In the last 12 months, The Big Issue’s Changemakers have been working hard to work in ways that impact society in positive ways. We want to thank them for everything they do by reflecting on their achievements.
In recent years, the climate crisis has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind. With COP26 haven taken place in 2021, more and more people are talking about the environment and what we should all be doing to tackle climate change.
Here are the Changemakers that have been doing their bit to protect the environment and start conversations.
Dr Craig aka ‘Birdgirl’ released her debut book in 2021. We Have a Dream features 30 young indigenous people who are protecting the planet. The 19-year-old environmental activist became the youngest person in Britain to receive an honorary doctorate when the University of Bristol recognised her work in February 2020.
In 2015, Craig set up non-profit organisation Black2Nature, hosting camping trips for Visibly Minority Ethnic (VME) young people. The bird enthusiast started a blog when she was 11, and at 17 became the youngest person to see half the birds in the world.
Wolverton community energy scheme
The long-term vision for this scheme is to generate and control energy resources in Wolverton and the broader Milton Keynes area. Projects include solar power, ground source heating, biomass and hydro power, and energy storage. The group has committed to investing 50 per cent of profits into projects to relieve fuel poverty, and says.
“Our primary aim is to benefit the whole community, not simply our members. We do this by investing in schemes that will provide multiple benefits across the community in the long term.” In 2022, perhaps this group will become a blueprint for others across the UK.
MacRebur, The Plastic Road Company
While working with landfill “pickers” in India, Toby McCartney saw workers melting down plastics to fill potholes in roads and decided to bring the idea to the UK. He set up MacRebur to collect waste plastics and mix them with asphalt so they can be used to build and resurface roads.
The company’s mission is to kill two birds with one stone: solve the waste plastic epidemic and improve the poor quality of roads. Each mile recycles the equivalent of 80,000 plastic bottles or 1.2 million plastic bags. For every one-mile, two-lane road, the carbon emission offset is around 33 tonnes.
The government has said all new gas boilers will be banned from 2035. Thermify is a smart technology energy provider that processes computer data on behalf of businesses via “heat hubs” installed in place of gas boilers in people’s homes. Instead of computers overheating, the heat generated by data processing could be used for your home.
Garry Felgate, energy lead at the organisation, says, “Normal data processing centres spend 30 per cent of their costs cooling devices down and that heat is wasted. Because we don’t have to [perform cooling] that means we can charge very little for energy. We can reduce the costs for people who have struggled to afford heating.” In 2021, Thermify placed an order for 1,000 heat hubs, with the first likely to be installed in a UK home in 2022.
Clean river campaigners
In December 2020, the River Wharfe at Ilkley in West Yorkshire was the first in the UK to get bathing water status following a tireless campaign. Since then, a group of residents called Ilkley Clean River Group have been campaigning to stop raw sewage being dumped in the Wharfe.
Their aims include stopping storm overflows of sewage into the river, upgrading treatment works and ensuring spills don’t leave waste on the riverbank. The group was a leading voice when the government had a vote about water companies dumping sewage in rivers as part of the Environment Bill. In October, MPs voted to reduce the amount of raw sewage dumped into our rivers.
COP26 indigenous groups
For the first time in the history of the United Nations framework Convention on Climate Change, 28 indigenous people from each of the seven UN indigenous socio-cultural regions engaged as experts at COP26 in November.
Rodion Sulyandziga, a member of the UNFCCC’s Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform Facilitative Working Group, said: “This is a strong achievement and historic progress under the UNFCCC, to bring indigenous knowledge to the table, find solutions and humanise the impacts of climate change.”
In the late ’90s, Philip Waltham was battling addiction and selling The Big Issue magazine while homeless in London. Now he runs sustainable fashion business Bulk Vintage Wholesale. Not only is the firm taking the fight to fast fashion – saving around 600 tonnes of clothing from landfill every year – Philip says it’s all down to the business skills he picked up at The Big Issue.
Shrubsole is an environmental campaigner and author whose blog Who Owns England? was made into a book. Its aim is to uncover who actually owns the land, because its ownership often means wealth, power and influence. Who owns the land matters, because it has implications for everything including where homes are built, how food is grown, flooding protection and wildlife space.
October 2022 will see the release of Shrubsole’s second book The Lost Rainforests of Britain, based on his discovery of rainforest habitats when he moved from London to Devon in 2020.
Publisher Williams Collins said: “This is the story of a unique habitat that has become so denuded and fragmented that most people today don’t realise it exists.”
Earthwatch/tiny forest planting scheme
“Help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, one tiny forest at a time.” That’s the message from environmental charity Earthwatch, which is creating thriving and resilient urban areas with its tiny forest scheme. The idea, inspired by a method developed in the 1970s by Dr Akira Miyawaki, brings together volunteers to plant urban forests the size of tennis courts in cities across the UK.
Not only is it beneficial on an environmental level, but the projects reconnect locals with nature and raise awareness of climate change. The charity collects environmental and social data for every forest it plants so it can assess the benefits they provide over time. Expect to see more tiny forests being planted in 2022.