How Glasgow groups and businesses are helping the city go green

In November, the spotlight will on Glasgow and the decisions that are made at COP26.

World leaders will descend on the city for the climate summit - and some would argue that the decisions reached at the event will shape the future of the world.

Targets include hitting net zero - removing the same amount of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere as is produced - adapting to protect communities and natural habitats, and working together to meet the challenges of the climate crisis.

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But while leaders will look at the big decisions that need to be taken, it is up to individuals to make changes in their lives that can also have an impact.

Reducing energy bills, growing your own produce, cutting out single-use plastics and minimising consumption are just some of the small changes that can be made.

Groups and businesses have sprung up across the city in the last decade to make these changes easier.

Enabling people to make changes

When you read of extreme weather events destroying parts of the world and ice caps melting, it can be quite overwhelming.

You might know you want to make positive changes, but not know where to start.

That’s where organisations like South Seeds can help.

The Govanhill-based group launched in 2011 - a small group of concerned residents who shared worries about the climate crisis, but also shared the feeling that the area had the potential to be more environmentally-friendly.

Ten years on, thousands of people have dropped in their Victoria Road base, residents have borrowed over 1000 tools, homes across the southside have been made more energy efficient, five community gardens have been created, and experience and knowledge has been shared with people across Glasgow.

Not bad for a small group.

Lucy Gillie, general manager, said the group did not seek to educate people, rather to “enable people”.

“We’ve continued to be innovative and make changes,” she added. “Our mission is to help people live more sustainable lives.

“I think it would be fair to say that 10 years ago, not many people understood concepts like sustainability. People are now much more comfortable with the term and have an understanding of what net zero is. They are seeking out ways they can help and conserve the environment.”

Attitudes have changed over the years. Lucy said persuading people to make changes is “no longer the hard sell it used to be” and that people are motivated to make change.

She puts this down to two things - people being more aware of the link between extreme weather events, our changing climate and the contributing factors, and people seeing the benefits of living a more sustainable life, whether that is eating a low carbon diet or cycling.

The health benefits - both physically and mentally - are huge, she says.

Growing power

Another trend that has increased in the last decade is people’s desire to grow their own food - to see the process for themselves and understand how it ended up on the table.

The Partick Community Growing Project transformed a disused play park in the heart of Partick and created a space where residents can grow their own produce.

It now boasts 18 half beds and three community beds.

And it’s not just food that is growing - people are too.

A big part of the project is helping people learn new skills. Workshops are frequent, whether it’s curry cooking clubs, outdoor cooking workshops, or arts and crafts - there are lots of opportunities to learn and develop.

“It’s an opportunity for the community,” said Jane Cowie, treasurer. “A lot of these opportunities can go by, but we’ve managed to grow as a group and as individuals.

“We’re community orientated but we’re also about individual empowerment.”

Jane says more allotment spaces are needed across Glasgow - “the more green spaces the better” - and the group has been active in supporting other organisations aiming to set up their own spaces.

She believes people have become more aware of where their food comes from and says there is a “buzz” that comes from seeing your food grow that you will never get in a supermarket.

Zero waste

Go to the supermarket and you’ll find almost everything - from fruit and vegetables, to meat and rice - wrapped in plastic.

And be honest - when was the last time you tried to find out how where your food came from?

It can be a challenging process. That’s where social enterprises like The Good Choice come in.

Juan Ortiz launched the shop with his partner and their friend in Mount Florida last year. The aim: zero waste.

Go to the shop and you’ll find baskets filled with a lot of your basic essentials - and no plastic wrapping in sight. Customers can either bring their own containers, or use paper bags or other alternatives available in the store.

You can also shop with confidence, knowing that the team have done their best to make sure the produce comes from suppliers who are local, environmentally-friendly and ethical, where possible. Around 25-30 per cent comes from GreenCity Wholefoods, an east-end based company which does not sell products tested on animals and only goods which are suitable for vegetarians.

Juan and his co-owners wanted to launch their own business, but one driven by their principles - the result is The Good Choice.

Many supermarket products come wrapped in plastic.

“Speaking as a customer, when I shop somewhere else, you trust that these companies have done their research and put their values to the front, and that’s what we are trying to do,” he said.

He believes pressure from customers and businesses such as The Good Choice is starting to influence companies to make more ethical decisions.

“Things on the news are making people more aware of the need to change,” Juan added. “This summer has been catastrophic. Even David Attenborough’s documentaries - people have started there and become more aware of how their person habits have an impact well beyond what they might imagine.”

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Learn more about The Good Choice HERE, South Seeds HERE, and the Partick Community Growing Project HERE.