Sustainable Overton is a team of volunteers working together in the Hampshire village of Overton to combat climate change. We began our work in 2019 when a villager approached the Parish Council and asked to declare a climate emergency. This inspired us to explore ways to positively impact climate change and our community. We’ve now grown to nearly 50 volunteers, and our team is split across several key areas and projects, including energy, transport, environment, and waste reduction.
Energy is a key area for Sustainable Overton and this includes community renewables. We have now launched Test Source Community Energy – a registered cooperative – that aims to develop, own, and facilitate renewable energy installation in Overton and the surrounding areas. We received a feasibility grant from the Rural Community Energy Fund in November 2020 and are investigating five potential sites for solar PV installation. If we can successfully crowdfund the project, we will be able to generate enough energy to power 100 houses for a year.
We are also working with the local community to increase awareness around energy costs and supply. It’s a complex area and our local Energy Champions engage with people to ensure they are accessing affordable and (where possible) green energy. These Champions provide advice on everything from energy tariffs to insulation and accessing government grants, using thermal imaging to show people just how much heat they are losing from their homes.
Sustainable Overton oversees a huge range of projects from a disposable nappy library and repair cafe to community gardening and walking to school schemes. One of our most successful projects has been The Overton Cup – which received national press coverage – and saw us replace all disposable cups with reusable cups that can be used across businesses in our high street for a £1 deposit. These small changes add up and can change how people across our community think about sustainability, climate change, and carbon reduction.
We couldn’t do what we do without the help of a small army of volunteers and supporters of all ages and backgrounds who donate their skills and time to deliver not only the projects we support but also the infrastructure around them. We were very lucky to have a designer who created our brand, someone who built our website, an energy professional, and people who were able to look after our social media accounts on our team.
The message we get from villagers is please make it easy and please help us to save money, and this ethos guides the work we do. We continue to look for opportunities to reduce waste, support the local environment, and decarbonise our community, and can’t wait to see where we go from here.
Research. Research. Research. –We’ve learned lots from Community Energy South, Community Energy England, the Energy Hub, local authorities, and many other related initiatives and schemes. Use all the resources out there to understand what you are trying to achieve and the best way to make it happen.
Explore our approach – If you visit www.sustainableoverton.org.uk you will find two useful toolkits – one on how to set up an energy project with the RCEF grant and one on setting up a community climate change group.
Keep volunteers happy and engaged – We use WhatsApp groups, meetings in the pub, Zoom, and other forms of contact to share information. It’s also important to have clear agendas for meetings and to ensure everyone knows what they are doing.