Tag Archives: England

Carbon Neutral: How to Clean Up Your Patch

Ashton Hayes Village Hall
Ashton Hayes Village Hall. Photo by Jonathan Thacker.

In the last ten years, the village of Ashton Hayes in Cheshire, England with a population of 936+ has taken on climate change by becoming carbon neutral. So far it has reduced its carbon emissions by 24%. To accomplish this, it adopted apolitical, voluntary self-governance—and combined it with a bit of fun.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch. And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.” Rosemary Dossett is talking about climate change.

One of their  secrets was not asking for help from the government or having sit-ins to make the government pay attention. The people of Ashton Hayes took charge and began meeting together to combat climate change on their own. Moment to moment. Day to day. One home at a time. Voluntarily. No regulations. And with a light-hearted view of the end of the world.

Self Governance, No Politics

In January 2006, when their representative in Parliament came to their first public meeting, he was told he could not make a speech. “This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change.”

650 people attended the first carbon neutral meeting. Only 400 could fit inside. The others waited outside for a second presentation.
650 people attended the first carbon neutral meeting. Only 400 could fit inside. The others waited outside for a second presentation.

No politician has ever been allowed to address the Ashton Hayes group. As the villagers said, involving the government would introduce party politics and divide the group along ideological lines. This a rather negative comment on government but exactly right. A government based entirely on “the majority decides” develops strong sub-alliances to amass enough votes to become the majority. This leads to vote-trading that has little or nothing to do with purposes. Ashton Hayes avoided this by identifying their purpose clearly as going carbon neutral and focusing their attention on that, not whose approach would win.

Ashton Hayes’ Carbon Neutral Actions

Carbon neutral is a  precise measurement, and Ashton Hayes associated its accomplishment with specific measurable actions:

  • Urge people to cut down on their energy requirements,
  • Install solar panels at commercial, community and residential areas,
  • Set up wind turbines behind the public buildings,
  • Ask local authorities to link schools, railway stations and communities via footpaths,
  • Encourage biking and walking,
  • Avoid pre-packed vegetables, instead focused more on growing them,
  • Raise the community spirit among the masses,
  • Install an electricity-led sustainable biodiesel CHP boiler in the school.
  • Replace coal-fired central heating with a combination of oil and wood,
  • Use solar power to supply top-up heat,
  • Use reclaimed materials where practicable, e.g., doors, sanitary ware/ furniture and feature items,
  • Reduce heat loss,
  • Convert main cars to LPG,
  • Recycle gray water,
  • Gather wood locally from fallen trees, and,
  •  Utilize excess soil from drainage to raise gardens
Ashton Hayes Welcome Sign
Ashton Hayes Welcome Sign

Roy Alexander, a physical geologist and professor of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Chester is supporting the effort. He teaches sustainability for Community and Business and consults with communities on carbon emissions reduction. A surprising 650 people, two-thirds of the village population showed up to the first meeting. And 99.4% of the population is now participating. At whatever level of participation each resident is achieving, these are stunning figures. Could you get two-thirds of your community to attend a meeting on climate change?

Apolitical, Voluntary, and Having a Bit of Fun

A former journalist Garry Charnock, who has lived in the village for decades began the effort after hearing a lecture on climate change at the annual literary gathering, Hay Festival in Wales. With a background in civil engineering and hydrology, he decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become Britain’s first carbon-neutral village. “But even if we don’t, let’s try to have a little fun.”

There is  no finger-pointing or guilt tripping. And no doomsday scenarios that would be overwhelming and trigger avoidance. The village  focuses on understanding what could be with simple habit changes and better technology.

“Some of the changes are so easy, just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.” And plant trees to soak up carbon dioxide.

Some have converted cottages into energy-efficient homes with triple glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, and geothermal heat pumps. Underground cisterns collect rainwater that is used for toilets and watering the gardens. The whole village is now punctuated with wind turbines and solar panels.

But their greatest success from the sociocratic point of view is assuming that self-governance can work, being practical and non-judgmental,  and being inclusive. Accomplishing their goals. And becoming an example for small towns that are now flocking to Ashton  Hayes to find out how they did it.


Ashton Hayes Carbon Neutral logo

The full story of Ashton Hayes’ progress is chronicled on the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral including data sheets, videos, behavior surveys, etc.

