CAN questions

What is a CAN?

Rural wind turbineA CAN is a group of people in a local community that organises practical initiatives to reduce local carbon emissions and build community resilience.  Groups are either community-led, or Parish/Town Council led with community input.

A local CAN is well placed to understand the situation and potential of its place and community.  Based on that understanding, it can consider, ‘How can we best make our contribution to a low carbon future round here?’

There are a range of local CANs across Stroud District, as displayed on this map.  The map includes contact details for joining up.

How do I start a group?

Most groups start when a small group of concerned residents call a community meeting to discuss what can be done.   An initial meeting of interested residents can exchange information about ideas and initiatives, and talk about how to get organised.

One approach is set up a ‘Core Group’ and some ‘Topic Groups’ to focus on peoples’ specific interests.

It’s a good idea to identify who else is active in your community and who has responsibility for relevant issues.  Contact can then be made and conversations opened up about ideas and initiatives.  Scope for working together can be discussed.

Some core activities

  • operating a bank account and fundraising
  • arranging communications and outreach
  • liaison and collaboration between topic groups
  • liaison and networking with others eg the Parish Council, the district wide CAN Forum

What can a local CAN do?

The activities of local CANs are many and varied.  They can include:

promoting behaviour change – so local people reduce their carbon footprints

developing low carbon community projects (e.g. on energy, food, nature, transport, or waste) – so local people get involved and work together

networking across community, public and business sectors – so a range of groups and organisations get involved

Practical projects can act as important demonstrations that change is possible and happening.  They can vary from those which primarily enable community involvement and shared endeavour (such as community cooking, food growing, repair or sharing schemes), to those which prioritise actions which make the most impact on reducing carbon emissions (e.g. low carbon community energy or transport projects).

You can utilise an on-line tool for exploring the carbon emissions in your parish (the ‘carbon footprint’).  Use of the tool was explained and discussed at our April 2021 CAN Forum.

And a map of ‘low carbon’ projects across Stroud District is available which can be used to find out more about the sorts of projects happening in different communities

What makes an effective group?

Great projects are more likely to happen where groups have learnt how to work well together.  Useful tips include:

  • make sure decision-making structures and responsibilities are clear
  • build on peoples’ strengths, enabling them to do what they are good at and enjoy
  • publicise successes to motivate continued involvement
  • enable additional volunteers to get involved, and
  • prepare to ‘handover the reigns’ at an appropriate time.

It also helps to discuss what has worked well and not so well, and to build the lessons into future planning.

promoting behaviour change – so local people reduce their carbon footprints

promoting behaviour change – so local people reduce their carbon footprints

make sure decision-making structures and responsibilities are clear

build on peoples’ strengths, enabling them to do what they are good at and enjoy

make sure decision-making structures and responsibilities are clear

What support is available?

If you’re thinking of setting up a new group, Transition Stroud can help with an initial workshop or launch meeting.  We can provide information, advice and support.  This could include help with a meeting agenda, finding speakers from other CANs, or setting up an online meeting.

We also convene a Forum for representatives from CANs across the district.  This meets online every 2 months to exchange information, experiences and good practices.  The notes of previous Forum meetings provide a useful mine of information about what’s happening.

For more detail about topic-specific support see the responses to questions below.

Climate Group Themes

It’s important to engage the wider community on climate issues and local activities.  Nationally, evidence-based advice and guidance on communicating with the public is available from Climate Outreach. Key tips include to:
  • Connect with what matters to your audience and show how climate change will affect people directly
  • Use key messages that have wide resonance – for example, protect future generations, create a healthier society, and preserve the countryside in ways that end our throwaway culture
  • Be engaging and build balanced optimism - two-way dialogue is crucial - learn together and avoid preaching
  • Catalyse change – nurture agency and empowerment – show that ordinary people working together can make a difference.
Examples of communications and outreach activities by other local CANs include: Other initiatives include publicising CAN activities in local community newspapers and facebook pages, and at local events. Account should also be taken of the way that Stroud District Council is planning to engage local communities.  This was discussed at the CAN Forum in September 2021.

Renewable energy, such as solar, wind and hydropower, can be used to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and therefore carbon emissions.  And fixing leaky homes and buildings through ‘retrofit’ measures, and replacing oil and gas boilers with heat pumps, can make a big difference too.

