Esther – Sustainable Crediton
Sustainable Habits and Individual Action
“I volunteer for Sustainable Crediton, and I am its treasurer. The group runs various projects,including a community allotment, pollinator group, community larder, and a clothes swap. I first got involved in community volunteering probably at least 10 years ago, doing some plastic collections. I was still working at the time, so I volunteered on Saturdays. We were trying to persuade the mid-Devon District Council to do plastic collections, which they now do instead of us.
In terms of personal benefits, you get to know a lot of people in the community. And I’ve had some lovely things from the clothes swap and eaten a lot of strawberries this week from the allotment…. small benefits like this are really great. Regarding community impact, it brings people together, and provides information about what they can do at an individual level. It gets people thinking about climate change. For instance, the clothes swaps get people thinking about what they’re buying, where they’re buying it, and how much they need… because we know the clothing industry contributes a lot to the climate crisis. This is my main motive for volunteering… encouraging people to adopt sustainable habits and think about how their individual actions can help alleviate the climate crisis.
Of course, at the moment, I also like trying to make people’s lives a bit more comfortable. The allotment, for example, is going to be providing food for people who need it, and the pollinator project has really supported people emotionally. Before and throughout the pandemic we have been planting in our pollinator plots. People really appreciate it and have told us that it has improved their mental wellbeing. You don’t always get feedback for projects, so this was great to hear. We have about 7 or 8 plots in Crediton, and they help to create wildlife corridors. I also personally love gardening and learning about plants. So, I like to be involved in the community and to feel like I’m actually making a difference… both to the community and the climate crisis. I just feel like I want to do my part because the government isn’t.
Motivating volunteers is one of the main challenges, as well as getting to grips with social media. I suppose the two are connected because younger people connect in different ways, so we need younger volunteers to help us to engage with other volunteers via social media. But CAG Devon really came along at the right time, giving us some new ideas about projects that we could be doing, particularly with food waste events such as a compost workshop. These new ideas really help us to take action. The online sessions that they run also help us to stay motivated, especially during lockdown when we couldn’t conduct in person events. One of the sessions which I found particularly useful was about how to look after yourself as a volunteer organiser. Their help with talking about safeguarding doing risk assessments – things that we’re generally not good at – is very beneficial as well. These documents are
really useful when applying for grants and doing fundraising. I also like CAG’s newsletter, and the fact that you can get hold of someone if you have a question or need help with something. Then there is the opportunity for networking; we don’t necessarily take all of the ideas from other organisations on board, but it’s like a comfort blanket… knowing that you aren’t alone, that there are other groups working towards the same goal. I think any outside influence, like CAG, can give you that little extra spark.”