Summary: Network members discuss green initiatives

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Created by Debbie Ambrose
Last updated 5 months ago

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13 January 2023 at 4:32pm


How can your volunteers help your organisation go greener?

Thank you to all our guests who joined us for the first members focused discussion of 2023. We had a good cross section of guests at this meeting from organisations that included hospitals, hospices and care homes. Much of the conversation in both groups was around outdoor activities, mostly gardening.

Here is a short summary of some of the things you are already doing.

  • Recycling unwanted Christmas presents and clothes – consider a swap shop.
  • Recycling Christmas Trees. For a small fee they can be turned into mulch for the garden spaces.
  • Add compost bins to garden spaces.
  • Use garden spaces for growing fruit and vegetables that can be used for meals.
  • Recycling equipment: Particularly the reuse of walking aids. For example, crutches and frames to stop them ending up in land waste and saving your organisation money. An orthopaedic hospital is already using this with volunteers helping to bring back equipment for recycling.
  • In one organization there is an ambition to reduce food waste at mealtimes. Volunteers are collecting data with surveys about portions sizes and trying to find out why older patients are not eating certain meals
  • Distribution of food in a community shop for the wellbeing of staff. A sensitively run initiative managed by volunteers in a discreet space to make it easier for any staff struggling with the cost of living. Link in with your local supermarket.
  • Litter picking. A simple but effective way of volunteers making a difference and keeping fit at the same time.
  • Young people from local universities are doing bird and insect counts in garden spaces as part of a sustainability program. This can create opportunities for young people to act as ambassadors around sustainability to spread the word and share learning.
  • One of our regular guests attends the NHS Sustainability/Green agenda strategy meetings where there is a focus on encouraging young people to get involved and help with the design of strategies.

Observations and challenges

  • It was recognised that volunteers could be recruited for specific assets around their knowledge and experience of sustainability. Think about targeted recruitment so that you can develop champions within your organisation around sustainability.
  • Challenges were identified in how these green spaces are maintained. It was noted that the volunteers might come in from a corporate organisation and blitz an area and do a fantastic job. However, who then looks after the volunteers who need to maintain that area?
  • We talked about the sustainability infrastructure within organisations, and it appears that those sustainability teams are often small and not well known about. There could be a role here for volunteers to be ambassadors or champions.
  • One of our guests has a lot of experience in the arts and green spaces. He is now developing outside spaces which blossomed during COVID because staff needed to be outside when they were not on duty. They are working with local countryside Rangers who offer training to volunteers within the organisation as the expertise required for gardening can be a shortfall.

Final thought

  • Winter is probably not the best time to recruit gardening volunteers when there are so many other priorities within the NHS. However, a lot of people might be looking for outdoor roles after Christmas, with a view to getting fit.

Useful links:

A selection of volunteer roles can be found in our Volunteer Role Library and includes gardening roles.

Greener NHS

NHS England Blog

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