This month marks 10 years since a small Cheshire village set out to change the lives of its residents forever.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since the Ashton Hayes Carbon Neutral Project was set up as a way to reduce the village’s carbon emissions.
It all started when project founder Garry Charnock listened to a debate about climate change at the Hay Festival. Garry, who already had a degree in environmental science, was interested in looking into how he could try and get his village to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Ashton is such a nice and friendly place that I came away from that festival thinking if I can’t persuade the people of Ashton to do this here, I can’t do it anywhere,” he recalls.
“I mentioned my idea to some members of the community and got a lot of support, from places like the University of Chester; then I went to the parish council who voted to adopt my proposal that Ashton Hayes should try to become England’s first carbon neutral village.”
The project was officially launched on the night of January 26, 2006 at Ashton Hayes Primary School with a turnout of 400 people.
“We had a great launch with lots of support,” remembers Garry. “Granada TV were there, and North West Tonight. We even appeared on the Graham Norton Show, which was a fabulous experience. What we asked people to do was not to spend money, just to change their behaviour and save energy.
“Since then we’ve made big changes but simple ones, such as switching off appliances and changing to low energy light bulbs, or focusing on improved insulation and careful energy use.
“We’ve had regular visits from students from the University of Chester, who have always supported us. The students come to stay in the village and carry out residential surveys, tracking their domestic energy use.
“In that first year we saved 20% on our carbon footprint,” Garry explained. “Now after 10 years it’s 40% which for a small village like ours, is major.”
To celebrate a decade of being carbon neutral, the village is holding an anniversary celebration where it all began at Ashton Hayes Primary School on January 28. It is a chance for all the community to gather and reflect on how much has changed in their village since 2006.
Garry has spent the last few months filming a special documentary told through the voices of local residents about how being carbon-friendly has changed their lives. The programme will have a special airing on the anniversary night.
“One of the key things about this project is how it’s changed the way we think as a community,” says Garry. “It’s given us a lot of confidence in new projects -not least through the community shop, the community recreation company and the community owned energy company.”
“Things have changed massively in 10 years. The world is sitting up and taking notice and people are talking about theIR carbon footprint more and more. As for us, we’ve got lots going on, including merging the carbon neutral with our new community land trust. We’re also writing a book that records a decade of activity.
“It’s been just amazing,” adds Garry. “There has been communication from community all over the world and considering we started in the little village of Ashton Hayes, the ripple effect has been incredible. Our car energy emissions have decreased by 40% and 98% of the residents tell us they’re proud of the village. Half the community now volunteer on other projects too.
“And best of all we’ve had a great deal of fun over the decade!”
All are welcome to attend the anniversary celebration on Thursday, January 28 at Ashton Hayes Primary School, on Church Road from 7pm. You can find more information at www.goingcarbonneutral.co.uk