For those that can afford it, there is lots that householders can do, from switching to energy efficient lightbulbs and appliances and using a green energy supplier, to installing a heat pump and rooftop PV

There are also many examples of energy projects in local communities, from PV on community, public and commercial rooftops, to eco-refurbishment of local buildings such as community halls and churches.

These projects often attract more support if owned by local communities.  In Stroud District, there are two examples of community-owned energy projects:

Ways of developing community energy projects were discussed at the CAN Forum in October 2020. A number of projects are edging forward, including a bulk purchase scheme for domestic PV, and identifying potential sites for community wind or ground-mounted PV.

Locally, energy advice and services are available from Severn Wye Energy Agency, including the Council-sponsored Warm and Well campaign.

Nationally, a wide range of advice, guidance and case studies are available, including from Carbon Copy, Next Generation, Community Energy England, the Energy Savings Trust, and the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

Growing your own fruit and veg at home or as part of a community project, and eating healthy, locally sourced, food can all help reduce carbon emissions.

There are lots of ways for a local CAN to get involved or organise local food projects.  What to do, and how to do it, can draw on the activities and experience of a wide range of groups across the district:

There is also a Gloucestershire Food and Farming Strategy, with associated programmes of support and activity.  See for example, the programme on regenerative agriculture.

The work of the Long Table, and the local strategy, were discussed at the February 2021 meeting of the CAN Forum.

More examples of local food projects are available at Carbon Copy.

Healthy ecosystems underlie all aspects of our wellbeing, and are important for building resilience to climate change.

Nature-based projects are also a great way of getting people involved.  Examples of local projects include:

Locally, guidance and support on tree planting and management is available from Stroud Valleys Project.  See also the work of the Stroud Nature Forum, and Gloucestershire Local Nature Partnership.

Local projects and the support available were discussed at the CAN Forum in June 2021.

Nationally, advice is available from the Arboricultural Assocation and the Woodland Trust.  More stories about community nature projects are available at Carbon Copy.

Changing how we get around can reduce our carbon footprint and improve health and wellbeing.  Increasing the use of cycling and improved public transport can help reduce reliance on cars. Where cars are required we can switch to electric vehicles, either privately owned, shared or hired.

Locally, Rodborough Parish Council has promoted ‘Quiet Lanes’, Standish Parish Council is promoting a new multi-user path for safe and sustainable travel, and Stroud Town Council is consulting on how to make the town cycling and walker friendly.

For more ideas, see Wotton Area CAN’s approach to ‘things to do’ to reduce carbon emissions from transport.  Also take a look at Stroud Active which campaigns for cycling and walking, and social enterprise the Bike Drop for local deliveries by bike.

The December 2020 meeting of the CAN Forum focused on local carbon transport – you can read the presentations and discussion here.  This has led to early steps to establish an Electric Car Club in Stroud.

Nationally, the Campaign for Better Transport is a useful source of information and advice.  And some great case studies of community transport projects are available at Carbon Coop.

A determined focus on re-use, repair and recycling can help reduce carbon emissions, and grow local ‘circular economies’.

The Nailsworth CAN website includes a list of the types of community projects that can be undertaken.  A number of Repair Cafes exist across the district.  See also Chalford CAN’s upcycling and repair activities.  Nailsworth CAN is also exploring the possibility of setting up a Library of Things.

Across the district there are various groups and organisations active on waste and resources, including:

  • Stroud District Action on Plastic focusses on reducing plastic waste and raising awareness of alternative local solutions.
  • Stroud Valleys Project has a Stroud town centre Eco Shop running refill and recycling services.
  • The Grace Network has established various social enterprises, including Stroud Furniture Bank, Stroud Kid’s Stuff and Gloucestershire House Clearances.

Also see this link to a book on local stories of small steps to less waste.

Nationally, some inspiring stories about circular economy projects are available at Carbon Coop.

Building resilience will help communities respond to, and cope with, climate change.

To some extent ‘resilience building’ is automatically built into CAN activities through projects which help generate a sense of agency and involve people working together with shared endeavour.

There are also specific activities that a CAN could organise or get involved with, including ‘climate cafés’ and social prescribing (see this article on the approach in Gloucestershire).

The development of Community Hubs is also being supported across the district.  Links to climate action were discussed at the CAN Forum in September 2021.

A short briefing paper on engaging community hubs on linked activities is available.