Taking the climate challenge to colleagues in lockdown

Just one year into her first job, Connect Housing’s Emma Gilbank has proved to be a power player when it comes to environmental impact.

Not deterred by lockdown, she has been the driving force behind a range of climate-conscious actions for her colleagues to carry out at home.

Her passion has awarded her a place in the Top 10 Climate Champions Power List for housing, announced at Homes UK 2020 – a virtual event which attracted 5,000 housing professionals from housing associations, local authorities and housebuilders across the UK.

Emma joined the West Yorkshire housing association in December 2019, as a Sustainability Projects Officer and immediately made an impression on Project Green Impact.

She started working alongside teams to reduce their environmental impact and introduce more sustainable practices as part of Connect’s pledge to a greener future.

And then lockdown happened in March, threatening to put the project on hold.

So, Emma turned her attention to things her colleagues could do at home, from home composting and charity shop donations, to signing up with an ethical energy supplier and adjusting the thermometer on your fridge.

A chatroom for staff to share climate-friendly tips and tricks has also proved popular, with ideas ranging from sustainable Christmas wrapping to environmental podcasts to tune into whilst working from home.

Connect’s Director of Home Martyn Broadest said Emma refused to let a global pandemic, and the fact her 180 colleagues were suddenly working remotely, distract her from her goals.

“Emma went into creative overdrive to come up with a whole range of innovative engagement activities to keep people enthused and motivated about climate change,” said Martyn.

“Through Emma, Green Impact provided an invaluable engagement tool throughout lockdown. In fact, one colleague posted ‘I’ve learned more this year about the environment and how we impact it thanks to the force of nature that is Emma Gilbank.”

Emma initially missed the email announcing her achievement.

In fact, the first Emma knew of her special place in the Top 10 Power List was when she got a call from Martyn.

“I was really busy working on the project and so when I first saw the email I thought it was spam and ignored it,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have thought I would have a chance to receive such national recognition. It was a huge, but lovely, surprise.”

Taking action to protect the planet is one of five key objectives for Connect. Work is well underway to reduce the carbon emissions of its fleet, adopt more sustainable working practices and aim for all its 3,000 homes to meet a net zero carbon target by 2050.