Join this years Great Big Green Week

Event and recruitment applications are now live!

The 2024 South West Herts Great Big Green Week (GBGW) will take place over the 8-16 June 2024 across Three Rivers and Watford.

We hope you will join us in putting on a celebration of community action to tackle climate change and protect nature. We want to bring together the breadth of amazing organisations working across the area, raise awareness of the work you do and highlight the changes that communities and individuals can make to help create a better tomorrow.

Get involved in 2024

What’s your New Years resolution?
Is it to:
  • try something new?
  • meet new people?
  • get out into nature more?
  • campaign?
  • make a positive difference locally?
  • reduce your impact on the environment?

If you have answered yes to any of the above why not have a look at the wide range of local groups in the links below covering everything from waste/ recycling/ nature/ volunteering/ travel & transport/ energy/ campaigning and so much more……….

We hope you find something you enjoy

A Green Christmas

Anna shares some green Christmas ideas

What is Christmas all about? Do you know what Christmas is synonymous with? Well…

At present an additional 30% of rubbish is being produced and discarded throughout the festive period, when compared with the rest of the year. This amounts to in the region of three million tonnes each year and is made up of:

  • 54 million platefuls of food
  • 500 tonnes of Christmas lights
  • 8 million Christmas trees
  • 108 rolls of wrapping paper
  • £42 million unwanted Christmas presents
  • 100 million black bags full of packaging from toys and gifts

If you are interested you can have a look at What is the Carbon Footprint of Christmas page for more information.

So… what can we all do to be a bit kinder on the environment this Christmas?

Click on the topics below for some thoughts and suggestions – enjoy (and sorry for the tenious links to the Twelve Days of Chistmas!)

Thinking of trees...

  • Real Christmas trees have significantly lower carbon footprints than an artificial trees, especially if it is disposed of properly, by chipping or burning. When buying one, check it’s sustainably sourced with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification. Also buy local to reduce your tree’s carbon footprint.
  • If you choose an artificial Christmas tree then you would need to use this for around 10 years for its environmental impact to be lower than real trees, so keep reusing it.
  • Grow your own.

This turtle dove is bringing gifts home...

  • Be an ethical consumer in your choices – go organic, no electricity, less packaging, reusable, recyclable – think about getting gifts that have a lower carbon footprint.
  • Buy memories and experiences rather than objects.
  • Keep an eye out for suitable second-hand gifts and take a look at the eco-friendly ranges on sites such as Etsy and Ethical Superstore (there are loads of other ethical sites out there to suit all tastes) where you’ll find everything from soaps and kitchen utensils, to bird feeders and toys.
  • Get crafty and make your gifts.
  • Sometimes less is more!

Do you really need three French hens (or turkeys) for Christmas...

  • If you are stuck when choosing what to cook for your main course – turkey has a lower carbon footprint than beef, and vegetarian/vegan options are even lower than that. See some great ideas from Vegetarian Society and The Vegan Society.
  • If you choose a meat for Christmas, choose organic free-range meats and buy local.
  • Don’t overdo it on cheese – this has a very high carbon footprint.

Why not make your own calling birds decorations for your Christmas tree...

All that glitters is not gold. Some of it is in fact glitter...

  • Most glitters are made from plastic, which contributes to the growing problem of microplastics in the environment. 
  • They’re consumed by plankton, fish and birds, causing harm from the build up in their systems. 
  • Some research has also found that PET, the plastic most glitter is made from, can breakdown and release chemicals that can disrupt human and animal hormones. 
  • As a result, some scientists and campaigners are calling for a total ban on glitter.
  • So avoid glitter to make a great positive environmental impact!

With farmers up’ing production to meet demand (on geese and other things), food waste can be a big issue at Christmas...

  • Prepare the right amount of food for the number of people you want to feed.
  • Let people serve themselves the amount they want – food left in a serving dish can be eaten as left-overs the next day, whereas food left on plates will be binned.
  • Use your leftovers in the days after Christmas – if there is too much to eat then share it around or freeze for later.

You could join the swans

  • for some Christmas swimming or…
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by reducing your car use – opting for walking or cycling instead. 
  • Ramblers is a great resource if you’re looking for local walking groups or routes.
  • Also the Woodland Trust  has information on where to go for a frosty forest walk.

Milking all those cows takes a lot of energy – but being in the cow shed is warm – so let's think about the energy we use and how we stay warm...

  • Wear warm jumpers and draw those curtains
  • With a lot of people around and the oven switched on, keeping the house warmer means less heating needed.
  • So as not to have the oven on too long, once cooked turn the oven off and cover dishes and replace them in the oven – they will stay warm.
  • Switch off lights at night, especially outside.
  • According to Flipper, using incandescent light bulbs on your Christmas tree and around the home can cost up to 90 times more to power than LED bulbs, as 90% of the energy is wasted as heat. So a really easy and effective way to reduce your energy bills and help the environment is to switch all of your lights over to LEDs in the run up to the big day.
  • Plug a number of pieces of electrical equipment into a single extension socket so you can switch them all off overnight.

How many spinning tops do you need – the full nine so we have all the ladies dancing? If not, let's rethink Christmas crackers...

