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Write an environmental policy

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01. Background

This factsheet is designed to help you write an environmental policy for your community group or building that will help you protect the environment.

What is an environmental policy?

Even the smallest of community groups or organisations will, to some extent, undertake activities that may cause harm to the environment. An environment policy is a way of a group or organisation acknowledging their environmentally harmful actions or practices, and agreeing to address them in the future. It demonstrates to the rest of the group and the wider community a commitment to protect the environment in a responsible manner. 

An environment policy can identify and rectify wasteful and harmful current practices, and in some cases, can also highlight cost savings/more efficient environmentally friendly ways of working.

Making communities environmentally sensitive plays a vital role in making them sustainable. One function of a sustainable community is to provide places for people to live that are considerate of the environment. An environmental policy is a great starting point for any group serious about creating sustainable communities and doing their duty to protect the environment.

02. Suggested Activities

Any group’s activities and practices can potentially harm the environment, so every group needs an environmental policy that reflects their specific activities and practices.

The following steps can help you consider the damages you may cause on the environment and help assist you to write an effective environmental policy:

Step 1. Identify current group activities that harm the environment.

As a group, think about all the activities that you do that could harm the environment. For example, activities such as your annual summer fete, or the products you buy, or the energy you use to perform activities. Here are some questions to help you with this exercise:

  • Do we use a lot of water?
  • Do we use a lot of energy?
  • Do we travel a lot in cars?
  • Do we create a lot of waste?
  • Do we use land in a damaging way?
  • Do we purchase products that have harmed the environment whilst manufacturing the product, or do any products harm the environment when we use them?

Step 2. Consider actions to minimise harm

Once you have identified any harmful actions, you might like to now consider ways to minimise the damage. Some suggestions include:

Reduce water use

There are things that you as a community group can do to reduce water use. Possible actions include:

  • Check for and rectify any dripping taps or pipes.
  • Examine the toilets in your community building(s) to see if you can install a more efficient flushing system.

For further information on saving water visit the factsheet ‘Use water wisely in your community’.

Use less energy                                                                                                                         

There are things which you as a community group can do to use less energy. Possible actions include:

  • Try putting up posters and stickers to remind people to turn lights off when they leave an empty room.
  • If your group does not own the building in which you meet, you can try to persuade the building managers to implement energy saving measures.
  • It may even be possible to get hold of free low-energy light bulbs or have a professional energy audit carried out.

For more information on saving energy visit the factsheet ‘Save energy in your community’.

Travel by public transport more often                        

There are things that you can do to promote the use of public transport and others modes of non motorised transport issues. Possible actions include:

  • Encourage group members to travel to meetings by bus. To make this as easy as possible for members make bus times available on any leaflets or posters you issue.
  • Make copies of local bus timetables available at all of your meetings.
  • Encourage your members to walk, cycle or to share lifts wherever possible.

For more information on public transport, walking and cycling visit the factsheets ‘Rethink how you travel in your community Part 1′ and ‘Rethink how you travel in your community Part 2’.

Minimise waste and recycle more 

If as a group you create a lot of waste, there are actions that you can take to create less in the future. Possible actions include:                         

  • Recycle all the waste you can (talk to your local authority about possible ways you can recycle waste such as glass, paper and plastics. You might even want to try setting up a simple community recycling collection scheme (for example, for aluminium foil, or tin cans) or local composting scheme.
  • Try to buy products which are not ‘over-packaged’.
  • Try where possible to buy recycled products.
  • Print all documents double-sided.
  • Try to buy local produce, or products that are environmentally friendly or from sustainable sources.

For more information visit the factsheet ‘Encourage recycling in your community’.

