R U Up 4 It? - RoWAN (Ross-shire Waste Action Network)
|Project value||High (£130,295 - £450,000)|
|Refresh Elements||Deepen: Mature groups, previously funded by CCF|
Background to the group
RoWAN (Ross-shire Waste Action Network) is a local, grass-roots organisation working towards zero waste. They work on a number of waste reduction projects with audiences including householders, schools and businesses. Established in 2000, the organisation comprises five board members and, currently, 1.5 staff plus a contract worker. Two project workers ran the R U Up 4 It project and worked to raise awareness of the waste issue and promote sustainable waste management.
Reasons for the project and inspiration
'R U Up 4 It?' was a Junior CCF (JCCF) food waste reduction project borne from a previous CCF project 'Eat It', which worked with schools to reduce waste. It met the deepen refresh theme, building on the success of 'Eat It' and expanding to cover more schools and households in Ross-shire. This was a standalone project exclusively funded by CCF. However it ran alongside other initiatives funded by other organisations.
Aims and approach
The main purpose of 'R U Up 4 It?' was to increase the community's awareness of climate change, reduce food waste and encourage them to compost and grow more. The proposed outcomes were to reduce community lifetime carbon emissions by reducing waste going to landfill, growing more food at home, increasing teenage community members' involvement in volunteering activities by 5% over the life of the project and reducing the annual food bill of the average household involved in the project by £130 over the life of the project.
Achieving Behaviour Change
The project's target audiences included school children and staff, uniformed groups such as Brownies and Scout groups, teenagers and householders. Teenagers and householders were the most challenging of the groups to engage with. The most successful route for engaging with householders was through the schools, which were on the whole easy to work with, particularly if there were teachers who were passionate about the environment. However there were instances where some schools experienced staffing problems and as a result their focus was elsewhere. This made delivery of the project in these schools very challenging.
The main approach to engaging householders was to promote the message that growing your own food and introducing waste saving tips could reduce food bills. The topic of climate change was introduced at a later stage. With schools and uniformed groups, climate change took a higher priority because they were more receptive to the subject.
A summary of the project activities, measures and behaviour change findings arranged in terms of ISM contexts is as follows.
- Encouraged and supported the schools to carry out waste audits to identify areas for improvement and to measure the impacts of the changes made.
- Ran workshops and competitions to reduce the amount of packaging in children's packed lunches.
- Food miles activity - children placed different types of food on a giant world map to show where the food had come from. This raised awareness and prompted the children to check the origin of food used in cookery classes.
- Environmental badges and awards (for uniformed groups).
- Workshops for householders on composting, growing and cooking.
- Registered with Young Scot to encourage teenager involvement, giving out Young Scot vouchers to reward teenagers who took part.
- Encouraged children to taste the food that they had grown as a group.
- Children were excited about the project and encouraged their parents to grow and compost at home.
- Scout groups grew vegetables and distributed them to elderly members of the community.
- Held an ideas sharing event for teachers and children.
- Provided poly tunnels, and Ridan and Green Johanna composters to the schools.
- Introduced the practice of sustainable waste management and food growing into schools daily routines.
Successes and Benefits
Project development and delivery
The project workers initially undertook a number of visits and discussions with the schools to establish how they would like to be supported; this included discussion with the children. This had a positive impact on how the children and teachers were involved once the project began. Teachers praised the level of communication and support offered by the project workers.
Schools that were serving food in non-recyclable polystyrene packaging discontinued this approach when supported by the project to rethink their current practices. One teacher felt that the project had changed habits and challenged many peoples' existing perceptions that composting was smelly and difficult.
"Some children are growing at home where they weren't growing before."
An event for sharing ideas was held with teachers and children from the schools who had been involved in the project. Teachers found the opportunity to make a connection with another school valuable and an exchange visit to another school's garden was planned for the future. In addition, the project worked with Brownies and Scout groups to help them achieve environmental badges and awards. As part of this, the groups used a growing space to produce food for elderly members of the community.
Children were encouraged to taste the food that they had grown. Trying and tasting as a group changed some children's perceptions of food that they previously would not eat. One school with a Ridan composter had a number of other schools and local businesses visit their composter as an example of best practice. Close working with Highland Council catering team has resulted in their staff taking on board some of the food waste activities.
Data to calculate carbon savings came from a number of sources. Produce grown was weighed, food waste diaries were completed by householders and surveys and school food waste audits undertaken. From this data the lifetime carbon emission savings achieved by the project were calculated to be 301.10 tonnes. Some of the carbon emission reduction targets were not met due to the challenges of collecting data from householders; in particular the shift during this project to requiring primary data for reporting made it difficult to re-engage with those who were involved at an earlier stage. Also, the Council started a food waste collection service with some of the schools, meaning that this aspect of carbon emissions reduction could no longer be attributed to the project.
The group felt that the guidance made the calculations involved in the process relatively straightforward; it was collecting the data from participants which was more challenging. Data to calculate carbon emissions savings was collected from participants face-to-face. This worked considerably better than via other mediums, especially when aided by incentives including vouchers for school equipment and money off for household composting equipment.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
There were difficulties with changes in staff at schools and engaging young people which meant that the steering group could not be formed. To overcome this, the project workers worked closely with the head teachers, parents and community groups, and used focus groups to give the project direction.
Encouraging young people to get involved in the project was a challenge. One pupil explained that "messing around with food waste just isn't cool".
Engaging with householders was also a challenge and advertising the workshops in the paper and through posters proved unsuccessful. Social media such as Facebook proved to have a higher success rate, clearly advertising the dates and times of workshops so people did not need to get in touch for more information. At a later stage project workers began holding advice stalls at parents' evenings which also proved successful.
Legacy and Looking Forward
The project has left a number of material, cultural and capacity-based legacies. The use of composters and food growing has become part of day-to-day activities for many of the schools.
School eco groups were started and they continue to meet regularly to discuss environmental topics and raise awareness by for example running competitions. One school has started developing a raised bed growing space using funding which they applied for from an alternative source. In addition, a teacher who was involved in the project (but is now at a school in a different area) has applied for funding to install a composter at their new school.
RoWAN are currently working on a smaller project called 'Tunnel Vision'. The project teaches pupils in one school about growing their own food and helps support them to continue to use the poly tunnels installed through 'R U Up 4 It?'.
Email: Debbie Sagar