From community groups and charities to businesses and schools, we believe that everyone has a role to play in helping nature recovery across Greater Manchester. We’ll be shining a spotlight on the passionate individuals who are already leading the way – our Local Nature Champions.
Kieron McGlasson is Director at Sow The City, alongside working as an advisor for community groups looking to apply for Green Spaces Fund support.
Tell us about your project.
We want to build a healthier, greener city. Somewhere that’s full of beans. The kind of city you want to live in. Nature in cities makes a lot of sense –it helps reduce flooding, tackle climate change, and improve air quality. Plus nature supports our health and wellbeing, and provides opportunities to strengthen communities. Founded in 2009, Sow the City is an award winning, Manchester-based social enterprise, with a mission to empower communities to grow and live sustainably.
We really believe in:
- Transforming and repurposing unused and derelict urban sites into useful and attractive greenspace.
- Encouraging people in urban areas to connect with nature.
- Involving local people in our projects to develop stronger, more cohesive communities.
- Running practical horticultural and environmental training courses that provide skills and knowledge for life, learning and employment.
- Quality greenspace that is attractive and productive and that contributes to the long term future of the planet.
- Using sustainable materials to minimise the environmental impact of our projects.
- Teaching organic practices and permaculture and promoting the use of plant species that encourage wildlife.
- Researching and testing innovative technology and techniques that can be used for urban agriculture
How did you first get involved in nature recovery?
An inspiring A Level Geography teacher between 1994-96. He was ahead of the game environmentally and would teach us about the climate emergency when everywhere else it seemed to be about recycling coke cans only. Coming from a beautiful part of the world (the Lake District) I gained a strong appreciation of the value of nature and yet also how delicate and vulnerable it can be.
University education into urban planning and sustainability and then nine years in the corporate regeneration sector, which often talked the talk yet failed on action, led me to seek a pathway of work that was motivated by delivering for people and planet – social enterprise. The beauty of social enterprise means I can harness my climate activism into my everyday work, rather than just leave it for the weekend!
Now with two young children, seeing the impact of greed, and following pioneers such as David Attenborough, Dale Vince and Greta Thunberg, as well as organisations such as Olio, I too am making it a life’s mission to do all I can to try and halt the madness of climate and nature destruction.
What do you think nature offers Greater Manchester?
Sow the City was established with a few packets of seeds and some compost in 2009 to challenge the idea that cities that urban and rural are separate spaces. And that we are separate from nature. The importance of nature in cities cannot be overstated. It is essential for mental health, physical health, climate change (mitigation and adaptation), food security etc.
Incorporating nature into urban environments has numerous benefits, from improving public health to mitigating the effects of climate change.
As urbanization continues to rapidly expand, it is increasingly important to create sustainable and liveable cities that balance the needs of humans and the environment.
We think nature activities are a hugely therapeutic and healthy activity in cities (so does the NHS – we have a whole range of projects and programmes with them providing therapeutic horticulture e.g. for mental health). Physical health etc.
Nature in cities is hugely important for public health. We want to create greener urban ecosystem. We transform unattractive unused and derelict land into new urban green infrastructure through tree planting, orchard planting and edible planting.
Nature is hugely important for engaging people about climate change, environmental issues, and sustainability through the five pathways to nature connectedness, tree planting, food production. In the latter case food accounts for one third of your carbon footprint (from transport, fertiliser etc.).
Growing your own can produce food with zero carbon footprint or even negative in the case of fruit trees.
Why do you think it’s important more people get involved in nature?
We all come from nature – we were reliant on it. Without it we are nothing. This is called biophilia.
Nature also holds the answers to our problems, especially if we pursue sustainable development.
Nature can cool cities, boost mental health, feed us and provide our energy.
But only by getting involved in it, even simple tasks like plan ting a carrot, do we develop an appreciation. Without doing this, people don’t care and are instead driven by reckless greed, consumerism, and convenience.
This is why projects like Sow the City and the Green Spaces Fund are so important.
How can people get involved in your project?
Sow the City operate all over Manchester and frequently get people involved to help create, maintain, or recover environmental projects. So you could contact us to volunteer – both out and about or even with helping to run projects.
The Green Spaces Fund currently has 52 live projects and by the end of the year will have many more. All of them encourage volunteering and local involvement. Contact email@example.com to get involved.
What do you think is the single greatest priority for nature recovery in Greater Manchester?
To become net zero asap. We cannot keep burning oil and gas. Until we stop burning oil and gas, we cannot be losing £1 out of every £3 from our poorly insulated homes. So we need to become a sustainable city across the board asap, including our approach to aviation and construction. There will be no economic development on a burning planet!
And if time and resources weren’t an issue, how would you address that priority?
Upskill and employ our huge workforce to do mass rollout of things like home insulation and maintenance of our green spaces. Subsidise electric vehicles for everyone who needs them, and bikes of course.
We cannot continue debating whether climate change is an issue and man made and continuing as normal. Big changes are required fast, that whilst some may be painful in terms of convenience may also provide huge opportunities for jobs and quality of life. We cannot wait until Greater Manchester is on fire to start taking action!
Find out more about our plan for nature recovery
Greater Manchester is currently developing its u003cstrongu003eLocal Nature Recovery Strategyu003c/strongu003e, which will set out a blueprint for a more liveable city-region, with fairer access to green space for all.Find out more including ways to get involved on our nature recovery webpage.