2018 has been a momentous year for the environmental agenda. The IPCC report was the starkest warning to date that we have limited time to avoid deeply damaging climate change. Extreme weather including destructive storms, heat waves, wildfires and droughts have clearly illustrated what a future world could look like. In the UK, the backlash against single use plastics has grown with little sign of abating. Within this context, Hubbub has continued to experiment, delivering practical campaigns across the UK. Here are five things we have discovered.

1) A UK circular economy is feasible

Based on our experience of creating a high street recycling campaign in Leeds and of building three recycled plastic boats, we know that it is possible to recycle materials within the UK. We have discovered that creating these networks is incredibly time-consuming and is not financially incentivised by current government legislation. We are hoping that the government’s waste and resource strategy will make it easier and more cost-effective to build a circular economy within the UK.

2) The fashion industry is starting to feel the heat

The sustainability of the fashion industry is under increasing scrutiny. A Stacey Dooley documentary on the BBC explored the hidden environmental costs of fashion and a parliamentary Select Committee has directly called business leaders to account. This year Hubbub launched #WhatsInMyWash highlighting that washing fabrics is one of the biggest causes of microplastics in the oceans. We are working directly with companies exploring potential solutions. To-date nobody really understands the human health implications of microplastics but it is another significant reason why the fashion industry needs to find a more sustainable model.

3) You can persuade meat lovers to change their diet

Shifting diets away from meat is one of the most impactful things all of us can do to reduce carbon emissionsResearch undertaken by Hubbub with the University of Southampton illustrated how difficult it is to persuade people to make this change. Hubbub has used the research insights to create ‘Meat Your Match’ where we challenged male gym users to halve their meat consumption. The experiment proved highly successful with participants reporting that they were not only eating less meat but that they also saw improvements in health and general well-being. In 2019 we will be expanding this pilot to more gym users and different demographic groups.

4) There is a groundswell of community activism

Our activities indicate that there is an up-surge in local community activism. At a time when there is much uncertainty in the world, people are looking to make a difference where they can - such as their local area. For Hubbub, this has been most apparent with the growth of the Community Fridge Network. There are now over 40 Community Fridges across the UK run by local community groups redistributing perishable food that would have been wasted to people in their local area. Hubbub has sought to build a network to support the growth and sustainability of the Community Fridges ensuring they are run safely and effectively. Our latest research indicates that on average each of these fridges is redistributing 0.5 tonnes of food a month that would have been wasted.

5) Companies can help their customers be more sustainable

We are increasingly seeing companies taking bold steps to help their customers live more sustainably. Our three year partnership with IKEA and the University of Surrey helped create and deliver #LiveLagom. Thanks to this campaign IKEA has helped customers reduce environmental impact and save money. Participants have shifted their view from believing that sustainability is an expensive change to seeing it as affordable and desirable. IKEA has boosted sales of sustainable products, increased footfall into stores and created a network of engaged and vocal customers.

Starbucks has introduced a 5p charge on disposable coffee cups in all its stores. This move has increased the up-take of reusable cups and has generated charitable donations being used by Hubbub to deliver new and large scale campaigns. Whilst the overall environmental situation looks increasingly challenging these five discoveries offer examples of hope to build upon.  We now need to do this rapidly and at scale. Quite a challenge for 2019, but one that we are looking forward to taking on.