Our 2020 Vision


It’s hard to imagine any emotions that would seem out of place in this extraordinary year. Fear and anxiety about health and employment issues, mainly driven by the pandemic. Admiration and gratitude, for our NHS and care workers in particular, but also for all those public-spirited folk in our local communities who stepped up to help their neighbours in these tough times. Anger and frustration at the short-sightedness of most national governments’ foot-dragging response to the climate and ecological crises.  Excitement and hope as local organisations of all kinds increasingly provide the leadership, big thinking and practical actions needed to tackle these onrushing twin catastrophes.

It’s that last one that inspired the birth of Carbon Copy seven months ago, with the vision to celebrate and accelerate local climate action. Of course, our original launch plans, meticulously sketched out over the winter, were on the compost heap by the end of March! We were luckier than many, because the core of Carbon Copy’s offering is online anyway – a platform where anyone can discover, share and adapt low-carbon initiatives that are working in local communities. We went live on 22 May, quickly sharing exciting success stories from all over the UK provided by local communities, councils and companies on the path to carbon zero.

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock, so I’ve been asking each member of the team at Carbon Copy to take a break for a few minutes and share what their cherished highlights have been during an extraordinarily challenging 2020.

My first encounter at the ‘virtual watercooler’ is with Ric, co-founder and trustee, whose research for his book Civic Revolution gave him the original idea for Carbon Copy, which has been realised, grown and nurtured into reality by our expanding team.

“Of course, it’s been a year of ‘firsts’,” smiles Ric, “but there are definitely some standouts. My favourites are the first time someone shared a project on Carbon Copy (thank you Nicola and the MaidEnergy team); the first guest to write a blog post so we could hear from different voices (thank you Cllr Asher Craig and Bristol City Council); and when our first team member joined Carbon Copy (I’m so glad to have Izzy on board, and Arun too who joined later). Three cheers to everyone who is brave enough to go first!”

More about Izzy and Arun in a minute, because my phone alerts me to a Zoom with Heather, also a trustee and co-founder of Carbon Copy, in which I take the opportunity to ask her the same question.

“We’ve been so lucky with the people who gave us encouragement and confidence right from the get-go,” she observes. “The work began long before our launch, and along that journey there was a very dynamic session in London with Anna Guyer and her agency, Greenhouse PR. It was a welcome validation from experts in the space that what we had been working on had real potential.”  Following that meeting, Greenhouse PR became the first of half a dozen Friends of Carbon Copy – all well-established and dynamic organisations in this field that have given us wise counsel and encouragement.

Greenhouse recommended a series of live launch events, but as we crashed into lockdown, these morphed into an online series about Build Back Better. “Our first event,” recalls Heather, who managed the backroom tech in those first sessions while Ric was hosting, “felt like a huge accomplishment. There was lots of discussion in the chat and a great panel. And the technology worked, which always helps!”

To begin with, we had to seed Carbon Copy with inspiring projects that we found and wrote up ourselves (with permission), but the intention was always for contributors to put up their own stories.  “The first initiative to self-publish on the platform was a huge boost,” remembers Heather. “I can picture where I was when the email came through that someone had submitted a project!” 

Carbon Copy started with the three founding trustees: Ric, Heather and me.  But the work required for a successful launch meant we needed a communications manager and Izzy Sparrow joined the team in early May.  Carbon Copy is all about sharing stories and Izzy is a story-teller.

“Like the rest of the team, I always love it when a new initiative is submitted for publishing, and helping people get their story out is great,” she admits, “but I think my highlight of the year has got to be the Carbon Zero Explorer campaign.”

Carbon Zero Explorer is our interactive map that encourages you to explore different local areas across the country and discover more about councils’ Climate Action Plans, and the current level and sources of carbon emissions district by district.  It’s an easy click-through from there to the many high-impact, low-carbon initiatives published on our site.

“In particular I enjoyed the PR aspect of it,” continues Izzy. “It went even better than I thought it would, and it was lovely to be published by a couple of really high-profile news sites like Edie and LocalGov. We also got a lot of support from our friends – official and unofficial – which added to a bit of a snowball effect on Twitter in particular. It felt great after the stress of pulling it all together that people were not only complimentary, but actively promoting and urging others to take a look.”

Social media sits at the centre of Carbon Copy’s communication and with the impending launch of Carbon Zero Explorer in November, we needed an expert.  His name’s Arun Rajput.  When I ask Arun for his highlights of the year, he is characteristically succinct: “The best thing for me is when people are introduced to a number of solutions on Carbon Copy to the same problem and then seeing them take actions with the resources and skills they have to hand.”

So what about my own best Carbon Copy moments of 2020?  Well, first it’s seeing the way our user population continues to grow steadily, now approaching 5,000 people who have spent time on the site – more than 660 hours since May.  And the other has to be all the encouraging comments we receive from our users and event participants, who themselves have been inspired by what others like you are doing. I’ll conclude this look-back at Carbon Copy in 2020 with just a few of my favourites…

“Practical grass-roots experience – it’s brilliant!”

“Carbon Copy’s support has helped the project cement partners’ commitment and ensure that the project continues.”

“I didn’t know there was a Cycling Mayor in Coventry. I’m going to follow up and publicise this for Birmingham.”

“They’re enthusiastic and knowledgeable and looking at how to get BAME and different social classes into nature.”

“We love Carbon Copy, such great webinars, so well run and inspirational.”

Image: Edi Libedinsky / Unsplash

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