Challenging environmentally damaging activities and policies by promoting sustainable alternatives




History of Cambridge Friends of the Earth up to 1995

Cambridge Friends of the Earth formed in 1973. Its history only part parallels UKFoE. The earliest newsletter I can find was produced in 1974. Called "Spaceship Earth" and costing 2p it featured a freaky flying turtle logo. Bikes, buses and recycling featured. It had a very 60's style of presentation, but the subject matter hasn't dated much.

Recycling has always been a major concern. In 1975 Cambridge FoE opened a Bottle Shop in Castle Hill where people could take glass bottles. It remained open for 5 years after which the City Council began a BottleBank scheme.

In 1977 Cambridge FoE members started a Manpower Services Commission scheme to insulate homes. Over a 1000 houses were insulated over the 4 years of the project.

In the autumn of 1978 Cambridge FoE moved into the Bath House after a campaign to stop it becoming a car park. Paper collections were made, the paper being stored in a hut behind the Bath House which became home to a vagrant and smoking den for small boys until its removal. With City Council money we produced in 1987 a report proposing a recycling scheme. The report was purchased by institutions as widespread as Dubai and Oregon, but grant money wasn't forthcoming. During Environment week in 1988 we collected 25 tonnes of paper and won a national competition. We continued earning money by collecting used paper from offices, etc well into the 90's. We've always been keen on pilot projects, and these helped encourage recycling provision in Cambridge.

Planning and Transport issues have always high on our priorities. The action against the East Road widening scheme in 1982 was a watershed in establishing our reputation in this field. We have played an active role in Structure Plans and Road Plans ever since, winning a public inquiry in 1994 about City Centre pedestrianisation.

Energy campaigning has shifted focus over the years. We contributed 1000 pounds to the Campaign against Sizewell B in 1982, and were official objections to Sizewell C in 1989. We organised conference on Low Energy Villages in the 90s.

Habitat events continue, perhaps the most popular being the Rainforest Activity days in Cambridge Botanical gardens.

Major Publications are

  • Whole Meals in Minutes
  • Freewheeling (1982)
  • Nuclear Power. No Thanks! (1978, 1982)
  • The SSSI Handbook Volume 1 (R.H. Grove) (1985)
  • A Waste Recovery Project for Cambridge (David Mansell) (1987)
  • Cycle City (1987)

In 1981 there were 85 members. Things were beginning to stagnate so a full time campaign manager was taken on for 6 months, earning 30 pounds a week. Membership continued to increase and in 1988-90 grew by 50%, reaching a peak of over 500 in 1991. By 1995 it had dipped to 347.

During 1994, there were 150 mentions of Cambridge FoE in the Media - 99 mentions in CEN over 20 radio mentions.

We've probably experienced fewer conflicts with UK FoE than many other local groups have. We work in similar ways. UK FOE have decided to locate a regional officer in Cambridge. In return we have provided them with campaigners (Mary Taylor, Roger Lilley). A recent Chairman of the Trustees (Chris Pettit) was a Cambridge FoE member too.