Shifting the narrative and improving representation in the environmental movement

There is a growing populist narrative that during times of economic stress the UK shouldn’t invest in green initiatives. This links to a common perception that funding anything environmental is an expensive luxury mainly of interest to a small elite.

Challenging this viewpoint has become central to Hubbub’s activities. We are determined to demonstrate that better use of resources benefits all sections of the community, that preparing for more extreme weather is an essential investment and that environmental issues appeal to a wide demographic.

This belief has fuelled our work promoting cycling with Bangladeshi women, driven the rapid expansion of the Community Fridge Network, and led to the redistribution of 13,000 smart phones alongside free data to people who are digitally isolated.

We know that lower-income and black and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by climate change issues, such as poor air quality and lack of access to green space, yet are often under-represented in environmental groups. We have also discovered that with the right support, communities can achieve amazing things, and deliver great social and environmental impacts.  

Uniting residents to create cleaner, greener communal spaces in Newham

This understanding has led to the creation of Greener Together, uniting residents from Alma Street and surrounding roads in Newham, London to create new green spaces in their local community. The campaign was created by Hubbub, the Mayor of London, Ten Years' Time and Afterparti.

With the support of these organisations, over 80 households have been involved in improving the area, deciding they wanted to focus on creating cleaner, greener communal spaces where residents could spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

Over the last year, residents have helped to plan a new play area and raised over £130K to make it happen. They have created a wildflower garden with wildlife friendly flowers and plants; installed a community allotment for growing herbs and vegetables and taken part in regular community clean-ups. At their first tidy-up session, residents collected 30 bags of rubbish and over 10 bags of green waste, helping to reduce local litter and discourage fly-tipping, which has been a huge issue locally. The residents are also taking part in a series of free workshops to help improve their growing skills so they can continue to maintain the green spaces in the long-term They’ve also recruited a team of local Green Champions who will further engage their neighbours and encourage participation in the project.

Tackling poor air quality with data

To address poor air quality locally, Alma Street has been provided with an air quality monitor through the Mayor’s Breathe London programme. This is providing real-time data which can help inform local actions to reduce people's exposure to toxic pollution. 

The campaign has helped to transform an area felt by residents to be long neglected. Data shows that the borough of Newham is one of the most environmentally and socially deprived in London. A 2020 study by CentricLab highlighted the borough as having the highest compounded factors of “structural racism”, looking at population density of Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (per 100k population) overlapped with pollution (SRS scores) and deprivation (IMD decile 2019). This coincides with the Mayor of London’s data, which highlights areas in the borough with high income deprivation and high levels of environmental inequality (e.g. poor access to green space, risk of overheating, air quality etc.).

Local resident and community co-ordinator Billie-Jean Holmes has been one of the key residents in getting her neighbourhood behind this project.

Billie said: “The Greener Together project has been a dream come true for many of our residents. For a long time they have felt disheartened and pessimistic about the issues our community was facing – from litter and fly-tipping to lack of accessible green space. Through coming together to tackle these problems, many members of our neighbourhood now feel empowered and valued. We’ve all learned that if residents and authorities work together, we can make our community better, healthier and stronger."

Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues said: “As London transitions to a greener, cleaner city, we want to make sure that no one is left behind. We know that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities or those on lower incomes are more likely to experience the worst environmental impacts, such as toxic air pollution, flash floods caused by climate change, and a lack of access to green space. That’s why projects like Greener Together are vital – it has shown that with a bit of support, communities can totally transform their neighbourhoods and become much healthier and stronger. The work that these residents have done is truly remarkable.”

Growing together 

We’re now looking at ways to extend all we’ve learned through further partnerships and locations in London and beyond. Watch this space!

To stay informed of other developments, collaborations, and opportunities at Hubbub, please sign up for our business e-bulletin. 

SIGN UP TO THE BUSINESS BULLETIN