Where do we look for hope? It is right here, in your own back yard.
At Sustainable Liverpool, we try to think small. The world can seem an overwhelmingly scary and relentlessly bad place if we spend too much time reading the mainstream media and looking at things on a global scale.
While it is necessary to remain mindful of our place in the grander scheme of things, too much of this type of thinking can lead to a sort of paralysis; it is all so big and all so overwhelming, what can little old me, on my own, do about anything?
Well actually, little old you can do an awful lot. When you look at what is right in front of you, you begin to realise that there are plenty of organisations doing amazing things. You are not on your own. Grassroots organisations are doing incredible things in Liverpool. The same things are happening all over the country, and all over the world.
Suddenly, the Big Picture doesn’t look as scary after all.
Since we started attending Transition Liverpool meetings six months ago, we have learned a lot about our city, and all of it has been, well, bloody wonderful. April’s meeting was no exception.
The theme of the night was What to do about Peak Stuff. We have so many things, and we live in a society that actively encourages the consumption of even more stuff. The aspirational lifestyle sold in the media means that you have a whole lot of people buying a whole bunch of crap that they don’t need. Secondly, a lot of that stuff is of increasingly poor quality, which means that it can quickly break, so we have to buy replacements. This is great for the continuation of a capitalist system, but in terms of our environment, and our own financial well-being, it is a destructive, damaging and unsustainable cycle.
The speakers for the evening were a number of groups whose work involves ways around this wasteful situation. The projects turned out to be about much more than reducing waste; in fact, each of them is making an impact in a number of areas that Sustainable Liverpool is concerned about. So, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, we are going to build links with our new friends, and work together.
DoES Liverpool is a maker and hotdesking space in the heart of Liverpool City Centre, offering a place where anyone can come and work. They offer support on a wild array of things from textiles and art through to 3d printing, laser cutting and electronics. They are a not-for-profit organisation who hold regular free sessions on a wide range of disciplines. If you have something you want fixed, or there is a skill you would like to learn, chances are that DoES can help you out.
Total Reuse started out diverting reusable items from landfill and making them available to low or no income families, charities, community groups and good causes. Essentially, they started out with the idea that nothing is not useful – if it can’t be fixed, it can be repurposed. They recently grabbed 50,000 books from University of Liverpool that were destined for the skip and are talking to University of Sheffield about making them into a bar for the student union.
If that wasn’t enough, they also run The Tool Shed. Many older men lead very lonely lives through retirement, redundancy, divorce and other issues. The Tool Shed supports its members to reengage with life through artisan craft. They currently have five such groups throughout the North West. Projects have included creating furniture for businesses such as Leaf Cafe on Bold St (yep, those amazing trestle tables!).
We could go on, and on, and on about the brilliant initiatives and ideas that were buzzing around Transition this week. However, we will resist the temptation and just go with one more.
Another thing that has been happening right under our noses, that we had no clue about – Emmaus Merseyside. Part of a wider UK Charity, they are a charity superstore, participation garden and food-growing group that provide employment and accommodation to 28 formerly homeless people. Each companion has their own room, as well as access to communal dining, catering and training facilities.
Everyone living in the Emmaus community works in their social enterprise, at one of three charity stores across Merseyside. The main superstore, a large, former joinery workshop, sells good quality second-hand furniture, household goods and other items. All of the money generated from their social enterprises is re-invested to support formerly homeless people living there.
Sustainable Liverpool started to try and combat homelessness, support the transition to a less wasteful society with more awareness of the impact we have on our environment. We started because we were worried that no-one was doing anything about these problems, and instead of getting overwhelmed with dread, we started trying to make a difference.
The more people we speak to, the more we realise that there a actually a lot of groups out there, doing great work. We realise that we are not on our own. We are part of a growing movement of wonderful projects; reasons to be cheerful.