There’s a growing population of Eco Champions in Pembrokeshire and there’s a huge variety of ways local people are choosing to change how they live especially in terms of what they buy, what they use and what they decide to throw away.

Environmental issues are now at the forefront of everybody’s minds and we’re all becoming aware of the urgency with which we need to reduce our impact on the planet and its precious resources but because these are often such complex and confusing issues, it can be very difficult to decide what are the best things to do. The list of things we could be doing to save the planet is almost endless, but for now the Pembrokeshire Eco Champion project is mostly concerned with encouraging everyone to ‘do their bit’…getting as many people doing the basic things right, leaving as small a footprint as is possible and a clean, green environment for future generations to enjoy.

In January of this year, The Pembrokeshire Eco Champion Project began with the appointment of coordinator Mark Bond, an officer with extensive experience running a number of community engagement and inclusion projects but new to the world of authority Waste and Recycling. The brief of this innovative Leader and PCC match funded project was to establish a network of existing or aspiring Champions within Pembrokeshire – people who sought to share or embrace ways of living more responsibly; affecting change in the ways they buy items; reducing single use plastic; reusing items considered no longer needed; increasing levels of recycling and keeping their communities litter free.

Mark takes up the story: ‘This ‘Attenborough Affect’ has truly got to the hearts and minds of people and, for the most part, there’s a new found desire to implement positive changes that will save and repair the natural environment and reduce our strain on the planet’s resources. The Pembrokeshire Eco Champion project’s aims are simple: To celebrate those among us already doing great things locally and to offer advice and encouragement to those who want to do great things…but just haven’t started yet.’

‘In recent years people have optimistically recycled things via their orange bags and a great deal of guesswork has been involved…maybe due to items claiming they can be recycled but currently not collected by the authority, or maybe because at that moment different authorities recycled different things.’

This is about to change for the better. Welsh Government recently unveiled a National Blueprint encouraging and offering huge incentives for authorities to do the same things as each other. A number of other authorities have now embraced this improved ‘Kerbside Collection’ service and in October 2019 Pembrokeshire will join them.

‘There are some significant and hugely exciting recycling opportunities coming to Pembrokeshire this year and I firmly believe that my Eco Champions will prove a vital part in disseminating information and education relating to that, so people can embrace the improvements the way they should and the county can achieve the recycling targets laid out before us.’

‘I read and hear a great deal about these changes…and sadly the story has been flipped on its head. The first thing people read is the sensational headline linked to ‘Black Bag/Residual waste collections being squeezed from fortnightly to three-weekly’…the absolute hard fact and reality is that what is about to arrive are huge improvements…additional opportunities to recycle a great deal more than ever before – so in the end, there really is very little left to go in the black bags so they CAN be collected less often. It’s a new outlook and perspective that’s needed here! I’m new to Waste and Recycling service and I can state hand-on-heart that these changes are great! We shouldn’t be apologising for them, we should be shouting it from the rooftops….in fact, that’s exactly what my Eco Champions are doing!’

‘For those who might need that extra bit of convincing; inspiration or support, Mark has developed The Pembrokeshire Eco Champion Challenge – a series of nine different criteria that anyone can meet in order to consider themselves a Champion. The criteria, which together spell out the word ‘CHAMPIONS’ invite people of all ages and levels of understanding to engage with tasks that Campaign, Help, Affect, Mend, Participate, Inform, Organise, Network and Share. These criteria are not fixed, there is no strict marking system – simply a hope that people will attempt to incorporate some if not all of these changes in their lives.

The Campaign task promotes existing initiatives such as Community Fridges, Plastic Free Communities, The Refill Network, the 2 minute Beach & Street Cleans and a few others. The Help task is all about assisting other people with their domestic recycling. The Affect task is about removing or identifying alternative products to the ones we currently buy that are heavily packaged, plastic, non-recyclable or just wasteful. The Mend task is about identifying items that were considered broken and due to be discarded and fixing them! The Pembrokeshire Eco Champion has teamed up with the wonderful people at The Pembrokeshire Remakery to offer workshops and Repair Café’s where people can go to learn how to diagnose and mend items once destined for landfill. The Participate task requires people to join or hold community beach cleans or litter picks in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy. The Inform and Organise tasks invite people to spread messages linked to Waste and Recycling to others in their community and the Network and Share tasks aim to bring aspiring Champions together to assist with each other’s tasks – thus strengthening the wider Pembrokeshire network’.

‘We’re delighted to have forged some strong links with The Bluestone National Park Resort who have kindly gifted a number of incentives to people involved in the Eco Champions Project. All Champions receive a commemorative wooden coaster to recognise their efforts – and this coaster doubles as entry to a prize draw for a Bluestone family break. The Pembrokeshire Eco Champion Trail exists as another brilliant resource to help people understand ways they can Reduce, Reuse & Recycle in their homes. Installed in the woodland around Scolton Manor and also as a portable version that can be hosted by communities around the county, the Eco Trail consists of a series of wooden boards containing QR Codes linked to web pages holding vital information and clues to complete it. Each month, those who successfully complete the Eco Trail will be entered into a Prize draw for a Family Blue Lagoon Ticket courtesy of our friends at Bluestone. 

There’s a whole lot of stuff happening with this project and so far the response has been outstanding. It proves people want to make positive changes in their lives….those that know how are already doing just that, and those who needs ideas are actively seeking them. The media is full of horrific scenes and stories linked to impending climate disaster and the state of our planet and there’s a lot of people seeking out who is to blame in my experience, you get more change when people take personal responsibility for the things they can change and by celebrating the things that are being done – eventually everyone will fall in line and do the right thing – or in this case do their bit.’

If you’re an Eco Champion, let us know! If you know someone who is, tell us about them! If you want to be an Eco Champion but not sure how, sign up to our Pembrokeshire Eco Champion Challenge. Visit our ‘Pembrokeshire Eco Champion’ Facebook page or www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/eco-champions 

Email Mark at ecochampions@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or call him on 07771 843113.

 

Please share with your network!