A society in which we are reconnected with each other and our natural surroundings and living in integrated communities in which we celebrate diversity and value individuals and community invovlement.

Join the Uphill Beach clean in Weston on Thursday 24th April

by Paul Rainger

16 April 2014

Beach Clean PicMarks & Spencer (M&S) in Weston-Super-Mare has put the call out for volunteers to descend on Uphill Beach on Thursday 24th April to free it from litter as part of this year’s Big Beach Clean-up.

Interested volunteers should turn up from 10am  to join employees from M&S in Weston for the Big Beach Clean-up hosted in partnership with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

What’s more, volunteers taking part will be treated to a beach-side BBQ and live entertainment. Customers that register for the event in advance at will also receive a money-off M&S voucher on the day of their beach clean (£5 off a £30 spend on food and drink at M&S – terms and conditions apply).

Kara Lofthouse, Store Manager at M&S Weston-super-Mare, says, “We’re calling upon as many local people as possible to help us rid Uphill beach of litter. This is a fun initiative that will bring the local community together to help our local environment and protect our precious marine life. Plus, after all the hard work is done everyone will be rewarded with a delicious BBQ and live music”

Volunteers across 95 beaches and 45 canals in the UK will this year join forces with the aim of clearing more than last year’s massive haul of 30 tonnes of litter – the equivalent weight of two double decker buses. Most of the litter collected on Uphill beach will be common waste items such as fishing nets, ropes and bottles tops. However last year M&S beach and canal cleaners found an array of unusual items including a bath, coffee maker, HM Prison Service toothbrush and a Freeview box!

The M&S Big Beach Clean-up is part of M&S’ Forever Fish campaign which is funded by the profits from the 5p carrier bag charge in M&S foodhalls.

So if you are interested in a rewarding day out after Easter, get on down to Uphill Beach on the 24th.

Beach Clean Poster

New Friendly Garden Share project for Bristol

by Paul Rainger

03 April 2014

Friendly Garden ShareA new Friendly Garden Share project is starting up in Bristol, and is looking for neighbourhood co-ordinators across the city.

The Friendly Garden Share project puts owners of underused gardens who would like to share their space in touch with local growers who need a garden. In return the gardener shares a proportion of the produce.

The idea is based on the same project by Lou Brown in Totnes who set up a garden share scheme there that has been running for over four years now. She says, “All I can say is that the experience has been profoundly positive and there have honestly been no drawbacks. All the gardeners and the many garden owners have worked and shared their spaces with respect and commitment.”

You can find more information about the Bristol scheme here, and if you are interested in being a co-ordinator, or generally getting involved in this growing project, just contact Bristol project co-ordinator Chris.

Permaculture Two Day Course

by Paul Rainger

26 March 2014

permacultureFind yourself burgeoning with curiosity about all things permaculture? Brimming with ebullient enthusiasm for ecological and sustainable ideas?

Then this Introduction to Permaculture course in Bristol over the weekend of 5th and 6th April at Hamilton House by Permanent Cultures might be for you.

Permaculture is a regenerative, ethical design approach that replicates natural systems, to tread lightly on the Earth. Whether designing a community garden, or your urban window ledge, the principles of permaculture can guide you in your journey to a truly sustainable lifestyle.

More details about this latest course and booking details can be found here.

Permaculture course April 2014 poster

Your Money and Your Life

by Paul Rainger

11 March 2014

An interesting local community event in Bristol this Saturday afternoon (15th March) at St. Michael’s Hall on Gloucester Road.

Your Money and Your Life is showcasing for a number of projects that help people think and act differently around money, community and values. The aim is to inform local people and encourage them to actively engage with projects and innovations that help them do money in line with their values, and includes the Happy City Project and the Bristol Pound.

In the spirit of holistic learning, the organisers hope that the event will include more than just stalls and information, and plan to have a kids area, and some interactive and art based installations around the broad topic of money, community, values.

There’s more background on the event here, and if your project wants to take part contact Tim Malnick:

Money and Life


Bristol’s Open Energy Data Challenge

by Paul Rainger

07 March 2014

energy challenge logoBristol’s open energy data challenge is on, and you could win £40,000!

But hurry, you need to register your interest in the competition by the 16th March – full details here.

The winners get the cash to use open data to develop services that support communities to buy cheaper energy, use it more efficiently, or potentially to make their own.

The Bristol challenge invites teams including businesses, startups, social enterprises, community groups, academics, students and special interest groups to collaborate and compete with each other to use open data to build these energy services that support communities.

The UK faces huge challenges in the area of energy: the costs of energy in our homes and businesses are increasing, we are struggling to limit our greenhouse gas emissions and we are reliant on energy from abroad which ultimately raises questions about our energy security. At the same time we now have access to more data than before on the nature of our energy consumption and other factors which affect our energy use, much of this being available as open data. In response to this the Open Data Institute and Nesta are running this open data challenge with Bristol City Council around the theme of energy and the environment, to help catalyse new organisations to use the open data available to develop products and services that tackle these issues.

