Taking action at a community level is one of the most effective ways to cut your area’s carbon footprint and boost your sustainability.

Climate change can sometimes feel like an issue that is too big for individuals to make much of an impact on. However, actions by many individuals can add up to a massive positive impact on reducing carbon emissions.

This positive impact can be magnified if an approach to reduce carbon emissions is started at a community level. This section shows approaches taken in different communities to reduce their carbon emissions and reduce their impacts on climate change, recognising that every community is different.

Whether you’re a community group, a parish council, or a group of neighbours concerned about climate change and the environment, the guidance here should help you work out what you can do at a community level.

Sustainability groups in Cumbria

If you’re interested in taking action to make your area more sustainable, a good first step is to check if there’s already a sustainability group in your community. Find out about local groups >

Grant support for community climate action

You may also be able to tap into grant support to help you run climate projects and events in your community. Find out more >

Love Solar installing solar panels at Alston schools
A boy casts a vote in community consultation as part of Alston Moor Greenprint project by CAfS

Individual projects or a big vision – what’s the best approach?

We recommend taking a ‘whole-place’ approach to reducing your area’s carbon footprint.

This means looking at your community’s carbon emissions as a whole and considering up front what you want to achieve overall. This approach tends to be more effective than running ad hoc projects, which are unlikely to add up to a community-wide shift.

If you set out a compelling vision for your community from the start, it gives people something to buy into and they can see ways that they could contribute. It will help you to build up a critical mass of community awareness and support – from attracting volunteers to bringing in funding.

Taking a ‘whole-place’ approach

Research has shown that a whole-place approach to developing low-carbon communities or moving towards energy self-sufficiency can have significant environmental, economic and social benefits for a community, more so than a piecemeal approach to developing low-carbon energy projects*.

There are some great examples of this in the UK and elsewhere:

*Pringle, R. (2014). Moving towards whole settlement energy self-sufficiency in rural communities. Thesis. Newcastle University

AAFAF Ambleside to Zero

Where to start

If you’ve decided on a whole-place approach in your community, you might be wondering whether you should spend time working out your local sources of greenhouse gas emissions, or just get on and tackle the obvious ones, like home heating and electricity.

The answer is probably a bit of both!

We recommend that you do kick off some research to identify the different sources of emissions in your community and how much each one contributes to your total carbon footprint.

That will help you to prioritise projects, so that you’re tackling the biggest sources of emissions that are within your community’s control.

You could do this alongside a project to tackle an obvious source of emissions or another quick win. It’s often a good idea to start with something that will have a direct benefit to individuals in your community, to build up awareness and support.

A great example of this was in Ashton Hayes in Cheshire, which set out to be the first carbon-neutral village in England. They looked at their community overall, but began with an initiative to help households cut their energy usage, therefore saving them money on their bills.

Find out more about the Ashton Hayes story in the video on the right. It’s a talk hosted by CAfS in Staveley by Garry Charnock, one of the driving forces behind the initiative in Ashton Hayes.

How Ashton Hayes set out to be England’s first carbon-neutral village

Supported by South Lakeland District Council

South Lakeland District Council logo