Environmental Impact Part 3

Developing an EcoHub -2

I’ve been a bit busy generating content to write about lately. I last wrote about our desire to create an eco-hub, but there were a few hurdles to overcome that I neglected to write about. Namely, we hadn’t purchased the building and we hadn’t secured the capital funding we needed to start the process of becoming an Eco-Hub.

We have now.

We are now the proud owners of the former job centre building at 158 Whitley Road and, thanks to the Community Ownership Fund, North of Tyne Combined Authority and Local Trust, we have secured funding to make the dream of developing a low carbon ‘eco-hub’ a reality.

Some of those changes are already starting to happen.

We have replaced the 1970s boiler with a modern, efficient condensing gas boiler. This is going to make the centre a more comfortable space for community users and also reduce our gas usage by around half. It still sounds a bit dichotomous, wanting to be an ecohub but installing a new gas boiler. unfortunately it is a necessity, but the longer term plan is to install air source heat pumps, so that the gas boiler is only called on when it’s particularly cold.

We have also started to make changes in our behaviours and practices. We have installed recycling points in the building. We are using a local supplier for coffee, with zero waste (other than compostable coffee grounds) and bought compostable tea bags. We have our milk delivered in returnable glass bottles. We have bought reusable cleaning bottles and bulk refills. We have changed our procurement practices to reduce use of online retailers in favour of local suppliers. What’s interesting is that most of these changes weren’t difficult and have made life easier. We no longer have to bring milk in or remember to pick up coffee. They just arrive. Small changes, but positive nonetheless.

There are two main ambitions for the centre. One, to reduce its impact on the world around us. Two, to inform and inspire local people about climate change. Now, thanks to new revenue funding from National Lottery Community Fund, we will be developing an Environmental Action Plan for Whitley Bay. This will include consideration for how we develop the building, what activities we can provide both in the centre and around Whitley Bay.

Since we went public with the ambition to become a Community Eco-Hub, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We have welcomed new people as members and are having conversations with more people. However, I do keep hearing the same concerned questions.

The first is; “so you’re not here for community activities any more, you’re just doing the eco thing?” My response is that I think community and eco sit hand in glove. They are a perfect combination. I read recently that climate action is no longer just about the things you refrain from doing, like eating meat or plane travel, but it is becoming more about the things that you do collectively with passion that will have the greatest impact. To achieve that we need community and we need the arts. We need people to come together and work in their own way to inform and inspire others about climate change.

The second is; “it doesn’t matter what we do. It’s big companies, not uscausing the pollution.” My thoughts on thisare that it does matter. If every one of us makes small changes, the sum of those changes will have a massive impact. The biggest companies are making the worst environmental impact because there is consumer demand for it. Reduce consumer demand and the product and the investment proposition reduces. Thousands of people making thousands of little changes will impact consumer demand. We want to give people hope and inspire people to make those small changes. We want to share our learning and inspire other community organisations. At an individual level, change is insignificant, but if we can find ways to make change fun and cebrate our successes, then we could inspire thousands of others to make those small changes.

If you would like to be part of our journey, send us an email: hello@whitleybaybiglocal.org or become a Whitley Bay Big Local Member