Cameron, our new King Canute

by Paul Rainger

18 February 2014

King CanuteIn case you’ve missed it, Britain is now officially at war. Here’s our news from the home front, published last week in the Bristol Post.

Every Prime Minster needs a good war. Mrs Thatcher had the Falklands. Tony Blair had a dodgy dossier on Iraq. On the 30th January David Cameron called the army into Somerset. Like a modern day King Canute, Cameron has declared war on water.

News from the front so far has not been good. The marines lost the battle of Moorland, their mortars and tanks presumably proving less effective than the high volume water pumps of the Environment Agency and Fire Brigade already deployed.

The Mayor of Bristol was soon in action too, using the City’s emergency flood barrier for the first time, and the Council Reservists held back the storm surge’s high tide.

But a surprise attack by rising sea levels at Dawlish washed away the train line, prompting Boris Johnson to call again on Parliament to declare all trains and tubes ‘national infrastructure’ thereby solving any such future problems by simply making the whole thing illegal!

Of course behind every flooded home and business at the moment is a story of personal heartbreak and tragedy. But when the current storms have abated, we all will be left with serious questions we must address as a nation.

Because in ten or twenty years time we will look back on this as just the start. We will get more and more extremes of weather created by climate change. Last week the Government’s own Chief Scientific Adviser was in Bristol warning us of just this.

But once again our current short-term politicians are showing themselves incapable of grasping these long-term global problems. The Government’s crisis knee-jerk response is to talk of dredging and how much flood defence concrete you can pour.

To hell with the science that shows water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate of soil under grass. We’ll continue to promote intensive farming and pay farmers to cut down the trees and scrub that absorb the water. We’ll ignore the expert advice of river mangers that dredging can speed up flow and increase the risk of flooding downstream. And we will certainly ignore the advice of the Environment Agency not to build housing estates in flood plains.

For now, King Cameron Canute is at war. We shall fight on the eroding beaches. We shall fight on the land where we have removed the natural drainage, and we shall fight in the housing estates we have built on the flood plains.

Although David Cameron might want to take note. Professor Simon Keynes of Cambridge University says everyone gets the Canute story wrong. The king had his chair carried down to the shore and ordered the waves not to break upon his land. When his orders were ignored, he pronounced: “Let all the world know that the power of kings is empty and worthless”. 

Paul Rainger is director of Bristol’s BIG Green Week Festival in June.

Hail the Humble Grit Bin

by Paul Rainger

05 December 2013

Grit BinIn December’s Sustainable Bristol column in The Bristol Post we hail the humble winter grit bin as a harbinger of the city’s future resilience.

It may seem a long way from the news of 100 extra Grit Bins in Bristol, to the on-going Typhoon Haiyan relief effort in the Philippines, but there is a lot the World can learn from the humble grit bin.

It’s all about ‘resilience’. That’s helping people to help themselves recover from difficult situations. And resilient communities are what we are going to need in spades in the coming years, from Bristol to the Philippines, to help people cope with climate change.

It’s a depressing time for environmental scientists at the moment. The cost of climate change is becoming ever clearer. From the cost to taxpayers like you and me for the Council to still be cutting the grass in our parks in December, to international relief efforts, like that in the Philippines, as more and more extreme weather disasters hit us. Yet as these dangers become clearer, our politicians seem perversely less and less able to act. No wonder the Russell Brand generation has given up on politics.

So we are going to need to help ourselves more. To be more resilient. To be prepared as we used to say in the Scouts.

I used to work with a charity that helps countries like the Philippines to be better prepared for disasters. In earlier emergencies, like the Pakistan earthquake or Bangladeshi floods, more people are often at risk from disease and starvation after the disaster has struck, than from the original disaster itself. One solution is a sort of yellow emergency bin, not full of grit, but full of animal feed and veterinary supplies in secure locations above flood zones. Then people can help themselves, not just wait around for outside aid to arrive.

If Bristol was to flood again, should we sit around waiting for help, or would it be better to have community wardens with access to some basic equipment stored in their community, so that neighbours could get together and help each other?

It’s an approach that could even help our cash starved Councils do things differently with less. And Bristol is already leading in a small way on this with its plans to cope with any winter snow and ice.

The City has 100 extra grit bins being installed, and has recruited nearly 100 volunteer community snow wardens equipped with snow shovels to help clear paths.

I was amazed in the past few winters of prolonged cold spells by how few people bothered to clear their own path when the snow first fell, leaving it to turn to crushed ice making it deadly for everyone. In many American cities where snow is common it is illegal not to clear the path outside your house.

So if we have a white Christmas, get out there and help clear your pavement. That big yellow grit bin might just be a glimpse of our more resilient future.

Paul Rainger is director of Bristol’s BIG Green Week Festival in June.

Evidence of Autumn

by Paul Rainger

05 September 2013

corn-on-the-cobAugust’s Sustainable Bristol column from The Bristol Post, on sweetcorn, car free city centres, the Wild Place Project and the ending of summer….

