Harrogate District Climate Action Festival 

Hundreds turn out for launch of climate festival

Hundreds of people turned out to ensure the first Harrogate District Climate Action Festival got off to a flying start.

The three-week event was launched at Harrogate College on Saturday 2 October when more than 30 sustainability-focused exhibitors talked to visitors, many of whom had reached the venue by bicycle.

They were treated to everything from environmental talks by expert guest speakers to encounters with friendly therapy sheep, an electric converted campervan, a passive house and bike-powered smoothies.

Guests also enjoyed live music courtesy of Leeds Conservatoire, inspired by the theme of climate, and an array of vegan and vegetarian food prepared by Harrogate College students.

A window of opportunity

Chair of festival organisers the Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition (HDCCC), Professor Neil Coles, said: “It’s great that we’re here and all willing to take action against climate change.

“There’s a window of opportunity for us to take action collectively and it’s not just about business and government, it’s about all of us as well. Through small actions, done collectively, we can make a big difference.”

Harrogate College Principal Danny Wild, stressing the vital role that education providers have in delivering the green skills that are needed by employers to secure a greener future, said: “We need to be at the centre of providing the local economy with the right skills.”

Green skills for a green future

The college is focused on becoming a local centre of green excellence and under its Sustainability Pledge is committed to becoming net zero carbon by 2030. Mr Wild also announced that all of its full-time students will be studying a carbon literacy qualification this year.

He added: “We’re going to require people to acquire new skills at all levels of the workforce.

Harrogate District Climate Action Festival 
Danny Wild, Principal of Harrogate College

“So when we’re in conversation with businesses we’re talking to them about the skills they need for upskilling. From the college’s point of view we need to be addressing those skills needs now.”

Professor of Earth Observation at the University of Leeds, Andy Shepherd, echoed those sentiments while outlining just how urgently action is needed.

He told the audience that the Earth is currently losing a staggering one trillion tonnes of ice a year but identified several areas where action could make a difference.

Those included building earth-monitoring satellites, fixing our climate models and adapting our cities (and homes) to be more efficient and sustainable.

He said: “We need to upskill the workforce and do it now and make sure we can afford these changes and make them in a reasonable timeframe. We need to become a nation of retrofitters.”

New ways of thinking about technology and transport

Event sponsor Techbuyer – along with its sister businesses Ortial and Interact – had an eye-catching exhibit set up right beside the college’s front entrance, which gathered a lot of attention.

The display included a bicycle sculpture made out of redundant IT parts and a sandpit filled with examples of now obsolete devices.

Marketing and Design Manager at Ortial, Tiffany Mazza, said the idea was to shine a light on the high environmental cost of new technology and the drive to constantly replace it with ‘the next big thing’.

She said: “We need to start thinking about buying more sustainably and upgrading what we have, instead of throwing out and replacing.”

Another outdoor exhibitor that proved popular was eDub, which specialises in electric vehicle conversions – and has found a profitable niche focusing on converting iconic models including campervans and Vespa scooters.

Sustainable farming and housing – with a vision of the future

Cath Wilson from Corn Close Care Farm at Pateley Bridge, meanwhile, was taking part – supported by two volunteers – to promote the concept of sustainable wool and grazing.

The therapy sheep she brought along, Tiny and Dave, proved a big hit especially with younger visitors.

And James McKay from the University of Leeds attracted plenty of attention as he was putting the finishing touches to a painting of The Stray, in Harrogate, as it might look in a more sustainable future. 

The work is part of  a Royal Academy of Engineering project, The Art of a Sustainable Future, which James is leading.

Visitors also enjoyed looking around a model passive house, built to be virtually carbon zero, which had been installed in the college grounds by Pure Haus.

Inspiring start to three weeks of action

Reflecting on a busy day packed with positivity, Harrogate College’s Partnerships and Development Lead, Holly Hansen-Maughan, said: “We were really busy and have had so much positive feedback from visitors.

Harrogate District Climate Action Festival 
Holly Hansen-Maughan

“We are proud to have been able to host the launch of this important festival and wish to express our sincere thanks to everyone who exhibited, contributed and came along.

“We hope some of the ideas that were shared go on to inspire lots of people to take action.”

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