Sawbridgeworth mayor aims to champion green agenda for 2021
Little changes people make in their lives can see Sawbridgeworth achieve real results in terms of sustainability this year, according to its mayor and green champion.
Cllr Annelise Furnace, who was appointed to the role after a recommendation from the town's first eco audit report, is optimistic that residents can make a difference and outlined initiatives the town council had taken.
"On September 30, 2019 the town council declared that it would ensure its own carbon footprint is minimised as much as possible and to support local action groups and businesses which support recycling," said Cllr Furnace.
"We brought in an independent consultant to produce an eco audit report (Acorns Eco-Audits) in January 2020 which identified 10 actions focusing on the council, which we are working through."
Those actions include the council adapting the heating and air conditioning of its buildings and exploring solar panel installation. Staff have also been made fully aware of the council's green agenda.
Cllr Furnace, a Liberal Democrat, added that as part of making the town's outside spaces more biodiverse, a meadow mixture of seeds was sown at Sawbridgeworth Cemetery at Three Mile Pond in the autumn, which she said would pay dividends in spring.
"We want to develop an action plan in conjunction with the local community on how to achieve a zero carbon Sawbridgeworth," she said.
"Local residents and groups will be instrumental in this and it's fantastic to see how much enthusiasm there is for change, and the great ideas being put forward by individuals and organisations."
She said the town council had a strong role to play in encouraging people to work together on specific projects and an eco audit working group was made up of residents as well as councillors.
"There's such a powerful appetite to transform how we live, making those little differences in our own lives such as buying loose vegetables instead of those in a plastic bag, or giving ourselves an extra five minutes to walk instead of taking the car if we can," added Cllr Furnace.
"We also need to push our institutions and to work with businesses and schools to encourage their moves towards zero carbon emissions."
Fellow town councillor and Independent David Royle, who is on the council's eco audit working group, supported Cllr Furnace's views but was critical of the lack of sustainability of new housing developments in the town.
He said he was hoping for change with a review of East Herts Council's District Plan, plus a planning White Paper, but admitted it was too late for the town's developments, which will see 600 homes built.
"I would like to see the focus shift to monitoring build quality and the impact of the new developments in terms of air quality, with real improvements to walking/cycling opportunities," said Cllr Royle.
Cllr Furnace believes Covid-19 offers an opportunity for change as it reminds people "what we have on our own doorsteps" and in turn reducing the number of car journeys. She said that might help people value quality over quantity in their shopping habits.
She said she was shocked that a family of four is said to produce over 45 tons of carbon in a year, of which 16 tons is down to general consumerism.
Cllr Furnace added: "I look forward to 2021 as the year when we, in the words of Greta Thunberg, 'prioritise the action that needs to be taken right here and right now'."