2021: a year of roses, buds and thorns

How extraordinary to be writing an end of year blog… Extraordinary to be writing against the backdrop of another COVID strain, still taking time out between meetings on zoom, still pondering how to respond to the still ongoing climate crisis. Twelve months pass in the blink of an eye and what’s to be shown for it… 

Well, I’d love to tell you. And I’d love to use a method that I learned recently for reviewing events. It’s a process of examining a situation and finding within it the roses, buds and thorns. As the wheel of the year turns, certain things flourish (roses), some catch and cause discomfort (thorns) and amidst it all, new ideas emerge (buds). So permit me to offer you a tour of the OurPledge rose garden at this quiet time of year.


Let’s not beat about the bush (apologies in advance for unconscious garden puns), 2021 contained one massive thorn: COVID-19. We all got pricked (apologies in advance for unconscious vaccine puns…?) by that one. The challenges continue, none of us have mastered the ability to remember to unmute when we wish to speak, public coughing has become even more of a panic-inducing experience and no three letters are more exciting or tense than ‘IRL’. OurPledge was launched with participatory, celebratory community activity at its core, and that has been difficult to achieve: we just canceled our plans for a festive celebration that we were so much looking forward to. Perhaps we should have simply had ‘cheese and wine’… (we’ll ask Boris). On many levels, COVID has impacted how we work: it certainly added a degree of complication to achieving sustainability for many of our clients. We have often had to become reactive to a pandemic, as opposed to proactive to sustainability!


However, I am grateful that – for the most part – we have been able to continue working and supporting businesses to understand their customer needs, to reduce their waste and to expand their sustainable offerings. We’ve had more successful campaigns on our pilot platform and we’ve delivered and participated in a series of events that we are very proud of from online workshops with Plastic Free Walthamstow, Plastic Free Hackney and No Fly Travel Club, through to our live events: our Plastic Free Parties Mini-Fair, Climate Action Day at St. John’s Church with XR Waltham Forest, and our festive fun ‘build your own hamper’ experience at Stone Mini Market. We were proud to represent the London Borough of Waltham Forest at the British Library’s Start-up Day: not least of all because the Borough has been so incredibly supportive to us this year. Indeed, directly thanks to their Business Growth scheme, we’ve grown. In September this year, I was officially joined by Alis Cox as Co-Founder and COO. Not only is Alis one of my oldest and closest friends, she is also a powerhouse business strategist with a passion for people and planet, and therefore the perfect collaborator for our mission. What a beautiful bloom. We’re finishing the year feeling good about our impact too: 200,000+ plastic items replaced with zero waste alternatives, almost £50k raised for small businesses in the Borough, 17 Waltham Forest residents employed (either on a freelance or short term contract basis, 25+ local small businesses celebrated and new partnerships emerging all the time.


One of my favourite aspects to this exercise is the invitation to think about things as buds. As someone who works in sustainability because I love nature, I find it a thrilling relief to remember that the world turns, seasons change and inevitably it will be Spring! Pushing out from the delicate stems of the OurPledge rose bush are some exciting ideas and projects. We are delighted to be part of the winning consortium delivering Waltham Forest’s upcoming Start-up Business Covid recovery and growth programme alongside partners CRATE and Hustle and Heels. We are working behind the scenes to explore how technology such as AR can support communities to co-design their futures, bringing together an Oscar-winning VFX house and a town in Wales. We are workshopping methods and technologies to expand and revise our fundraising platform to make it more widely available to businesses and customers. Internally, we are dedicated to discovering ways of working that support balance with home life and nature, unlearning habits of screen-based value systems and applying recently learned bio-leadership models to our day-to-day. It’s an exciting time.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We can’t thank you enough for remaining interested in our work. If you’re curious about any of the above or simply want to chat, please get in touch. We’re always up for a conversation.

In the meantime, have a glorious, nourishing and safe festive season.

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