Surrey's Greener Future design challenge

How should we respond to the global climate emergency? This was one of the many questions we faced during the summer of 2019 when we declared a state of climate emergency in our county; joining many other institutions and organisations both locally and worldwide.

As part of this commitment, we developed Surrey's Climate Change Strategy which addresses the challenges we face and how we intend to achieve our goal of net zero carbon by 2050. However, we firmly believe that our actions as local government will not be enough without the support of our residents and local communities. For this reason, we decided to run the Surrey's Greener Future Design Challenge. We invited anyone who lives, works or studies in Surrey to submit an idea for how they could work with their community to tackle climate change addressing one or more of these key areas:

  • Recycling
  • Transport
  • Food
  • Fast fashion
  • Single-use plastic
  • Countryside and nature
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Air pollution

After a very successful first run, we are pleased to share the ten shortlisted ideas and the passionate teams behind them. We encourage you to support the ideas that resonate with you and your interests, so this network continues to grow.

Shortlisted Ideas 2019/2020

Active Neighbourhoods - Reigate and Banstead

Active Neighbourhoods is a community led approach to better streets and sustainable travel, encouraging people in Reigate and Banstead to make short journeys by active and sustainable means, rather than using their car. Simon and Bill, the team behind this idea, have based their proposals on tried and tested active travel schemes from places like the Netherlands, Switzerland and Waltham Forest.

Their focus is on ensuring residential neighbourhoods are attractive places to walk, cycle and spend time, seeing neighbourhoods as the basis for active travel networks. They want to run micro trials starting this year to test the effectiveness of two specific evidence-based approaches in two communities in Reigate and Banstead: a low traffic neighbourhood; and school street approach. To do this they want to work closely with people in seven identified local communities to map barriers to walking and cycling ensuring they identify the two best locations to run a micro trial. The trials will use experimental traffic orders allowing them to get feedback from local people in the process.

Active Neighbourhoods Twitter


Farnham Cycle Campaign - Waverley

Farnham is in the top 3% of the UK's most polluted towns. This is caused by the volume of traffic, particularly at peak times when air pollution levels are higher than the M25. Pete's idea responds to a major air quality issue in Farnham's town centre. His project is a community-led campaign to create a cycle superhighway through the town, whilst also encouraging people to take up more sustainable travel options, such as bikes and scooters (including electric, pedal and push powered models). Creating the superhighway will link up existing cycle tracks, connecting large areas of housing with main Farnham destinations such as schools, the station and the town centre, increasing independence, health and wellbeing of local people in the process.

Farnham Cycle Campaign Website

Farnham Cycle Campaign's Facebook


Surrey's Wildflowering Project - Epsom and Ewell

Climate change and related issues have had a significant negative affect on our biodiversity, mainly due to habitat destruction. Nigel's project tackles this issue by asking us to re-think the way we manage roadside verges and roundabouts, proposing a wild flowering scheme instead of traditional approaches. There are significant environmental benefits, linked to strengthening the ecosystem for pollinators by using the right mix of plant species, but he is also keen to explore the role local communities might play, both in supporting verge maintenance but also encouraging local people to see what else they can do to promote biodiversity by working together.

Nigel has secured agreement to work with Surrey Highways Team to pilot wild flower verges in two new locations in Surrey (building on isolated examples of this so far in the county) and is establishing a joint steering groups to coordinate this. The aim would be to learn from these pilots and see if this is transferable to other locations in time.


10 Green Bottles - Woking

10 Green Bottles draws from Helen's experience of the school pick-ups she does every day. With the support Maria, her team member, they propose using their local school as a zero-waste refill hub: parents drop of their kids, but then also bring empty containers and request a "re-fill" of their choice of products (detergent, washing liquids, fabric softeners, etc). It intends to be self-sustaining, with the money collected funding the zero-waste shop, with any surplus used to promote sustainability initiatives within the School. Helen and Maria have successfully prepared a business plan, they have the parents buy-in and are starting to prep the materials for the scheme, but are also ambitious to roll the idea out in schools across Surrey.


Green Lungs in Stoughton - Guildford

Kate, who is a Stoughton resident and a member of the EcoChurch Team at Emmanuel Church, would like to see the Stoughton Recreation Ground ("the rec") become a place where the community comes together and connects with nature. She would also like to improve air quality.

