The first year at Hubbub has raced by. Our ambition was to take a fresh approach to environmental campaigns making them compelling to a mainstream audience. We have tackled food waste, sustainable fashion and tested new ways to cut litter. It has been a year of surprises.

Surprise 1 - Giving things away creates scale and impact

Our intention was to experiment with new approaches, openly share results and give away successes. Following this mantra was initially painful especially when content was plonked on other websites without acknowledgement. But we have realised that giving things away creates scale.

The Pumpkin Festival food waste campaign is a good example. We tested the approach with local food groups in Oxford and then created guidance for other towns and cities. This year will see 15 Pumpkin Festivals throughout the UK and two in the USA. We want to make reducing food waste an integral part of Halloween – a radical change from currently when we chuck 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin away – and we can only do this by giving away our idea.

Surprise 2 - Companies have a real appetite to test new approaches

We are a small start-up charity with no track-record. I feared we would be too risky a proposition for large companies already actively involved in environmental campaigns. I have been massively surprised. Our clear ambitions, willingness to experiment and fresh approach has proved to be what many companies are seeking.

In the first year we have built campaigns with IKEA, H&M, Unilever, Marks and Spencer, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Veolia and Centrica. It is through partnerships with companies like these that we can punch above our weight and deliver transformational change.

Surprise 3 - Nobody can work out what type of organisation we are

We established ourselves as a charity ensuring surplus funding is reinvested to meet our charitable purpose. We also set out to deliver change at all levels from policy through to behaviour change on the ground.

It has been hard to describe this approach to potential corporate partners. Many were confused that we charged for our time like a consultancy, that we operated on some levels like a public affairs agency whilst at others like a grass-roots environmental group and that we created social media campaigns. Our approach reflects a wider change in how organisations operate. With social media and the growth of CSR, boundaries between different types of organisations are becoming blurred and we are one manifestation of that trend.

Surprise 4 - Used well media can massively amplify activities

We wished to explore new approaches to environmental engagement by experimenting in selected communities. This intensive approach over a period of time is the best way to assess long-term impact. The danger is that it can have limited impact if not accurately measured and replicated.

We have been surprised at how effective this local concentration has been in acting as a catalyst for wider change. Our Neat Streets litter campaign in London has secured extensive national media coverage, lead to the creation of a new National Litter Manifesto and brought together a range of organisations to create more coherent momentum to litter activities in the UK. The use of Twitter, Storify and other social media has successfully helped cut food waste by promoting recipes from celebrity chefs and myth busting guidance.

Surprise 5 - People are interested in environmental issues (especially litter!)

We decided from the outset to reframe the way we talked about environmental issues. Out went discussions on carbon, energy and waste to be replaced by food, fashion, home and neighbourhood. We wanted to hit peoples’ passion points demonstrating that a lower impact lifestyle could be achievable, social and fun.

This strategy has been successful with most of our events over-subscribed and high media interest. The biggest surprise has been how agitated people are about litter. This has provoked the biggest response in correspondence showing that the best place to engage people is on their doorstep.