A-Z of climate action in Bristol: 26 projects, people and problems to spur you into action this month

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By Billy Stockwell, Climate Correspondent

Bristol’s activism scene is often seen as the pièce de résistance of the UK climate movement. After all, our city is the birthplace of Extinction Rebellion.

To inspire you into action this Sustainability Month – to fuel our collective hope – here are 26 projects to engage with, people to learn from and problems to tackle together.

Air Pollution

As I read about the case of Ella Kissi-Debrah in the newspaper over Christmas, I couldn’t help but draw comparison with the plight of communities in Bristol.

She was a nine-year-old girl from South London, her death – for the first time in the UK’s history – was officially linked to exposure to illegal levels of air pollution.

With the highest level of air pollution occurring in neighbourhoods in Bristol with the largest black and minority ethnic (BME) populations, this issue should demonstrate to all of us the clear intersection between climate and racial justice.

Get involved here to combat air pollution within our city.

Black & Green Ambassadors Programme

Bristol’s Black & Green Ambassadors Programme advocates for and celebrates diverse leadership on environmental issues within Bristol.

‘The reason we have failed in environmental protection and social justice is because we haven’t seen the intersectionality between the two’ said Professor Julian Agyeman, during the relaunch of the Black & Green Ambassadors Programme last year.

‘We don’t want to see a green world. We want to see a just and sustainable world’.

Follow @ujimaBlackGreen on Twitter to keep up to date with their work!

City to Sea

City to Sea is an environmental group founded by Natalie Fee in 2015 in Bristol.

Its mission is to stop plastic pollution at its source, with current campaigns ranging from plastic-free periods to PPE disposal.

Last month it was reported that plastic waste from the UK will continue to be exported to developing countries, with post-Brexit regulations less strict than current EU legislation.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that the plastic problem isn’t just about turtles. It has really serious consequences for communities all over the world.

Divestment

After an impressive effort from student campaign groups, the University of Bristol announced last year that it had removed all of its investments in fossil fuel companies.

It was a campaign that lasted for years and took many ‘generations’ of student activists and different society committees, but eventually it all paid off.

Activism does work, it just takes time. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Ethical banking

Triodos bank, which has its UK head office based in Bristol, is one of the most environmentally friendly banks out there.

They only invest in companies that focus on people, the environment or culture, operating will full transparency so you know where your money is going.

Thinking of switching bank accounts? Visit Triodos here.

Fi Radford

Fi Radford was one of Bristol’s most well-known environmental activists, leading the older generation into many of Extinction Rebellion’s fights for justice.

Sadly, she passed away in December last year to cancer, at the age of 72.

I got the pleasure of speaking to her at the ‘Clean Air for Life’ protests last June at College Green.

‘The kind of urgent system change we need requires collaborative multigenerational and multi-racial action on a scale yet to be seen.

‘Sorry I can’t be more positive but there is still time, just.’

‘Clean Air for Life’: Extinction Rebellion protests take place on College Green
University of Bristol switches to eco-friendly search engine Ecosia

Green Spaces

If the cycle of lockdowns and tier restrictions have given us anything, it’s a newfound appreciation for green spaces.

However, the pandemic has also highlighted the unequal access of certain communities in Bristol to natural spaces.

For our mental and physical health, everyone has the right to access green space.

If you’re interested to get out into green spaces more and volunteer in your community, look up the ‘Love Your Park’ campaign – a charity working in Bristol to protect our city's parks.

People relaxing in Royal Fort Gardens | Lucy O'Neill

HS2

HS2 has been called ‘the most expensive, wasteful and destructive project in UK history’ by opponents.

‘Stop HS2’ is a national campaign group set up in 2010 to fight back against the High-Speed railway project in England.

With many of Bristol’s climate change activists passionately against this project, maybe it’s worth taking a look at their reasons why.

Visit Stop HS2’s website here.

I am Greta

‘Remember that changes will not happen overnight, but if enough people push, then change will come’ Greta Thunberg said on College Green last February.

Her appearance last year inspired 30,000 people to join her on the school strike.

Her new documentary ‘I am Greta’ – available on BBC iPlayer – follows the iconic climate change activist from her first protest outside the Swedish parliament.

It’s the perfect Sunday evening watch to end another week in lockdown.

Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley

Previous Black & Green Ambassador in Bristol, Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley is an environmental activist and broadcast journalist.

Her work focuses on discussions around representation within the environmental movement.

Follow her on Twitter here: @ketibuahfoley

Keep calm

Having attended Extinction Rebellion’s first official Day of Action in November 2018 – when the campaign group blocked five bridges in London – I have noticed just how often burnout happens.

Every few months some activists would leave – drained of energy and motivation - and others would join. This cycle never stopped.

There are many really helpful articles out there (such as this one) that can help you and your campaign groups build resilience and keep the momentum going.

Lockdown

During Lockdown 1.0 last Spring it was reported that only 9% of Brits wanted life to return to ‘normal’.

51% said they noticed cleaner air, 27% said they noticed more wildlife and 40% said they felt a stronger sense of local community.

Ask yourself: what do you appreciate more now than ever before? For most of us, it’s people. Let’s remember that.

