By Sam Gardom
If there is one award that should be close to Brighton’s heart it has to be the Green Group/Person of the Year. With Brighton being the stronghold of the Green Party and home to their only parliamentary seat it is naturally an active centre for green thinking projects, businesses and co-ops. Projects such as the green transport routes run by The Big Lemon, who describe themselves as a community Interested company (CIC), have garnered huge support and affection in the from the local community in recent years.
One of this year’s nominees is the recycling Gurus at The Magpie Co-operative. From humble roots as a group of just three volunteers collecting plastic bottles, cans and paper from locals and businesses it has flourished into the granddaddy of green innovations in Brighton.
From the beginning they have been of the opinion that to really make a difference it is imperative to create interest and awareness in the community. Through all of their programmes and initiatives they hope to ‘get people into recycling’. Whether it be their Greenbox curb side collection scheme (collecting recyclable materials from over 2000 homes), their corporate scheme that seeks to reduce the huge paper waste created by modern business, or their work with local authorities and universities to develop new strategies and systems the goal is the same, keep Brighton clean and green. They are also running a free Eco-festival, with local music and crafts this Saturday (5th Oct) at their site on the Lewes Rd!
Another project they run to help the local community is their ethical up-cycling outlet called Shabitat! Here furniture can be donated, or sold to the organisation which then cleans it up and sells it on at cost to low income households, who, like so many these days cannot afford exorbitant high street prices. Speaking to one customer, Jason, 36 from Moulsecoomb, he said, “It’s amazing what you can get! Without this place I would never be able to afford a decent sofa or even a comfy bed, most of my furniture is from here”. It does a very important job making life in this harsh economic climate a little easier for those who really need it.
It is, however, not your conventional business set up and, being a cooperative no one person is in charge. “Everybody’s in charge,” says cooperative member Robert Jones-Mantle, “no one person has the power to hire, fire or spend money. That comes from discussion…” He admits that this process is not always easy and it sometimes takes a while to reach a consensus however, as he rightly points out, limited companies have their board members and shareholders to answer to. It seems to be a small price to pay and everyone is happy because as he says, “there aren’t any decisions that everyone hasn’t been involved in making.”
So this grass roots company then and cornerstone of the green community in Brighton that thoroughly deserve not just this nomination our continued support and a special place in Brighton’s green heart.