Building a Greener YMCA for our Community

At YMCA Plymouth we are proud to be setting our centre on the path to Net Zero with a host of green initiatives that will make our centre cleaner and greener for everyone in our community. We believe it’s vital to play our part in combating the climate crisis facing our planet and we’re pleased to share with you the concrete measures we are taking and have already taken to move our charity towards Net Zero.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve taken significant measures to reduce our carbon footprint and we have more exciting green projects starting soon.

What We’ve Already Done

Future Net Zero Standard Benchmark

We’ve partnered with experts and the Future Net Zero Standard to officially certify our carbon footprint and track its change over time. This means we can accurately verify our path to Net Zero and identify whether we are on track to our goal and where we can work to improve.

Green Tourism Partnership

We’re proud to have joined the Green Tourism certification programme, giving us expert advice and guidance to become a more sustainable business. We’re proud to be one of the first organisations in Plymouth to sign-up as part of city-wide efforts to promote sustainable practices across a range of sectors in the local economy.

Cutting Plastic Use

We’ve dramatically cut down the use of plastics in our centre by removing single-use plastic cutlery in our bistro and by installing a water fountain alongside providing reusable water bottles for our centre users. We’ve also signed up to the Plymouth Plastic Free Directory as part of our continued efforts to cut down our use of plastics.

Solar panels

Making use of our extensive sports hall roof, we have recently installed an array of solar panels to generate clean energy for our centre. Whilst the solar panels won’t generate all the energy required by our centre, they will play a big part in significantly reducing the energy we use from fossil fuel sources.

LED Lighting Conversion

A big centre like ours requires a lot of lighting. Across our two sports halls, studios, offices and outdoor pitches we have been on a mission to change all our outdated, high-energy-consuming lighting, with greener eco-friendly LEDs. Over the past two years, we’ve changed a staggering 320 lights (including large sports hall lights and outdoor floodlights), saving about 10x as much energy as previously.

Zero to Landfill

We are working with sustainable waste partners to ensure that as little as possible waste ends up at landfill. Not only are typical types of waste recycled, but further waste that can’t be recycled is taken to be converted into energy at specialist plants instead of ending up in landfills.

Community Garden & Fruit Orchard

We’ve converted an unused concrete space into a thriving urban orchard and community garden which supplies a local food bank. We planted over 22 fruit trees and have 180 square metres of growing space for a variety of fruit and vegetables. The space is maintained by volunteers and used for community workshops and activities, whilst all the fruit and veg produce is donated to local people in need.


Improving our energy efficiency is vital to reducing our carbon footprint. For a large building like ours, built in the 1970s, we have worked hard to insulate our building to reduce the amount of gas heating we use. We recently added extensive extra insulation across our entire main sports hall roof, including the top and side cladding layers.

What We’re Doing Soon

Miyawaki Forest

We are seeking to grow an innovative carbon-absorbing Micro-forest known as a ‘Miyawaki Forest’ on a disused area of our site. The forest will be planted with a special method that densely packs a large variety of trees and foliage together. This planting method and specially chosen species of native plants and trees make the forest hugely beneficial to the surrounding ecology as well as absorbing the amount of carbon equal to that of a traditional forest that’s much larger in size.

E-bike Hub

At YMCA Plymouth one of our key strategic aims is encouraging good health and wellbeing. E-bikes are a fantastic way for people to travel in a way that is both good for their health and for the environment. We’re proud to be chosen as a Plymouth Mobility Hub which will host e-bikes that can be hired and used throughout the city.

Electric car charging points

As part of being a city-wide mobility hub, we will also be installing electric car charging points on site and will continually look to grow the availability of these as electric car usage increases. Having charging points on a site like ours will reduce ‘range anxiety’ for electric car drivers who can simply charge up while visiting our centre.

More to come

Beyond the range of measures outlined here, we are constantly reviewing what more we can do with more announcements yet to come. Our commitment to Net Zero will become part of our next Strategic Plan and by working with our partners and our community we intend to make this happen as fast as possible. To get involved with any of these projects please contact us at info@ymcaplymouth.org.uk.