Driving community change

The Green Centre volunteers

Melanie Rees shares how her dynamic group of volunteers are turning Brighton into a Green Centre.





Based in Brighton, The Green Centre is a community environmental project run entirely by volunteers. Set up in 2006, our mission is to provide information and advice to all members of the community on matters that influence the future of our planet (locally, nationally and globally). We enable people to develop their relationship with the planet, helping them to focus on their own habits and behaviours, and the changes that they can make as individuals.

Before setting up The Green Centre, I visited all the environmental organisations in Brighton to see what was missing. I used that information, monitored and observed what was happening, and started to run projects that reflected what was needed. The Green Centre is driven by what the community and the environment around us needs. From the very beginning, this has predominantly been about general public recycling. 

The heart of the organisation

Our volunteers are the heart of our organisation. Without them, we wouldn’t exist. All of our core work is done entirely by volunteers and we’re happy to continue in this way. Volunteers are involved in all aspects of the day-to-day running of The Green Centre. They help with decision-making, develop educational resources for our website, and run our second-hand shop including choosing materials that are appropriate for resale. 

For our Zero Waste programme, our volunteers meet and greet customers, give them advice on recycling (such as how to prepare materials for recycling and what happens to them when they are collected), and hand sort and process all of the items. They decide what can be used and separate the different materials such as scrap metal and corks. We collect over 60 different types of materials so this is no mean feat!

We have a really wonderful and dynamic group of volunteers with so many different skills. I used to be a special needs headteacher and some of our volunteers have additional needs (such as ADHD, autism or a learning disability) and this has resulted in an incredibly diverse team that I am very proud of. Every volunteer brings something special and we really support each other. We are like family. 

Be the change

Our volunteers are so motivated and committed. They’re here because they genuinely want to help, they want to make a contribution to the community, and they want to learn more about a field that they’re not necessarily familiar with. 

I would encourage anyone to get involved in climate volunteering. There is a great need to share your time and skills working for any organisation that is tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis. 

We only need to look at the current situation with half of Europe overheating to see that the behaviour changes required are not happening to the degree that we need them to. We all have a significant role to play and every action we take has a ripple effect. Be the change that you want to see in the world - volunteer!