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Transition Stirling’s current projects include a Share and Repair programme with initiatives such as a tool library, a ‘repair café’ and wood reuse scheme.
A Stirlingshire-based charity’s innovative sustainability projects are not only bringing local people together after months of isolation, but also helping them cut carbon emissions and contribute towards the goal of Net Zero.
DURING the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, we witnessed many Scottish communities come together to build stronger support networks for their neighbours. One Stirlingshire charity, however, decided to meet the challenge of not just the pandemic but the climate emergency too.
“I like to pair community resilience and sustainability together,” says Pamela Candea, a Project Manager at Transition Stirling – which was set up to support the Stirlingshire community by sharing and repairing resources as well as redistributing items, including food, for reuse.
“The pandemic was an extremely adverse situation and climate change is increasingly going to impact communities in that way. The more that people can look after themselves, their families, and their neighbours, the more resilient and sustainable a community is,” she added.
Transition Stirling is a community-led organisation formed by a group of Stirling residents passionate about tackling climate change. Ms Candea, originally from Detroit in the US, has been involved in the project from the beginning.
“Transition Stirling started 12 years ago with a group of people who would meet at the back of a pub in Stirling and talk about our hopes,” she explains.
“More people than ever before are now interested in talking climate change. Our participants and members say that we give people practical, simple steps that they can use to tackle climate change so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”
The group estimate that 400 tonnes of reusable goods go to landfill in Stirling alone. To confront this issue, the charity launched a number of localised projects to help raise awareness in the area such as workshop courses.
The charity’s current projects include a Share and Repair programme with initiatives such as a tool library, repair café events, wood reuse scheme and a variety of educational workshops covering upcycling and repair of furniture and textiles, plus sessions on sustainable food. A Stirling Reuse Hub is also set to be launched by the group imminently.
However, Ms Candea says it was the charity’s Stirling Community Food service which experienced unprecedented demand during the last year.
“That service expanded tremendously to being one of our main offerings during lockdown and continues to be,” she explains.
“We collect excess food from the supermarkets each night in Stirling and redistribute that to people in the morning.
“During the height of the pandemic we had around 80 people a day, and we now have 30 to 40 people per day. From our point of view, it’s an attempt to get rid of excess food waste, and to instead redistribute goods rather than see them going to landfill. Since the start of last year, we’ve provided enough food to people for over 170,000 meals.
“Food waste is one of the major contributors to climate change, mainly from the emissions released when it goes to landfill.”
Recent estimations are that around a third of all food produced globally is wasted or lost – contributing to between eight and 10 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
While the services relied upon by Transition Stirling continue to be sought by the local community, Ms Candea emphasises the organisation’s reliance on continued funding as being vital to its survival.
She says: “The community food service has really become what it is during the pandemic, and it is dependent on the grocery stores continuing to be able to redistribute food – and also for us to have funding to run it, which may dry up as support received during the pandemic dwindles.”
The group currently relies on the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund, which will cease in March 2022, but it is hopeful a new funding initiative will take its place.
Volunteers are also central to running operations at Transition Stirling. There are 50 currently on the organisations list, with around 20-25 active at any time. Ms Candea stresses that the group is currently recruiting more volunteers for the community food project, and anyone interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with forming a stronger community network, the charity’s main purpose is to educate residents on the impact of their actions on the climate.
“I feel we need to scale down rapidly,” says Ms Candea. “In the face of climate change, we need to be able to repair goods rather than constantly buy new things. We also need to be able to grow and cook our own food and we need to ensure that we do not waste it. We need to live within our planetary means.”
With over 200 community Transition Networks in the UK, including Transition Stirling, each group works towards tackling climate change at a grassroots level by embracing a circular economy.
“I’ve been working in climate change matters for over 15 years now,” Ms Candea says. “After retraining in Environmental Architecture [the study of the co-dependence of life forms and earth systems] my conclusion is that we need to stop these large resource uses that are causing climate change.
“I do believe we have it within us to turn this around. The reaction throughout the pandemic was heartening to see, if we could only do that for climate change – I think we might be okay.”
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