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Communities encouraged to go DIY in making their neighbourhoods more sustainable

Posted on 19 July 2017

With the summer holidays around the corner, national community charity, Groundwork is encouraging local communities to have a 'DIY summer' future-proofing their local area and promoting the social, economic and environmental benefits of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

The charity aims to demonstrate that living and working in a greener way can help people cope better with the challenges of reduced public spending and deliver wide ranging benefits in terms of health, wellbeing and financial security. 

communities living sustainably groundwork uk

The advice is presented in a series of reports and ‘how to guides’ published by a 'Learning Partnership' of five organisations with expertise in energy, buildings, land, local community organisations and behaviour change on the back of a five-year programme funded by the National Lottery. 

The programme, 'Communities Living Sustainably' (CLS) followed 12 communities as they tested a range of activities designed to bring residents together to tackle social issues by promoting for environmentally responsible behaviours with project themes varying from gardens to food growing, to renewable energy and tackling fuel poverty.

 Topics that the guides cover include:

  • Meanwhile gardens – temporary community gardens built on unused land to help promote greener, healthier neighbourhoods.
  • Strengthening the local food economy – encouraging the growth and distribution of local produce
  • Developing flood plans – improving community’s local resilience to flooding and helping to safe-guard vulnerable people and businesses
  • Community renewable energy - local people buy shares in a non-profit organisation to finance the installation of renewable energy projects
  • Wellbeing walks - encouraging members of the community to exercise while simultaneously getting to know their neighbours
  • Upcycling – reducing waste and putting a new lease of life into old and unused clothing and products

The guides offer simple and easy tips for how communities can improve the economic and environmental infrastructure of their local area as well as promoting the benefits of community environmental action, such as saving money, learning new life skills and forming closer relationships with neighbours.

The guides offer simple and easy tips for how communities can improve the economic and environmental infrastructure of their local area as well as promoting the benefits of community environmental action, such as saving money, learning new life skills and forming closer relationships with neighbours.

The guides also provide suggestions for what more public bodies and funders could do to help community groups take more control over local assets and services.

The guides are backed by a full report setting out what the 12 communities achieved with their lottery funding and drawing the lessons from what worked – and what didn’t work – to inspire others to get active in their own areas.

The lessons highlight the importance of putting time into local partnership building, recognising that communities have a wide range of concerns that need to be addressed alongside environmental outcomes and ensuring that communities are able to access support from experts and local authorities.

Graham Duxbury, national CEO of Groundwork said:  "Communities Living Sustainably powerfully demonstrated what local community organisations can achieve when they’re given the right support and resources. 

"What CLS proved is that there is no shortage of appetite and ideas among communities, but it’s vital that we recognise that communities don’t have all the answers and need support to be able to implement a lasting change in their local area.

"So this summer we want to help inspire and encourage local communities to take more control of their local services and assets and work together to deliver community-led social action that will help to keep the legacy of the programme going for even more local people, all year round.

"With the right encouragement, communities and grass roots groups can tackle deep-seated social issues and wide-ranging environmental challenges. We hope that our learning guides can help provide the spark that encourages more people to achieve their ambitions."

James Harcourt, England Director at the Big Lottery Fund said: "Thanks to funding raised by National Lottery players, people across the country will be inspired to take part in a range of activities to bring their communities together this summer, from developing community gardens to walks that improve wellbeing.

"It is great to see the Communities Living Sustainably vision in action."

For more information, please visit: 




Case Studies

Meanwhile Gardens

Real Food Wythenshawe set out to excite the people of Wythenshawe, Manchester, in the idea of growing and cooking fresh, sustainable food as a way of promoting healthier, lower carbon lifestyles.

At the heart of the project is a sustainable ‘Geodome’, a structure that inspires young people to understand where their food comes from while generating healthy produce for local residents and college students in the area.

The Wythenshawe Park Walled Garden provides training and skills in food growing while also hosting cooking demonstrations to encourage better nutrition and food storage warehouse, UnitE, distributes food to seven food banks across Wythenshawe, working alongside the Food Poverty Group.

