Reducing waste with the Cherwell Collective
Emily Connally is the founder of Cherwell Collective, a community interest company using the principles of a circular economy to empower local people to reduce their carbon footprints, and support people struggling with the cost of living.
Emily first started her work in the community in 2019, when she created a giant pirate ship for her child’s birthday party, and was struck by how wasteful children’s parties were.
Keen to re-use her pirate ship creation, she offered to share it with other families, and Oxford Party Library was born! The scheme now allows people to borrow everything needed for a great party, from bunting to cake tins, crockery and marquees – all on a pay what you can basis, whether that’s a small financial contribution or volunteering hours.
When the pandemic hit, Emily got together with other local mums to offer up homecooked meals to vulnerable people. The scheme proved hugely popular, and Emily made connections with Oxford Food Hub to form Cherwell Larder to deliver 800 meals, all cooked from surplus food from local restaurants, catering companies and hotels, to local people each week.
These days, Cherwell Larder runs a marketplace from the local village hall, with over 3,000 people registered to come along and collect food when they need it. Emily, who is head chef as well as founder, also cooks for her community and runs climate-focused activities for families receiving free school meals during the school holidays. The group is proud to have fed 10,000 guests between April and November in 2022, and have saved the carbon equivalent of one million car miles in the last year.
Next on Emily’s list is launching WISH, a new initiative aimed at guiding people to repurpose their waste and eliminate single-use items from their lifestyles.
Emily’s Big Jubilee Lunch in 2022 encompassed what Cherwell Collective is all about, with surplus food used to make cream teas and a culinary tour of the Commonwealth for over 500 guests. Nearly 200 metres of bunting made of clothing scraps created by local children was on display, and guests were even able to enjoy an Eco-Beacon!
“Community is how we create the future we want. There are so many people with so many skills and so much knowledge to share. We want to make sure everyone is equipped to fight climate change and that we’re all doing this together. Community means coming together to try and make something better and to share love and food and expand your family to include your neighbours.”Emily
With the cost of living an increasing concern, Cherwell Larder expanded its offering in November to include three hot meals a day available three days a week to anyone who needs it. Attracting 450 people each week, many of whom don’t have anyone to eat with, the meals are just as much about bringing people together as feeding them.
Emily’s winter warming programme also offers meal deliveries, blankets, clothes and draught excluders made of repurposed fabrics and signposting to further support. This December, Cherwell will also open its doors for a Big Lunch at Christmas on 23 December, with ready-made Christmas dinners for 25 December and gift hampers available to those who need it.
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