Cut it out!

As individuals, many of us who worry about the damage being done to our planet have made a series if changes to our personal routines in order to reduce our own personal contribution to climate change.  And, recognising that reducing all of our impacts is really tough, many of us also take steps to offset the impact that we can’t avoid.  So, for example, many of us will tick the box to pay a little extra to offset the carbon impacts of an essential train or plane journey when we book them.

Taking that same approach, which in essence is one of accepting that we all have responsibility to address the climate emergency, is vital to how we in the social care sector can collectively make an important difference.  Let’s not forget, after all, that the social care sector employs 1.6 million people – four times the name employed in the agricultural sector – so together we really can make a positive difference.

I thought it might be useful to look at one example of how thinking carefully and planning in a number of small changes can deliver a significant impact. 

As Vice Chair of Championing Social Care, I was part of the Committee that oversaw the recent Care Sector Fundraising Ball.  This annual Ball brings together over 600 guests from across the sector to The Grosvenor House Hotel in London’s famous Park Lane to raise funds for two amazing charities.  This year’s event on 30th September raised a staggering £426,000 for the Care Workers’ Charity and the Alzheimer’s Society.  And the event was a real showcase of all that is fantastic about the sector.

However, bringing together over 600 guests from across the country (and from overseas) to a large event in London, with a three-course meal, entertainment, event materials and the like undoubtedly has an impact on the environment.  By considering the entire life cycle of the Care Sector Fundraising Ball 2023 from planning and preparation to execution and post-event activities, we made this Ball our most sustainable event to date.  

Key aspects of our commitment to sustainability were the following:

  • Environmental Stewardship.  From minimising our carbon footprint to conserving resources, we sought to make responsible choices that would reduce our environmental impact.  For example, we asked ourselves at all stages whether we needed physical materials at all and, if we did, then sought to ensure that we used refurbished, recycled, and recyclable equipment and products whenever possible. We also ensured that we recycled or reused all materials that we could after the event. 
  • Ethical Sourcing.  We gave priority to suppliers that promote sustainability and/or that are social enterprises or small businesses.  Our venue for the evening is Green Key certified and proud of its commitment to be a more sustainable business, sending zero waste to landfill, conserving water and energy and reducing the use of single use plastic.  We also worked with our catering suppliers to ensure high sustainability and animal welfare standards, favouring lower carbon menu options. 
  • Waste Reduction.  We were particularly conscious of food waste from such a large event.  We worked with our catering suppliers to calculate the carbon footprint of all menu items, making this information available to guests.  As well as enabling us to calculate the carbon impact of the food itself, making this information prominent to our guests helped them to make informed decisions and also to promote wider awareness of the impact of different foods.  Unfortunately, it is just not possible currently to work with food banks to distribute cooked foods.  So, as well as working with our caterers to minimise over-production of food, we agreed that any excess food would be available to their staff and hotel staff to take away after the event.
  • Transport.  A key priority for us was to reduce the environmental impact of staff and event attendee travel by promoting sustainable transport use. We encouraged all guests to use the most sustainable mode of transport, promoting use of the Ecolibrium’s free carbon travel planner app.  We also asked all contractors and guests to complete a short travel survey so that we can calculate the carbon impact of their travel options and we promoted local hotels with strong environmental credentials.

This year, we worked with two key organisations to aid our efforts:

  • Ecolibrium.  Using Ecolibrium’s Travel Calculator, we were able to calculate and analyse the total carbon emissions of everyone travelling to the Care Sector Fundraising Ball 2023 with the aim of balancing the carbon produced.
  • Ecologi.  Ecologi provides individuals and businesses with a platform to take action against climate change by funding and supporting carbon reduction projects and initiatives.   Working with Ecologi, we have planted trees and are supporting renewable energy/carbon avoidance/nature-based projects on behalf of each attendee to balance our carbon emissions.

Thanks to the support of these two organisations, we were able to calculate the carbon impact of all of the transport by contractors and guests – not assisted by a national train strike…. – and funded projects that will balance the 25 tonnes of carbon generated as a result of the Ball.

Whilst the scale of the climate change can often feel overwhelming and we worry that we as individuals have little ability to make a difference, it really is the case that the collective effort of lots of small individual changes really can make a significant difference.

Originally published in Caring Times