How Bridport is moving forward with climate change responses

Positive outcomes from September 21 meeting

As part of Great Big Green Week, on September 21 a well-attended open meeting was held to explore positive, practical local responses to the climate crisis. It was jointly hosted by Bridport Food Matters, Transition Town Bridport, and West Dorset Friends of the Earth.

Over sixty people attended the event, including invited representatives from a range of local organisations, including parish councils, churches, and clubs. There were short briefings on four topics:

Food security: Candida Blaker of Bridport Food Matters
Home energy: Sam Wilberforce of Transition Town Bridport
Mutual support and emergency planning: Alan Heeks of Seeding our Future
Town Council: update from David Dixon, Community Projects Manager

Highlights of their briefings and of the small group discussions on these themes are set out below.

Several issues emerged as priorities from the evening overall:

  • Emergency preparation: the increased risk is understood, as is the need for more preparation at household and community level.
  • Volunteers: these have played a vital role in the local covid responses, and it’s desirable to have a volunteer network with expanded capacity and remit in place ahead of future emergencies.
  • Wider engagement: there was support for steps to achieve much wider involvement, such as the proposed Climate Forum.
  • Communication: more local communication is desirable about climate actions needed, and also about existing projects and resources available. Ideally this should include print media as well as online channels.
  • Waste: there are many opportunities to reduce food and other waste, which could be promoted more widely.

Highlights by topic

Food: Candida Blaker underlined the urgency for us to step up our action on Climate Change; emphasising that food and farming can be part of the solution; and local action – such as buying local, and supporting policy change – makes a difference. signposts to local initiatives and resources. Read Candida’s presentation  here.

Food discussion

  • Participants were proud of the extension of the Edible Gardens project to a second location: Bridport Primary School. More volunteers are sought to help implement the Edible Gardens 2, and to help to extend food and climate initiatives to Colfox School, the Minerva Trust, and Youth Centre. Contact Sarah Wilberforce or Tina Ellen Lee to find out more. The group recognised the importance of working with young people, particularly in view of the levels of anxiety about the climate emergency.
  • There was overriding support for the need to develop more work linked to food waste, possibly using a slogan such as ‘Zero Hero’. This could involve working with the restaurants and hospitality sector, the market traders, and also involve household and wider community initiatives and public awareness campaigns. This proposal will be discussed at the next Bridport Local Food Group meeting, particularly in relation to the hospitality sector.
  • Other suggestions included guerrilla gardening and a campaign to encourage people to disinvest in food corporations. It was felt important for our messaging to emphasise the benefits to the local economy of climate-friendly food habits (e.g. buying local and seasonal produce from independents – £10 spent locally is worth over £17 to our economy) and to focus on increasing ‘resilience’ rather than ‘climate change’. We could develop our own ‘advertising’ campaigns promoting our messages – for which Robert Golden could provide photography.

Home energy: Sam Wilberforce described easy steps to cut energy use and cost, such as insulation, as well as bigger steps like heat pumps and PV panels.

Home energy discussion: This covered a range of topics including:

  • The new energy conservation initiative from Bridport Town Council, including the climate champions.
  • The work of Bridport Energy Local, which is creating a local grid for renewable energy.
  • Grants that are (or mostly aren’t) available.
  • Bridport Housing week, run by Bridport Area Community Housing (BACH) which hare running a series of workshops on Lowering Household Bills on 30 October. They are associated with Raise the Roof, which aims to source building materials locally.

Mutual support and emergency planning: Alan Heeks described how both the UK Government National Risk Register and the Dorset Community Risk Register describe a substantial risk of a range of emergencies affecting us within the next couple of years: these include severe weather events, and various other risks, including a serious failure of the electricity supply. The UK Government advises all households to take basic precautions, such as a supply of drinking water, torches, and a camping stove. We can also know who our neighbours are, and who is vulnerable and may need special help. A network of volunteers who can help the public services in an emergency would also help our local resilience substantially.

Discussion: This group covered both this topic and the Town Council. Main points covered were:

  • Advice and issues around setting up a volunteer network ahead of future emergencies.
  • Improving local communication: see more details above.
  • A suggestion that Frome provides a useful role model for some of these topics: apparently Bridport Town Council are already liaising with them.
  • Support for a Climate Forum as part of a wider initiative to extend engagement across the local community.