There are community groups all across Cumbria working to make their communities more sustainable – from running repair cafes and food growing schemes, to community energy and much more besides. Many of them are members of the Cumbria Sustainability Network, coming together to share experiences and support each other. Find out more about them and what they do…

Appleby Edibles

Founded in 2013, Appleby Edibles is an allotment and community garden site, for wellbeing and education for the benefit of the whole community. The group’s ethos is to give people and groups the opportunity to supply a little of their own food in a supportive social environment, whilst offering opportunities for learning and connection.

The focus is sustainable gardening practice, through practical sessions.  These gardens are used by individuals, and also for public projects, including a resource for schools.  It hosts a small tree nursery and is home to a cordon of heritage apple trees along the railway fence.

Regular meet-ups? The group holds sessions at the allotment every Tuesday, which are open to everyone, welcoming individuals from all walks of life and abilities. The site is wheelchair friendly with specially designed accessible paths and beds. The group is always looking for more volunteers both at the allotment to support vulnerable groups and with administration and media, so if you feel able to lend a hand, contact Annie on the email address below.

Connect with the group via email: [email protected]

Sustainable Keswick

Sustainable Keswick was established in 2007 and aims to tackle the climate crisis here in Cumbria by making positive changes in their local community. To do this, it runs projects and campaigns based around three core sustainability goals: reducing carbon emissions, improving biodiversity and reducing waste. Within these three core aims, the group encourages volunteers to take on projects tackling specific issues, such as energy, food and agriculture, waste and transport. The group, which has several members sitting on local councils, also actively campaigns at both a local and national level for a sustainable future both for our environment and for our communities.

Regular meet-ups? The group holds quarterly ‘Green Get Togethers’ usually on a Monday evening, which are opportunities for members and non-members alike to come together to learn about a particular climate related topic, whether this is through a dedicated speaker event, an environmental film night, or a round table conversation between members.

Connect with the group via its website, www.sustainablekeswick.org.uk, to find out more about becoming a volunteer. You can also sign up to its newsletter or follow on Facebook to learn more about current events and projects.

Sustainable Brampton

Sustainable Brampton is committed to reducing their community’s impact on the environment. The group wants to encourage more people to make use of the resources and businesses available to them locally and to get involved in activities and campaigns, all helping to bring about its vision of a more sustainable future for the area. The group focuses on five key areas: transport, waste, energy, economy and food in an effort to make their community more self reliant. Projects include setting up and supporting community gardens and allotments, organising regular farmers’ markets, exploring the idea of green community energy and setting up cycling, walking and public transport groups. The group is keen to get more people involved in the organisation and playing a part in projects, so if you live locally and want to help your community to transition to a more sustainable way of life, then please get in touch!

Regular meet-ups? A complete list of events can be found on the group’s website.

Connect with the group via their website www.sustainablebrampton.org, where you can also subscribe to its newsletter or send a message about getting involved.

Master Composters

Master Composters is a national scheme set up and run by the Garden Organic organisation. The group aims to demonstrate how composting at home is an easy and effective way to reduce our waste and CO2 output. The group hires stalls at local events such as Taste Cumbria, open days and gardening events where members of the public can ask questions and be shown good composting practice. The group will also give talks to local groups and schools as requested.

The group is currently entering a new stage of its development, working to set up composting demonstration sites in partnership with local organisations.

Activities volunteers may become involved in include running stalls at events, giving formal talks to local groups and generally starting conversations with people in their community around waste and composting. The group asks for a time commitment of thirty hours a year. Training events are held for everyone who signs up as a volunteer, and other benefits include reimbursement of all expenses and free membership of Garden Organic.

Regular meet-ups? Monthly Zoom meet-ups for all volunteers. Twice a year the group also holds a social, such as a meal or a visit to a relevant event or organisation. Monthly webinars also take place on volunteers’ requested topics such as wormeries, peat or the Japanese composting system of Pokashi.

Connect If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, want advice about composting or want Cumbria Master Composters to get involved with your event or organisation you can either visit the Cumbria Master Composters page on the Garden Organic website or email [email protected].

Brampton to Zero

Officially launching in April 2022, this is a new group aiming to cut Brampton’s carbon footprint to zero by focussing on the key areas of energy, carbon sequestration and agriculture. The group is approaching landowners about various pieces of unused land in the area that would be suitable for tree planting and re-wilding projects, in order to create a wildlife corridor around Brampton. It has also started speaking to local farmers to encourage more regenerative farming practices that could help the climate and be of economic benefit. In a similar way, the group has conducted research on the benefits of community energy schemes, showing that by using the available rooftop spaces around Brampton for solar panels, the project would not only produce large amounts of energy but also turn a profit.