  • Get crackers with just jokes and hats.
  • Make sure they are made from recyclable materials, i.e. paper and cardboard.
  • Look for reusable options, many of which are made from fabric and you can fill yourself. Search online for designs to suit you.
  • Make your own crackers. Hobbycraft has some useful tips.

Thinking of leaping – I can see the kids and adults jumping around with the new Wii and Playstation...

  • If you are looking at buying electrical equipment such as TVs, lamps and fridges as a gift, then consider the energy use across their life span. More efficient equipment can sometimes cost more up front, but will save money from energy bills in the long run.
  • If you are getting a console for Christmas, then think of getting games that the family will all want to play. If several family members are together playing on the console, this means they are not all using different pieces of equipment, resulting in a lower carbon footprint.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to wrap those eleven pipers – so going to get creative! Maybe...

  • Wrap them in a scarf.
  • Use a paper or fabric bag (I can then use these again).
  • Reuse a box and cover it in some classic brown paper (or reuse wrapping paper) tied up with string (with some natural decorations to spruce it up). Reducing the environmental impact as lots of wrapping paper contains plastic and glitter.

I don’t know about you, but I can feel drummers in my head after a round of Christmas shopping – with people rushing around and charging you out of the way for their choice of gift. So...

  • Maybe this year I re-wear what I have, or I could swap with friends or buy second-hand instead of buying new.
  • Reduce impulse buying of things that will go to waste.
  • Do I need those elf slippers or santa jumpers? 

Research from environmental charity Hubbub showed that, last year, Brits spent £2.4 billion on new clothing for Christmas, with the Christmas jumper being one of the worst examples of fast fashion. 

Two in five Christmas jumpers are only worn once over the festive season.


Do I need to do cards? Conscious that an unbelievable 1.5 billion Christmas cards are thrown away by UK households each year, according to Imperial College researchers. So maybe this year I need to think differently...

  • Send e-cards (sent online) as they cut your carbon footprint, save trees and save money.
  • Make my own.
  • Choose ‘plantable’ cards that are embedded with seeds. The biodegradable paper is then planted in a pot of soil and the seeds will grow, while the paper will eventually decompose.

The Hertfordshire Environment Hustings

Organised by Friends of the Earth Groups from around Hertfordshire, The Herts Environment Hustings took place on 19th April. Chairman Nick Hazell put questions on issues of sustainability and the environment from the online audience to a panel consisting of:

  • Conservatives – Theresa Heritage, Derrick Ashley
  • Greens – Anni Sander, Nick Cox
  • Labour – Tina Bhartwas, Simon Speller
  • Liberal Democrats – Helen Campbell, Nigel Quinton

The whole hustings are covered in two podcasts:

Part 1 – The questions covered were (in this order, to make it easier if you’d like to find a particular response)

  1. 2 minutes on the parties environmental policies for Hertfordshire
  2. We know that spending time in nature has significant benefits for our health and wellbeing, and that a diverse natural environment is essential to a sustainable economy. What steps will your party advocate to reverse the recent alarming decline in biodiversity in Hertfordshire, and ensure that everyone in the county has access to quality green spaces where wildlife and people can flourish?
  3. What would you do about public transport and how to get car owners out of their cars
  4. Lots of county council land will be released for house building. Would you ensure that all such houses will be carbon zero
  5. What measures would you take to reduce the amount of Hertfordshire’s waste which is incinerated or landfill

End of Part 1

Part 2 –

  1. Do you feel that wide area 20mph limits have an important role to play
  2. Do you have any plans to communicate the importance and urgency of the climate crisis to the general public
  3. What are your views on the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill
  4. Is banning the use of herbicides and pesticides a priority to benefit the environment and the health of local people
  5. Do you believe in a halt in new road building
  6. The Herts Sustainability Strategy has no target for reducing the GHG emissions from the county other than the national target of net zero by 2050. Should there be a target and what should it be?
  7. What are you doing in your personal life to be more environmentally friendly?

The doorbell sound is the timer used to ensure that each party had the same amount of time.

Please excuse noise distortions dues to internet fluctuations.

FoE response to the HCC SHS

Local Friends of the Earth and Climate Action Groups in Hertfordshire response to the Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy

Friends of the Earth and Climate Action Groups across Hertfordshire have submitted the following response to the current consultation on Hertfordshire County Council Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy.

Our response welcomes the SHS, and we are pleased to see the commitment to making the council’s own operations net zero by 2030, and the recognition of the importance of tackling the decline in biodiversity as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, as currently drafted, we feel that there are areas of the SHS (and the associated action plan) that need to be significantly strengthened to meet the level of ambition that the current climate and ecological emergency demands, some key points being:

  • The SHS should include not only long term goals for 2030 and 2050, but also short to medium term goals against which progress can be monitored.
  • The current target in the SHS to achieve net zero carbon emissions for the county ‘before 2050’ is too weak and vague and should be replaced by a commitment to a 90% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2040.
  • Targets for improving wildlife and biodiversity should be aligned with recommendations from the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust to manage 30% of land area for the benefit of wildlife. This applies to both HCC’s own land and the county as a whole.
  • Targets for waste and recycling should aim to make the county a zero-waste area, where all “waste” material is minimised, reused or recycled (following a circular economy approach). Targets relating to landfill alone are not adequate.
  • The SHS recognises the importance of monitoring and scrutiny (page 4) but needs to set out more clearly how this will be done in a way that is robust and transparent.
  • A communication strategy needs to be developed as part of the SHS – not only to involve others in the development and delivery of action plans but to engage Hertfordshire residents and businesses with the climate and ecological emergency.

