May 9, 2024

Wales in 2051: Skills that made Swansea a nature and people-friendly city  

A day in the life of Adi 

What struck Adi first as she stepped outside her office building to meet the news correspondent was his unfeigned fascination with his surroundings.

He was clearly astounded to find himself walking through what seemed almost like a small forest, in stark contrast to the highly industrialised area of Swansea that he had known twenty-five years earlier. He couldn’t help but share his amazement, talking animatedly for several minutes about the innovative urban designs that supported the climate resilience he had witnessed around the city. It was only then that he realized he hadn’t introduced himself, and hastened to do so.

“I’m Adi,” she replied with a smile, extending her hand for a shake.

Building sustainable infrastructure with people and nature in mind

She welcomed him inside her office and explained the features and construction of the building, which ran on 100% community-owned renewable energy – all citizens and businesses in the local area co-owned a solar and hydro plant that supplied the whole neighbourhood. In fact, most of Wales was now organised to foster greater collaboration, ownership, fair power and resource distribution between local communities and private and public sectors. Adi explained that her area’s surplus energy was primarily sold to companies in neighbouring nations, and the money gained was invested in community projects that enriched social life and improved transport and infrastructure systems following nature alignment principles. Investment decisions were taken collectively, and overseen by a body of elected local representatives and community staff, whose salaries were also paid for by the profits of the energy surplus.

She looked over at the journalist and saw that he was frozen in his note-taking, forgetting to write down what she was saying. She chuckled and went on to tell him about her role in helping retrofit the streets of Swansea to create people- and nature-friendly urban hubs with bigger, safer and fully-connecting transport lanes. This included large areas of green space, more public seating areas, and more covered outdoor hangout spots with play and sports areas for kids and adults alike. The infrastructure had been developed to ensure that all necessary daily needs were reachable within a twenty-minute walking or wheeling radius – an ambition first set out in the early 2000s. The substantial amount of shared, accessible communal space had made the transition to reduced private space easier.

A shift to car-sharing and efficient and reliable public transport powered by clean energy had begun when growing public dissatisfaction with rising financial costs for transport and fuel, staggering levels of air pollution from transport negatively affecting public health, and excessive congestion from an increasing number of lone drivers, reached its peak. Efficient public transport now connected different areas across Swansea, and by making transport in its various forms accessible, reliable, and safe, 93% of the Swansea population now cycled, walked, or used public transport to get around the city. This transition, alleviating a lot of the need to dedicate land to car parking, had freed up more space for transport lanes and the nature-inspired drainage systems that were needed to cope with the changed rainfall patterns.

Both were quiet for a moment while Adi let the news correspondent absorb all this information. He squinted, as though thinking hard, and finally shared an observation that compared to other European cities he had travelled to, he had noticed that in Swansea (the first Welsh city he had been to) many more individuals, families and groups of friends spent more time outdoors in the urban green spaces and hangout spots. They looked happier and healthier.

Collaborative and integrated thinking

“What enabled this transition?” he asked.

Adi took a deep breath, and explained that the current environmentally resilient infrastructure across Swansea had, in large part, been enabled by a shift in attitude towards an experimental and trial and error approach, which was made possible by combining local knowledge, the latest technology, and historical resources, with citizen assemblies working alongside engineers, builders, policymakers and ecologists. This hands-on collective intelligence had led to clean air, a more active lifestyle, and greater environmental resilience thanks to nature- and culture-inspired solutions. This last was important, because the effects of changing climate were still being felt. Still, thanks to collaboration and innovation across the city, the built environment could adapt to flooding, overheating or drought with much less disruption to daily life than had been initially feared.

During a tour of the office, he was introduced to Adi’s colleagues, who revealed an excited and happy attitude to work. They told him about their flexible working week, that gave staff enough time to recuperate and allowed them to be more creative and energetic during their work hours. They expressed the joys of a supportive work environment that empowered workers to grow their skills, knowledge and networks in a relaxed and plant-filled office. He was pleased to hear that they all received a fair wage, ensuring that they could meet their own and their families’ needs (and recreational activities) in safe and secure working conditions. Adi explained that these favourable working conditions had been put in place following guidance from the Welsh Government’s Guide to Fair Work, which had now been in operation for decades.