Regular meet-ups? Visit the B2Z website to find details of upcoming events.

Connect with the group via its website, www.brampton2zero.org.uk, where you can also sign up to the mailing list and ask about volunteering. You can also find the group on Facebook or email them on [email protected]

Simply Repair

Based in Kendal, Simply Repair aims to reduce the number of goods sent to landfill (domestic appliances, furniture, tools, clothes etc.), by running a monthly repair café that gives people easy access to repair services for their household items. The group wants repair to be the norm, instead of binning goods and buying new ones.

The group has a number of volunteer repairers who specialise in everything from electrics, sewing and darning, to basketry and bookbinding. They have repaired furniture, crockery, household appliances and are willing to have a go at anything. People who bring items for repair are also skilled up, so that they can repair their own items in the future.

The group is on the lookout for new volunteers to help support the running of the group, both skilled repairers, as well as people interested in administration and marketing.

Regular meet-ups? The repair café meets once a month and is free to attend. The group also offers separate monthly workshops on topics such as basket making, patchwork cushion making and electronics. There’s usually a small cost for these.

Connect If you are interested in joining the group or to find out more, sign up to the group’s newsletter on its webpage: https://www.bentley-brown.co.uk/simply-repair-south-lakes/. If you have something to repair, you can email [email protected]. You can also find the group on Facebook www.facebook.com/SimplyRepairSL.

Sustainable Carlisle

The group was set up after the Copenhagen COP in 2009 when a number Carlisle residents attended the event and were inspired to take action back home. The group formed to tackle the question of how a community could effectively be helped to transition to a more sustainable, climate friendly way of life.

Activism sits at the heart of the group. Its aim is to raise awareness of sustainability issues so that people feel empowered to make change, learn new skills, fight for their rights to be heard and question policy. The most significant success of the group has been to persuade Carlisle Council to declare a climate emergency and sign up to the pledges that accompany that declaration.

The group aims to network with other organisations and run projects alongside them, to raise awareness and bring in lots of different skillsets. Examples of this include teaming up with Carlisle Refugee Action Group to run tree planting and salvage projects, working with Cycle Carlisle to highlight issues around cycle lane provision, and getting involved at Solfest to run workshops and talks for festival-goers.

The group has a number of exciting future ventures in the pipeline, including a two-year project with Tullie House on global heating and biodiversity. If you live in the Carlisle area and want to get involved with an active and diverse organisation that works to make a real difference on climate change, this is the group for you!

Regular meet-ups? The group runs a ‘free stall’ at Carlisle Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month, where people can give away and get all sorts of useful goods, and talk to the group about recycling and reuse. The group also hold a conversation café on the third Saturday of the month that often runs in conjunction with a slow bike ride. Other activities throughout the year include tree planting, which is held from October/November through to March, working in partnership with the Environment Agency and local farmers.

Connect The group is always looking for more volunteers to get involved in its events, and who might be willing to take on mini projects of their own or become involved in supporting the group’s administration. Contact the group through its website, www.sustainablecarlisle.org, where you can also sign up to its newsletter. You can also follow on Facebook or email on [email protected].

Sustainable Staveley (SENS)

SENS was formed in November 2007 to promote action on sustainability in Staveley, by looking at ways to reduce home energy use, explore the potential for hydro-electric schemes, promote cycling and walking, develop renewable technologies and raise awareness of and take action on climate change.  The 2015 floods brought (climate) chaos to the village and since then it has seen episodes of extreme weather every year.

The objectives of the group are to reduce human impact on ecology, to increase the use of alternative fuel and power sources in the area and to raise greater awareness of ecological, Fair Trade and sustainability issues via their newsletter and website.

Recent campaigns and projects include:

  • Staveley Futures, which is a series of short films to get people talking about Staveley’s future as a rural community, and how it can become more resilient.
  • Clean River Kent Campaign, which aims to raise awareness and take action on the poor water quality of the River Kent.
  • Active Travel survey of 2020, which identified key issues around movement in the local area, which the group will use to improve the travel options available to residents.

Regular meet-ups?  SENS runs a monthly informal discussion session around what they would like to do in the village to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.  It holds various other events throughout the year. See its website for details.