The SHS should commit HCC to lobbying the UK government for the resources and enabling actions it needs to deliver its objectives.

Help shape the future of Hertfordshire

Help HCC shape how they spend your council tax money – supporting a Green and Fair recovery from COVID and linking environmental justice to social justice.  

Support Hertfordshire in being a Sustainable County – through commenting on the Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy (sustainable-hertfordshire-strategy-2020-2.7mb.pdf)

HCC is asking residents to respond to a survey about climate change and the council’s Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy.

Working with other FoE and climate action groups in Herts, we’ve produced model answers to most of the consultation questions, which you can use as a basis for your responses (obviously you can also add your own views and suggestions when completing the survey!). Using our template it shouldn’t take long to complete, and you don’t have to answer every question if you don’t want to.

Our document with model answers and links to the strategy and the survey is available here:

Unless the strategy enables people to choose affordable, low-carbon transport and recycling of all waste, and provides cheaper heating bills and space for nature, Hertfordshire will not be playing its part in combating the climate emergency. We don’t believe that this strategy yet demonstrates sufficient ambition or urgency, and its important (particularly in this election year) that as many of us as possible let the council know that we want it to go further.

Ensure Hertfordshire Waste Local Plan ensures no waste is sent to landfill or incineration across the county by 2030

HCC is preparing a new Waste Local Plan (the Plan), this new Plan sets the vision, objectives and spatial strategy for waste planning in Hertfordshire up to 2036. HCC is also preparing a new Waste Facilities Design Guide SPD, which will provide guidance on the design of waste management facilities and assist in meeting the requirements set out in the Plan.

Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership – Inaugural Stakeholder Event

The inaugural Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership (HCCSP) stakeholder event took place on 3 December 2020. Councillor Graham McAndrew, chair of the HCCSP, introduced the speakers. He emphasised the need to take action as a result of the climate crisis.

Declining wildlife in Hertfordshire

Lesley Davies, CEO of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, gave the keynote speech. She said that Hertfordshire wildlife is in trouble. 50% of species have declined, 20% are threatened and 80 species have been lost. The climate crisis and biodiversity are linked. For example, last year 50 km of chalk rivers dried out. The green economy can create jobs in all areas. Covid created more desire to be out in open space. She would like to encourage people to make space in their gardens for wildlife. Volunteering outside is good for mental and physical health. In Hertfordshire, the Trust wants to double the wildlife area. But it is necessary to ensure the right habitat is in the right place.

Formation of the HCCSP

Matthew Partridge, CEO of Stevenage Borough Council, set up the formation of the HCCSP, and proposed it to the Hertfordshire Growth Board. The new group will identify and share best practice. It reports into Hertfordshire Leader Group. It will raise awareness of climate action in Hertfordshire and improve biodiversity. It will work with multidisciplinary organisations. The challenge is scaling up. Themes to be covered include water, transport and carbon reduction. Another challenge: how do we assess carbon footprints?

Chalk rivers drying up

Joanna Hewitson, Three Rivers District Council Climate Officer, said that water is critical, and we need to restore chalk rivers.

Decarbonising transport, the biggest energy user in Hertfordshire

David Thorogood said there will be accelerated decarbonisation. Transport is Hertfordshire’s biggest energy user. Work is being done on Hertfordshire sustainable travel. He would like to promote a modal shift away from using the car. Active travel (walking, cycling) is key. Covid caused a step change by moving to virtual meetings. Transport is mostly about the wider community. He mentioned that one third of the Hertfordshire workforce commute into London, but this changed during Covid. There will be a long-term impact, with perhaps more people living and working locally. London was hollowing out the Hertfordshire economy by commuters.

Pressure from community to act on energy efficiency and climate change

Dr Sarika Jain of Hertsmere Borough Council was asked: “Will they address home energy efficiency?”. She said a number of us have bid for energy grants as a consortium. They can’t act fast enough on climate issues. There is strong pressure from the community to act.

Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership

The HCCSP mentioned there are roles for the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to support local businesses. The LEP Recovery Plan includes some climate related initiatives, such as sustainable construction, environmental technologies and low carbon clean growth.

Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter

Between Hemel Hempstead and St Albans there is a cluster of innovative companies. To encourage further innovation, there is the new Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter, including companies such as Rothamsted Research, BRE, Ocado and RES (Renewable Energy Systems).

The Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership is likely to be an important enabler of climate action in Hertfordshire. It is also clear that there is a long way to go to meet the 2050 net zero target. Hopefully the Partnership will help everyone in Hertfordshire on this journey.

There are copies of the event presentation and the HCCSP Terms of Reference below.