Copper’s Katie Pollard reports back after participating in Bristol’s first ‘Healthy City Week’…

‘How can we know so much and do so little?’

This was the question posed by Dr David Pencheon, Director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, at his talk during Bristol’s inaugural Healthy City Week.  He explained that there are huge synergies between the health and sustainability sectors but asked why, with a procurement budget of £20 billion, doesn’t the NHS commit to renewable energy or only using locally sourced food?  He explained that the problem is not denial of the need for sustainable choices; it is disavowal of positive action.

Healthy City Week, delivered by Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Love The Future, sought to address this issue and empower Bristolians to become health and sustainability advocates.  At Go Green’s Happy & Healthy Business Breakfast, attendees learnt about a variety of local initiatives which are doing just this. Go Green supports businesses towards a sustainable future and the key messages from the event were about the need for employers to invest in a physically healthy and mentally fit workforce and the mutual benefits of engagement with local communities.

Presentations at the event ranged from the launch of Bristol’s Workforce Wellbeing Programme (a free framework teaching companies how to implement wellbeing initiatives on a budget) to the Bristol Rugby Community Foundation who are building holistic skills for success amongst young people.

With the recent plastic bag levy (as previously covered by Copper’s Jocelyn Honeywood), an extremely timely local initiative is Refill Bristol.  This has been launched by City to Sea in partnership with Bristol 2015, Go Green and Frank Water.  The campaign aims to make Bristol a city in which refilling your water bottle becomes the norm and is trying to instigate the sign up of 100 businesses to become Refill Stations before the end of 2015.

We learnt how Refill Bristol’s end goal is to reduce the use of single-use plastics in circulation. The statistics are staggering.  Approximately eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans each year, with plastic bottles taking 450 years to decompose. The problems do not end there. There is growing concern about the risk to human health when microplastic particles move through the food chain.

The co-benefits for the health and sustainability sectors of campaigns like Refill Bristol are startlingly apparent. Although, according to Dr Pencheon, there may be missed opportunities to align the two sectors on a national scale, the presentations at Go Green’s Business Breakfast proved that this is certainly not the case for many local initiatives. The event showed that Bristol remains clearly committed in its mission to become ‘a low carbon city with a high quality of life for all’.