Mya-Rose Craig

I first met Mya back in 2015. We were both featuring on a podcast for the Wildlife Trust’s Every Child Wild campaign – intended to get young people out into the natural world.

Since then, Mya has made headlines as the youngest British person to receive an honorary doctorate in science from the University of Bristol.

Her work focuses on increasing diversity in the environmental sectors, specifically for visible minority ethnic (VME) young people.

Mya-Rose Craig receiving honorary doctorate from the University of Bristol | Epigram / University of Bristol

Nature

As spring is waiting around the corner, now is a great time to start planning some trips to local parks and green spaces.

The Avon Wildlife Trust is not currently running its usual volunteering programme due to coronavirus, but their nature reserves are still open for us to enjoy!

Visit their website here.

Open your purse

Many conservation charities and environmental organisations will be struggling right now due to the financial impacts of the pandemic.

Why not organise a sponsored challenge to do with your housemates this month to raise money? Or forfeit that second takeaway of the week and donate a few pounds yourself?

People & Planet Society Bristol

People & Planet has been a force for change over the past few years, successfully pressuring over 1 in 3 UK universities to commit to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

The student group in Bristol have been ‘tracking the University’s commitment to reach zero carbon by 2030.

‘We know that Universities can be ambitious in their Green pledges and promises, only to turn out to be full of hot air.

‘Thus, we will ensure that the University does not roll back on its pledge.’

Be sure to check out their Facebook page.

People & Planet Society protesting outside Barclays (before pandemic) | People & Planet

Queen Bees

Just last month, the UK government authorised the use of a neonicotinoid pesticide believed to kill bees in England.

With 97% of British wildflower meadows having been cleared since the Second World War, our pollinators are in big trouble.

As the temperature warms, and lockdown hopefully starts to ease, why not get out and plant some bee-friendly plants? Even a window box will do.

Roy Kareem

Roy is the Director of Bright Green Future – a programme for young people concerned about climate change, providing ‘the tools for them to take action’ and change the world.

He is also a current Black and Green Ambassador for Bristol, working alongside Olivia Sweeney and Asia Yousif.

You can find him on Twitter: @greenkareem

Second-hand clothing

Whether we are in a national lockdown or under tier restrictions now is the perfect time to get more experimental with your wardrobe.

I have certainly been very impressed by some of the lockdown crafts I have seen on Instagram over 2020 … from bucket hats to knitted scarfs, patchwork jumpers to tote bags.

With the fashion industry the second most polluting industry in the world, getting creative with your clothes is good for the pocket and the planet!

Tori Tsui

Tori Tsui is a Bristol-based climate activist from Hong Kong and New Zealand.
She is currently working on a project called ‘Sail For Climate Action’, which aims to bring Latin American, Indigenous and Caribbean youth to the UN Climate Change Intersessional.

Check out her website for more inspiration.

Alex Lucas' 'Uncertain World' mural | Julia Riopelle

Uncertain World

We have all seen it … but do we know what it represents? Artist Alex Lucas’ mural, at the corner of Woodland Road and Park Row, was painted in 2015 with a stark message in mind.

The prehistoric creatures, depicting the Jurassic period, lived in a world with extremely high carbon dioxide concentrations, ‘as high as they could be by the end of this century’, according to the Cabot Institute.

That’s a terrifying thought, and that’s for certain.

Veganism

With the UK Government’s own climate change committee asking people to cut their meat consumption, how long can our society really sustain its love of meat-eating?

So, let’s make sure that once Bristol’s restaurants open their doors once again, we don’t forget the vegan options!

Ah, Tier 2 … how I do miss it.

Watch out for upcoming events

Bristol SU’s Sustainability Network will be running a whole host of different events this month to mark Sustainability Month 2021.

This includes a Climate Emergency Day of Action on the 26th of February.

All events can be found here.

XRY Bristol

Extinction Rebellion Youth (XRY) are a group of university students and young people from around Bristol fighting for climate justice.

Speaking to Poppy Silk, UoB Physics student and member of XRY Bristol, about the upcoming year, she said: ‘We’re so excited for 2021 and have lots planned (when it’s safe) including national rebellions, tree climbing socials as well as looking forward to a trip up north for COP in November!’

Follow their Instagram (@xryouthbristol) to keep up to date with their work.

XRY Bristol activists hold banner in front of Clifton Suspension Bridge | Lucy O'Neill

Youth Strike 4 Climate

In-person strikes may be off the cards for a little longer due to the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean Bristol Youth Strike 4 Climate haven’t got plans in the making.

Many school strikers have been continuing their strikes online.

If you want to keep updated with what Bristol’s Youth Strike group has coming up, why not follow their newsletter here.

Zero Waste Living

It’s true – individual actions will not stop the climate crisis alone.

But if Greta can sail all the way to New York for the UN Climate Action Summit, then maybe we can manage cutting down on our plastic waste?

To make this easier for us all, here are some brilliant Zero Waste shops dotted around Bristol to look up: Preserve Foods, Matter, Smaller Footprints, Zero Green, Bloop, Scoop Wholefoods and Nom Wholefoods.


As vaccines bring hope for the end of one crisis, we cannot forget that another has just begun.

But just as COVID-19 has taught us, hope and despair can co-exist.

Featured image: Siavash Minoukadeh


What will you be doing for Sustainability Month?

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