WERA Asks…Susan Sheehan

Can you please tell us who you are and what you do?
Susan Sheehan, Green Community Champions Officer, Lambeth Council, and co-founder of Hyde Farm Climate Action Network.

Can you give a brief description of what your role involves?
I help people across Lambeth set up green community groups like Hyde Farm CAN

How long have you been doing this role?
About 9 months

What is the best advice you would give to someone who wanted to save energy?
Try to understand your energy use – then you can see where the biggest savings can be made. If you track your bills you will soon see how much energy you actually save by turning things off, and only using the heating when you really need to.

How is Lambeth Council encouraging it’s residents to be more eco-friendly?
My role is to encourage people to work in their communities to become more eco-friendly. There are lots of things that are relatively easy to do as a group, and it makes it much more fun and interesting. There are four main areas that I work on - energy, food (grow your own, cook your own, waste less), waste (composting, reuse, reducing waste, recycling) and transport (cycling, car sharing etc.). There are teams of people in the council that work on sustainable transport and sustainable waste.

What aspects of your job do you most enjoy?
Meeting people and starting a conversation around the environment.

How do you think residents can be motivated to leave the car at home, and take public transport?
I think the planned new bus service will make it easier for residents on the Weir estate to get to Balham and Streatham. There is also a need for safer bike storage on the estate. Residents could save a lot of money by giving up their cars, and one way to make this more attractive would be to have a car club car on the estate (eg Streetcar).

How can residents on estates grow their own food?
The easiest way to start growing food on estates is to plant some tasty salad leaves such as rocket in a pot and put it on a balcony or window sill. Herbs are also very good to grow in pots. Otherwise residents can get together and campaign for areas of the estate to be designated for food growing. The council has produced a set of guidelines to help residents set up community food growing proejcts on estates.

Who would you most like to meet?
Barack Obama. I met Gordon Brown last year and am meeting Hilary Benn next week so I don’t think that’s too ambitious!

What is the main aim of the Green Community Champions Project?
The main aim of the Green Community Champions Project is to support individuals that are championing green activities in their communities. When I first started I had a goal of 6 groups across the borough by the end of the year. There are actually now 50 groups.

How do you think Residents Associations benefit estates?
Resident Associations are essential if estate residents want to improve their environment and lives as part of a community. I think RAs are also good for streets – they are rare, but Green Community groups are starting to fill that role.

What does community mean to you?
Community is how we nurture the environments in which we live, work, play and pray…our lives are richer and more fruitful if we appreciate our communities.

What one item could you not leave home without?
My house keys!

What do you think is the easiest way for residents to start to be more sustainable, and think about their carbon footprint?
The easiest way is to get together with neighbours and get a conversation going. I am always happy to help facilitate a discussion!

How would you encourage youth to get involved with the Green Champions Project?
I am currently working on a Green Communities volunteering programme, to make it easy for young people to take part. We are hoping to organise volunteer days and events. I am also working with a local community gardener who specialises in working with young people.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
I only work 20 hours a week, but could work 80! and I would enjoy every minute of it.

How would you sell Lambeth to the rest of the world?
I am very proud of some of the things Lambeth is doing with regard to the environment – there is still a lot more work to do but in terms of Green Communities it is leading the way.

Describe yourself in a short sentence.
I am passionate about the work I do but tend to try to do too much!

What is your biggest achievement in your current role?
The fact that there are now 50 Green Communities across Lambeth.

How can residents contact you?
Susan Sheehan, Green Community Champions Officer
Phone: 020 7926 7672 – Fax: 020 7926 6201  Email: SSheehan@lambeth.gov.uk