Community group starts small on the big issues

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Tackling global issues like climate change and peak oil may seem a daunting prospect to some but, for one community group in Bury St Edmunds, it is all about starting small.

Inspired by Transition Towns, a grassroots network of communities that are working to build resilience to such things, Sustainable Bury was officially launched in November last year.

Swap shop at the St Johns Centre in Bury St Edmunds.

Swap shop at the St Johns Centre in Bury St Edmunds.

Karen Cannard, group member and recycling campaigner, said: “For me, what it’s all about is an umbrella community project for anybody who wants to get things happening to have the group support behind them and be able to share knowledge and skills and get those projects off the ground and, hopefully, as we learn together we’ll find avenues for funding.”

A swap shop, which took place in the town on Saturday, is the first in a series of ideas the action group has had to help cut waste in the area.

Visitors to the Centre in St John’s Street brought crockery, clothes, books and toys, even unwanted Christmas presents, still in their original boxes, to exchange with other goods at the event.

Shopper Inga Palmer, 38, from Bury, said: “It’s a brilliant idea, recycling at its best.”

Swap shop at the St Johns Centre in Bury St Edmunds.

Swap shop at the St Johns Centre in Bury St Edmunds.

Member Pippa Judd said: “I think there’s a misconception that being green means buying expensive organic products, but it can actually mean living a lot cheaper when you’re talking about swap shops and encouraging people to grow their own food.”

Ms Judd, a trained counsellor, added: “I really believe that, for people’s wellbeing, having community events that bring people together and look at how we can cope together is really important.”

The swap shop proved such a hit that another is already being organised for April but, if swapping goods is not your thing, there are plenty more projects being discussed that you could get involved in.

Member Sara Rae, a keen gardener and a trustee of Suffolk Organic Gardens, is keen to set up a land-sharing scheme, whereby people who have unmanageable gardens are able to share that resource with others who have the ambition to grow food but do not have the space.

“Obviously the more food we can grow locally, the less reliant we are on vehicles to get it to us,” she said.

The mother-of-three would also like to introduce events like apple days to help tackle the issue of surplus food.

The idea would be for anyone with a surplus of apples to have their fruit pressed at the event in order to produce juice.

For Mrs Cannard, innovation competitions are a way of encouraging people to get creative with their junk while, for member Fiona Strachan, community gardening is the focus, with excitement mounting over the possibility of setting up a non-profit community vegetable box scheme.

Stressing the importance of Sustainable Bury, Ms Strachan said: “I think in the future, with rising fuel prices and the challenges of climate change and rising populations, it’s going to get harder and harder to get enough resources to go around because we’re consuming too much. We need to get to a place where we’re looking to local solutions and, if we don’t look at it now, crisis will hit.”

To find out more, or to get in touch with the group, visit