One question that remained unanswered was how Adi came to obtain and develop her skills. To find out, he had first to meet her parents, who were key to developing her learning mindset.

Learning mindset with intercultural roots

After shadowing her day at work, the pair cruised through the city by bike, the fresh evening breeze on their faces. Looking over her shoulder, Adi saw that her new journalist friend was grunting and sweating, completely out of breath as he tried to keep up with her. She slowed down, realising that he probably wasn’t used to regular cycling.

When they reached her parents’ apartment eight minutes later, she offered him a glass of cold water while, drenched in sweat and struggling to get a word past his lips, he introduced himself to her parents. Adi’s father gave a loud, heart-warming belly laugh. “That’s why I always insist on leaving ten minutes before Adi, to not end up like you.” Adi’s mother apologised on behalf of her family and offered him a seat and a spread of homecooked food that she had prepared for his arrival. Humbled and surprised, he accepted appreciatively. The food was traditional Zimbabwean cuisine, from recipes passed on for generations, and all the produce was locally and organically Welsh-grown, by famers who had embraced new crops and practices compatible with the changed climate. He couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten such flavourful and nourishing food, so he relished every bite and, for a time, completely forgot that he was there to interview Adi and her family. The lively conversation around the table made him feel welcome, and only when Adi’s mother brought up the topic of agricultural drought in Zimbabwe as a result of climate change, which had contributed to their decision to move to Wales forty years earlier, did he remember to ask questions. He learned that Adi’s parents had owned a large plot of land in Zimbabwe where they had grown all sorts of grains, vegetables and fruits. Their generational farming practices had mitigated a lot of the drought, and they had become local leaders and expert advisors to other farmers who had neglected traditional forms of farming, and consequently had suffered more from the agricultural drought. A movement for traditional farming practices had risen in the country. Yet many neighbouring countries, still relying heavily on commercial farming practices, had been struck by drought and were significantly affected by poor agricultural output. This reduced the global supply of food, increasing food prices even in Zimbabwe to levels that had previously been unimaginable, and creating a race to procure food, especially from high income-earning countries. This shift in the economic landscape triggered Adi’s parents’ decision to move to Wales while they still had enough money to afford the expensive journey.

With his mouth still half full of roasted, seasoned green beans, the correspondent asked why they had decided to come to Wales specifically, and what the move had been like. They explained that it had been terribly hard to create a new home in a foreign country and to adapt to a different culture, but that the familiarity with a friend already living in Wales had made the transition easier. Besides having existing ties with loved ones in the country, their choice of Wales was also rooted in the reasoning that they had to move somewhere north to be further away from the impact zone of extreme weather conditions. Now their expertise in climate resilience and farming had positioned them as leading advisers to executing green transition plans in Wales.

Adi continued the conversation, saying that when she was a kid, her parents would always tell her stories about how they had responded to drought and the associated agricultural challenges in collaboration with their local community in Zimbabwe. Hearing these stories growing up was what drew Adi to work with climate resilience in the infrastructural sector and to become a voice for ethnic youth’s inclusion in the green transition.

Lived experience and intergenerational knowledge

She recognised early on that for a holistic transition in Wales to happen, it needed to welcome all ethnic groups, so she applied for a Leadership academy open to young people with a connection to Wales. The academy focused on integrating technical knowledge with creativity, indigenous worldviews, and empathy, to ensure that participants from all walks of life could develop solutions fit for this generation and those to come. The academy produced exceptional talents who went on to teach, farm, care for the elderly, rebuild cities, use local energy, work in hospitality, planning and governance, and so forth. The principles behind this programme, which was started back in the day by the Future Generations Commissioner’s Office and had become mainstream in further education, was one of the best investments Wales had made. The principles fostered by the Academy and similar projects recognised the wide range of skills in young people and helped preserve folk knowledge through intergenerational learning experiences.

After a delicious dinner, Adi and the journalist again cycled through the chilly evening breeze on their bikes. At 6:30pm, she reached her home in a nature-inspired apartment complex where she would babysit her neighbour’s eleven-year-old son, Cameron, for a few hours.


 Follow Cameron next week to learn about education under a green transition and the eco apartment complex he and Adi live in.  

Please note that some AI-generated content is included in the featured image for this piece.

