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Southampton’s First Sustainability Week!


Climate Conversations interviewed Jenny Barnes, the brains behind Southampton’s first sustainability week, to find out more about the wealth of green events coming to our city this October. Join us for electric boat rides along the Itchen, ‘green screen’ film nights, hikes, bikes, art, talks and more!

A Sustainability Week for Southampton – what a great idea! When is this going to take place?
8th-16th October, although we have a couple of fringe events sneaking in beforehand, such as the sustainability lunch on 1st October.

What inspired you to organise a week of green events in the city?
I have organised a couple of demonstrations against climate change over the past couple of years. These were important, as they were part of a worldwide movement to try to influence governments to curb climate change. However, I thought it would be nice to have an event to showcase what we want to happen, and to have a celebration of the great work taking place on sustainability across the city.

Did you expect this idea to take off in such a big way? 


Image: West Solent Solar Farm

I had no idea! We’re blessed in Southampton to have a brilliant combination of academics, community and industry all working on sustainability in different ways. For example, did you know that we have a local, community owned solar farm? Or that an electric taxi firm is being set up in the city? I’m hoping that the event will bring people together to generate even more interesting ideas.


Is there an underlying theme to the week?
The week is based on the one-planet living framework developed by the charity Bioregional. According to them, in the UK on average we use three planets’ worth of resources. This clearly isn’t sustainable, so I hoped we could give people a few ideas about reducing their ecological and carbon footprint.

The main aim, however, is about bringing people together, because by co-operation and developing our community we can achieve so much more.

I love my car and like to eat burgers – is Sustainability Week still for me?
Of course, most of us do! The main thing I’m hoping people can get from the week is to gain knowledge of the impact of our actions on the world around us and what we can do differently, to protect future generations from climate change and other negative impacts on our environment. For example, you can find about how to have a lower impact though the food you eat at the Burger Apocalypse. Or try a cycle ride to see how much fun you can have getting to places by bike.


Image: Beamz bike

What kinds of green-themed events do you have in store?
We will have a huge range of things, including bike rides, film screenings, talks, tours and workshops. One of the most exciting things is that we’ve got an event bringing together industry and academics to discuss the future of sustainable shipping.

We also have Dr Tony Curran, fresh from headlining the amphitheatre stage at Bestival, doing a talk on the carbon impacts of our food. There’s so much and it’s all so varied, it’s hard to summarise!


Dr Tony Curran

If I’m trying to live more sustainably, can I still go shopping?
Yes! One of the key points of the Bioregional framework is that we can improve our quality of life whilst being more sustainable. Simple choices, such as buying local organic food, or supporting local small businesses can make a huge difference. Rice Up wholefoods in town is a co-operative which sells some very good value organic produce. Lush, a much larger organisation, focuses on buying the ingredients in their lovely beauty products from ethical sources.

However, a more sustainable life is about more than shopping. Art and culture are a great way to have a good time and are low carbon too! We have some fantastic artistic events happening in Southampton this October, including the Pride of Place Project, British Art Show 8, and an International Film Festival.

What activity would you love to have as part of Sustainability Week?
This is a difficult one. The volunteers have come up with some amazingly creative ways of approaching topics, that anything I could come up with is poor in comparison. For example, one volunteer, Mike, is arranging a Circle of Council, which is a Native American tradition of facilitating open discussion. He’s focusing on hopes and fears around climate change. I never could have thought of that.

One thing I would have loved to do is involve schools and young people’s organisations more. Hopefully we can do this next year.

So this could become an annual event?
I hope so! It’s been a huge amount of work for everyone involved, but there are a lot of things I’ve learnt from this time. Also, this year has been run on a real shoestring, with a lot of goodwill from volunteers, speakers, and venues such as the Art House, Mettricks and the Notes Café. In future, I’d like to apply for funding so that hopefully people can be reimbursed for their time and venues can be paid.

How can people get involved? Do you need volunteers?
Yes please! We need people for specific tasks for a few hours at a time. If you can spare 2-3 hours, please get in touch at

How can we find out more?
Please take a look at the website – Come along to one or more of the events; they’re mostly free, and you’ll meet some interesting and lovely people!


Electric boat trips on the Itchen. Image: REAP Systems

Are you going to be organising other sustainability events in the future?
Yes, my friends and I have interesting plans afoot! Keep up-to-date by following us on Twitter, at the Climate Conversations mailing list or on the Transition website.

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