Associations and the Ecological and Solidarity Transition: which kind of partnerships to get on board?

The transition to a sustainable society requires a change in mindsets and practices regarding our ways of designing, managing, producing and consuming goods and services. The non-profit sector is not spared and must question its operational practices and activities by taking environmental issues into account. 

However, many associations whose activities are far from environmental protection have not yet taken this issue into account in their projects, due to a lack of awareness, resources or other obstacles linked to the association’s historical habits, for example (1). In France, associations working in the environmental sector in 2020 represent only 4.8%, while 16.9% are sports associations, 23.9% work in culture and 11.6% in entertainment (2). All of the activities provided by these associations require a great deal of energy to feed, heat, lighten and move around…

The sources of pollution of associative activities are multiple, which necessarily implies mobilising a large number of qualified people to inform, accompany and/or cooperate in order to improve its habits on a specific subject such as digital technology for instance.

In this article, we would like to list a few associations or structures that are involved in environmental causes and that we consider to be resource partners for all associations that wish to initiate their ecological transition. The initiatives presented are not exhaustive and have been identified in the territories of the TEDDA partners. However, they often have a European resonance and allow everyone to look for an equivalent actor in their territory. 

We have divided the actors below according to the following themes: purchasing, waste, digital, mobility, energy flows, building and biodiversity. These themes are detailed in the TEDDA project’s methodological guide to initiate the ecological transition, which will be available for download on the TEDDA website in June 2023. Examples of how small associations have put this into practice are also illustrated in the gallery of inspiring portraits. Associations that raise awareness about environmental issues (which is a necessary step for change) are also mentioned at the end of the article.

For purchases:

National network of resale shops and recycling centres: The resale shops are places where used or second-hand objects are collected and resold. These structures are often associations or social firms that are part of the social and solidarity economy and are committed to the preservation of resources and the circular economy

Recycling centres pursue the same objectives of reuse as resale shops, but they are distinct in that they can be specialized in the collection of one type of good (toys or materials for example).

Local distribution channels such as CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) are being developed all over Europe. A local distribution channel is a way of marketing agricultural products which is carried out either by direct sale from the producer to the consumer, or by indirect sale as long as there is only one intermediary (3). The main objective of a CSA is to bring together farmers and consumers, in order to create a partnership that enables the former to make a living from their production and to make their trade sustainable, and the latter to buy quality food products at a fair price (4).

The local currency is usually used to develop the local economy by supporting local trade and production. Monnaies Locales Complémentaires Citoyennes is a network that brings together all the structures or resource persons who develop or promote complementary local currencies as a means of payment oriented towards an ethical and qualitative , ecological approach, with social links and respect for living beings, as tools for transition, lifelong education and human development.

A local exchange trading system (LETS) is a system for exchanging products or services based on a “community currency” which has value only for the members of a group constituted as a declared or de facto non-profit association. In France, more than 800 LETS are listed in the LETS directory.

For waste:


Repair Cafés: Repairing together is the idea of the Repair Cafés, which are open to everyone and free of charge. Tools and equipment are available at the Repair Café location to make all kinds of repairs: clothes, furniture, electrical devices, bicycles, dishes, useful objects, toys, and more.

In Spain, Solidança offers a mobile repair service: the Reparatruck. The Didaltruck is a free service to prevent textile waste through sewing and recycling.

In France, Réseau compost registers approved training organisations, shared composting sites and professional biowaste actors to find out about the practice of local composting.

Zero Waste Europe brings together 34 local, national and independent citizens’ associations that promote waste reduction and better resource management.

For the digital sector:

Many service providers are specialised in the use of free software (software creation, web and email hosting, etc.) such as Cliss XXI. Free software is software whose code is freely accessible, can be modified and redistributed; unlike proprietary software, it is not locked up for commercial purposes (examples of free software: Linux, Firefox, VLC, etc.). Free software is a relevant response to reducing the environmental footprint of information and communication technologies (see article Free software and sustainable development, same battle?).

