Every journey starts with small steps

In this blog post by Anne Webster, she looks at how one of our projects has developed despite the setbacks of Covid-19.

When I came into post as VONNE's Co-ordination and Development Support Officer, working for MEA House at the beginning of 2020, individual organisations were doing their bit with recycling paper, cardboard etc but there weren’t any community-wide initiatives to make the building more eco-friendly. So I organised a meeting inviting all the organisations within MEA House to take part and the eco-council was quickly established.  

There were lots of great ideas ranging from recycling bins in the kitchens to establishing a green wall outside the building and everything in between! Then along came Covid-19 when we were all directed to work at home if we could, and all our plans were abruptly paused. 

However, the forced lull in activity, during which a number of members of the MEA House community were furloughed, did nothing to dampen the burgeoning sense of ownership our members have for our shared environment at MEA House

Where it all re-started

Fast forward 12 months and I re-started the eco-council on Zoom. A small but very enthusiastic group of individuals quickly worked together to agree small steps towards making the building more eco-friendly by reducing its carbon footprint. But these small steps signify something bigger that I’m really proud to be part of at MEA House, where we’re beginning to be neighbours in every sense of the word. 

As well as the eco-council, we have big plans for the building’s future taking shape thanks in no small part to the input and commitment from all members of the community that have taken part in focus groups, fed back on potential brand ideas, and told our trustees what they want to see from MEA House 2.0. 

So far on the environment and sustainability front, we have a battery recycling bin on reception, donations from which will be safely recycled by Ecosurety, which then makes a donation based on the number collected to support Cancer Research UK’s life-saving work.  

Wait - there's more!

The MEA House community is also collecting empty crisp packets to pass on to a school that boxes them up and sends them off as part of a recycling programme. The school gets a little money for doing this and uses it to buy extra things for the children.  

Recycling bins for the kitchens are on order and we’ve mounted a ‘switch off’ campaign asking people to switch off lights in the kitchens and bathrooms when not in use. 

Our summer ‘swap shop’ took place as organisations were moving back into MEA House following the end of lockdown, placing their surplus items in the auditorium for others to make use of. As a result, a lot of unwanted items found a new home instead of going into landfill. I also advertise pre-loved items that are looking for a new home in my regular newsletter for all members of the MEA House community. 

Our building managers have arranged an energy audit of the building and hopefully there will be LED lighting in all public areas early next year. 

The community is also working with a local authority councillor, Teresa Cairns, who also serves on the MEA Trust board, to revamp and improve a green space outside the building, and our hope is to create an oasis of greenery in the city centre for all to enjoy. 

There are lots more small steps we want to take next year, such as a community-wide scheme to recycle printer cartridges, and starting to ensure eco-friendly cleaning products are used throughout the building.  

Not only has the MEA House community embraced the steps being taken, but often puts forward suggestions and ideas about eco-friendly measures that can be put in place, as well as taking ownership of implementing them.  

It’s been great to see the MEA House community coming together to help make the building more eco-friendly, and I’m confident this is just the start.