Duncan Thorp: Waste not, want not – give reuse and recycling the green light

Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland.
Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland.
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Increasing numbers of ­businesses are beginning to look at their impact on the natural environment. Waste ­recycling and saving energy have become the standard for businesses of all shapes and sizes. It’s a win-win for the environment as well as for the bottom line.

Social enterprise businesses are leading the way in many respects. Some place environmental impact at the heart of their wider work, while others exist to fulfil a specific ­environmental mission.

These green social enterprises are diverse. From recycling, to gifts and furniture, community energy, regeneration and connecting with the natural environment, there are lots of great examples across Scotland.

Social enterprises like The Ecology Centre in Fife have holiday and ­weekend activities to explore ­conservation and nature while Instinctively Wild reconnects ­people of all ages through nature, with bespoke outdoor programmes.

Spruce Carpets sells high-quality affordable flooring, with donations from the carpet industry and ­Glasgow Wood Recycling sells ­garden and indoor furniture made from reclaimed timber, both ­reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

Changeworks in Edinburgh offers energy advice and household and business waste services. ILM ­Highland works in waste electrical recycling and reuse for the Highland area.

These and many more trade in great consumer products and services at competitive prices, while also ­offering positive social and environmental impact.

The recent winner of Environmental Social Enterprise 2018 at the Social Enterprise Awards Scotland was Point and Sandwick Trust in the Western Isles, with their ­ambitious windfarm project, the shortlist including sustainable transport ­consultancy, Transport Planning & Engineering and others. The VIBES – Scottish Environment Business Awards recently recognised a number of Scottish green businesses, including social enterprises.

There are different ways for green businesses to learn from each other. Through Social Enterprise Scotland membership, the community repair, reuse and recycle charity Community Resources ­Network Scotland (CRNS) and ­Community Energy Scotland, help communities drive forward green energy.

All this activity feeds in to the idea of a circular economy, something that’s gained in popularity within government and industry. It’s about designing waste out of industrial processes and reusing as much as possible. ­Certainly it’s an ideal fit with the social enterprise and co-operative movements, as well as initiatives driving forward fair work, the real living wage, tax justice and fair trade.

As the festive season approaches we should be even more conscious about our environmental impact and the need to reduce waste, particularly when it comes to food and gifts.

As consumers we’re increasingly discovering how to shop with a charitable and ethical heart. From fair trade to social enterprise and local community and charity shops, there are many ways to make a positive impact.

Whether you’re a high street shopper, a local council or a ­business owner looking at your supply chain, choose the green social enterprise option where you can and help make a real ­difference.

Duncan Thorp, policy and communications manager, Social Enterprise Scotland.