As Most of you know, in my day job I work at a very inspiring environmental charity – the Eden Project – on a community campaign called The Big Lunch. I’m very passionate about the project, which is all about connecting people and creating a sense of community spirit locally.
I try not to harp on about my job too much, but this weekend I’m working on a very exciting collaboration between The Big Lunch and the awesome Climate Coalition on their For The Love of campaign which I think you lazy green beans might be interested in. All weekend on Twitter we want to get people talking about what they love in their communities, and seek to protect from the effects of climate change. All you need to do is share a photo of what you love about where you live, with the hashtag #fortheloveof.
But what do street parties have to do with sustainability?
The Big Lunch –the UK’s annual get-together for neighbors – encourages people to sit down together on the first Sunday every June to share food and conversation, as a means to promote community spirit. But it’s more than just a street party full of trifles, trestle tables and bunting. People are the key ingredient. Those taking part begin to create friendlier communities in which they share more; from conversation and ideas, to skills and resources.
The UK’s award winning environmental charity and tourist attraction, the Eden project, seeded the idea of The Big Lunch in 2009 with the hope of creating stronger, more sustainable communities. It’s about recognising that, whilst individual responses to environmental issues – such as household recycling and conscious purchasing – are important factors in tackling climate change, the power of collective action cannot be underestimated. When people come together to share ideas, resources and skills, they are in effect becoming more sustainable. The Big Lunch calls it human warming, and last year 4.83 million people got involved to enjoy a taste of it!
One such “Big Luncher” Amelia Lake, who is currently studying for a master’s degree in sustainability, recognises the lasting effect such a simple activity can have on the durability of a local community:
“After my first Big Lunch, I kept spotting people I’d had conversations with over food. I had a new sense of community, comfort in my neighbourhood and that the world was a little better than before. That’s quite an achievement for a collectively organised street party! Sustainable communities need to be formed of strong, happy people, and connecting with people over a fun, shared activity is a great way to begin.”
This concept of creating a sustainable community is shared with another Big Lunch organiser, Helen Burns, who – as a way to engage her community with green living – organised Tewkesbury’s first ‘Big Green Lunch’ last summer. She wanted to make their community more environmentally friendly and sustainable, by bringing exhibitions from a community garden project and re-using or recycling all the packaging so nothing is thrown away afterwards.
However, it was the lasting impact the event had on her community that Helen highlights. Though regular winter flooding is now a reality of living in the area, she found that holding events like The Big Lunch helps them to cope when nature strikes. When Tewkesbury was hit by another flood in 2013, locals young and old mucked in together and helped support each other; many of whom had met that summer over a few sandwiches and a plate of cupcakes. This is reflected in the 89% of organisers claiming to feel closer to their neighbours, and 70% who report seeing more people getting involved in the wider community, as a result of their local Big Lunch events.
This demonstrates a fundamental commitment to localisation, a key element of sustainability, which enables people to live in ways which Amelia describes as: “low-impact environmentally and high impact of wellbeing.” For her, a sustainable future – whilst including things like renewable energy, eco-schools and progressive farming – will rely on the deeply rooted connections we make with each other. So, if we do face a future where attitudes and lifestyles must adjust to face climate change, why not start with a generous dollop of community spirit and a big old slice of human warming?
Fancy creating some human warming where you live? Order a FREE BIg Lunch pack to hold your own event.
If you want to make yours a Big Green Lunch, get in touch Climate Coalition for their resources: firstname.lastname@example.org
A year for change
This year, global leaders will sign new agreements on climate change and sustainable development – agreements that will help to shape our future communities. Unless politicians know this is something we all care about, they won’t have the mandate to take the strong action that’s needed to build a safer, cleaner and more sustainable future for everyone.
So this June, The Climate Coalition is holding a mass lobby in Westminster where thousands of people will Speak Up For The Love Of… everything they hold dear and challenge their newly-elected MPs to act. Will you join?