We need to bring back nature at a global and local level. Daily contact with nature is linked to less stress, better mood and reduced obesity. But many people don't have contact with nature especially in urban areas.
People want healthier and greener streets but maintaining new planting is a problem.
How can we work with our neighbours to bring nature into our streets and make our cities 10xGreener?
What if…we could bring people together to increase and maintain the vegetation and wildlife on urban streets and build a more connected community through gardening.
What we did…We hired the UK’s first postcode gardener in the London postcode of E5 to tackle maintenance and bring together local residents to transform the area.
What we learned
Early in 2018 we bought Daubeney Road residents together to explore how to make their street 10xGreener. We learned that they wanted to see greener and healthier cities but didn't have the time, money or skills to keep up the good work. What they valued most was meeting their neighbours by taking action together and building social connection. It also led to residents in other nearby streets following this example.
What is a postcode gardener?
The gardener is funded by local people to provide a longterm financially sustainable solution to the problems of maintaining urban greenery and increasing social fragmentation. The role combines gardening at a ‘postcode level’ with community organising to involve locals in the process. They work on private and public land so long as it's publicly visible and empower locals to work together to help greenery and wildlife flourish. The gardener is supported by local partners using knowledge, experience and resources built for the project.
Our first postcode gardener
In summer 2018, we crowdfunded over £6500 from local residents for 350 hours of postcode gardener time. Working with our local delivery partner ecoActive and a passionate group of volunteers, the community hired Kate Poland (pictured), the UK's first postcode gardener to work with them and co-create a vision for their area. They have been hard at work sowing seeds, planting in the margins and smashing up concrete to make space for nature.
More pilot projects
Since the launch in London E5, we have supported two more postcode gardener projects in Bideford, Devon and Chester in Cheshire. While E5 involves neighbours to help green their streets, Bideford is mainly focused on growing food in public places. We're exploring how different models of funding and community engagement might work - like testing a paid-for wildlife gardening service to support the community work.
The project continues to expand. We have identified three new areas that are ripe for urban greening, using a combination of social deprivation and environmental data. We are working with local organisations in Birmingham, Bristol and Notting Dale in Kensington and Chelsea to find out what kind of greening the communities would like in their neighbourhoods and are launching a funding drive to support the next 3 postcode gardeners to get up and running and develop their business models.