Connect with the group via its website, www.sustainablestaveley.org.uk, where you can also sign up to the group’s mailing list for meetings. As part of the Clean River Kent campaign, SENS is also looking for volunteers to attend meetings, assist with survey work and water quality monitoring, organise clean-ups, highlight pollution incidents, campaign for bathing water designation and various other activities to protect the River Kent.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (towards transition)

SLACC is a community-based charity aiming to bring people in the South Lakes together to take action on climate change in their area. It is part of the Transition Town Network, aiming to divest their town of its dependence on fossil fuels and become more self reliant in areas such as food, economics, healthcare, energy and transport. They aim to work collaboratively in their community, bringing together people, businesses, churches, the council and schools to address the issues surrounding climate change and collectively come up with effective solutions for their area.

Current projects include:

  • the Cumbria coal mine campaign, which opposes the opening of a new coal mine at Whitehaven.
  • Waste into Wellbeing, a social enterprise that takes unwanted food from supermarkets, shops and local eateries and either turns it into meals available on a ‘pay what you can’ basis or redistributes it to local residents in need.

Regular meet-ups? SLACC’s trustees meet bi-monthly. In addition, a wider group meets on the alternate month to determine strategies to achieve its aims.

Connect with the group via its website, www.slacc.org.uk, where you can also sign up to its newsletter. For general enquiries, or if you would like to get involved in any projects or are interested in starting your own with SLACC’s help then please email [email protected]. Membership of the group costs just £10 a year. The group can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Penrith Action for Community Transition (PACT)

Penrith Action for Community Transition is part of the global Transition Town Network, aiming to tackle the issues of fossil fuel use, climate change and economic sustainability within its community. The group is made up of volunteers who really want to make a difference in their area and bring about a more sustainable way of life.

The group is currently engaging on issues such as energy, food, building, education, transport, waste and recycling and health and wellbeing. Current campaigns focus on reducing plastic usage, aiming to cut out single-use plastics in Eden. The group has set up a water bottle refill scheme in the area, started lobbying supermarkets and manufacturers to remove plastic from their products, added their voices to national and international campaigns and got in touch with local event organisers to initiate a code of best practice on plastic for events.

The group is also very much involved in community gardening projects, encouraging local people to grow their own vegetables through knowledge and skill sharing. They also run regular gardening sessions around Penrith, creating and caring for its green spaces.

Regular meet-ups? The steering group meets the first Wednesday of the month in Penrith at 7pm and all are welcome to come along and share their views. PACT also runs the Penrith Repair Café at the Old Fire Station on the second Saturday of every month from 10am to 1pm. Community gardening events are also held every Tuesday at 10am in various locations around Penrith (see website for details). A calendar of other events is also available on their website.

Connect You can get in touch with the group via email, phone or Facebook or turn up and speak to a group member at a local event to find out more information. You can also sign up to their newsletter and become a member via their website.

Website: www.penrithact.org.uk; Email: [email protected]

Ambleside Action for a Future

Ambleside Action for a Future is a network of local residents working together to mitigate climate and environmental breakdown and build community resilience. Their aim is for Ambleside to reach net zero carbon by 2030. To do this, the group is focusing on the key areas of energy, transport, waste and carbon capture.

The group aims to use the natural energy resources in its area, such as solar power, to generate renewable energy for the community.  Another strand to this is the ‘Warmer Homes’ project, aiming to help residents make their homes better insulated and businesses more energy efficient. A carbon calculator tool is provided via the group’s website, which allows residents to see how they could reduce their carbon footprint in terms of energy, travel, food and waste.

Transport is another concern for the group, which is aiming to reduce emissions by tackling issues around active travel and public transport supply. There is also an active growing and biodiversity sector within the group, aiming to encourage more members of the community to grow their own fruit, vegetables and flowers, through events and knowledge sharing. The team also aims to create more wildflower meadows and plant more trees. A lobbying group exists to put pressure on government, businesses and other organisations to adopt more climate-friendly policies and sustainable practices.

Regular meet-ups? The group meets up as a whole once a month and, in the interim, smaller groups meet to work on different projects. Everyone is welcome to attend. All events are listed in a calendar on the group’s website.

Connect with the group via their website where you can also apply to become a member.

Website: https://aafaf.uk/index.html.

