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Small steps to tackling climate change

9 Oct 2019 | Jill Muirie

After another hot summer, which saw the UK’s highest temperature on record and increasing numbers of people engaged in school strikes for the climate and in the Extinction Rebellion movement, public awareness of the  climate crisis is higher than ever. The declaration of a climate emergency by governments both nationally and locally has added to a growing sense of the shared need for action. 

Here at the Social Research Hub in Bridgeton we are developing a body of professional public health work looking at the implications of the climate crisis on health and inequalities. But, as concerned citizens, those of us working at the Hub also recognise the need to think about how we go about our own business – our office systems, the events we organise, how we spend our budget and how we dispose of our waste, and how, in turn, these impact on the environment. 

Media coverage of the climate change predictions and increasing instances of weather events and disasters that relate to our changing climate can make the scale of the challenge seem daunting. However, we know that small changes can add up and – if more of us get involved – can make a big difference. So, we set up an office sustainability group to think about what changes might be feasible in our own office. 

We started meeting in July and have been working together across the different organisations that are represented in our office to explore new and different approaches to reducing our collective environmental impact, focusing on changes to the way our office runs rather than individual behaviours. We have learnt lots already and unexpectedly have also had fun along the way. Through a reflective process, we have come to realise that many of our day-to-day decisions at work have environmental implications, and that by making small changes to the way we do things we can make a quick and measurable difference. 

Drawing showing paper use in printing

Beyond this, and perhaps more importantly, we want to challenge ourselves to think more critically about the environmental impacts of our decisions at work. So far, we have looked at our paper use, energy use, recycling and the food waste in our office. We are also trying to reduce the environmental impact of the events we run through reducing the provision of meat and minimising food waste in the lunches we provide, using less paper and photocopying, and encouraging more sustainable transport to and from events. During Recycle Week we provided our staff with opportunities to recycle a variety of additional materials to highlight that even seemingly tricky products can be recycled. 

By taking a baseline measure of our energy and paper use, we will be able to monitor any changes and learn about what works well and what doesn’t. Our group is still relatively new but we plan to share what we learn and to encourage others to see what changes, however small, might be possible in their world of work. We don’t have all the answers but by trying different approaches, learning and making small changes towards a more sustainable way of working we can start to make changes for the better. 

Drawing of a computer and a message about turning off monitors to save powerThe Sustainability Working Group

This blog was written by the Sustainability Working Group of the Social Research Hub which comprises the GCPH, CaCHE and Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland. The remit of the working group to consider environmental sustainability issues relating to the Social Research Hub office at the Olympia Building, Bridgeton. It is distinct from professional work on sustainability/climate change and public health.

The purpose of the working group is threefold – to improve understanding of the different ways that environmental sustainability can be improved at the Social Research Hub office; to lead or support the implementation of actions that seek to do this; and to monitor any reductions in energy use/carbon that result. Jill Muirie co-ordinates this group.

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