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https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2021/03/02/anyone-can-contribute-to-the-uk-net-zero-goals/

Anyone can contribute to the UK Net Zero goals

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There is a real need to protect the environment and improve the way we, as individuals and communities, respond to the ever-growing strain the environment is under.

Through community initiatives, there are options for those who have previously not had the opportunity to get involved to be part of something life-changing. By making sustainability more accessible and by targeting communities across the UK the journey towards the 2050 Net Zero goals feels much more manageable.

Are community-based initiatives the future of sustainability?

It feels like sustainability has been at the forefront of my consciousness since I was a child. At primary school, I learned how to ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ – as a group we made and used recycled paper, took a trip to the local recycling centre, and even composed songs on how to be more sustainable in our everyday life.

When I arrived at secondary school I took an interest in geography, learning how everyday pollution was contributing to an increase in natural disasters and that not everyone had access to renewable energy due to global inequalities.

At university, where I continued to study geography, I learned about the relationship between humans and their environment – from the need to regenerate cities to be sustainable and resilient to climate change, to understanding the impact commodities have on society and the environment.

Not a day goes by where I do not think about the impact I am having on the planet. I have stopped shopping for fast fashion after learning about how it impacts the environment and I carry a refillable bottle with me, so I do not need to buy unnecessary plastic. If we want to meet the 2050 targets set out by the Climate Change Committee, small changes like this are needed to make a difference.

No one is too young to make a difference

As you can imagine, I was excited to join the Sustainable Innovation Fund team and meet the innovative projects we were funding. The projects that really spoke to me were those which enabled people, like myself, to be that little bit greener in their daily lives.

In a meeting with Solar for Schools, I enthusiastically announced that I wished their project had been around 10 – 15 years ago. They aim to help students develop their energy literacy by providing an education on the challenges facing our environment and solutions relating to a zero-carbon society.

A student looking at the app, an image of the app on a phone and two students looking at a solar panel.
A student looking at the Solar for Schools app, a view of the app and students looking at a solar panel. (Image courtesy of Solar for Schools).

They have developed a platform and, with Innovate UK funding, an app that encourages students to design solar installations on their school buildings. Through the app, students take learning ‘journeys’ to see how many panels could be installed, the amount of CO2 emissions switching to solar could reduce, and the amount of money the school could save in the long term.

It encourages an active discussion between students and teachers by inspiring solar projects that benefit both the present and future community while supporting the continued education around renewable energy and the climate for students, particularly during a time where remote learning is prevalent. The app costs nothing to the users and can be used across the United Kingdom, enabling any student and any school to get involved.

Students holding a solar panel, and a student pointing to a graph. (Image courtesy of Solar for Schools).

Making local councils accountable

Getting involved in community focused initiatives is not just for students, though. For those who are interested in supporting green ventures in their local communities without feeling like they need to shell out their entire life savings, there is an option.

Abundance Investment are passionate about giving members of the public the opportunity to invest in things that truly matter to them, and with over two-thirds of local councils declaring climate emergencies within the UK, now seems an appropriate time than ever to support green initiatives.

Through the Sustainable Innovation Fund, Abundance Investment is continuing to develop and scale their Climate Community Municipal Bonds – for residents to become investors in Net Zero council initiatives.

By engaging through Climate Community Municipal Bonds, councils can directly show how they plan to use the investment and the impact it is having on the local communities, all while maintaining the risk so residents still receive a return on their investment. It improves the relationship between local councils and residents and provides a collective sense of purpose within the community.

A project like this gives people like me the opportunity to contribute to the Net Zero agenda, and it feels like a smart move to invest in creating an environment fit for the future.

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