Peninsula Environmental Action Together (PEAT)

PEAT is a sustainability group encompassing the nine parish areas from Cartmel Fell to Allithwaite and Cartmel and Haverthwaite to Ulpha. It aims to raise awareness around climate change in its area, tapping into local knowledge and skills to address key issues through simple actions that are accessible to all.

Current campaigns include the Greening Campaign, which asks residents in the Cartmel area to sign up to five carbon saving actions for one year, such as replacing lightbulbs with LEDs, reducing showering time and using a water butt instead of tap water on the garden. Another project, ‘Seedlings’, aims to encourage more residents to have a go at growing their own food by providing an organic seed sharing service. The project brings together small groups of local residents to sow, grow and share seedlings with families, friends and neighbours.

Regular meet-ups? PEAT has free events and talks throughout the year, with details on its website. Members currently meet online on Zoom, the last Tuesday of every month, 7-8:30pm, to discuss different climate-related topics. Group membership is just £5 a year.

Connect with the group via their website, www.PEATsouthlakes.blogspot.com, or email [email protected].

Sustainable Duddon

Sustainable Duddon, formerly known as Greening Duddon, is a new group based in the area around Broughton-in-Furness. The group aims to promote the small everyday changes we can all make that can have a big impact on climate change.

Regular meet-ups? Details of events and activities can be found on the group’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Sustainable-Duddon-107647101649911/

Connect with the group via Facebook or email [email protected]

Climate Emergency West Cumbria (CEWC)

CEWC formed in 2019 when people from different local groups in Allerdale came together to take action on climate change. Its current focus is on the potential opening of a new coal mine near Whitehaven and the group has been campaigning alongside Friends of the Earth to prevent this from being approved. The group has been actively involved in presentations and panel discussions about these issues and has engaged directly with local MPs to get its voice heard. The group havs also been campaigning for Allerdale County Council to declare a climate emergency and, although this was rejected, the group has since been involved with the Allerdale Climate Change Action Plan.

The group is also engaging on topics that can have a positive impact on climate change, such as transport, energy, youth engagement and sustainable food. Projects include the creation of a Cumbria-wide electric bike charging map in partnership with Sustainable Keswick, with 40 chargepoints for cyclists now available. They have also supported Charge my Street’s crowd-funding campaigns for electric vehicle chargepoints in Keswick , Cockermouth and Wigton.

In terms of youth engagement, the group held a number of events as part of Great Big Green Week to support youth action on climate change, took street action and signed petitions for ‘Fridays for a Future’ and has got involved with the national campaign to make climate change education mandatory in primary schools.

Regular meet-ups?  The group meets on the second Wednesday of the month on Zoom.

Connect with the group via Facebook or email [email protected]

Art Gene

Art Gene was formed in 2002 by Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik. It is an artist-led charity whose aim is revisioning the social, natural and built environment we inhabit with a focus on Barrow and Walney Island.

The organisation has been concerned with climate change and sustainability for a number of years and two projects, Allotment Soup and Low Carbon Barrow, focus on these issues in particular. Allotment Soup is linked with Zero Carbon Cumbria and began in 2015 when the charity purchased a brownfield site on the Isle of Walney and, alongside artists and volunteers, turned it into a community growing space. Residents are free to come and harvest the produce, re-paying the charity in kind by carrying out ongoing maintenance of the site, getting involved with supporting Art Gene events and helping out with school visits. Art Gene has also used the site to host events such as ‘Barrow Nightlife’, where the community were invited to camp at the site and take part in activities such as bat walks.

Low Carbon Barrow is a two-year programme in partnership with the local council to deliver a set of low-carbon initiatives and events around Barrow. The project will include a return of Art Gene’s ‘Extreme Views’, which aims to connect with the community on climate issues and inspire positive change. This will be supported by a touring, interactive ‘Bug-out’ demonstration vehicle. The programme also includes a grants scheme that will provide European Regional Development Funding to small to medium-sized businesses, charities and community groups within the borough who want to integrate more sustainable practice into their place of work.

Regular meet-ups? The main way for volunteers to get involved is through the charity’s ‘Field Fridays’. These are held at the allotment site in Barrow and are attended not just by Art Gene, but also organisations such as ‘Cumbria Back on our Map’, which is a South Cumbria species restoration programme, and Natural England. Therefore, there is plenty of scope for volunteers to find something of interest to get involved with.

Connect with the group via their website, www.art-gene.co.uk, email [email protected] or call the office on 01229 825085.