MAKING GREEN DREAMS COME TRUE IN FOLKESTONE
The Next Step is a community group which meets once a month to share ideas about the environment and to inspire change. And the way it works is how it came about: co-founders Jamie Topp came up with the idea and Liu Batchelor made it happen!
With collaboration, not competition at its core ethos, Jamie explains that The Next Step is all about providing a safe and friendly space for ideas to be aired, discussed, supported and where possible, actioned.
Much of Jamie and Liu’s thinking comes the feeling that trying to be green can be overwhelming – eco-anxiety exists and we’ve all wondered what to do, are we doing enough and if we’re doing it right.
As Jamie says: “It’s about changing the narrative: rather than thinking you’re doing bad, actually – well done!
“We want to help people not to feel guilty and to acknowledge that if you are doing the smallest thing, that’s great. If you want to learn just to do something like make a vegetarian meal so have meat one day less, that’s also great.
“It’s about finding all the little positives, especially when there is so much other stuff going on. Trying to turn something like climate change – which is awful – around and thinking that we can’t do anything, into actually, it benefits me and I’m helping.
“There are loads of examples where it’s cost saving, which is so important to everybody right now.”
LEARNING FROM THE LITTLE THINGS
Jamie, for example, is refilling bottles for household products rather than buying new, and both he and Liu are flexitarian (eating mostly plant-based food, but with some animal products).
Jamie adds: “It’s the little things we learn from people who come to our meetings. It’s bringing that knowledge together – you don’t have to be an expert. It’s what you know that someone else doesn’t.”
But The Next Step – which attracts more than 30 people of all ages at each meeting – isn’t just for those with ideas.
Jamie says: “It’s really easy to say that we just want eco-green people and that’s great, but we want people who are just the tiniest bit curious about doing something.”
And “doing something” could be sharing an idea, or signing up to volunteer for a group or charity that already exists.
Still in its early stages, The Next Step is constantly evolving: a swap shop was a big success and a repair shop has just started.
Jamie moved to Folkestone from London a year ago (and before that lived in Brighton) and feels there’s more community spirit here than anywhere else he has lived – “it’s so warm.”
Liu, who is local, says: “It feels like a place where people get involved and say yes to things. When I started this, I felt confident that if you share an idea, people will be supportive. And that’s what it’s about – getting the ideas out of your head and making them happen and Folkestone’s an amazing place for that.”
Apart from its location, both Jamie and Liu believe The Next Step will continue to grow and thrive because it is also a social space – one where like-minded people form friendships and support each other, as well as the environment.
“People might initially come along because they want to do their bit or learn, but they tend to come back because is there is a good vibe and as well as new people, there are those who come every month, so there’s consistency – the community factor,” Liu says.
“Post-Covid, we need more than ever to come together as communities.”
The Next Step meets once a month at Café Eleto in Rendezvous Street, Folkestone.