A year in lockdown – reflections of a CAG Devon group
Covid19 restrictions have forced us all to review how we live, work and volunteer. One year on from the first lockdown, Vanessa and Dave from Dawlish Against Plastic reflect on how they have, as a group, adapted and flexed around some of the challenges, achieving successes with new ways of working and communicating which they may well continue with, in the “new normal”.
“Looking back over the past year since the first lockdown began, it would initially be easy to think that our achievements have been few and we must acknowledge that our group’s wings have been somewhat clipped.
Circumstances have pushed us all into finding alternative ways of doing things and of course the online meeting, conference, workshop, and webinar have all emerged as alternative means of keeping our contacts, assimilating new learning, and moving ideas forward.
Through Zoom the group has managed to regularly meet and make decisions, such as cancelling the first Go Green Fest which had been planned for July. We were very reluctant to do this after so many hours planning it, but we were delighted to rescue our Children’s writing competition. Young people were invited to write and illustrate a story entitled ‘Caring for Our Planet’. Despite all the limitations, schools took up the challenge and encouraged pupils and students to have a go. Entries were judged by children’s author Ellie Jackson and prizes were awarded at a special Zoom prize giving by Dawlish Mayor Alison Foden.
Teignbridge District Council holds a Sports and Community Awards presentation each year and we were thrilled to be among the finalists in the category of Green Champions, the first year that this category had been included. The presentation was delayed but did finally happen virtually in December; the ceremony can still be viewed on YouTube*. Although we were not winners, we were thrilled to be recognised as finalists, as there was stiff competition in the category.
A film entitled ‘The Story of Plastic’ was released during the year and we were pleased to able to publicise a first showing by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and subsequently show it again by contacting people through our growing Facebook audience.
We continue to work with SAS to promote their Plastic Free Champions campaign to local businesses, one of which has recently gained the award.
In June we were able to join in with the Climate Coalition virtual lobby and two of us were part of a zoom meeting with our MP Anne Marie Morris who kindly met with us and other local Teignbridge groups with an interest in climate change to answer our questions and listen to the points we made. Later, it was confirmed that she had signed the Climate Coalition Declaration. This was great news as in other parts of the country groups had much less success with their lobbying and a significant number of MPs refused to meet with them.
In Dawlish, we contributed to the town council’s Climate Working Party draft strategy document and now attend its meetings.
We also submit a monthly press article for publication in the Dawlish Gazette. A wide range of topics has been covered such as air quality, climate, biodiversity, single use plastics, a cleaner greener economy, fossil fuels and plastic, the circular economy, and our seven-year-old Dawlish Against Plastic youth ambassador, Katherine, whose videos have proved to be an online hit!
Through determination to ensure that our beach cleans continued in some form, we liaised with Teignbridge District Council and CAG Devon, who helped us to draw up new guidelines and a risk assessment for Covid-secure beach cleans. Our socially distanced, Covid-secure beach cleans have continued when possible during the year and we have been very well supported by CAG Devon, who also provide our insurance. We also set up a beach clean club, enabling people to beach clean independently, borrowing our equipment.
As for the ‘new normal’ after lockdown, we are promoting healthy, low impact tourism and leisure activities by offering the local ramblers’ booklet, “25 walks around Teignmouth & Dawlish” free to local businesses and the library to give out to residents and tourists alike. The booklets normally retail at between £2.50 and £3.50 so we applied for a grant from a local councillor’s Community Fund to be able to offer them for nothing.
We are now looking forward to planning more events and continue to push home our environmental message whenever we get the opportunity. We also have our sights on our first Go Green Fest for 2022.”
*The Youtube video of the Teignbridge Awards can be viewed here. Green Champion award starts at 12 mins. Three CAG Devon groups – Dawlish Against Plastic, Plastic Free Newton Abbot and Sustainable Bishop were all finalists.