Sustainable land management

If as a group you lease or own land, there are actions that you can take to ensure you limit the amount of damage caused to this land and surrounding areas. If your community group is responsible for any land (such as a community garden or allotment) it may be possible to manage it in a more sustainable way. This might include:

  • Reducing or eliminating the use of artificial chemicals used on the land that can build up and harm wildlife and pollute local waterways.
  • Replacing peat-based compost with compost you have made yourself (for more information on composting visit the factsheet ‘Encourage recycling and waste minimisation in your community’) or that is bought from a local source. Peat based compost comes from endangered peat bogs, so by opting to use peat-free, local compost, you are helping to protect endangered peat bogs across the United Kingdom.
  • Composting any weeds or clippings.
  • If there is to be any new planting, consider using local native species to encourage local wildlife.

More information visit the factsheets ‘Encourage wildlife in your community’ or ‘Create a green space in your community’ 

Raising environmental awareness

Raising awareness of sustainability issues amongst your group is vital to the success of any environmental policy. all members of the group must be involved in the development and implementation of the environmental policy from the outset, and should be given the opportunity to voice any concerns which they might have.

For further help promoting sustainability issues visit the factsheet ‘Communicate ideas and information’.

Step 3. Create positive statements                                

Use your list of actions (identified from step 2) to create positive statements that your group will carry out in the future to minimise damage to the environment. These statements will collectively form your environmental policy. Here are some examples.

Efficient use of energy and water

Example statement: ‘This group will respond to the national need to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions to help combat global climate change. It will seek to minimise energy use in every area of its activities including heating and lighting.’

Reduction of transport impacts

Example: ‘This group will seek to reduce its contribution to climate change and traffic congestion.’

Minimisation of waste, maximisation of recycling

Example statement: ‘This group will seek to minimise the amount of waste which it generates. It will also try to promote re-use recycling and composting wherever possible’

Sustainable land management

Example statement: ‘In its management of land, this group will seek to reduce harm on, and take opportunities to enhance, wildlife and the natural environment.’

Raising awareness

Example statement: ‘This group will try to ensure that all of its members are familiar with this policy and get the opportunity to find out more about environmental sustainability issues.’

Other areas                                                                       

Other statements relevant to your group might also include:

Example statement: ‘This group will comply with all appropriate environmental legislation’. 

Depending on your group’s activities you may find that you have to comply with various pieces of English legislation. (You can research this on the internet through various website including the UK Statute Law Database website at www.legislation.gov.uk, or the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at www.defra.gov.uk.)

Alternatively, you might like to contact your local authority’s environment department. They will be able to advise you on all current and relevant legislation relating to your group’s activities.

Example statement: ‘This group commits to continually improving environmental performance’. (It is also important to try and improve environmental performance wherever you can. This may involve agreeing simple targets for specific actions you plan to undertake and monitoring your progress towards these targets on an annual basis.

Once you have agreed and publicised your environment policy – the next challenge is to turn the words into actions.

03. Funding Opportunities

It should not cost money to create an environmental policy, in fact it might, in the long term, save money by helping the group to identify wasteful practices.

Visit the ‘Fundraising’ factsheet for advice on how to write a funding bid, and also the Directory which contains up to date information on current funding opportunities.

04. Useful Contacts

Your local authority’s environment department will be able to provide advice and guidance on creating an environmental policy. Full contact details for your local authority can be found in the Directory.

Other sources of support include:

The Charity Commission looks at Charities and Environmental Responsibility. Visit www.charitycommission.gov.uk/publications/rs17.aspx.

05. Checklist

To help any group write an environmental policy follow these simple steps:

1 Identify current group activities or practices that potentially harm the environment.

2 Identify activities to minimise harmful actions and practices.

3 Create positive statements that will form an environmental policy and help protect the environment.

06. About the Contributor

The information in this factsheet has been written by Durham County Council’s Sustainability Section.

This factsheet is part of the Brighter Futures Together toolkit and provides a general overview of the different ways to get involved in your community. It is not a comprehensive guide or legal advice document. Please seek further advice and appropriate consent before commencing any projects.

The material in the factsheet is not copyrighted however we ask that you acknowledge the Brighter Futures Together toolkit when you use them. www.brighterfuturestogether.co.uk