The West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC) is a charity governed and run by minority ethnic communities in the West of Scotland with the vision of building an inclusive society free from discrimination.

The environmental projects of WSREC, Cook Grow Sew – Branching Out, support minority ethnic communities across Glasgow, Renfrewshire and East Dunbartonshire to reduce their carbon emissions and increase climate awareness.

Creating a climate action hub for a diverse community

The Cook Grow Sew projects facilitate discussions about climate change by offering one-to-one support, workshops and events on energy, food and waste.

Most participants of the projects are from Muslim, Hindu and Christian faiths, and of mainly South Asian, African, Scottish, Middle Eastern and Central/Eastern European backgrounds.

Development Officer, Janet Woodburn, said:

“Cook Grow Sew is a hub for our diverse community to come together and chat while learning a new skill that just happens to benefit the environment. Many people who come to our sessions aren’t really aware of climate change at first, so offering activities is a fun and non-threatening way to introduce and educate on the subject.”

The main classes the projects provide are zero-waste cooking, organic food growing and upcycled sewing, but they also offer refurbishing, foraging, energy advice and swap shops.

From 2019 to 2020, the Cook Grow Sew projects:

  • worked with 1753 people;
  • diverted 2433kg of fabric from landfill;
  • saved £155 tonnes of CO2;
  • made savings of £8,120 for families through energy efficiency support;
  • worked with various community groups to create new gardens, totalling 91.85m²;
  • and held their first Napiershall Street Garden Fete, and a fashion show.

“I think sometimes people may feel a bit intimidated by the enormity of climate change, so our classes let people know that they’re not helpless, and the smallest of actions, if taken by enough people, will make a difference.”

Adapting under lockdown and supporting mental health

Adapting the projects during the Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenge for the organisation. The gardening classes in particular have proved tricky to move online, but the staff of WSREC decided to create instructional gardening videos and hold Covid-safe gardening classes when possible.

The positive mental health impact of cooking, gardening and sewing has been felt by participants of Cook Grow Sew, particularly during lockdown. The classes have helped to ease loneliness, with some participants saying: “I look forward to this class all week”, “my mental health depends on this class”, and “I wish we had more classes because I learn so much.”

Taking climate action for fairness and equality

Climate action is particularly important to WSREC because it is an issue which unites the community with regards to fairness, on a local and global scale.

Janet Woodburn said:

“The Climate Justice movement points out how we in the western nations create by far the highest levels of greenhouse gases in the world, yet the effects will be felt far more severely in developing countries, particularly those in Africa and Asia, where many of our service users have family.”

Through its projects, WSREC places emphasis on making climate action fun and useful for the community, so that people will pick up new habits that they will want to keep as part of their lives.

“For anyone wanting to get involved in climate action, don’t be intimidated; action can mean lots of different things, so if you don’t want to chain yourself to a tree – just get in touch with us and join one of our classes. There, you’ll learn skills that can directly reduce your carbon footprint and save you money too!”

Climate action: How to get involved

At Scottish Interfaith Week, we are delighted to be able to shine a light on the work of WSREC and the Cook Grow Sew projects. We believe climate action is important for people of all backgrounds, faiths and cultures to be involved with and that the work being done to spread climate awareness is key to the survival of our planet.

If you would like to find out more about the work of WSREC, you can visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow their Cook Grow Sew projects on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If this story has inspired you to take your own climate action, then why not consider hosting an event for Scottish Interfaith Week 2021, perhaps even a sewing or gardening workshop? The theme this year is Together for Our Planet and we are encouraging individuals and organisations across Scotland to host climate-related events.

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