News from previous winners

On a waste reduction mission: nothing new in 22

One of last year's winners of the EESC Solidarity Prize, Cherwell Collective from the UK, has just been granted a prestigious climate award in the UK for its new circular economy project. This Oxford-based, not-for-profit company won our prize in 2020 for supplying food to residents in need during COVID, while teaching them how to grow their own food and make the best use of all surplus foodstuffs.

They have since used the EESC prize money to increase their support for the vulnerable, but also to move forward on their mission to reduce the carbon footprint of their community. They have become the lead partner in the new Waste Innovation Station Headquarters (WISH) project in Oxfordshire, UK.

The project is a vision of a circular economy where nothing new is purchased until absolutely all the options for keeping items in circulation have been exhausted. It has already begun, with a campaign entitled "Nothing new in 22", which asks individuals to make a pledge, in only one single industry, to buy nothing new in 2022. The project has already met with great enthusiasm and has received broad recognition in the UK. On 25 January Cherwell Collective received money from the National Lottery Community's Climate Action Fund, which will finance the WISH project.

Cherwell Collective's founder, Dr Emily Connally, told the EESC about how receiving the EESC prize had made a huge difference for this not-for-profit company.

"The EESC prize was part of the inspiration for our next project, and serves as match funding for the work. I know in my heart our success would not have been possible without the doors the EESC award opened. As a new company, it gave us legitimacy and recognition for our innovation. It gave us funds free of restriction so we could ask the community what they wanted. We saved those funds and used them to follow the wishes of our users", said Dr Connally.

In the surveys carried out, users revealed there was no consensus around need for specific food items, but rather a shared desire to receive "whatever might otherwise be wasted".

In line with their wishes, Cherwell Collective and its partners came up with the WISH project, which reaches more than 50 000 people collectively and is designed to guide the community towards a reduced carbon footprint through outreach and demonstrations on how to reduce waste.

WISH also has an interactive science museum, where each and every exhibit is made from waste, informing the public of the carbon footprint of that waste, and providing demonstrations as well as DIY kits to reduce waste, repair items, and reduce consumption/demand for new production lines.

"We ask people to pledge to support a circular economy. To repair or repurpose items, to pass on their own items, and above all, to resist the urge to buy new items when so many preloved possessions are available," Dr Connally said.

Congratulations, Emily and Cherwell Collective! The EESC is more than proud of you, and humbled and pleased to have been able to contribute to your fantastic project! (ll)