Which are the greenest Cotswold businesses?
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Following the release of the UN’s landmark climate report, there’s never been a more pertinent time to take action against climate change. We’re shining a spotlight on the Cotswolds-based businesses who are helping to make a difference. Words: Rosa Smith
‘Code red for humanity.’ This was the phrase that dominated news headlines across the world in August following the publication of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific report, the first review of the science of climate change since 2013.
The grave assessment of the status of our planet highlighted the unprecedented and sometimes irreversible changes that are being caused by human activity, with experts warning of increasingly extreme weather conditions, including heatwaves, droughts and flooding.
However, there was a sliver of hope running through the coverage. As UN Secretary General António Guterres explained: ‘If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today’s report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.’
Personal changes are a good place to start, but for businesses who have the influence and scale to make a wider-reaching difference – the pressure is on. Fortunately, the Cotswolds is blessed with an abundance of businesses that are eager to step up to the plate when it comes to taking environmental responsibility.
From larger businesses whose foundations are built on sustainability, to the small-to-medium enterprises and organisations that are implementing incremental but crucial differences to the way they operate; we’re highlighting the outstanding work that’s being carried out here in the Cotswolds to help guide us towards a greener future.
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Ecotricity is synonymous with green energy in the Cotswolds. Headquartered in Stroud, Gloucestershire, it was the first energy company to offer its customers green electricity, with the aim to end the use of fossil fuels. Founded in 1995 by by entrepreneur Dale Vince alongside the Global Green Energy Movement, the company is also responsible for the creation of the Electric Highway in 2011, the world’s first national charging network for electric cars. Vince is known as a ‘green industrialist’ for good reason thanks to other initiatives that include his role as Chairman of Forest Green Rovers, the world’s first all vegan football club, and more recently Skydiamond – lab grown diamonds that take carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and consequently have no carbon footprint.
On the other hand, West Country Electrical Services prove that smaller enterprises are just as important when it comes to providing green energy options to customers in the Cotswolds. The team of electricians are certified solar PV installers, and can also install home EV charging points and air source heat pumps, as well as Tesla Powerwall, a solar-powered battery that stores energy and can detect outages, acting as a renewable generator.
Produced responsibly and organically
Furniture and clothing
Whether it’s food, drink, beauty products, clothing, or anything and everything else in between, there’s certainly no shortage of Cotswold suppliers that are putting organic first. Take, for instance, Planted, the bespoke furniture company based in Cheltenham that creates beautifully made sofas, armchairs and footstools out of natural and sustainable materials with a zero-plastic promise. On the subject of quality materials, Gloucestershire-based Lovesay and Mo offers consciously handmade children’s unisex clothing out of organic materials.
Oxfordshire-based eco-friendly activewear brand MFB Activewear uses a three-pronged attack to join in the fight against climate change, providing sustainable clothing without the hefty price tag. Their leggings are made of material produced from recycled plastic bottles; they plant a tree for every item sold; and only use biodegradable packaging. Impressive!
Hair and beauty
In recent years, the idea of putting chemical-rich, synthetic products on our skin and hair has become distasteful, resulting in the burgeoning organic cosmetics, hair and beauty market. The Cotswolds alone is home to a vast number of suppliers when it comes to all things natural and good, including 100% vegan and cruelty free Cheltenham-based skincare brand Monuskin (with a special nod to their plastic free exfoliators), and family-run franchise Neal’s Yard, offering skincare, treatments and natural remedies. Oxford-based hair salon Anne Veck also has plenty to be proud of, having recently introduced a range of energy-saving measures that have resulted in a 40% reduction of their CO2 emission, and subsequently have just received a Sustainability Hero award. As if that wasn’t enough, they have since created a sustainable salon toolkit that helps others in the industry to follow suit.
Food and drink
When it comes to delicious organic food and drink producers, cafés, and farm shops in the Cotswolds – there really are too many to mention. Some of our favourites include Daylesford Organic Farm in Kingham, the mecca of all things fresh, organic and refined, totally plastic-free, zero-waste shopping at The Market Garden in Eynsham, Court Farm Shop in Cheltenham: three times winner at the Cotswold Life Food & Drink awards, and Eastington Farm Shop which focuses on local and artisan products.
Cheltenham restaurant group JM Socials is making sure food waste from their restaurants – Prithvi, Bao + BBQ, Bhoomi Kitchen, Holee Cow, Holee Cowless, and Holee Clucker – is turned into electricity. Its zero-landfill initiative its part of its impressive five-year sustainability plan.
If you’re looking for food on the go, then Organic Gurus is Cheltenham’s healthiest fast-food takeaway, while Henry’s Coffee House & Dairy in Minchinhampton’s is a delicious café stocking organic cheeses, milk, butter and creams. Over in Oxfordshire, Sky Wave Gin have perfected their gin that encapsulates the Cotswold countryside with blackberries foraged from local hedgerows making up one of their 13 botanicals, as well as raspberries grown by a neighbour and the finest natural mineral water from Blenheim Palace.