Her idea focuses on planting trees on under-used land on the rec, supported by natural under planting and exploring the potential for a natural bog garden in one area. She wants to involve the different community groups that are based around the park in caring for the trees and wild areas that are created, through establishing a "Friends of Stoughton Recreation Ground" group. This will strengthen relationships between local people and influence encourage more sustainable choices in other aspects of people's lives. Guildford Borough Council (the landowner) and the Royal Horticultural Society are supporting this initiative alongside Surrey County Council.

Green Lungs in Stoughton Facebook


Tree Planting Initiative - Reigate and Banstead

We need to plant more trees in Surrey, but it is challenging and complex for local people who would like to do so in their local community to know who to speak to and the steps to follow. George, as part of the Tadworth and Walton Residents Association, has been involved with fundraising for tree planting, but he entered the challenge looking to expand his idea. Drawing on his knowledge and experience, he is seeking to create a template and guidance document that encourages and enables others to do the same – navigating the bureaucratic and regulatory processes involved and who is responsible for what, between Borough and District Councils, the County Council, Highways England and private land owners.


Podcast - Waverley

Climate change is such a big and complex issue that it can be difficult for people to engage with this and relate it to their everyday lives. There are not many channels through which local people can share the practical things they are doing to make a difference. Tim's project is about creating a series of podcasts on practical things people can do to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, as well as promoting local climate change initiatives that are already happening. He wants to provide an information channel that helps people to learn, share and build up a knowledge-base of everyday ways to make a difference.

He has developed some podcasts already for Surrey's Greener Future, using content about the other nine ideas from their journey through the Design Challenge. For the future, he wishes to explore other relevant topics and is keen to hear from other people who have ideas for podcasts or are interested in becoming reporters.

The MrT Podcast studio channel on Surrey's Greener Future Design Challenge

MrT Podcast Twitter


Skip the Tip - Waverley

Shottermill Infants School currently produces about 17kg of food waste each school day – a total of around 3,230kg every year. Surrey's schools are currently treated the same as businesses, so have to pay extra if they want to get their food waste collected – around £400 annually – which can be a barrier. Consequently, this waste often goes directly to landfill contributing to CO2 emissions.

Abby and Amy's project aims to:

  • reduce food waste, through training of staff and education of children, alongside discouraging single- use plastic.
  • re-use food waste - turning this into biogas, rather than going to an incinerator or landfill.
  • recycle food waste on site through hot composting and a wormery, producing compost for the schools veg patch.

Through the school's Green Team they are also exploring a whole range of other ways schools can be more sustainable and want share what they learn with others, so their project can be replicated across Surrey.

Skip the Tip's Facebook


Land Hands - Waverley

Land Hands intends to help connect and encourage people to get involved with their local sustainable farms, giving a boost to the sustainable farming sector, including: organic, mixed farms, permaculture, regenerative farming, community farms, agroforestry, and other ecologically friendly kinds of land management.

Land Hands is creating an online network of existing sustainable farms and listing opportunities and incentives at various farms for people to work part-time or seasonally. Once it's up and running, you'll be able to simply sign up and book in to a farm local to you, whether for just an hour a week, or a day a week, or everyday throughout the summer.

Eventually Land hands wants to encourage farming subsidies to move away from large unsustainable monocultural farms and instead support small sustainable farms and those who work on them. This requires lots of further research and development, so we would encourage you to get in touch if this is something you're interested in working on.

Land Hands Website


Solution for Air Pollution - Surrey Heath

This project is about reducing air pollution by trying to encourage people to not use their cars for unnecessary journeys and commuting. Mandy, the person behind this idea, has developed a survey to pilot with large businesses (150+ staff) that aims to identify sticking points that prevent and solutions that would encourage more sustainable travel choices, like cycling, walking or taking public transport.

Responding to this might mean changes made by:

  • Businesses - e.g. cycle racks, showers or car sharing scheme
  • Council - e.g. improved cycle ways or extra bus stop
  • Residents - prompting them to change their behaviour and think of other transport choices before they get in the car

The dream is reach a point where many more people who work for local businesses reach the point where car is no longer the first choice for commuting. The findings from the links with businesses has made a real difference to how they operate and also informed local changes to transport infrastructure to make cycling, walking and public transport more affordable and convenient.


A new version of the Design Challenge is in development.


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