Friday, 11 December 2009

Castle Garden - November and December 2009

Since October, I have been busy in the garden and busy gardening people! i.e. gathering and enthusing a great volunteer team to help clear the area at the side to get ready to plant fruit trees, fruit bushes and other useful edibles!

We started the month off with a new selection of tools. They certainly don't look as they do now in the picture! We've battled against, rain, wind and very heavy clay soil, we broke 3 forks, I can't stress enough; you get what you pay for!

Our favourite tool to hit through clay soil and dig out established deep rooted shrubs is a mattock. One of our champion volunteers Barry, (castle climber and 30 years building experience) has been showing me how to use one. Very physical and very satisfying tool. I like it!

We've been working most Fridays and some weekend days. We've been developing a good team of volunteers, with a great variety of skills - including: Nick the medicinal horticulturalist, (he'll make sure we get the best herbs for cafe teas, and herbs to help climbers!) Matthew the ecologist (he's been helping me survey the wildlife on site), Paola the architect and Lisa the interior designer (they've been helping designing the walled fruit garden), Olaf the landscape architect and my mentor, Rachel the project manager, and several garden volunteers from Growing Communities (the lovely Chiqui, Robin, Sophie and Stewart from bikefix to name a few). Other enthusiasts and castle staff and members have also come along to give their time and strength, including Audrey the MD, Steve the CEO, Ray, Kerry and Olli. This project is a huge job, and we need all the help we can get!

The area at the side is now cleared and holes have been dug out ready for planting fruit trees next January. The next work day is Sat Jan 23rd 2010. After planting the fruit trees, we'll have a celebratory bonfire, hot cider and do a kind of "wassail" to celebrate and hope for a good harvest from the fruit. I'm off now to India for 3 weeks, to help volunteer on a permaculture food garden project in the Himalayas. See you in the new year!

Here's Audrey collecting about a ton of leaves to make leaf mould!

This very friendly robin has been following me around the garden for the past 3 weeks. They love it when you clear the ground! They come to see what goodies there are to eat in the soil. We have also found many frogs and toads, we'll make sure to create new habitats for them.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Environmental Policy Interviews - Episode Six

Dean Plant, head instructor at the Castle has some views to share with us on the environmental policy.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Environmental Policy Interviews - Episode Five

Ray Eckermann, Designer at The Castle shares his views on the environmental policy.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Environmental Awards...the results

I'll put up a more detailed report on our main website later this afternoon, but for those of you who can't wait, here's the list of successful applications to The Castle Environmental Awards Scheme:

Project A - Community Action Nepal. The Castle grant will enable CAN to build a health post in Ghap, currently a six-day walk from the nearest health post.

Project B - Beekeeping in North Wales. Castle instructor, Cordelia Molloy, has been given an award to start some hives in Llanberis.

Project D - Growing Communities. The Castle grant will fund educational signs for Growing Communities' plots in Hackney to teach visitors about organic farming methods.

Project E - The Saha Atitsva Foundation. We'll be funding the purchase and installation of solar panels for this eco-farm in Ganeshpuri, India.

Project G - Our Head Instructor, Dean Plant, will be undertaking a part-time internship with Greenpeace UK.

Project H - Magnificent Revolution will use this grant to fully fund the construction of their new hub located at Hackney City Farm.

Project J - Pangea Project will use our grant to purchase a bicycle and trailer for deliveries as part of their larger aim of making their business 100% sustainable.

Thank you to everyone who voted by ballot and email- your votes did make a difference!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Environmental Policy Interviews - Episode Four

Ben Levey, HR Manager at The Castle shares his views on the environmental policy.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Powered Out - Part 2

Well, our two-week testing period is over and the results are in. Just by exercising a bit of self-control and turning off our computers when not in use we've managed to cut down our inactivity hours by 30%! Not too bad but, to be honest, I was expecting a bit more progress. At least we've found out what computers are our worst offenders and can put some measures in place. I was a bit embarrassed to realise that my computer is the third worst! So I'm going to be extra-careful about turning my computer off and I've also asked that other people using my computer (weekends mostly) do likewise.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Research on membership cards

We have regained our sometimes unhappy card printer but the main question has been "do we want plastic cards at all?"

I ordered some sample 'green' cards from

There is one made of PLA - a plastic made from plants instead of oil - which is compostable at the end of its life.
Looking deeper into bioplastics lead me into another minefield - the fact that much of this new technology is created using GM crops and could potentially contaminate the recycling stream if added to conventional plastic. However, it does seem to be a really important material which may ultimately solve our requirement for plastic in a post-petroleum world. Ingeo PLA (the type that eco-card uses) is meant to be one of the better ones and the company that produces it ( uses certified non-GM corn.

