Urban Futures Salford Manchester. Research in the City

Main image is an outtake from a film about Fallowfield Secret Garden

Proving by doing with AFSL

Action for Sustainable Living (AfSL) is a Greater Manchester charity that supports local, practical action to address sustainability issues and climate change. It was set up in 2004 by four individuals drawing on UK national government funding and personal giving.

Key to the AFSL approach is that it recognises that action on sustainability needs to be grounded in individual actions and local areas and that effective action to create sustainable futures requires working across a range of topics and issues from energy efficiency and new forms of energy generation to transport issues and local food.

Yet, AfSL was founded out of recognition that there is often a lack of practical action and know-how on sustainability issues, where knowledge is spread across different individuals and groups. It was set up as a response to this, the demise of many traditional communities over recent decades and the need for new ways of organising local action on sustainability. AfSL’s ethos is based on connecting and bringing together different people and resources to build effective bottom-up sustainable living.

It does this through working to enthuse, support and sustain activity in different areas of environmental sustainability. It works to re-frame sustainability and climate change not as huge, unmanageable issues where there is little to be done but sees them as best addressed through a very large number of smaller, local activities.

At the heart of this approach is utilising volunteering to engage local people with sustainability issues but also to provide training to local people and organisations.  Practically this means AfSL supporting local people in setting up action groups and campaigns, to run local events and support local projects. It also means that AfSL has worked with local schools – through the ‘A Few Small Steps’ programme - to promote their sustainability through a range of small steps. AfSL also works with local authorities, housing associations and businesses.

An Alternative?

AfSL doesn’t just talk about sustainability it acts across Greater Manchester to work towards it and brings together a range of people, organisations, projects, funders and expertise.

AfSL doesn’t just talk about sustainability it acts across Greater Manchester to work towards it and brings together a range of people, organisations, projects, funders and expertise.

Often AfSL provides a brokering role bringing together experts, resources and different agencies and individuals. This is usually within Greater Manchester but does sometimes involve action outside the metropolitan area. AfSL has been involved in a large number of projects since its founding, including Didsbury Dinners, Moss Cider, the Energy Academy addressing behavioural change and reducing energy use and Fallowfield Secret Garden. It also provides tailored services for a range of groups as well as training.

Energy Academy

The late Chris Wright, a founder of AFSL

Often, given its role as a ‘broker’ this can mean working with multiple groups that have included a range of local people and organisations, local authorities in Greater Manchester and beyond, schools, businesses, housing associations and universities.

In doing this AfSL has a small team of staff working to undertake its programme and projects and, as a charity, a group of trustees. Given its breadth of work AfSL draws on funding from donations but also multiple sources of project funding. This includes a four year Big Lottery Fund award, various funding from Manchester, Stockport and Trafford councils, as well as funding from housing trusts and others.

This funding and the brokering role provided by AfSL means that the charity is recognised within Greater Manchester. Awards, ranging from The Guardian newspaper’s Charity of the Year Award in 2008 to the Energy Saving Initiative of the Year at the 2013 Sustainable Housing Awards, demonstrate that there is recognition of AfSL’s work outside of Greater Manchester.


Since this article was written, we have learnt of the sudden and untimely death of AfSL's founder, Chris Wright. Chris (pictured above) was an inspiration to many, many people and will be greatly missed. AfSL's work and projects will continue as planned.



This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region. The main image above is an outtake from a film about Fallowfield Secret Garden

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

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