Last but not least, we have to mention Bushel + Peck, a cider company that uses surplus unsprayed fruit from residential gardens in Gloucestershire, offering free juice or cider in return for their harvest. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
The race to rewild
With ecological issues at the front and centre of many councils’ and organisations’ policy making over recent years, the race to rewild and conserve the Cotswolds’ many areas of wilderness and grassland is on. In 2020, the Cotswold District Council Ecological Emergency Action Pledge included a pledge to rewild ‘the right places with the right species’, while last year the project Glorious Cotswold Grasslands was launched by Cotswolds AONB. The initiative, which received a £200,000 grant, aims to repopulate the Cotswolds with native wildflowers in collaboration with local estates, including the likes of Dyrham Park, Sherborne Park, The Bathurst Estate, and Stowell Park. Many other businesses are also involved in their own rewilding initiatives. Take Calcot Manor Hotel & Spa, for example, which has been rewilding their 220 acres over the past 25 years, and has planted 200 native trees since 2012.
Deliveries that don’t leave a trace
Tesco may have committed to a fully electric delivery van fleet by 2028, but one business based in the Cotswolds is already ahead of the game in their own small way. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshops are two independent, family-run bookstores in Tetbury and Nailsworth, and on Tuesdays they operate a local zero-carbon delivery service by bicycle to orders placed in the Nailsworth/Stroud area, as well as the option to collect from Chalford Village Shop.
As the staycation trend continues to flourish, the Cotswolds is an increasingly popular area for those looking to holiday in beautiful surroundings while staying clear of the UK’s crowded coastlines. Thanks to the Cotswolds Discoverer One Day Pass, the Cotswolds is accessible without a car, and offers the opportunity to visit numerous towns and villages in a day by train – saving money and helping to reduce vehicle emissions. In terms of accommodation, there’s plenty of eco-conscious options available, such as Eco Chic Cottages – two five-star luxury cottages in Shilton and Southrop, yurts and glamping at Westley Farm in Chalford, and six dog-friendly eco lodges at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park in Guiting Power.
Bath’s Share & Repair is a certified charitable organisation that runs regular repair cafés as part of the Repair Café Foundation. The idea behind the cafés is to allow people to bring along broken items destined for landfill, be it clothes, mobile phones or toasters, which will then be fixed by local repair volunteers. Realising there was a sizable gulf between people who wanted to repair but lacked the know-how, they also launched HOW TO Workshops. In 2020, Share & Repair opened its first pop up shop in Bath, moving to a new premises in August 2021 – intriguingly named the Library of Things (a place where you can borrow the tools and bits you need). 2021 also saw the launch of HomeKIT, a project which receives donations of small electrical home appliances which are then subjected to some TLC, before being distributed by partner charities to low-income households.
From farm to fork
One of the many benefits of living in such an agriculturally rich environment as the Cotswolds is the access to fresh and nutritious local produce. Reducing food miles goes a long way to helping reduce our collective carbon footprint. Schemes such as Slipstream Organics are helping to support the vital links between locally grown organic goods and nearby households thanks to its bespoke fruit and vegetable box delivery scheme.
Similarly, Feast from the farm offers a healthy and balanced alternative to commercially made ready meals, supplying delicious frozen dishes by the week around their Wotton-under-Edge catchment area, all made with ingredients from its sister Wotton Farm Shop – providing a true farm-to-fork experience. Many of the Cotswolds’ wonderful pubs are also renowned for using local produce and championing local beverages, with favourites including The Bell at Sapperton, The Plough Inn at Cold Aston and Daylesford’s The Wild Rabbit near Chipping Norton.
Technology that offers transparency
Headquartered in the village of Apperley near Tewkesbury, the Happerley app enables users to scan a QR code and search for Happerley Transparent food and drink suppliers and supply chain. The goal of the app is to give consumers the power to know exactly where the ingredients in the food they are buying comes from and how it was farmed/produced in order to make more conscious buying decisions. In turn, by challenging food and drink businesses to offer consumer transparency, Happerley hopes to apply pressure to the industry to reduce food miles and adopt more sustainable practices. The app and organisation are still in their early stages – but watch this space.
Designing a better future
Working specifically in the Cotswolds, David Holland is an award-winning architect, designer and advocate for sustainable and ethical living. His work automatically encompasses sustainability, using responsibly sourced materials and environmentally harmonising designs. His ethos is that good quality equals longevity, timelessness, and functionality – without having to cost the earth – literally or figuratively.
With the dawn of widespread flexible and dynamic working practices due to the pandemic, the garden office has experienced something of a renaissance. One company who can produce the very finest, most cutting-edge workspaces is Cotswold Home Offices. Using only FSC certified timber, natural fibre insulation, reclaimed materials and infinitely recyclable aluminium and steel, Cotswold Home Offices provides eco-friendly, self-contained offices, handcrafted from their workshop in Northleach.
