We run or are involved in many projects dedicated to encouraging and educating local people and organisations to think and act sustainably, including energy saving, climate resilience, food growing, improving air quality and raising awareness of the benefits of recycling, waste reduction and composting.
SWLEN’s energy saving project known as the “Smart Communities” project works with schools, charities, community organisations and households to help them to save energy and money.
Recent community building audits have included St Mary’s Church in Hampton, the Avenue Centre in Kew and NPL Sports Club in Teddington. We are also working with Kingston primary schools to save them money on their fuel and water bills and help them to reduce CO2 emissions.
Our work with households is based in a different geographic area each winter, often on housing estates. From October 2016 – April 2017 we worked with residents at School Lane in Tolworth and Alpha Road in Surbiton carrying out home energy visits and seeking to help those in fuel poverty. Total savings were estimated as £936 per year and 4000kg of carbon dioxide per year. A report on our work is available RBK energy saving project report by SWLEN 2016 -17 PDF.
Read more about our Energy Visits.
Due to climate change, UK heatwaves are expected to become more frequent. Owing to its location and size, London is particularly vulnerable. The notion of ‘community resilience’ – an ongoing process of communities working with local resources and expertise to help themselves and others to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies – has recently been adopted in national and local heatwave plans. However, the roles of community and voluntary groups, and residents, in developing and implementing community resilience are not well articulated in these plans.
From 2014-16 SWLEN worked on a project called “Urban Heat” led by the Policy Studies Institue of the University of Westminster and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. SWLEN’s work was centred on the Ivybridge Estate in Isleworth in the London Borough of Hounslow where it worked with the BridgeLink Community Centre.
The project’s objectives were:
- To directly develop local resilience to heatwaves, particularly among the most vulnerable, by creating bridges between community groups and local institutions, and by integrating community-led and institutional responses.
- To examine the ways in which existing local social networks – for example, those relating to older people, disabled people, sustainability, faith, residents’ associations – can support this development.
- To draw conclusions (including a tool kit of key guidance) that can create long term impact or legacy, informing transformative strategic responses and specific actions in this domain at local, regional and national scales.
- To further develop the concept of community-led resilience, with emphasis on: the similarities and differences between resilience to heatwaves and other hazards; relationships with concepts such as social networks and social capital; and, the ways in which community resilience might be measured (e.g. building on measures of social capital and vulnerability).
- To draw upon the community resilience to heatwaves literature in other country contexts.
For further information about Urban Heat please see PSI’s dedicated webpage.
Growing food locally has many benefits, including fresh air, socialising and exercise for the participants, fresher food that is more nutritious, reduced carbon emissions, income generation opportunities, and the development of skills that can lead to employment in horticulture and catering.
SWLEN supports new and existing food growing projects and has worked with a variety of local partners, including Richmond Council, housing associations, schools and local organisations to set up more food growing projects in the area. We can help with advice on issues such as fundraising, accessing cheap materials, what to grow and setting up a constitution for your group.
Our work has included:
- Capital Growth – SWLEN was appointed the Capital Growth Local Lead organisation for the London Borough of Richmond in 2011 and has visited over 30 food growing projects in the area to offer support. We continue to work with the Capital Growth team and partners around London to promote local food growing.
- Strawberry Hill House – SWLEN worked with the Strawberry Hill community gardening team to set up, publicise and fund courses and training events for teachers and community gardeners in 2010-13.
- Community market garden at Marble Hill House – SWLEN sat on the steering group of the Environment Trust’s Heritage Lottery Funded Jam Yesterday Jam Tomorrow project which set-up the community garden and provides food growing activities and courses.
In 2016 we were commissioned by London Sustainability Exchange to manage a citizen science project looking at air quality in Twickenham.
We are a member of Make Air Safe and Clean (MASC) a local alliance which co-ordinates citizen action on recording, publicising and trying to improve air pollution in South West London. See the MASC Facebook page for more information.
Waste minimisation, recycling and composting
We have undertaken a number of projects in this field including:
- Composting champions (2012) – we were commissioned by West London Waste Authority to promote home composting across the London Boroughs of Richmond and Hounslow speaking to 500 people at a series of 8 events at garden centres and other public locations.
- Increasing participation in London Borough of Richmond’s recycling and food waste collection service (2012). We won a competitive bidding process to support residents to get the most out of the service. We employed a project manager and team of five recycling advisers to help residents understand what materials could be recycled and in what containers and to investigate issues that were preventing residents from making full use of the service. We called at 12,700 houses across the Borough speaking to approximately 4,700 people and compiled a report on our findings to assist Richmond Council in improving participation rates.
- Recycling in London Borough of Richmond flats (2014) – SWLEN was commissioned by Richmond Council to undertake a survey of residents living in flats in Ham and Whitton to assist them in minimising food waste and understand barriers to using the dry recyclables collection points provided on estates. We called at 1400 properties and spoke to nearly 400 residents and compiled a report on our findings to assist Richmond Council in addressing some of the barriers to recycling that were discovered.
- Flippin Food Waste (2015) – we worked with Hubbub, local restaurants and schools on a project to encourage residents of West London to reduce their food waste, organising events such as a pancake cook up in central Richmond.