member, OXWASH, is a revolutionary sustainable laundry service, using space-age washing machines (literally - CEO Kyle Grant used to work for NASA) which save water and remove microfibres. Plus, all its deliveries are by electric bike. It’s a game-changer for Oxford and OXWASH has big plans for other cities too.
And these are just a few examples of the organisations working towards our One Planet Oxfordshire shared vision! You can see more examples together in our snapshot ‘Action Scan.’ If you’re working towards a positive future for our county – with or without the One Planet Living framework - and would like to be included in this, get in touch using the form below.
The organisations and participants at the webinar showcased the enthusiasm for making our shared vision a reality. But we need more people, organisations and communities to help if we are to achieve it. You can get involved by:
If you’re an organisation that’s working strategically to create a more sustainable and fair future for Oxfordshire, do get in contact with Nicole Lazarus below. We’re connected with the Build Back Better Campaign, the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, Oxford Friends of the Earth and Oxfordshire Open Thought, which are developing the Oxfordshire 2050 Vision, to make sure we all work together to accelerate change.