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Christmas in Brighton is celebrated by all the usual British traditions: the trade of unwanted gifts wrapped in novelty, unrecyclable paper. The blasting of heating and gathering around a television set whilst an oven roars with an unethically farmed turkey roasting in an oven.Christmas is likely to be the day most damaging to the environment, but it doesn’t have to be.
Many groups in Brighton are taking steps to make individual aspects of Christmas more sustainable. In this blog, I’ll highlight one of these initiatives, the Sussex in Transition to Sustainability group, and how they have united individual groups for the holiday season and beyond.
Young people are, as they often do, leading the way in Brighton. At the University of Sussex there traditionally have been many societies working on their own to transform different sectors. Since November, these societies have joined forces to create the Sussex in Transition to Sustainability group.
The umbrella group is a partnership of seven different organisations, including student societies dedicated to vegetarianism, waste-reaction and reuse, cycling, organic local produce sale, allotment organising, bike repairs and a fossil fuel divestment group; almost no sector goes un-transitioned.
The Sussex in Transition to Sustainability group are set to run a sustainable Winter fair on campus in The Meeting House of the 10th of December from 3pm.
Showcasing ways to make Christmas work for both students and the earth. They are running a host of activities including a gift-swap, an eco-friendly soap and bath-bomb making session to and a demonstration of reuse of cartons and cardboard to make gifts (which is surely going to be popular following the explosion of paper recycled goods flown all the way from Vietnam, racking up some impressive air miles and the associated carbon footprint) and other activities that appeal to a student population. The student population isn’t the only group that is welcome however. The nature of being an open campus with strong transport links to the centre of Brighton means the scope for the work of the group could easily involve the whole city.
The student initiative shows just how natural geographies and population density affects the coordination of initiatives.
As a surprisingly small city, Brighton is naturally placed to allow for the linking of these initiatives in a holistic way, and the even smaller campus community demonstrates that Sussex in Transition to Sustainability group is helped by the physical closeness of the organisations. In terms of size, it seems the smaller and closer a community, the easier it is to create a transitional community.
The group also shows that a central hub or person can be very helpful in establishing a group. By having a first point of call, like the umbrella student group for transitional societies or the international Transition Network that provided a framework for the organisations, new initiatives can latch on to existing support apparatuses and expertise, even if the new initiative doesn’t share any characteristics of existing ones apart from sustainability.
At first glance it may seem that a student society concerned with teaching students how to repair bikes has very little to do with a society that sells lentils at a weekly on-campus market, but the shared ideal of taking small steps away from mass consumption and wastage ideologically unites the two, and the knowledge that one group may have of funding bodies or effective advertising is applicable to both. The need to share local information is essential in a fledgling transitional community.
The creation of the student umbrella organisation is like the first of the winter snow, fragile, but exceptionally exciting, and signalling a big change that’s sure to follow.
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