For mobility:

In France, many associations provide assistance in repairing bicycles and getting people back in the saddle at very affordable prices. The French Federation of Bicycle Users works to provide concrete answers to the daily concerns of cyclists and to promote the use of bicycles as a way of getting around, by networking local associations, working with public authorities and carrying out publicity campaigns.

Car-sharing associations such as Citiz and car-pooling associations such as Mobicoop are also developing to reduce individual car use.

In Spain, Biciclot offers various services to associations and companies in the field of sustainable mobility. It also offers training courses to schools and provides social and professional integration services to young people, among other things.

For energy flows: 

In France, the House of Sustainable Living offers solutions to make homes more efficient in terms of energy. Enercoop offers electricity from renewable energy sources only. Solaire en Nord promotes the development of photovoltaic solar energy. Energethic accompanies renewable energy projects, from the idea to the implementation.

In Belgium, Rescoop, the Walloon federation of renewable energy cooperatives, federates 20 cooperatives that produce electricity mainly from renewable energy sources..

For the building:

There are cooperatives and groups involved in sustainable housing

In France, Toerana is a cooperative that brings together building contractors involved in eco-construction. Zerm is an architectural association that deals with construction, reuse and renovation.  Les Saprophytes is a collective of architects and landscape designers who develop artistic and political projects around social, economic and ecological concerns. “Devenir en Vermandois” has set up an integration project whose employees have been trained in selective deconstruction to strengthen the circular economy. 

In Spain, La Borda is a housing cooperative for the transfer of use. Aus is a grouping of architects and professionals from other disciplines who are interested in and concerned about the most respectful way to act with our environment.

In Belgium, BatiTerre and BC Materials apply the circular economy to building materials. Entrakt carries out temporary projects in unoccupied places, applying the principles of the circular economy. Design with sense is a cooperative project of architects who create interior spaces with at least 80% recycled material.

For biodiversity:

Numerous associations are dedicated to creating local dynamics in order to implement concrete actions for the protection of bees, the defence of biodiversity and the revegetation of urban spaces. 

In France, the French Office for Biodiversity proposes programmes and actions for the preservation of biodiversity. The Nature Chico Mendès association carries out awareness-raising and training activities and supports the construction of biodiversity-friendly development projects.

Raising awareness about environmental issues

To raise awareness about environmental issues, many associations run collaborative workshops that are also a source of team building, such as the Climate Fresk. There are also free training courses for association volunteers on eco-events or the ecological transition in my association, as it is the case in the Hauts-de-France training programmes

Associations organise ecological workcamps for the preservation and recovery of natural environments. These associations supervise groups and educate participants in the discovery of the natural environment. 

Eco-citizen challenges, such as the “déclic” challenge (5), which associations can sign up for as a team, are suggested to take concrete action for the climate in a fun way in the areas of energy, consumption patterns, food, waste, mobility, and so on.

The Houses of  Environment such as the MRES, the Houses of Associations and the networks of SSE actors such as the APES can also accompany or provide a directory of local associations working for the protection of nature and the environment and education for sustainable development.

MRES’ E-book of Tools for Transition references tools for raising awareness about the ecological transition, some of which can be downloaded for free online. “Zero carbon objective” for association is a pedagogical tool that raises awareness of the evolution and content of greenhouse gas emissions linked to human activities. It will be available with its pedagogical guide on the TEDDA website from June 2023.

In the lack of such associative resources on a territory, associations such as Transition Town support project leaders who wish to set up concrete actions (local and collective purchases, shared gardens, local currency, Incredible edible, repair cafés, recycling centres, festivals, conferences…).

Do you also want to share resources? Send them to us or publish them with the hashtag #teddaprojet!





(3) French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, 2009


(5) the various games can be downloaded free of charge via the “shop” tab of the website

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