Climate matters II, by Michelle Cooper.

Michelle Cooper, Chief Executive of County Durham Community Foundation, writes about the charity’s growing efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

While the seriousness of climate change remains a political chew toy, we are focusing in on what we can do better as a funder.

The hope is that we can reduce our carbon emissions, educate and include our team, and share what we learn with our networks. If inspiration is too lofty an aim, we at least hope to demonstrate our clear commitment to people, place and planet.

When I last wrote about our journey to become a greener, more climate-friendly funder, it was all about wobbly first steps. You can read about those tentative early efforts here.

Since then we’ve grown in confidence, and gathered some good momentum in changing the way we think and do things. Are we finished? Of course not. But we are learning and keen to share what’s worked for us. As well as the practical progress that’s been made, I am really proud of our team for embracing these efforts wholeheartedly. There is no resistance to doing better and I think the team are relieved to be proactive and making a difference.

Here’s what we have been up to.

  • An office refurbishment has been on the list for a while now, so we naturally wanted to do it in a way that would honour our climate pledge. Peter from our team found a brilliant company called City New and Used Office Furniture that bought the furniture we no longer needed and supplied us with high quality preloved alternatives. The refurb acknowledges that we don’t need huge desks and vast amounts of drawer storage, as our systems are largely paperless. The bonus is that this has left us with extra space for a breakout space where staff can take breaks or sit with visitors.
  • Speaking of which, the breakout space was crying out for a comfy sofa and chair; so Sharon and Carol from our team took charge and bought both second hand for the bargain price of £150 at St Cuthbert’s Hospice Retail Homeware and Furniture Store in Langley Moor.The refurb was a great chance to look at our systems with fresh eyes, and as we cleared our desks we also tackled a lot of accumulated IT equipment that was donated to a local charity that can put it to use, rather than it gathering dust on our stationary cupboard shelves.
  • We’ve also worked with our landlord to have LED lights installed. In time, these will pay for themselves by reducing energy consumption, and the carbon footprint of the building. Some simple signs are in place to remind our team to switch off lights when rooms are not in use.
  • As you’ll have started to gather, a big part of changing our thinking has been looking with new eyes at our systems and asking ‘why?’ For years we’ve had a small bin per team member, lined with a plastic bag. Today we have replaced this system with fewer, larger bins in the office and kitchen. This alone will result in 1,200 fewer bin bags going into landfill. We have also switched to recycled and compostable bags and have large bins for items that can be recycled. This for me is the perfect example of how a little thought can really change the game.
  • Recycling boxes for used batteries, waste electrical equipment, make up and spectacles are also dotted around the office. Making drop-off points easy to access is making it simple and encouraging for our team to recycle. It also feels like a collective effort, which I think is key if we want social norms to actually change. And I think they are. Books, a Christmas tree storage bag and preloved clothes are just some of the items that have been happily donated or swapped between our team. The message is simple: our resources are precious and it’s good to share.

If you’ve made it this far I appreciate your attention! And would love to hear more about what you and your business have done to move the needle on this key issue.

Get in touch if you would like to keep the conversation going.