Features / Environment

Leading a green economic recovery for Bristol and beyond

By ellie pipe, Tuesday Sep 29, 2020

From ground source heat pumps to a rainbow chair made from recycled crisp packets, pioneering products within Future Leap showcase the possibilities of a low carbon future.

Located in a former Maplin store on the corner of Gloucester Road and Cromwell Road, the £1.5m sustainability hub that opened its doors early in 2019 is breaking new ground as the first of its kind in the country, with plans to replicate the model in other locations.

It is no accident that Bristol is the flagship site for the carbon-neutral hub. The city is often hailed as a trailblazer on environmental issues and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the need to build back better.

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The Government has pledged £350m to help fuel a green economic recovery and cut carbon emissions, while union leaders say investment in green jobs is vital to stem the tide of mass unemployment.

Lizzi Testani (left) says a green recovery will give young people a future – photo by Bhagesh Sachania Photography

Lizzi Testani, the chief operating officer for Bristol Green Capital Partnership CIC, argues it is a green recovery that will give young people in the city a future

“Despite immense challenges, this experience also provides a unique chance for cities to reset in ways which also respond to other challenges we face, such as inequalities and the climate and ecological emergencies,” says Testani.

“Bristol is known as a leader in tackling climate change. If we reorient as early as possible, Bristol will develop sustainable opportunities for jobs and skills that are likely to remain relevant as the UK transitions to a low carbon economy.”

The head of Bristol Green Capital Partnership says issues around food supply came particularly to the fore during the pandemic, highlighting the need for an alternative system that is good for communities, health and the planet. The organisation is set to launch a Bristol Bites Back Better campaign, to make sure food is at the heart of the city’s green recovery.

While investment in infrastructure is essential, business also has a key role to play in a greener economic recovery. Beyond the moral impetus, there’s every incentive for companies to stay ahead of the curve on this, with former governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney warning firms that ignore the climate crisis will go bankrupt.

Steps such as flexible hours and home working to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions from travel have a part to play, as does retrofitting buildings.

Organisations such as Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Future Leap and its sister company, the Future Economy Network, work with businesses to help them improve sustainability and identify opportunities to do things differently.

Future Leap showcases pioneering products that will play a part in a green economic recovery – photo courtesy of Future Leap

“Our mission is to give organisations the space, knowledge, contacts and tool to accelerate their sustainability journey and progress towards carbon neutrality, explains Future Leap manager Fenna Leake.

“We must do everything we possibly can to build back better by reducing our carbon through retrofitting buildings, transport and looking into the materials we use to make things for a more circular economy.”

Katherine Piper, director of the Future Economy Network, says there are various ways in which a business can achieve net zero and the best starting point is to better understand your businesses’ carbon footprint.

Piper adds: “It is important that our young people are adequately supported and appropriately trained for a green recovery. The Future Economy Network is reviewing the Government’s Kickstarter scheme to ensure that we can support as many young people as possible in our activities. We will need an enormous effort (of similar proportions to the Covid response on a yearly basis) if we are to adapt adequately to the climate emergency.”

Main photo courtesy of Future Leap

Read more: Bristol’s sustainable business success stories

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