Written by Carolyn Hair – writer of Culture Darling.
What do Bristol, Brussels, Glasgow, and Ljubljana have in common? They’re all in the running for European Green Capital 2015 awarded to a city on its environmental performance and capacity to inspire. Congratulations to all the cities, but only one has its own local currency and only one has you… (We’re secretly confident.)
So just what would winning mean for Bristol? Darren Hall, Manager of Bristol’s Green Capital Bid, told me that it would put green issues into the mainstream: “Inward investment and green jobs is a tangible thing, but it will also be a call for collaboration, to get green groups to work together more and bring some new people to the table.”
Building a more sustainable Bristol is what makes us tick, so we were pleased to hear that the Bristol Pound played a prominent role in helping the city make the shortlist. For Darren (who puts his £B where his mouth is): “It’s part of the vibrant bottom-up culture of Bristol that gets us noticed… Bristol Pound is one of the projects that attracted world-wide attention. It’s innovative, exciting and challenging the status quo – and demonstrates our ability to work in different ways, showing top-class leadership.”
This innovative, forward-thinking spirit, which makes things happen, is central to the bid. Our independent streak was evident when Bristol opted for a directly-elected mayor, and the combination of top-down investment with grassroots activity gives Bristol a competitive edge. Darren Hall again: “We have some of the best stories in Europe to tell about how to do things from a bottom-up perspective –Europe is in a recession, and Bristol has achieved amazing green things with very little major investment. George (Ferguson) is now bringing much bigger investment to the green agenda – so we can do the top-down and bottom-up.”
Active local food movements, such as our Farm Link Initiative and community-led energy cooperatives and schemes, like Switch and Save, are already happening across Bristol, and you can spend your Bristol Pounds in businesses with sustainability at their core, such as Poco. Darren went on to tell me how Bristol’s very own currency helps us to work towards a more sustainable future: “It really helps in two ways – directly supporting the local economy, but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, helping people understand some of the issues about consumerism, globalism and where their money goes.”
Another innovative project which helps to inform people about greening the city is Future Bristol 2050, launched by Dr Rose Bailey (UWE) stemming from her PhD research, and part of the engagement strategy for the Green Capital Bid. She set out two possible low carbon futures for Bristol – broadly, X is based on being a major player in the global market, whereas Y is more about re-localisation from food to jobs – you could say “more Bristol Pound”. The website is interactive and allows you to have your say on Bristol’s future, so why not head over there and stand up for the local? Dr Bailey hopes that winning the bid will bring high-profile green projects to the city (that we may have missed out on to London) and be “a springboard for all sorts of activities, and an acknowledgement of the passion, independent nature and strong grassroots in Bristol.”
Sustainable solutions are also evident in the buildings where we work and play. Take At-Bristol, the first attraction to sign up to the Bristol Pound, and one of the UK’s most sustainable buildings, winning several awards for its outstanding achievements.
Chris Dunford, At-Bristol’s Sustainability Manager said: “Just as everyone should be, we’re trying to lead the way with our own efforts for a more sustainable way of working; taking responsibility for our water, waste, energy and procurement.”
You can get involved by taking part in their behind-the-scenes events and workshops, and of course spend your Bristol Pounds. Chris continued on the benefits of our local currency: “Supporting the local economy, people and environment fits well with our sustainable aims, and as a key player in Bristol it is important that we work together to support an initiative which champions the local economy by utilising more local jobs, skills base and using less transport. It’s going really well – we’ve had great feedback from customers using the scheme. It’s fantastically well set up, and very easy to use, so we’re very happy to be a part of it.”
The nomination for Green Capital is certainly a huge endorsement of the way the city is working towards a sustainable future, whether council or community-led. An independent panel of experts has already monitored the four finalists on 12 key criteria, ranging from climate change to energy consumption. The next challenge for Bristol is to present its green vision to the Jury in Brussels on 24 May. Bristol has made the shortlist three times, just missing out to Copenhagen last time round. The winner will be announced on 14 June in the current Green Capital, Nantes in France. Let’s hope it is third time lucky…
Show your love for Bristol and back the bid
All of you, and the inspiring, good, green work happening across Bristol has brought the city this far. But now Brizzle needs your help to spread the word:
– Share your green stories on the Back the Bid website.
– Or email: [email protected]