Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, and radical action is needed to combat it – not just in business, but in our communities too. By adapting the way we live, work, travel, and interact with each other, we can generate significant impacts that can have a huge impact. Many of the conversations at COP26 likewise highlighted the need for communities to create collective action to tackle the climate crisis – but the right tools are needed to achieve this.
This is the aim of the LEP’s brand-new Circular Towns Guide, released as part of Circular Yorkshire Week this year; to give communities the framework they need to generate grassroots action, and bring circular economy principles into their towns.
The guide offers a flexible 10-step process for community groups to explore and kickstart circular economy initiatives within their towns, regardless of their level of experience. It puts the power to change things in the hands of the community themselves.
The Circular Towns Guide is open to anyone across the UK to access and use for free, but we’re also trialling it with two pilot towns in North Yorkshire, to demonstrate how it can be used, and help us chart progress. Our two pilot schemes – Scarborough and Selby – are two very different landscapes with their own unique challenges, but the beauty of the circular economy is that it can be adapted to suit the situation, and we aim to demonstrate the flexibility of the Towns Guide through these two fantastic communities.
A stronger, more resilient community in Selby
Selby, a large district south of York, comprises a large rural hinterland around a central town, as well as many smaller towns and villages throughout the area. Although some areas of the district are relatively affluent, two of the central wards are within the top 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.
As a town, Selby is relatively new to climate action, but the launch of a new project, Our Zero Selby, provided the perfect catalyst to encourage lead organisation Selby District Association of Voluntary Service (AVS) to take on the challenge of becoming a Circular Town. Our Zero Selby, led by Forum for the Future and stakeholder charity, Involve, in partnership with Selby District AVS, is part of an ambitious national programme to help create community action around moving to a net-zero future; and circular economy is a key method of enabling that change.
“The Circular Towns piece aligns really nicely with so much of the work we’re looking to do,” said Bryony Boyle, who will be leading the project. “It’s a chance to both amplify existing community action, such as Selby Big Local and their Community Fridge project, and develop new opportunities that will help us create a stronger, more resilient community for the future. We aim to put our residents front and centre in any initiative we create, so that we’re ensuring that we’re creating something that our community truly wants and needs, and it was great to see that emphasised through the Circular Towns Guide as well.”
Fantastic engagement in Scarborough
Our other Circular Town can be found on the Yorkshire Coast – the seaside town of Scarborough. A historic resort town, Scarborough is rich in history and heritage, and is a popular tourist destination. The town has many of the economic and social challenges associated with coastal communities which co-exist with a strong sense of place and local pride.
David Stone, who is leading the Circular Towns project for Coast and Vale Community Action (CaVCA), is keen to use the circular economy to address these challenges and build on the sustainability work that CaVCA have already started through their Great Big Green Week. This national week of action, held in September each year, encourages towns to come together to share knowledge, resources, and attend events, and Scarborough’s festival was no exception, engaging a huge cross-section of the community. “We’ve had some fantastic engagement already,” said David, “particularly from our local businesses. We’re seeing a real interest in sustainability and the circular economy with our local independent traders, and it would be great to enable a collaboration between them to develop an ethical, local, green market, which would give the town something really special.”
But it’s not just an ethical market that CaVCA are keen to explore; there are opportunities around biochar, tackling food waste, and reusing plastic waste, all of which would benefit the community; but David doesn’t have any pre-determined outcomes. “We’ve run a project before, Totally Socially, which focused on really listening to the community, and we want to replicate that approach with our Circular Towns work,” he said. “It’s about supporting people to explore and develop their own responses to the issues they themselves identify, not about others imposing top-down solutions.”
Both towns have made a pledge to help them define and commit to their goals with their circular town, looking at three key areas within their community, whether that’s encouraging businesses to make the change, engaging other projects and district councils, or helping the community understand what the circular economy is. You can see both pledges below;
The pledges will be followed by action plans that the towns will develop over the next couple of months, to draw out specific opportunities and timescales, before putting that plan into action. YNY LEP will be supporting both towns with the development and implementation of these plans, as well as providing quarterly update blogs to keep you up-to-date with all of the Circular Towns work!
Our next blog will be out in January, so keep an eye out for more news in the new year!