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for three free online Green Skills events on 14th, 21st, and 28th May.  

Wales in 2051: Skills that made Swansea a nature and people-friendly city   Read More »

Castell Howell Foods – Supply Chain 

As an indigenous Welsh food company, Castell Howell is very much at the centre of this foundational economy.  

Serving both private and public sector hospitality and food service providers in Wales and beyond, the company recognises its responsibility to be agents for change, working towards the goals of the Economic Action Plan. 

‘Optimising the Welsh food system necessitates a focus on onshoring production for enhanced social value and nutritional content. This entails aligning menus with seasonal harvests, improving yield and supply chain data, and extending produce shelf life. Collaborative efforts will foster a more resilient system that empowers our farmers, delivers nutritious meals to the public sector, and minimises risk. While cost and efficiency challenges exist, a pragmatic approach focused on long-term objectives can yield significant benefits. Transparent procurement practices that prioritise not just price point, but also social value, environmental impact, and community engagement are essential.’

Edward Morgan – Group Corporate Social Responsibility & Training Manager, Castell Howell Foods.

This case study highlights four independent yet interlinked projects that demonstrate how the supply chain can collaborate to instigate change that leaves a social, environmental and economic legacy within the foundational economy and beyond. 

1. Locally Grown Veg to Cardiff Food and Fun – ‘The Courgette Pilot’ 

In the summer of 2022 Castell Howell (CHF) collaborated with growers Blas Gwent, Food Sense Wales and Cardiff Council to deliver locally-grown vegetables to the Welsh Government funded and WLGA managed Summer Food & Fun programme.  

A series of images of children cooking in a school setting with vegetables.

Courgettes grown near Cardiff were delivered to 22 local schools, and CHF’s development chef worked with the Council’s nutritional team to create dishes that were nutritionally balanced, palatable, and attractive to the children. The summer programme included activities such as cooking demonstrations and vegetable art. 

Food Sense Wales published a report highlighting the efficacy of the pilot and how the inclusion of locally-grown vegetables in school meals can reduce environmental impacts and benefit both the grower and the children.  

Image from Food Sense Wales Report – Courgette Pilot 

Follow this link to find out more.

The Courgette Project – Phase 2 

Phase 2 extended beyond Cardiff Council to Monmouthshire and Carmarthenshire, and included three small-scale vegetable growers: Blas Gwent (Wentloog), Langtons Farm (Crickhowell), and Bonvilston Edge (Bonvilston). Their vegetables were used for the Summer Food & Fun project by all three local authorities, with a longer-term project in Monmouthshire extending to their autumn and winter menus. To ensure that food safety was maintained, Tyfu Cymru/Farming Connect delivered safety and process training. 

Several people stand in a large greenhouse with tall plants around them.
Managing the Supply Chain 

Yield forecasts, menus and harvesting all had to be aligned, and allow for flexibility for seasonal variations. Authentic Foods (Hirwaun) were contracted to grow vegetables to be harvested, prepared, and, after a programme of new product development work, included in kitchen-prepared, multi-portion meals to the public sector. Dialogues with local authority catering teams on nutritional compliance, acceptability, palatability, pricing and the practicality of using school kitchens were essential to the project’s success, and in May 2023 the partners met at Langtons Farm, where a commitment was made to plant 1,000 cauliflowers to harvest in early 2024, for use in school-compliant multi-portion meals from March 2024 onwards. 

Lab results for the micronutrients for the meals developed at Authentic were of particular interest. Except for the standard Welsh Tom Pizza sauce, the results seem in line with expectations. Particularly good to see the addition of the Welsh grown spinach and chard boosting the iron and zinc values of the Cauli Cheese meal. It’s not clear what portion size a primary school child would eat, however it is hoped that the 20% added would exceed the 3g of these micronutrients that is a general baseline. 

The Welsh Beef Bolognaise (with the added spinach/chard base) seems to perform well too. 

Provided that the children are ok with 20% added Cauliflower Cheese meal (not too green looking etc), this could be great news for our cohort of growers, helping us to narrow down what can be grown well and profitably  in Wales for a target customer i.e. schools. 

