Climate Change is one of the most significant and fastest growing threats worldwide. Yet the conservation of cultural heritage is inextricably linked to activities with a high environmental impact, such as construction and development, buildings operations, land management and tourism (Heritage Declares, 2019). It is clear that we need to make a commitment to the health and wellbeing of the planet, and we are working hard to understand how to achieve this.
We have already become founding members of the International Climate Heritage Network, mobilising the cultural heritage sector for Climate Action across the globe. We are also amongst the first to sign up to Heritage Declares. This means that, with other leading heritage professionals, we are dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and cultural change, to shifting conservation priorities without harming cultural significance, to encouraging the adaptation of buildings rather than demolishing them, and putting climate and ecological sustainability at the heart of planning and design.
Furthermore, as part of our commitment to the green agenda, during the 2020 OPT Awards, we introduced the new Green Award. The Green Award recognises the importance of sustainability within the heritage industry and is awarded to the entry (from any category) that best exhibits these qualities. In 2020, the recipient of the Green Award was Wadham College's Dorothy Wadham Building which was recognised for its clear agenda for sustainable design and architectural contribution to Iffley Road.
As we look towards the 2021 COP26 Conference in Glasgow, it is also important to note the effects that COVID-19 has had on society and sustainable living. During the pandemic, most of us were forced to create more sustainable habits, such as buying locally, and travelling less. During this time, OPT resolved to keep our green spaces open for everyone to use, and produced a series of self-guided walks to help connect people with nature and the outdoors. These walks proved hugely successful, particularly during lockdown, and we intend to produce more as we move forward.
In addition, in 2021 the OPT team are undertaking the 52-week challenge, where we will pledge to make a change each week which will do something more to help the planet, big or small. We will look to make changes with our own green spaces and buildings – from signing up to Heritage Declares to agreeing to only drink water from the tap. We hope that by making these small changes in our own lives, we can help inspire others and work towards systematic change to help create a more sustainable future. You can follow our progress below or by finding us on social media with @OxfordPresTrust and #OPTClimateChallenge. You can also read more in our blog post “Our health and wellbeing, from the personal to the planet” by clicking here.
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For more about Oxford's transport and returning to public transport after the pandemic, please read Oxford Bus Company's Blog: "Imagine Oxford without Park&Ride"
OPT Trustee and Chair of the Planning Committee Carole Souter speaking at the Oxford Citizens Assembly on Climate Change