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Environmental sustainability

Learning from Communities Living Sustainably
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Living in a sustainable way means meeting the social, environmental and economic needs of the community now without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Our Communities Living Sustainably programme has begun to show us just how this can be achieved.

Reducing energy

We've seen that demonstrating carbon reduction measures in real homes can be a good way to engage people. It can help reach different people in lots of different ways. Approaches include:

  • Eco-houses: eco-demonstration houses which showcase sustainability features. They enable people to visit houses and view lots of different carbon reduction measures. However, they require a lot of investment. People have to make a special effort to visit it too
  • Distributed demonstration: this uses a larger number of smaller eco-demonstration installations in public buildings. This way, people can see them in places that they would be, rather than making a special effort to visit an eco-house
  • Open homes: where people have energy saving/sustainability features in their homes, they can have periodic open home events to showcase them.

Whichever approach is taken, tapping into existing local authority schemes can be helpful. Projects have also seen:

  • strong support for peer networking through workshops
  • the value of face-to-face contact, particularly in the early stages of projects
  • the advantage of empowering local people by engaging them at the start.

Food Growing and green space

Findings from the learning report show us that food growing activity is:

  • proving a good way to introduce people to healthy eating and sourcing food more locally
  • providing an effective way to engage a range of people in areas facing many challenges including high unemployment and low educational attainment
  • helping to address the rise in food poverty and the increase in food banks by providing opportunities to source fresh food locally and providing skills to service users in food growing and preparations.

It can however be difficult for communities to find suitable land and progress often complex lease and land ownership negotiations. Working closing with local authorities and housing associations is crucial in obtaining land for community food growing projects.

More about the research

The Communities Living Sustainably programme helps communities cope with the impact of environmental change. We've invested £12m in 12 projects across England. The projects are helping to build sustainability and resilience in local communities.

We will be using learning from the programme to influence policy across Government, communities and businesses.