Strengthening the local food economy

Sustainable Harborough worked across the town of Market Harborough in Leicestershire. It has used the sense of pride and identity in the town to encourage behaviour change and improve resilience to climate change.

Sustainable Harborough is working with a range of partners to establish a Local Food & Drink brand for the town and developed a map of retailers that grow, rear or produce their food locally. edibLE16 was set up as an online click and collect shopping service for local food in the district. Food from local producers is advertised on the website and consumers place orders directly online either for collection or delivery.

In collaboration with Waterloo Cottage Farm, local volunteers have created a new community garden complete with raised beds, compost bays, fruit patches and a polytunnel and are now growing vegetables.

Developing Flood Plans

The Irwell Valley project was an example of CLS specifically targeting those most vulnerable in a community and using people’s immediate concerns as a platform for exploring wider sustainability issues.  The project’s primary focus has been to support vulnerable people to increase their resilience to the impacts of flooding.

On Boxing Day 2015 the River Irwell burst its banks and the project mobilised a community response to limit the damage, receiving a United Nations disaster award for its efforts. The CLS project became a focal point for flood resilience in the area, developing a community emergency plan and acting as a channel to encourage 7,000 people to subscribe to the Environment Agency flood helpline.

Community renewable energy

Sustain Eden was a local partnership based in the Eden Valley area in Cumbria, led by Cumbria Action for Sustainability.  The project kick-started seven renewable energy schemes including Community Energy Cumbria which raised £566,000 investment through share issues.

The minimum share amount was set at the relatively low price of £250, meaning it was accessible to a large proportion of the local population, and it offered a projected interest payment of 5% per annum over 20 years. 

The installation work also benefited the local economy, with project management being delivered by businesses based in Cumbria.  In addition to the interest for members, the organisation expects to reinvest over £45,000 in local environmental and community projects. 

Wellbeing walks

Manor House PACT organised regular wildlife and foraging walks, taking advantage of the amazing green spaces in their local area. All of the walks were family friendly and took residents to areas they may not have visited before. This helped locals to enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors and build new friendships along the way.

Each walk had an expert guide who helped walkers learn to appreciate their local open spaces by discovering more about the wildlife and edible plants in the area, learning about the environment and improving health and well-being through gentle exercise along the beautiful new river path.

The foraging walks informed locals on how to safely identify and forage wild plants and they also found out how to prepare food with the ingredients they collected. Each walk offered an opportunity to try something different depending on what plants were in season. The wildlife walks focused on biodiversity and introduced locals to the huge variety of plants and animals in the area.


L8 Living Sustainably ran a number of events that introduced the ideas of reusing goods in a fun, engaging way. The Loving Lodge Lane local community festival celebrated the area and included activities to make a cleaner and greener environment. Fun activities to engage people in waste issues came in the form of furniture upcycling and wheelie bin art. The project also works with Bulky Bob’s, a long-standing service in Liverpool that collects bulky furniture, gives it some TLC and resells it through their Furniture World store, preventing it going to landfill or incineration.

The group also held other events around the themes of Waste Not Want Not and Trash to Treasure. These took the forms of creative projects using recycled materials such as broken tiles for mosaics, and refurbishing furniture for distribution to residents.


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact Stacey Aplin, PR and Communications Officer on or 0121- 237-5815.

About Groundwork

Groundwork is the community charity with a green heart. We have worked for over 35 years to provide training and create jobs, reduce energy use and waste, re-connect people with nature and transform whole neighbourhoods. Step by step we’ll go on changing places and changing lives until everywhere is green and vibrant, every community is strong enough to shape its own destiny and everyone can reach their potential.

For more information visit: 

 About Big Lottery Fund

  • The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It puts people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects.
  • It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Last year it awarded £583 million and supported around 12,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
  • Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.

About The Communities Living Sustainably Learning Partnership

The Communities Living Sustainably Learning Partnership consisted of:

  • Groundwork UK
  • Energy Saving Trust
  • New Economics Foundation
  • Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens 
  • BRE