As a doctor you have influence in your community. Use it. Get involved with community groups. Perhaps through a health-related community project, or as a volunteer with a local community group.
Find out what groups are already active in your local area. Ask friends and colleagues, or investigate online community forums for advice. Your local library may have a notice board advertising upcoming events and meetings.
It’s not easy being green
There are various reasons why people find it hard to change their behaviour including lack of time and doubt about whether it will make a difference.
- Think about how you could engage your community of patients and colleagues. Point out the health benefits
- Encourage people to swap the car for the bus or using a bike
- Could you get them involved in a project you are already a part of?
- Find out what your local council is doing
- Contact your local councillor
Looking for inspiration ?
Winchester Action on Climate change was set up to encourage all households, private and public, and private and voluntary organisations to reduce their carbon footprints.
It has support from local councils, educational institutions and other prominent local organisations.
It's easier when there's a group
Create networks by linking what you are doing with other active groups and organisations:
- Join your local resident's association. If there isn't one in your local area think about setting one up.
- Contact your local council. Local government affects people's day-to-day lives. A number of local councils have made a commitment to tackle climate change including improving the energy performance of their properties and running local campaigns.
Get in touch with local businesses and charities
Talk to business owners and find out what they are doing. Consider organising a meeting in your town hall and invite members of the business community to come along. Why not encourage them to become more sustainable?
Have a look at the Prince’s Mayday Network which is convened by Business in the Community, and is a collaboration of more than 3,000 businesses. It aims to inspire and support businesses to work together toward a sustainable future.
Where can doctors make a difference?
Think about the community you live in – understanding its issues and problems will help you decide on how to focus your influence. Influencing local policy is essential to ensure that public health remains central to the design of local communities.
There are lots of ways you can influence local policy-making, with the aim of getting health and climate change objectives into key documents, frameworks and plans.
Two key areas where doctors can seek to influence local policy are neighbourhood planning and transport and accessibility.
Look around you
Be aware of planning proposals in your area. For example, a new school may be planned but the proposed site does not have sufficient links to active travel networks. Could you use your influence to campaign for a better site?
Get involved in local planning processes
- For example in impact assessments. New developments and redevelopments are required to undergo an evaluation of the impacts on the built environment (eg an Environmental Impact Assessment or Strategic Environmental Assessment). A part of these assessments is to consider the effects on the local population, which provides a useful opportunity to highlight any positive or negative impacts on health.
- Lobby local government officials to ensure that local carbon-reduction strategies focus on reducing people’s reliance on car use, and take action to encourage other, healthier forms of transport, such as walking and cycling. Why not write to your local transport planning professionals and ask what strategies are currently in place? How much funding has been set aside for such strategies, and how they are monitoring progress? Alternatively, you could offer to meet with your local councillor to outline the health benefits of active transport.
- Advocate for safer, more attractive walking and cycling conditions in your local area. Consider getting in touch with your local authority and informing of the need for more accessible and better quality networks and asking how they intend to develop these.
Be strategic - look for key documents where it would be helpful to respond to eg relevant consultation documents. Documents related to planning applications will be registered on your local authority website
Network - make contacts with the leaders of the project eg politicians, developers, major investing companies.
Approach elected officials - write to your MP or local councillor and let them know your views.
Get involved online
The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition is the UK's largest group of people (with over 11 million supporters) dedicated to action on climate change. The Big Climate Connection initiative was launched to encourage people to connect with others in their communities and to lobby their local MPs to take action on climate change.
To see what's being organised for the Big Climate Connection in your area, and to sign up to (or set up) a lobby in your constituency check out the interactive map.
Climate Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the need to tackle climate change. Thousands of businesses, charities, schools, councils and others will run events during Climate Week.