English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch by Tatiana Schlossberg. Posted online 21 August 2016. 

The Wikipedia article, Ashton Hayes, includes links to many related websites and more information on the village.

First Implementation

Kees Boeke and Betty Cadbury

Kees Boeke and Betty Cadbury
Kees Boeke and Betty Cadbury

When WW II began to engulf Europe, the first implementation of sociocracy was achieved. Before the war, Dutch educator Cornelius “Kees” Boeke and his wife, English educator Beatrice “Betty” Cadbury, had been active internationally in Quaker peace education, predominantly in the Middle East. Boeke was a vocal pacifist and spoke against war with Hitler. When WWI began the Boekes were expelled from England. In 1914, they settled in Kees Boeke’s hometown, Bilthoven, a small community in The Netherlands. They continued their peace work, actively supported pacifists, and started several European and International peace organizations.

The First Implementation: The Childrens Community Workshop

In 1926, the Boekes founded the first sociocratic organization.       Needing a school for their children, they started the Children’s Community Workshop and began adapting Quaker egalitarian principles to its governance. By 1945, the residential school community had grown to 400 students, staff, and teachers who participated as equals in school functioning and program design.  Decisions were made by consensus and no actions taken until everyone agreed. The school still exists and functions according the same principles.

Although confined to the Netherlands and arrested by the Germans during the occupation, Kees Boeke continued to write about the abuses of power that were becoming evident in democracies. His most well-known essay is “Sociocracy: Democracy as It Might Be.”

Martin Grimshaw, England, UK

Martin GrimshawMartin Grimshaw is a facilitator, trainer and organizational consultant based in the south of England. He works with groups, teams and individuals to help them find better ways of working and living.

Red Butterfly, Logo for There's a Better Way.Martin is the founder of There’s Better Ways of Working: Tools for a Smarter Planet, where he works with clients in implementing healthier and happier collaboration.

He also co-founded SociocracyUK and DecisionLab, and provides tools for participation, and systems for organizational and planetary wellbeing.

Aptivate, Cambridge, England, UK

“Ethical IT for International Development”

Aptivate company logoWebsite and software developers providing technical  support for international development initiatives by other non-profits, charities, NGOs, facilitators, and trainers. Aptivate provides hosting services and advice on strategy, policy, implementation and procurement and build robust, accessible and usable software, mobile and web services. Specializes in low-bandwidth solutions for the web .


Aptivate believes in the power of knowledge and communication to alleviate poverty, suffering and conflict, and in the right of every individual to inform and be informed.

We are dedicated to developing ICT services that facilitate communication for unconnected communities, empowering ordinary people across the developing world to improve their lives.

Policy Statements

Our Ethical Policy
Aptivate’s ethical policy exists to ensure we stay true to our mission. Every project we undertake should help us achieve our goals. Sometimes it is necessary to turn down a project or proposal because we feel that it does not fit into our ethical framework or does not advance our mission. We evaluate proposals against our ethical policy, and our staff collectively decide on whether the organisation should pursue them.

Our Environmental Policy
Climate change already affects the livelihoods of many people across the developing world, often the poorest and most vulnerable. Organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called for significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and other polluting activities to avert potentially catastrophic consequences.

We believe that climate change must be considered when evaluating activities related to development. While most human activities involve some level of environmental impact, it is necessary to consider this against the perceived benefits of an activity, reduce impact where possible and find alternatives if necessary.

We are committed to reduce our own environmental impact by:

  • using alternatives to travel, such as conferencing technology;
  • using alternative means of transport to short-haul flights;
  • shutting down IT systems when not in use;
  • investigating ways to mitigate the pollution generated by the manufacture, running and disposal of IT equipment;
  • recycling or re-using all possible office consumables;
  • engaging with other organisations on the issue of climate change.

Nathaniel Whitestone of Decision Lab transformed their “decision-making by endurance” in which those how couldn’t last all night had no voice by implementing over a three year period a sociocratic design with formal processes and decentralized power.

Changing the World by Changing the Way We Make Decisions“, AxiomNews. Accessed 8 Aug 2011. Features an interview with Nathan Whitestone of Decision Lab.