A greener education
The University of Gloucestershire is known for providing a world-class education, but did you know that it’s also the only university that’s been in the Top 10 of every UK People and Planet league table since 2007? The league is the only comprehensive and independent ranking of UK universities on their environmental and ethical performance, and in 2019 the uni secured top place for sustainability.
Also, in July of this year, the School of Education and Humanities were awarded winners in the Next Generation Learning and Skills category at the International Green Gown Awards for their research project ‘A Rounder Sense of Purpose (RSP)’.
The whole university has an international profile for its performance in sustainability, with recognised expertise in Education for Sustainability.
The bees knees
As an integral part of our ecosystem, the severe decline in bee populations over recent years is a big concern. Fortunately, organisations such as Cotswolds Bees LTD are helping to combat the issue by providing a selection of courses, both online and in person, for complete novices looking to get into beekeeping, through to tips and advice for experienced beekeepers, all in addition to selling their own honey, bees, and equipment. Another business which is working alongside the bees for a more sustainable future is Nailsworth-based The Beeswax Wrap Co., which makes stylish, reusable and plastic-free food wraps using organic cotton and locally sourced beeswax – a handmade and environmentally-friendly alternative to cling film and foil.
Based at Honeydale Farm, near Chipping Norton, FarmED is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to educate and inspire people to get involved in sustainable farming and food systems that can provide nourishment not just for the consumer, but for the planet. The organisation has three eco-buildings that offers a multipurpose education and conference space, a farm to fork kitchen and demonstration area, and a dairy and farming operations building. FarmED runs events that range from webinars, courses and events for schools and universities, to farm walks, demonstrations and an event programme that features talks such as Rick Stein at Home, Holistic Ecological Monitoring and Land Planning, Fundamentals of Regenerative Soil Health and Doctor on the Farm: Gut Health.
In nearby Chipping Campden, Cumulus Consultants is on hand to offer independent land, environment and natural capital advice – with a vision of helping to balance the need for production with sustainable and sensitive uses of land and natural resources. The team specialises in sustainable farming and land management, offering clients the opportunity to develop policies, strategies and initiatives with longevity from both an environmental and business perspective.
Green wins for your business
If you’re a business owner, why not try these easy green wins:
- Encourage car share schemes or provide public transport allowances and cycle to work schemes for employees
- Make use of second-hand or pre-loved items, be it when furnishing your shop, staff room or office
- Go paperless!
- Reduce single use plastics as much as possible, avoid plastic cups, takeaway coffee cups, plastic bags, etc
- Make some energy efficient upgrades such as automated sensor lights, LED bulbs, solar panels, etc
- Use green cleaning products
- Introduce plenty of plants and greenery into your indoor environment, it not only looks great but can help improve the air quality
SMEs and COP26
At the COP26 (the 26th Conference of the Parties, held in Glasgow Oct 31-Nov 12, 2021), a high-profile panel hosted by Lord Stern, stated that getting small and medium-sized enterprises on board with the country's net zero emissions goals is crucial in achieving them.
NatWest chief executive Alison Rose added that SMEs contribute around 30% of UK emissions, and mentioned the bank's recent £100m pledge to support SMEs with their net-zero journeys, 'potentially worth around £160bn in revenue'.
Feeling disillusioned by the perceived lack of momentum with climate plans from previous conferences, many SMEs have gone on to form their own sustainable policies and pledges. The general feeling this year is one of optimism, though, believing that COP26 is an opportunity for governments to demonstrate support for the progress that’s already made by many UK entrepreneurs.
Did you know?
- According to the Cotswold District Climate Emergency Strategy 2020-2030:
- For emissions excluding LULUCF (land use, land-use change and forestry), slightly less than a third of emissions in the Cotswold District arise from industry, commerce (offices, shops and venues) and farming. One quarter comes from households, and just shy of half comes from road transport
- For context, Cotswold District annual CO2 emissions are equivalent to the emissions from driving an average family car about 2.7 billion miles
- Cotswold District Council is a founding member of the Countryside Climate Network, an initiative by the UK100 group of council leaders who are ambitious to make a difference on the climate agenda
- Gfirst LEP’s draft Local Industrial Strategy states the county’s ambition to make Gloucestershire the greenest place to live and work in England, and the first place in the world to create a healthy circular economy
Why do we need to act now?
- The IPCC report’s findings make for sobering reading. Here are some of the key points:
- The past five years have been the hottest on record since 1850
- The recent rate at which the sea level has risen has nearly tripled compared with 1901-1971
- A sea level rise of around two metres by the end of this century cannot be ruled out
- The Arctic is likely to be practically ice-free in September at least once before 2050 in all scenarios assessed
Do you have a Cotswolds-based business that’s playing its part in protecting the planet? Cotswold Life would love to hear from you. Let us know how you’re helping to change the world. Email: email@example.com