Saturday 22 April was Earth Day. It is, according to the National Geographic, “an annual celebration that honours the achievements of the environmental movement and raises awareness of the need to protect Earth’s natural resources for future generations.” There were many events to mark it across the region, one of which was by ‘Transition Woodbridge’ on the Deben riverside in Suffolk.
They had organised stalls for local food and drink producers, and for Suffolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB Woodbridge, Woodbridge Climate Action Centre together with Save the Deben, who have previously featured in East Anglia Bylines. The “Middle Earth” stage buzzed with music and storytelling to entertain the large number of people who turned up through the day. It helped that the weather was kind, with sunshine for most of the day.
“From oil dependence to local resilience”
Transition Woodbridge is a grassroots organisation based near the Suffolk coast, whose tagline is “from oil dependence to local resilience” – an ideal group to promote Earth Day. It is part of the wider Transition Network, a global movement of communities working towards a more sustainable and resilient future. There are currently around 25 groups in the East of England region.
The Woodbridge group was founded by local residents who were concerned about the impacts of climate change and the unsustainable nature of our current way of life. In their pursuit of a more resilient and sustainable local community, they are working to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. “Since 2008, Transition Woodbridge has campaigned for a cleaner, healthier and wildlife-friendly local environment,” says Co-Secretary Jane Healey.
A sense of shared purpose
The organisation has a strong focus on community building, hosting regular events such as film screenings, talks, and skill-sharing workshops. These events provide opportunities for local residents to come together and learn from one another, building a sense of connection and shared purpose.
Since its inception, Transition Woodbridge has grown to become a hub for environmental and social activism in the town, running a range of initiatives and events to engage the community in sustainable living practices. “We work on a variety of projects,” says Jane. “We encourage care of our town with our ‘5 Minute Litter picks’, larger litter picking events and an annual River Clean with the Sea Scouts. Our Repair Café helps to reduce waste and save money. We also encourage everyone to make a space for wildlife with our Wildlife Corridors Project.”
Sustainability: eat local
Recently, the organisation has begun to plant fruit trees around Woodbridge and neighbouring Melton that benefit insects and birds. “The idea is that the community can benefit from the fruit produced by the trees,” says Jane. “We have 100 trees across Melton and Woodbridge now, which will reach full maturity in around 50 years. It will also provide free, fresh fruit close to our homes.”
In 2014 Transition Woodbridge was approached about picking fruit from a local smallholding which would otherwise have rotted and gone to waste. Every year since, volunteers have gone to help. “We reduce food waste with our harvesting of surplus fruit which we pass on to Lunch Clubs and Food Banks,” says Jane. In 2022, they picked over 100 boxes of fruit that were then distributed to local lunch clubs and charities.
Another of the organisation’s initiatives has been a successful collaboration with Woodbridge W.I. and Woodbridge in Bloom to create the Woodbridge Library Edible Garden Project in 2015. Between them, they transformed the area outside the library into a garden of fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers for people to pick to eat when they visit the library.
Support for local jobs
More recently, Transition Woodbridge has begun to promote local food production. “In 2021, we developed our Local Food Project to promote food and drink producers within 21 miles of Woodbridge,” Jane explains. “If you buy food produced locally, you support the farmers, growers and processors and this gives a boost to the local economy and jobs.” Jane points out the advantages for consumers: “The food you buy will be fresher, healthier, seasonal, will have travelled a shorter distance and need less packaging. It also helps to ensure the security of our food supply which is vital in a time of political instability and disrupted weather patterns.”
The organisation’s aim is to create a positive vision for the future, rather than simply protesting against the negative impacts of the present. Transition Woodbridge epitomises what Earth Day is about and is a shining example of how local communities can come together to create positive change in the face of global challenges. By promoting sustainability, resilience, and community building, they are helping to create a better future for both the town and the planet as a whole.