OPINION: The journey to net zero is already happening on our doorstep

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation

Claire Cullens, chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation - Credit: NORFOLK COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

Chief executive of Norfolk Community Foundation Claire Cullens says thinking globally and acting locally can help save the planet

The end of the recent COP26 Climate Change conference has left more than a few people scratching their heads and wondering what happens next?

In East Anglia , we are well aware of the dangers posed by coastal erosion, flooding, and the impact of unpredictable weather on our farmers.

Climate change will have an increasing impact across communities in Norfolk.

Many of these changes will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in society, and will also have long-lasting implications for generations to come.

A recent survey revealed that nearly 60% of young people felt very or extremely worried about the impact of climate change.

Feeling helpless in this situation is understandable; the task ahead is daunting and appears overwhelming. So, what can be done?

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Across Norfolk, our charities, community organisations and social enterprises are already working towards a sustainable future at a grassroots level and are seeing real change on the ground.

It’s no surprise that non-profits with an ecological focus are making big changes.

The Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe near Fakenham has won grants to almost quadruple the land they

The Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe near Fakenham has invested in solar panels and innovative heating solutions on their nature reserve - Credit: Archant

The Hawk and Owl Trust invested in solar panels and innovative heating solutions on their nature reserve, while the Norfolk Rivers Trust worked with primary schools in North Norfolk to explore the impact of microplastics and how to minimise them.

It’s also encouraging that charities who work with fleets of vehicles such as Kickstart and North Norfolk Community Transport are swapping their petrol vehicles for electric ones - the latter has just purchased their first electric vehicle to help wheelchair users get to where they need to be.

More surprising, perhaps, is that groups that fight poverty, hunger and mental health issues are also doing their bit to combat climate change. Organisations such as New-U and the Swan Youth Project’s Re-new initiative offer clothes at affordable prices while additionally providing training opportunities for young people.

But they are also putting the brakes on fast fashion, helping change the world one garment at a time by providing a place to exchange good quality used clothing, making a dent in the 350,000 tonnes of clothes that go into UK landfill each year.

Speaking of waste, did you know that 100,000 tonnes of usable food is wasted each year?

Community food groups such as The Burrell Shop and Feltwell Pantry aim to redistribute food destined for the dump to provide an affordable option for those in their community whose household budgets are under constant strain.

Community spaces are also key to managing pressures in people’s lives. The Diss Community Woodland Project maintains the popular walkways in the beautiful Quaker Wood, alongside activities to plant trees and maintain wildlife habitats for the benefit of the local community as well as the environment.

The UK government has committed itself to a net-zero target for 2050, and Norfolk councils have gone a step further, pledging to reach net-zero by 2030.

It is in local communities, however, that the fastest shifts are happening.

Their efforts are a reminder that even little things like switching to energy-efficient LED lighting or insulating our buildings better all contribute to our shared climate goals. The take-home message here is this: small changes add up.

By thinking globally, and acting locally, we can all do our bit to combat the climate crisis.

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