The climate emergency is one of, if not the biggest challenge facing communities the world over. It being such a huge, often complex challenge, there is a familiar feeling amongst many that they just don’t know where to start. 
A diversity of experiences and thinking is essential in the climate action conversation. At Stonegrove there is a belief that climate action needs to be taken on from the bottom up, working together as a community to start social action.

Stonegrove Community Trust is a resident-led charity in Edgware, North London. They run a modern new community centre which aims to be the social and cultural centre of the community. Stonegrove have set an ambitious target to achieve Net Zero as a charity and for their community centre, OneStonegrove, by the end of December 2022.

This target highlights Stonegrove’s commitment to taking climate action. They have already started to take a series of measures to improve their energy efficiency and lower their carbon footprint.

Stonegrove’s climate action journey started by joining a number of the existing networks and partnerships already working to tackle climate change. For CEO Gus Alston it was essential that the Trust’s climate action journey was not just happening in isolation to the many conversations already happening on this topic. Being a part of networks such as the Barnet Environmental Group, allowed Stonegrove to build a strong, foundational, understanding of the issues they were trying to tackle. It helped them to build partnerships with experts who could help to inform or carry out the practical work on reducing carbon.

What steps is Stonegrove taking to tackle the climate emergency?

As a practical first step, Stonegrove had an eco-audit completed to give an accurate account of their carbon footprint. This eco-audit was funded by City Bridge Trust. Having an accurate picture of their carbon footprint meant that they could fulfil their ambition of this being a transparent and open process. This includes an acknowledgement of the great place the community centre was starting from as a new building operating on a 100% renewable energy tariff.

Their other work has included commissioning a Heating Save building management system which could save up to 33% of heating energy usage. Funds have also been pledged towards a Solar PV project and internal action has been taken to produce an Environmental policy, and Environmental working group set up as a subgroup to the Trustee board.

Recent work has also included working with Reach Volunteering to recruit two volunteers specifically to help with climate related activity. This has meant that they can introduce the specialist knowledge of these individuals into their plans. On a more individual level for the CEO and environmental subgroup, they have people who they can bounce ideas off and people to keep them focussed and on task in striving for net zero.

How did Stonegrove get started on taking action?

Stonegrove definitely started in a good position when it came to making the decision to actively start tackling the climate emergency. The passion of Stonegrove’s CEO, who had started climate action partnerships previously, was matched by the enthusiasm of the board of trustees. Gus says that when it comes to taking climate action, he believes that community organisations should “operate in a way which treads lightly on the world around you as you deliver your mission”. The trustees, including the chair of trustees, have been supportive of this aim, and the Trust’s push for greater sustainability.

Why is it important for communities to engage in tackling the climate emergency?

Gus believes that the diversity which is seen within communities also needs to be a seen in the conversations which are happening about climate. A diversity of experiences and thinking is essential in the climate action conversation. At Stonegrove there is a belief that climate action needs to be taken on from the bottom up, working together as a community to start social action.

What impact is Stonegrove hoping to have?

By taking action against climate change Stonegrove is hoping to have an impact on both the local community and the organisation as a whole. OneStonegrove is located on a housing estate with around 1,000 homes, a school, church and synagogue. Stonegrove is striving for its environmental efforts to inspire and influence their community to change the behaviours and get involved. For example, if the installation of electric car charging points was to go ahead this could influence the ability for electric car ownership or having recycling bins across the area could encourage a reduction in landfill waste.

Organisationally, there is a strategic objective for taking climate action now. It gives the Trust a strong organisational narrative which fits in with the current need and interest in taking climate action. With so much funding becoming available, tied to climate action or with an element of supporting sustainability, Stonegrove sees it as important to have a strong narrative on how they are contributing to this so that they can leverage it for funding.

What are the practical things other community organisations can do to take action against climate change?

Gus has set out a number of things which community organisations can start doing straight away to take action.

– Start anywhere! Perfection is the enemy of progress. If you are not currently sitting in a building which uses all LED lights you can change that now. That’s one of the cheapest things you can do, and it can have a huge impact on reducing your energy usage. (And funders love this kind of thing!)

– Get engaged in the conversation – start linking into the many networks and partnerships which exist all over London with experts and people from organisations who may be able to help you to start taking action.

– Get in touch with your local community energy company. In London there is London Community Energy. Nationally, Community Energy England have a wide variety of resources. They have been incredibly helpful in helping explore how you can reduce carbon footprints and think about what funding might be needed.

– Think about how you can grow climate action from a current project. For example, if you’ve got a project with young people thing about how you can get them involved. If you can educate young people and start behaviour change, it could have a big impact. And young people are likely to be an engaged audience. At Stonegrove Community Trust, much of this work on environmental sustainability has taken place during the pandemic year. Reopening has the potential to be an impetus for far greater community involvement and leadership on this important issue.

– Look out for funding in your local area – particularly in London many boroughs have made it easy to access the Carbon Offset funding from developments.

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to taking action against climate change. But action of any size can be valuable. While many community organisations will not be operating from new, energy efficient buildings like OneStonegrove, there are so many actions which can be taken from educating staff on the climate emergency to influence wider behaviour change, to switching energy tariffs and installing LED lightbulbs in buildings.

The one thing that can be said for certain is that no community organisation or charity is in this alone. Networks of engaged individuals and organisations are appearing in all corners of the capital which can help you take a first step towards action.