Review of the Climate Challenge Fund - Appendix C: Case Studies Report

This report reviews the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), a Scottish Government scheme that supports communities to take action to address climate change.

Concrete Garden: Growing Together

Project value High (£130,295 - £450,000)
Duration Three years
Refresh Elements Broaden: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation bottom 30%
Topic(s) Food, Waste (Recycling)

Project Details

Background to group

Initiated as part of a larger Glasgow-wide initiative (Sow and Grow Everywhere), the Concrete Garden urban food growing project commenced in June 2010. The actual concrete garden - so called because it consists of planters and other food growing equipment set up upon the concrete foundation slab of a demolished industrial building - is situated and services the community of Possilpark in north Glasgow. Concrete Garden is an inclusive project; anyone regardless of social, cultural or economic background or nationality can become a contributor to the project and participate in workshops, training and food growing activities. The project encourages the advancement of citizenship and community development and the provision of recreational facilities with the object of improving the conditions of life of community members. Moreover, it seeks to advance environmental protection and improvement and education for all people.

Reasons for project and inspiration

Concrete Garden was established with the intention of introducing food growing to a low income neighbourhood. Local food production is recognised as having the potential to make a significant impact on the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and food waste compared with conventional food production methods. Shortly after the launch of the project the demand for growing plots outstripped supply. Thus, following a consultation and data gathering exercise with the local community to determine attitudes and priorities relating to food, food waste and clothing reuse, the Concrete Garden project applied for CCF funding as 'Concrete Garden: Growing Together' (CGGT). The project appealed to the broaden refresh theme; CGGT is a group whose community features in the bottom 30% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Aims and approach

The CGGT project aimed to deliver meaningful changes in CO2 emissions produced by the Possilpark community. Moreover, it sought to improve mental wellbeing among contributing community members through informal socialising and the sharing of ideas. The project aims were to be met by measures including: creating additional growing space; developing a range of social horticultural workshops and climate change education opportunities; implementing a local domestic food waste collection scheme to produce compost; and promoting 'green gym' activities to improve both physical and mental health. It was intended that a system to monitor and collect data would show that changes were being delivered through the project. The project was delivered by a project coordinator, project workers and volunteers.

Achieving Behaviour Change

The target audience for the project were members of the Possilpark community (although the attractive nature of the project drew in people from outside the locality to participate). Some of these individuals had challenging personal circumstances.

A summary of the project activities, measures and behaviour change findings arranged in terms of ISM contexts is as follows.


  • The focus of project activities was on food, food waste, etc. rather than climate change (fuel and food poverty are more pressing issues in deprived communities), although an interest in climate change arose among some community members as a result of engaging in food growing activity.
  • Workshops and training sessions encouraged community members to grow their own food (which can also be done at home) and reduce food costs, and induced a sense of satisfaction / wellbeing.


  • The project contributors educate other members of the community (and encourage participation) and help to break down involvement prejudices and barriers; project helps to create community cohesion.
  • Holding community events and contributing to the events of other groups serves to establish networks and facilitates the sharing of behaviour change experiences and best practice.


  • The project developed and enhanced existing food growing capacity through increase in number of planters, etc., to create an enduring community asset; facilities were enhanced to facilitate domestic food waste composting.
  • Clothes swapping (encouraging the reuse of clothes rather than new purchases) proved to be popular, with approximately 650kg of clothes being exchanged over the project duration.

Successes and Benefits

Project development and delivery

During the implementation of the CGGT project, members of the project team acquired experience of project management and administration far removed from that accrued in previous Concrete Garden initiates. Although a steep learning curve, skills developed during the project prepared the team for undertaking similar future projects (e.g. a commissioned service level agreement partnership with the NHS to create a new food growing space on a different site).

Project delivery mainly concentrated on the benefits associated with local food production (e.g. healthy, fresh food) and wellbeing (e.g. social activities). But even ostensibly small project measures to address climate change had impact. Chickens kept onsite produced eggs and manure for composting. The chickens were also found to have had unanticipated therapeutic benefits. One project contributor noted, "The highpoint for me is the chickens … it's uplifting having animals around - the chickens are great fun".


In order to gather information on the 'softer' community outcomes of the project (e.g. improving mental wellbeing), an independent consultant was engaged to conduct an 'Appreciative Inquiry' (AI), an approach for the analysis of change. The AI process involves 4 stages (i.e. discovery, dream, design, and destiny - the 4-D cycle) and was applied to the project aspects of people, empowerment, health and wellbeing, learning and participation. Through applying AI, project themes emerged. Establishing new relationships had led to a greater sense of place and companionship among project contributors. Activities had served to increase agency and improve self-esteem and physical fitness, especially among those with health or addiction recovery issues. Practical skills (e.g. organic gardening, cooking) were acquired through participation, leading in some cases to increased opportunities for paid employment and training elsewhere.

Wider benefits

Over the duration of the project the concrete garden site hosted a number of outreach events (e.g. Federations of City Farms and Gardens networking event). Moreover, the project has contributed to events run by other organisations (e.g. an Environment Day held in Maryhill). Such events have allowed Concrete Gardens to promote its message to an audience beyond the locality of Possilpark and, in turn, understand and be influenced by the activities of projects with similar aims.

Carbon Calculations

Carbon calculations focused on savings made as a result of five main project activities, namely food growing, avoiding food miles, reducing food waste, reusing rubber tyres (as planters and barriers/walls) and clothes swapping/reuse. All food grown in the concrete garden was weighed, and average emission factors were applied to determine CO2 emission savings made compared with baseline conditions. Calculations associated with avoiding food miles focused on eggs produced by the ex-battery hens living on the site. The monitoring and evaluation of food waste (brought from the homes of project contributors to the site for composting) was difficult. However a sensible estimate of the food waste avoided during cookery classes run by the project allowed for tangible CO2 emission savings to be determined. Overall, CO2 emissions were reduced by approximately 140 tonnes over the 3 year duration of the project. Lifetime (up to 15 years) reductions were estimated to be approximately 1760 tonnes.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

Project development

An initial lack of experience on the part of project team members in relation to calculating CO2 emission reductions made completing that part of the CCF funding application very difficult. In particular, a conscious decision was made to keep the scope of the project to mostly addressing issues associated with food and food waste. An insufficient knowledge of how to work out CO2 emission reduction estimates in other areas (e.g. active travel) limited ambition to make greater CO2 emission savings. However, experience of performing the calculations on the project has raised the possibility of addressing other climate change related behaviours on future project endeavours.


Food yields (and associated CO2 emission savings) were subject to weather conditions during growing seasons, with different fruits and vegetable responding badly (or well) to wet or dry states. A home food waste collection service was initiated by the local authority during the project period. While this served to reduce the CO2 footprint of the Possilpark community, it impacted adversely on the ability of the project to meet composting targets.

Legacy / Looking Forward

The project has created a legacy of physical assets. In addition to food growing spaces/capacity, it has in partnership with architecture students from the Glasgow School of Art committed to develop a sustainable building - The Bothy - on the project site. This development has given community members insight into the architectural / construction process and will provide a base for ongoing Concrete Garden activities.

Moreover, Concrete Garden will use the experience developed on the CGG project to deliver mentoring support and community-based learning in small-scale urban food production, and project development to groups wishing to develop their own growing spaces.



Email: Debbie Sagar

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