Empty Homes Doctor is our longest-running and most successful project - with over 900 long-term empty homes brought back into use since 2013.
With Empty Homes Doctor well-established, we decided in 2018 to explore how we could take a creative, collaborative approach to another big social issue.
And this is how we came to set up Zero Waste Leeds.
We developed the project after a few months exploring opportunities to get involved in a local, practical response to the climate crisis.
We spent a few months doing some research into a few possible projects - each relating to key sources of carbon emissions - including transport and energy use.
Yet it was waste reduction that jumped out at us as an issue where we thought we could make a difference.
We started with a Facebook page - and a broad idea around building a movement to create a zero waste city by 2030.
It was a deliberately ambitious, slightly vague, goal - but we were aiming to communicate that we were thinking big - and that we saw movement building as central to how we were going to create big change. We knew we needed a broad range of people and organisations involved in making things happen.
Fast forward four years, and we have achieved an enormous amount.
Unless anyone wants to tell us otherwise, we reckon we're the biggest grassroots place-based waste reduction campaign in the country. We've got 25,000 engaged, local followers across our social media, and we've delivered a wide range of innovative, eye-catching campaigns.
We've collaborated with Hubbub & Leeds City Council on Leeds By Example, the pioneering on-the-go recycling initiative, making it easy for people to recycle food and drink packaging whilst they're out and about.
We ran - at short notice - a 10 week #stayathome waste reduction campaign during the first weeks of the Covid 19 lockdown - helping to ease pressure on council services whilst also helping people to waste less.
We've run a successful glass recycling campaign -telling an engaging circular economy story of what happens to your glass when you recycle it in Leeds.
Another main area of focus has been clothing - and we've collaborated with The RSA on their Regenerative Futures programme to develop Leeds Fashion Futures - and a subsequent #ZeroWasteClothing campaign.
And we've also developed high-impact community projects - which achieve big social impacts as well as environmental impacts. Through Leeds School Uniform Exchange we've established a network of over 100 local uniform exchanges - saving families many thousands of £££ in uniform costs, whilst keeping tonnes of good quality clothing out of bins.
And with Together For Sport we are aiming to do the same for sports kit - working with local sports clubs to encourage them to create a culture of sharing so that no child in Leeds is unable to take part in sport because they don't have the right kit.
And day in, day out, we share engaging, accessible information on our social media on practical ways to waste less in your daily life. We share top tips - and we share our platform - letting people know about all the great opportunities that there are in Leeds to waste less stuff.
We want to build movements in other cities
We've learnt a lot over the last four years about what it takes to build a movement.
We understand that in order to create the kind of big changes that we need to tackle the climate crisis, then we need people to be actively involved. To feel part of things.
And it is clear to us that the approach we have taken in Leeds can work elsewhere.
If you are a funder, local authority or other key stakeholder and you would like to explore how we could work with you, please get in touch.