2022-23 review: highlights from another year of community action for net zero and a greener, fairer future
Every year in the spring, a dedicated group of West Oxford residents who make up the trustees and management committee of Low Carbon West Oxford get together to look back at the activities and achievements of the last year, and forward to set priorities for the next.
This year we were lucky enough to have the brilliant Rebecca Nestor, chair of Low Carbon Oxford North, to facilitate the day, and kicked off with a whistlestop tour of the last 12 months.
We are proud of what we have achieved over the last year with a team of 11 committed core volunteers, a two-day-a-week member of staff (Programme Lead Mim Saxl) and event management from Karen Starr.
Here are a few of the highlights from the period March 2022-23…
The LCWO Business Scorecard
In September last year, we concluded several years of research and engagement with 16 big businesses on the Botley Road with the launch of our report, ‘Not-So-Super-Stores? Are the big retailers in our West Oxford community helping or hindering climate action?’.
In our research, which scored businesses against a host of sustainability indicators developed by LCWO with expert guidance, Currys came top of the leader board, scoring 82%, with Screwfix and Aldi not far behind on 76%. Four laggards scored less than 15%, suggesting they might be taking little to no action to tackle the climate emergency. Bottom of the table were Carpetright and Schmidt on 12%; Home Bargains with a score of 6%; and Wren Kitchens with 0%…
The project led to engagement from Screwfix, Currys, Waitrose, Dunelm and Bensons for Beds, and has been particularly well received by local council representatives, leading to new connections and collaboration with both City and County Council.
We also ran a ‘how to’ workshop for other communities considering how to engage similar businesses in their local area, which went well.
Going forwards, we are working with local social enterprise Low Carbon Hub to tailor a community-owned solar panel offer to the businesses, and have meetings to discuss next steps with Rachel Wileman, Director of Planning, Environment & Climate Change at Oxfordshire County Council, and Cllr Anna Railton, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice at Oxford City Council. A special thanks should go to Councillor Susanna Pressel for her support and championing of our business engagement work and report.
TAKE ACTION: Pick the issue that matters most to you (you can chose from our list of indicators), pop into a store, ask to see the manager, mention the scorecard and quiz them about what they are doing to improve local performance – and if you do, don’t forget to let us know how it went!
Supporting our community with rising energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis
Last March we were invited by new group Sustainable Botley to join a panel event on home energy. In preparation and based on our years of offering workshops as part of our various programmes on the topic, we developed a leaflet on top energy saving hacks for the home and pulled together a list of current funding and support. Our ‘Energy advice and funding resources’ booklet (which you can download here) has proved very popular: for example, we delivered 2000 copies to local libraries in the Oxfordshire area.
In addition, we offered free radiator foil and draft proofing tape to all West Oxford residents, conducted a pilot of four free home energy assessment visits with an expert advisor, and gave various workshops, including at the Diocese of Oxford and St Frideswide’s Eco Day.
However, perhaps the biggest development in the last year has been the training of LCWO Management Committee Chair Neville Scrivener and staff member Mim Saxl as Energy Champions, through Low Carbon Hub. Neville, with occasional support from Mim, has been running energy advice stalls at Oxford City Larder at WOCA on a Friday afternoon. At time of writing, we have notched about 160 conversations with larder visitors and are always happy to answer questions and help attendees get the information they need.
Come find Neville and Mim at the Larder on a Friday for freebies (radiator foil, radiator keys, draught excluders and more), information and advice about current funding, sources of support and practical ways to reduce your energy bills and make your home warmer, safer, cheaper to run and better for the planet.
Energy Saving Homes – working with other low carbon groups across the city
We are lucky enough to be one of a whole network of community action groups across the whole of Oxfordshire working towards a greener, fairer, net zero future, and as a member of Communities for Zero Carbon we work particularly closely with fellow groups in the city, (CZCO) www.lcon.org.uk/communities-for-zero-carbon-oxford.
Last summer, the team, led by colleagues from Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon, and Low Carbon Oxford North, pulled together ten days of open home tours (Energy Saving Homes) either side of an Energy Saving Fair at Oxford Town Hall, and produced a series of bitesize films (see website above) covering different measures, including insulation, heat pumps and help with finance. More house tours happened during Oxford Open Doors in September. A number of West Oxford residents opened their doors, and Lead Programme Manager Mim appeared on the ITV news to call for the government to offer more funding and support to make widespread domestic energy saving measures possible.
Transport: Neville has continued to represent LCWO as an active member of the Coalition for Healthy Streets and Active Transport. The team is keeping a close eye on developments with the closure of the Botley Road and plans for traffic filters – supportive of measures that cut emissions, but keenly aware of the need to mitigate the impact on local people, in particular those with mobility issues. We have submitted a bid to fund the purchase of an electric cargo bike for the West Oxford community.
Events: this year, we planted 500 trees in under and hour on Oatlands Rec with the help of over 100 volunteers! Our brilliant Bring & Takes came back from the their Covid pause, and Karen ran both a repair café and cook-off using food that would have otherwise gone to waste at the West Oxford Fun Day. The next Bring and Take is planned for 13 May.
Comms: as well as our appearance on ITV, LCWO was invited to participate in the making of a documentary about the effect of lockdown on domestic energy use by Oxford Sparks, who make films for the University of Oxford. Lessons from Lockdown was released in March last year, and can be watch online here.
Talking to kids about the climate crisis: Mim has continued her work on the Westmill grant-funded guide for talking to children about climate change and was very happy to visit West Oxford Community Primary to talk about COP27 last November. Since being invited to participate in the Story Museum’s 2022 Inspiration Day, a day-long workshop to explore staff and trustees’ personal responses to the climate emergency, deepen insights into children’s responses and needs, and generate ideas for the museum’s 2023-24 creative and learning programme, Mim has been invited to advise on the forthcoming Brilli-ant exhibition, launching in May this year. Green Parent Magazine is also publishing an article about her interest in working with children on the climate crisis so see the website for news of that in the near future.
Watch this space – coming up this year, subject to final agreement and funding:
Two Bring & Takes; dawn chorus walks; a teddy bears’ picnic at Kingfisher Corner; repair café; guided tree walks; more West Oxford Apple Juice; digital footprint workshops; publication of our guide for talking to kids about climate change; more Energy Saving Homes and Oxford Open Doors events; Energy Champion stalls and support with cutting your bills and making your home warmer; installation of an electric cargo bike in West Oxford; more business engagement… and more!
Volunteer with us: get involved!
We’d love fellow West Oxforders to get involved in what we do – as volunteers, committee members, members, or just by joining our newsletter mailing list – and we’re always keen to hear about new things people want to happen or need some support to make happen locally themselves. If you’d like a no-obligation chat about how you could get involved, drop Mim a line.Sign up for the LCWO newsletter Find out what is coming up on our calendar