We’re living in an unprecedented moment in history, sitting on the edge of environmental and biodiversity collapse. COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, is next week in Glasgow. It’s one of the last chances for governments to come together to solve this crisis. At Regather, we understand that we can’t leave this down to governments alone, that we all need to act, and urgently. In this post we’ll be exploring the key goals of COP26 and how Regather is working towards each one in our community and throughout Sheffield.
The COP26 Coalition have criticised governments for doing too little too late, colluding with corporations and hiding behind green washed ‘solutions’. Indeed, since the first COP meeting, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have actually increased by over 50% since 1990. Governments and large corporations have a great deal to answer for, but there is a lot to be done on a local scale.
COP26 Goal 1: Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach
Countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.
- We are protecting soil. The UK’s soil stores 10 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. Organic soils are around 25% more effective at storing carbon in the long-term. That’s just one of the benefits of Organic Farming. And that’s just one of the reasons why at the Regather Farm we only farm Organically and why we champion Organic produce.
- We are planting trees. After planting 1,000 metres of hedgerow on our Farm, we are now developing plans to plant more trees and begin agroforestry farming. This means combining agricultural crops with trees and shrubs to improve soil health and contribute to climate change mitigation. Find out more about agroforestry from the amazing Soil Association here.
- We are moving more deliveries to electric. You may have seen our fabulous electric trike out and about on delivery rounds. We have two more on order to replace one diesel van. We have extensively explored switching to electric vans but face barriers around charging infrastructure and size of vans that are currently economically available to us. Despite these challenges we will continue to work towards 100% electric delivery. We are hopeful that Sheffield Council’s concentration on the creation of the Clean Air Zone will come with increased investment in the city that will bring electric vehicles within our reach.
- We always avoid air freight transportation. With air freight emitting around 50 times as much greenhouse gases as transporting the same amount by sea. In supermarkets, foods which are air-freighted tend to be those which are highly perishable. This means they need to be eaten soon after they’ve been harvested. Asparagus, green beans and berries are common examples of air-freighted goods that you find in the supermarket. With no clear labels of food, avoiding these items in the supermarket can be difficult.
- We are choosing the most sustainable options for our customers. Other considerations when we are putting together our fruit and veg boxes, include choosing the best of the season and always choosing local when available and appropriate. Local does mean less food miles, but if UK tomatoes have been grown in winter using artificial heating and light, this does not mean they are better for the planet. Our amazing team makes these decisions weekly to bring our customers the best seasonal produce that doesn’t cost the earth.
- We support our customers to eat more locally and sustainably. Infact, 70% of our customers used to buy most of their fruit and vegetables from chain supermarkets before joining our box scheme. That’s a lot more local produce going to local people, rather than travelling up and down the country from suppliers to supermarkets.
- We are conscious about food waste. Food waste is one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions from food. Research has suggested that 1kg of food waste equals 2.5 kg of CO2 emissions. At Regather we deal with this in several ways, firstly because all the food we buy and pick is pre-ordered we significantly reduce the risk of wasting food. But sometimes waste is unavoidable, such as when it arrives to us from suppliers badly damaged or overripe. For all food waste we have two routes – donate or compost. No food waste gets sent to landfill where it releases methane gas. We work with local organisations such as Food Works to donate usable food, while other food waste gets composted at our Farm.
- We use renewable energy. At our base on Club Garden Road, Good Energy is our energy supplier, providing 100% renewable electricity. There is no gas used in our building!
COP26 Goal 2: Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
At COP26 we need to work together to enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to:
- protect and restore ecosystems
- build defences, warning systems and resilient infrastructure and agriculture to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and even lives
- We are protecting and restoring ecosystems. Agricultural emissions could drop by 40-50% by 2050 if Europe’s farmland followed organic principles. Our farm and fresh produce suppliers all practice organic farming which supports biodiversity and increases soil health.
- We are caring for the areas of land we manage. Since taking on our Farm in the Moss Valley and growing organically, we have been witnessing the transformation of the land into an area of vastly improved local flora and fauna. We manage and maintain a wildflower meadow that literally hums with insect life. We have installed two ponds. Bird of prey activity on the farm has massively increased as they prey on the increased population of voles and other small rodents. We’ve even installed a perch for them to sit on and survey our field.
- We are preparing for worsening effects from Climate Change. While farming organically means we are protecting and restoring ecosystems, we also need to be resilient to cope with increasingly volatile weather conditions (which we are already witnessing). Securing our water source for the farm; ensuring effective irrigation systems; ensuring we prioritise ventilated polytunnels; and installing drainage systems to protect our precious soil and avoid it washing away in heavy rain are all actions we have taken so far. Having a diversity of crops also means we have greater resilience to weather events, as it means that we are not reliant on one crop that could be wiped out by one extreme storm or late frost.
- We are providing education and learning opportunities for the local community about food resilience and urban agriculture. Through our community gardening work, based at an inner city site, Regather are supporting individuals to realise that they are part of the change that is required to ensure a sustainable and equitable food system for Sheffield. This takes the form of sharing food growing knowledge and demonstrating / having conversations about what is possible in an urban context.
COP26 Goal 3: Mobilise finance
To deliver on our first two goals, developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year by 2020.
International financial institutions must play their part and we need work towards unleashing the trillions in private and public sector finance required to secure global net zero.
- We are supporting more money to stay in and support the local economy, through our customers’ purchasing power. Research from the New Economics Foundation suggests that every £10 spent with a box scheme was worth £25 for the local area, compared with just £14 when the same amount was spent in a supermarket. By making the choice to buy local, our customers are actively playing a role in supporting four organic market gardens across the city: our Farm, Sheffield Organic Growers, Freeman Bio-dynamic Garden at High Riggs, and Wortley Hall Walled Garden run by Heeley City Farm. Combined, these areas represent a significant refuge for wildlife.
- We are raising finance locally. In 2019, we mobilised the fantastic people of Sheffield for our Sheffield Hedge Fund and successfully raised £12,360 with 185 supporters in 30 days to plant 1,000m of new diverse hedgerow. Our amazing supporters helped us to achieve our aims and provide the necessary funds. Building on this success, we have ambitions to launch a Community Share Offer in the future that would help us raise additional investment to achieve our business aim to transform the local food system; making it better for people and the planet.
- We are banking ethically. Regather banks with the Cooperative Bank who support charities and social enterprises to promote social and economic development in the UK. Read more about how UK highstreet banks are linked to climate change from Ethical Consumer here.
COP26 Goal 4: Work together to deliver
We can only rise to the challenges of the climate crisis by working together.
As a Cooperative, collaboration is at the heart of what we do. In Sheffield we are working with numerous organisations to address inequalities in our food systems and the climate crisis. These include:
- Spending over half a million pounds on local produce to support the production of more local food.
- South Yorkshire Climate Alliance – SYCA is an alliance that is campaigning and lobbying for direct action on climate. We fully support their work, including their funding bids and we recently collaborated to put on a free street feast.
- Sheffood – Sheffood, Sheffield’s food partnership is allowing local organisations to come together to improve food for Sheffield. We are a founding member.
- Sheffield Chamber of Commerce – Sheffield Chamber of Commerce supports, represents and connects businesses of all sizes in Sheffield. Through their membership we have innovated to become a more sustainable business.