  Welsh Tom Pizza Topping With 10% Spinach With 20% Spinach With 10% Chard Knorr Tom Basil Sauce Maggi (Nestle) Rich & Rustic Tin Chopp/Plum Toms Welsh Beef and Welsh Bolognese Welsh Cauli Cheese With 10% mixed leaves With 20% mixed leaves With 10% spinach 
Energy KJ/100g 168 155 161 150 213 257 80 354 359 337 329 337 
Protein g/100g 1.8 1.8 2.1 1.8 1.2 1.4 1.1 5.5 3.4 3.5 3.5 3.4 
Fat g/100g 0.3 0.2 0.3 0.3 1.1 2.8 0.1 4.6 5.3 4.9 4.5 4.8 
Sugars g/100g 5.2 4.5 4.4 4 6.9 5.7 3.8 2.7 2.7 2.4 2.3 2.3 
Fibre g/100g 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.7 0.7 1.1 0.8 2.8 1.6 2 2.33 1.7 
Sodium mg/100g 204 202 183 169 n/a n/a n/a 292 220 213 231 198 
Zinc mg/100g <2.00 2.23 3.37 3.78 n/a n/a n/a 11.6 5.56 8.65 11.3 5.62 
Iron mg/100g 7.17 5.41 6.22 6.13 n/a n/a n/a 7.84 1.81 3.54 5.53 2.74 

2. Gower Grown Veg, Field to Fork  

In collaboration with Swansea Local Authority, Bishopston Secondary school and 4theregion, Castell Howell developed a pilot local supply chain for vegetables grown in Gower to feature on the menu at Bishopston school. The school held a fortnight of food-based activities in lessons, a school visit to the growers, and helped with the development of meals that featured on a Gower Grown school menu. 

This project helped raise awareness of nutrition, environmental impact, financial fairness across the supply chain and local food resilience.  

A group of school children stand around a beehive with a beekeeper.

Watch the video: From Gower Fields to Local Forks | Taster Day 

3. Sustainable supply chains, and ‘Scope 3’ on menus 

Food miles and Scope 3 supply chain emissions are inextricably linked. Working with hospitality providers to decide on menu options, and then with suppliers, can reduce the total environmental impact of the products. 

An example of the circular economy in action was demonstrated by the collaboration between Celtic Pride, CHF’s premium Welsh beef supplier run by the Rees family from Bryn Farm, in Pendoylan, Vale of Glamorgan, and NFU Energy. Bryn Farm received biosolids from Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, a by-product that is a rich source of nutrients and allowed the farm to reduce the need for synthetic fertilisers, which is one of the biggest challenges faced by the agricultural sector. 

Communicating the Positive Benefits to Stakeholders 

CHF promotes the environmental and social benefits of a sustainable supply chain to stakeholders through positive messaging on menus, supported by further information accessed via QR codes. 

A Sustainably Sourced Menu for a Farming Conference 

In collaboration with Cardiff Catering, CHF developed a sustainably sourced menu for the 2022 Nuffield Conference banquet. The key suppliers adopted a range of environmental objectives, including a Farm Carbon Audit with the beef farmer, net-zero potatoes, Gower-grown vegetables and cheese from regenerative farms. This film shows how the menu was created with sustainability at its heart and showcases the sustainability journey of the food producers, as well as highlighting how this was communicated to the diners. 

4. Digestibility and Nutrient Density Project 

There is a growing acceptance of the health risks posed by ultra-processed foods. CHF partnered with Aberystwyth University on a Welsh Government funded project to develop prepared meals for NHS Wales that demonstrate that nutritional, environmental, social and commercial goals need not be mutually exclusive.  

The outcomes were achieved with a range of multi-portion meals following a new and innovative product development pipeline, which included measuring the true nutritional quality of the new meals, via amino acid compositional analysis and in-vitro gastrointestinal protein digestibility scores. Protein derived from UK grown pulses was successfully substituted for red meat, ensuring that the meals still met the required nutritional standards.  

The project found that a range of flexitarian or “hybrid” meals, based on well-established and recognised meals but substituting plant-based protein sources for meat wherever possible, were the most viable in meeting the requirements. Where meat was used this was predominantly pasture-grazed Welsh beef aligned with Hybu Cig Cymru’s ‘Welsh Way’ vision of lower carbon protein derived from Welsh livestock. However the increasing price of meat since the start of the project underlined the important commercial aspects of “hybrid” foods that contain an element of Welsh meat alongside UK grown pulses. 