The arrival of the seasonal harvest of UK sweetcorn in farm shops is always a cause for celebration in our house. But my joy this year was dented somewhat by the response of the Farmer. “When we get the corn on the cob in, I know autumn’s just around the corner” he cheerfully announced.

I always struggle come September with not wanting the summer to end. I’m lulled into a false sense of hope by the remaining sunny days, and a glut of hedgerow fruits. I try and ignore the warning signs of the increasing early morning nip in the air and the children’s return to school. Now it seems I have the foreboding omen of sweetcorn to worry about too!

Fortunately the sun was still out on Sunday for the Mayor’s third free ‘Make Sundays Special’ event of the year in the Old City. If you haven’t taken the kids yet you should definitely visit the remaining two on Sunday 29th September and Sunday 20th October.

These monthly Make Sundays Special events are already proving a big success. It’s not just the crowds enjoying the free family entertainment. It’s great to see local businesses getting involved too. Many are putting on extra food, music and entertainment, with their own extra chairs, sofas and gazebos out on the streets. Some must be making many times their usual weekend takings on these special Sundays. And good luck to them.

What I find almost unbelievable is that a few businesses are actually shut and missing out on these Sundays. Take a look for yourself at next month’s event on 29th September. See which local shops have the community spirit and good business sense to be taking part. And as for those that are shut and losing out? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of those businesses aren’t still with us this time next year.

Of course the schools will be back by September’s Make Sundays Special, but there a few more weeks of summer freedom yet. If like me you are a bit ‘Gromited out’ by now, then the traditional problem end of summer problem of ‘What else can we do with the kids?’ is starting to crop up.

Fortunately this year help is at hand in the shape of Bristol’s newest attraction, the Wild Place Project. Out by Cribbs Causeway, this is Bristol Zoo’s first step towards their long term plan to create a National Wildlife Conservation Park. It may be a small start for now, but it is great to see the Zoo finally up and running with this venture, and for parents the Wild Place Project is a welcome additional family attraction to add to the list for keeping the children entertained.

So enjoy your sweetcorn and what’s left of the summer sun. And a big “Bah! Humbug!” to those Bristol restaurants already advertising for Christmas bookings.

Paul Rainger is director of Bristol’s BIG Green Week Festival in June.

This article was first published in The Bristol Post on Thursday 22nd August.


Changing the way we use energy in our homes

by Helen Burley

30 August 2013

Bristol Green Doors 28th 29th September 2013Recent research into public attitudes to energy in the UK has found that contrary to assumptions commonly made by policy makers and the media, the UK public is keen to see change in energy use. According to the study authors, most people want to see “a reduction in fossil fuels – seen as archaic, polluting and finite – and an increase in renewables”.


The homes taking part in this year’s Bristol Green Doors open homes weekend on the 28-29th September seem to back up this finding. This year, following on from successful events in 2010, 2011 and 2012, there will be 33 homes across Bristol opening their doors to the public to show how they have made their homes more energy efficient. Twenty one of these are new to Bristol Green Doors this year – including a number of extensive low energy retrofits. It seems that more and mo

Retrofit in progress

re people in Bristol are keen to tackle energy use in their homes – and they’re also keen for others to learn from what they’ve done.

An energy efficient retrofit

Visitors will be able to talk to householders about the changes they have made – and get practical advice – from how well their solar thermal heats the shower, to what kind of insulation they’ve put under the floor.


Photo of 1960s homeWhere possible, there’ll be information on hand about the energy savings realised, the costs, and the savings to bills. A number of the homes taking part have sucessfully cut their carbon footprint through a combination of insulation, use of alternative energy sources, and changes to lifestyle.

An externally insulated home in South Bristol


The properties taking part range from lovingly restored Georgian period homes and Victorian terraces, to timber-frame new build properties and modern conversions – providing a chance to check out what works and what doesn’t in a property similar to your own.


Kate Watson, Bristol Green Doors director said: “Bristol Green Doors is all about sharing experiences and with more and more people looking for ways to improve the comfort of their homes – and crucially cut their energy bills. The homes show a complete range of the different measures people can take to do this – from low-cost everyday changes to complete energy makeovers.”A North Bristol family home with a number of energy saving measures

Which just goes to show that while the politicians might think that shale gas can provide us with a way to keep the lights on as usual, change is happening on the home front – as more and more people are switching on to low energy.


Internal view of a timber-frame new buildHomes are open from 12 – 6pm on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 September. Maps showing locations are avialable across the city – or check out for the new visitors app.




Bristol Green Doors 28th 29th September 2013

Yes we can!

by Paul Rainger

14 June 2013

winnerBristol has been crowned European Green Capital for 2015!

Bristol beat Brussels, Glasgow and Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to the win having been runner-up to Copenhagen last year.

Cities are assessed against 12 criteria including innovation and sustainable employment, energy performance, water consumption, waste water treatment and climate change.

What will the 2015 year of eco-celebration be like in Bristol? Look no further than the next 9 days as Bristol hosts over 120 events in its annual BIG Green Week Festival.

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