‘If enough of us work together we can make things happen’

David Greenacre, chair of Greener Fram.

David Greenacre, chair of Greener Fram. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Problems like climate change can seem remote and insoluble. Sheena Grant meets a man who believes local action could do more good than most of us imagine

A Greener Fram swap or mend event

A Greener Fram swap or mend event - Credit: Archant

When you think of action to tackle climate change you tend to think on a big level, one involving international agreements, presidents, prime ministers and lots of people in suits.

Except, that is, you happen to live in Framlingham.

For the last five years or so the quintessential Suffolk market town, home to an eponymous castle and college, has in its own quiet but determined way been tackling one of the biggest issues facing the planet by taking action locally, on a small scale, through a community group called Greener Fram.

The hope is that by highlighting things such as local food production, recycling and energy-saving initiatives, a grassroots movement can be born, spreading out to inspire the formation of similar projects and empowering people to believe they can make a difference, however small, to something so big it can feel overwhelming.

Greener Fram holds a working party at the Community Garden

Greener Fram holds a working party at the Community Garden

And if you’re looking for someone to lead such a movement who better than a man whose very name - and address - seem tailor-made for the job.

David Greenacre, a retired primary school head teacher who just happens to live in a house called Greenfields, has been chairman of Greener Fram since 2013.

Most Read

The organisation was formed after two local women, Judy Masters and Barbara Howard, did a course about climate change and felt compelled to try and take some action locally.

Since then, the group has won two Suffolk Creating the Greenest County awards, including one this year for its swap and mend initiative, where people can bring things that no longer work or are surplus to requirements to be mended or swapped for something else.

The idea is to recycle and prolong the life of things that would otherwise be thrown into landfill.

“Less than 50 people attended the first swap and mend,” says David. “Now we have nearly 150 people coming along and we try and hold events monthly. We don’t just check things over. We mend them.

“The way it works is that people give things to us and others take it away for free. All we ask is that if someone doesn’t bring anything to swap that they give us a donation for whatever they take away. We can do some electrical mending and welding and we have a volunteer who brings her sewing machine along to mend things too.

“We are trying to save all this stuff from going into landfill and being thrown away. We had someone who brought along a TV that had nothing wrong with it apart from the fact that it didn’t have BBC4. That soon went, as did a lawn mower with a dodgy pull cord.”

Apart from his name, it soon becomes obvious David has other credentials that make him perfect for his role in Greener Fram. He has adapted his own home and lifestyle to reduce his energy consumption and be far more sustainable. He is, in short, a walking advert for all Greener Fram hopes to achieve.

He and wife Sue started cutting their energy bills by turning everything off standby, installing insulation and making sure that any new appliances they bought were A-rated for power efficiency. David has a small woodland he coppices for fuel and a wooden outbuilding in his garden boasting a roof full of solar panels, for which he receives regular “feed-in tariff” payments for the electricity generated, meaning the household is energy cost-free.

He hopes to recoup the amount he invested to pay for his energy-saving initiatives within 10 years. In addition, the couple grow their own vegetables, share a car between them and try to walk and bike when they can.

“I’ve been interested in all this kind of thing since the early 1970s,” says David. “But I didn’t do a lot about it until we moved here 24 years ago.

“The reason I feel we need to change the way we do things is that we are all living beyond our means. People in Britain consume almost three times as much of the planet’s resources than they should do - in the US it’s five times. That means large numbers of people in other parts of the world are starving. We cannot go on in the way that we are an ignore all that.

“It’s coming home to us now with many of the people who are currently migrating. We need to consume less and use the resources we have got better. With climate change, things are only going to get worse in the future if we don’t use less energy now. It’s almost at the point where it is irreversible.

“We can’t turn the clock back but it means we have to do common sense things to use less - we can’t continue to put our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening.”

The lifestyle changes David has made aren’t just for ideological reasons. They’re pragmatic as well because he believes that in the not-too distant future there may be times when electricity isn’t constantly available, especially if resources such uranium and lithium start to run out.

“What actually happens will depend entirely on the decisions we make now. It could be a real mess,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is look at things globally and act locally. You can do things locally that will change things if enough of us do it.”

With that in mind, Greener Fram is part of a network of other so-called transition movements across the country, sharing ideas and working together on a range of issues.

It was through one-such transition group in Totnes, Devon, that David hit on the idea of running energy-saving “Transition Streets” courses for local people.

“We now produce 10 booklets on 35 different ideas of how to save energy at home,” he says. “Ideas range from the very simple to the very complicated. We need four to five households to put on a course, which consists of seven sessions, and will go anywhere in east Suffolk.”

So far the course, which covers everything from energy, water, food, waste and transport, has been run in Rendlesham and Wenhaston, Hollesley and homes in the Stour Valley.

A further course is planned in Felixstowe but ironically, as yet, there is yet to be one in Framlingham itself.

Another of the group’s initiatives includes its community garden, which features raised beds, an orchard, wildflower garden and bee hotel. Working parties are held regularly and produce goes to a variety of community groups

It also promotes an annual food challenge each September, whereby people try and source all their food from within 30 miles of where they live in an attempt to raise awareness about where food comes from and support local food producers. For the future the group would love to get a “lending shed” organised, where local people can borrow things, and move into other projects related to community agriculture and perhaps even the arts, music, pottery and sculpture.

For that to happen though, more volunteers are needed.

“We really want to get more young people involved, perhaps setting up a parallel website for them linked in with social media,” says David.

“We’d also like to get involved in local transport and even energy production, but we definitely need more people to do all that.

“All this feeds into the aim of how we can create lifestyles that are more resilient and take account of climate change and resource depletion. We need to change our habits and that is what we are trying to do. But no-one can do it alone. It needs a community solution, for people to work together and make these things happen.”

To find out more visit www.greenerfram.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter