Transition Bro Gwaun's story
Our many projects have helped make the most of resources, minimise the use of carbon fuels and harness renewable energy. We’ve worked with a wide range of local organisations including schools and youth groups, our local theatre, music and arts groups, the Women’s Institute and the Round Table, our Town and County councils, local churches and chapels, Sea Trust and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the community police team, and we have a stall at our local Farmers Market. We draw volunteers from a wide cross section of our community and deliver creative ideas that others often consider impossible.
A major project is our 225kw community wind turbine, which was set up with support from the Welsh Government’s community renewables programme, Ynni’r Fro, and in partnership with Parc-y-Morfa Farms Ltd. The wind turbine was funded using loans of just under £300,000 from members of our community and has been producing renewable energy for the past seven years. Having repaid the majority of the establishment loans we are now using the income that the turbine generates to give grants, through our Community Climate Fund, to help other local groups set up practical climate action projects.
Circular economy and waste reduction projects are an important focus for us. We ran a community café and a community fridge, making use of food that would otherwise go to waste. The food is donated by registered food businesses or members of the public and is available to anyone in the community that can make use of it.
A group of us have recently worked with the Paul Sartori Foundation on a project to find ways of reducing the huge amount of clothing waste – textiles contribute to 80% of all landfill and the throw-away fashion industry accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions. Our volunteers repair and upcycle clothing and textiles and remake them into beautiful new items. They also run a Repair Café and tuition sessions, showing people not only how to repair their clothes but how to remake new items from old.
Also important to us has been taking our message out into the community in a fun way. Our Creative Climate Communication project took interactive theatre, comedy, song, storytelling, and craft activities to community events and produced a street mural with local schoolchildren.
We also provide advice and information through our website and publications, and by working with Renew Wales, we host mentors who provide support and inspiration to other groups helping them to progress their own ideas.
Useful learnings from Transition Bro Gwaun
Our Surplus food, Wastebusting and Growing projects have all worked well. Key factors to the success are:
• They focus on activities which have a wide appeal - cooking, sewing, crafting, gardening;
• They demonstrate easy, practical ways for taking climate action;
• They can help people save money, and;
• They generally continue when grant funding is not available by relying on sharing, repairing, gifting and volunteering rather than monetary income.
Our Wind Turbine faced some early local opposition and we initially had the planning application turned down, but we went to appeal and won. Factors key to its success included:
• A committed group of volunteers;
• Welsh Government development grant aid and development officer advice;
• TBG’s previous record on low carbon projects which gave assurance to the community
• A viable business model attractive to local lenders;
• The mutual benefit of the joint venture with a local farmer, and;
• TBG’s commitment to the community that, once loans were repaid, income would be used to fund more local climate action projects.
Our other renewable energy projects, which could have resulted in a much bigger contribution to ‘clean’ energy, presented greater challenges. TBG secured funding to research a tidal flow generation scheme and a community renewable generation, storage, and distribution project. But despite much detailed work, the present regulatory framework meant we were unable to find ways of assuring these two projects would be financially viable in the short term, nor were we confident that government support would continue to be available. The complexity of application processes and monitoring requirements have become increasingly onerous for community initiatives so sadly we’ve put these projects on hold, hoping that they may, in the future, become viable.
But it was our Creative Climate Conversation activities that reached out to people not previously engaged in climate action. Some people were quite negative, even hostile to the idea of having climate activities at community events, ‘because they’re not appropriate for family fun days’. But others found them entertaining, thought provoking and particularly liked those that were humorous and fun.
Offering grants through our Climate Community Fund is also engaging us with a wider range of community groups – youth groups, sports groups, and gardening groups - who are working with us to develop their own climate and nature projects. So, we’d recommend finding creative ways to Reach out into places where people regularly come together but may not, as yet, be focussed on climate issues, and to take ideas and strategies for climate action to other community groups.