The New Look shop that became a climate emergency hub

Shops that were abandoned by large chains in the UK are now becoming hubs for tackling climate change.

“We want to reach out beyond the ‘climate bubble’,” says Ben McCallan, chair of the Zero Carbon GuildfordCharity in Surrey that runs ZERO, one the new wave of climate hubs across the UK. 

McCallan and other volunteers managed to obtain a temporary lease on a town centre building measuring 16,000 ft that had been vacant for three consecutive years. They renovated the former New Look shop and opened ZERO in November 2021. The charity is focused upon creating a community climate action program that uses local solutions to address a global crisis. 

ZERO’s aims are threefold: to educate, by reaching out to people who aren’t already taking action on the climate; to offer practical solutions, particularly local ones, to help the community cope with fragile supply chains; and to build mental health and wellbeing support frameworks. 

Entirely run and staffed by volunteers, ZERO has mostly been funded by the community to date, including £25,000 from a crowdfunding campaign. The National Lottery has also just awarded the project £10,000. 

And elsewhere, the Talking TreeClimate emergency centre in Staines in Surrey is housed within a former William Hill betting store; Homebase and River Island shops from other towns have been transformed into similar setups. 

As McCallan puts it: “This is to help people process the negative emotions that so frequently cause people to turn away from the issues at hand, and instead help them use these to spur themselves into action.”

Main image: Zero Carbon Guildford

This article is the latest in our ‘reinventing the high street’ series. In recent weeks, Positive News has been shining a light on the people, places and projects that are breathing new life into the UK’s town and city centres as many retail giants abandon them. 

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