————————————————————————————————————– 

‘I cannot overstate the importance of these projects, in terms of developing the supply chain, generating product development and providing more Welsh products to Welsh schools.’

Edward Morgan – Group Corporate Social Responsibility & Training Manager, Castell Howell Foods 

  

We at Cynnal Cymru are excited to keep you informed about the progress of this work. 

Castell Howell Foods – Supply Chain  Read More »

Lunchtime challenge: Craft the future! Design a 21st Century business strategy

Lunchtime Challenge: Craft the Future! Design a 21st Century Business Strategy

Join Clockwise Cardiff for an exciting event where you can unleash your creativity and innovation!

Time: 1 Hour (with light lunch provided)

Host: Karolina Rucinska, Sustainability Strategist at Cynnal Cymru

Calling all innovators! Ready to shake things up? Join us for a dynamic lunchtime challenge where you’ll brainstorm and build a business strategy fit for the 21st century.

The Challenge: Craft a future-proof strategy that considers not just profit, but also social responsibility and environmental impact.

Lunchtime challenge: Craft the future! Design a 21st Century business strategy Read More »

A Capital garden: how a steel company is taking action for nature

How have you decided to take action?

The creation of a biodiversity and wellbeing garden, designed to acknowledge the lengthy industrial heritage of the site and also to restore the area to a bio-productive space; introducing nesting boxes, bee hives, planters filled with pollinator friendly flowers, two ponds and a canopy with a green roof.

We see the garden as a multi-faceted tool for sustainability, it:

  • Gives nature a place to thrive
  • Is part of a wildlife corridor on site
  • Offers a real-world example of nature alongside industry
  • Is a mechanism for training
  • A clear embodiment of our sustainability aspirations
  • An inspiration for other businesses

How did you get started?

The inspiration for the garden was provided by the space itself (the Victorian walls presented an opportunity to conceive the area differently); the book ‘Islands of abandonment’ (Cal Flynn)  made me think about how places can revert to their previous states; and finally desire to do something positive and meaningful that would have internal and external benefits.

Advice came from lots of quarters; social projects Project Nestbox and the Sirhowy Bee Company, and also from gardeners within our team, alongside friends and family. We have also never stopped listening to ideas and are currently working on an edible gardening journey to share crops with our staff. 

What is a key challenge that you have faced?

The challenges came from the environment within which the garden is sited and also creating the ‘right’ balance between core business activities and maintenance. Would the bees thrive? Which plants are hardy, low maintenance and good for biodiversity? Can we allocate sufficient resource within weather windows? (we are after all, a steel company and not a botanical garden, so there is only so much time we can devote to the garden itself).  However the latter point is almost moot – where there’s a will there’s a way.

What benefits have you seen?

The benefits have been significant:

On the environment – we have returned life to a formerly barren area. The space is now full of flora and fauna, most obviously flowers, shrubs, birds, bees, insects and amphibians.  

On the workforce – I can’t think of a better project that’s communicated the values of sustainability and the importance of biodiversity, from materials re-use to eco-systems.

On the organisation – it has been a real success in convincing the outside world that we listen, think, plan and act on sustainability. This has manifested itself in improved relations with key stakeholders and customers. Banks in particular, value organisations who take their responsibilities seriously.

Do you have any words of advice for those starting their biodiversity journey?

The big takeaway from our project is no matter what resources you have – or don’t have – at your disposal, do what you can with what you’ve got. Any area can be used, waste can be upcycled. Imagination and commitment are more important than financial resources.

Capital Coated Steel is a processor of pre-finished steels and metals, offering slitting, decoiling, profiling and shearing services. A Welsh owned company established in 1972, Capital serves multiple markets including building envelope, domestic appliance, cold rooms and general manufacturing. At Capital we believe in long-term relationships, looking after our customers, supporting staff, contributing to the local community and taking our sustainability responsibilities seriously.

Not sure where to start on your own biodiversity journey? Check out our Nature Wise course to learn about the links between human activity and ecosystem disruption. Our eco-literacy training will help you develop the knowledge to enable you and your organisation to take action for nature recovery.

A Capital garden: how a steel company is taking action for nature Read More »

Scroll to Top
Skip to content