Another card is made of recycled PVC. Which certainly seems better than using the newly minted variety. Though maybe we want to get away from using plastic.

But what other options are there?
A wooden key fob with a barcode on it?
Tattooing our customers with their memebrship number? ;-)

We want something that is long lasting as well as environmentally friendly.
In the meantime, we'll be trying some of the eco-cards to see if they work in our existing printer and see where we go from here...

Friday, 16 October 2009

Awards Shortlist- cast your votes!

We have a shortlist of 10 for the environmental awards. It was a tricky process to narrow it down to these great applications and now you can have your say on what you think of them.
From the 15th – 30th October we are holding a public vote. Read through the information and choose your top 3 projects, in order of preference. Vote by completing a ballot paper (available from the Castle) or by emailing your choices to need to include your name and castle membership number, without which your vote will not be counted.
Voting closes on the 30th October.

We will be holding an awards ceremony on Monday 2nd November 11am-1pm to announce the winners – please come along and support all the brilliant applicants.

Check out the applications here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Powered out...part 1

Our IT superhero, John, has installed a nifty bit of software that helps us keep track of how much power we are wasting by leaving our computers turned on when we’re not using them. We’ve tracked this for the last two weeks without implementing any kind of policy to determine what our baseline is and to see which computers are the most prone to being left idle. The results are in and we’ve clocked up a terrible 719 inactive hours. On average the computers are inactive but left on about half the time. So lots of room for improvement there… I’ll report back in two weeks to see how much we’ve improved!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Garden Project, October

It's been a month since I've started here, and even though it's the end of the Summer, and the beginning of Autumn, leaves are falling, temperature is dropping, I've been busy researching, surveying to help plan and design the garden project (garden activities of developing and planting a garden doesn't just happen in the summer!) and have already started gathering a team of helpers to help this process.
We've already made use of existing wild resource from the garden rosehips - packed full of vitamin C. I've made some rosehip syrup - I've left a bottle at the Castle cafe.

Next week as part of the survey process, I'll be meeting with some of the staff, and finding out, their ideas, wishes for the garden. I am also in the process of gathering a garden team, of volunteers, and hope to plan some activities and work days in the next few months. If you've been to the centre, you may have noticed we've already taken a delivery of topsoil and compost, ready for some planting activity in the next few months.

There's lots of nice warm wall spaces on the outside building. Great potential for climbing and espalier fruit trees and bushes. Here are few remaining tomatoes making the most of the autumn sun.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Environmental Policy Interviews - Episode Three

Third in the series of mini interviews, Steve Taylor the original director of The Castle shares his views on the environmental policy.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Environmental Awards Update

I’ve come over all emotional! I’m on the train on my way up to a youth competition in Edinburgh. As one of the panelists that will review the Environmental Awards applications and help select the successful applications my mission this weekend will be read through the 24 applications that have been carefully researched and put forward. My first thought, I’ll be honest, was something like ‘ohmigod what have I let myself in for’. I even put off opening the folder containing all the application for a couple of hours.

Then I started reading the first one and my outlook completely chnaged. Whenever I see the words ‘climate change’ I’ve become used to associating it with awful news and a sinking depressive feeling that no one cares. Here, in this folder, were dozens of people proving me wrong...showing me that they do care and that they can do something about the problem. It wouldn’t be appropriate me for at this stage to comment on specific applications or to give too much away. All I will say is that I’m blown away by the quality of the applications. Whatever our final selection all I can say is that the money that we’ve saved up is going to be put to great use by very capable, creative and dedicated people.

People that work and climb (or just drink tea) at The Castle know that it is so much more than an indoor climbing centre. This is one of those moments when I’m so proud of what The Castle has become and feel fortunate to be part of it. Bit of a misty-eyed moment there...sorry about that!

More on this later. We’ll be announcing a shortlist of applications on the 15th of October and will have the projects on display at The Castle for you to vote on. Then the Panel will meet again before making it’s final decision on the 1st of November. We will be awarding the funds at a Press Event on Monday the 2nd of November. Stay Tuned!


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Environmental Policy Interviews - Episode Two

The second of our series of Environmental Policy interviews - Chief Route setter Mike Langley. Next week we will be hearing from Steve Taylor, the original director of The Castle.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Castle Garden Project

I've just started at the Castle to co-ordinate a garden project to make use of the lovely green space outside the centre. Whilst I've been climbing there these past couple of years, I've often thought about what could be planted out there; should I "guerilla" garden some fruit trees or sneakily throw around some vegetable seeds. Before I knew it, they launched an environmental policy part of which they want to make use of the garden for food growing.. and here I am. It is a very exciting project, and the ideas currently being collected will be part of a community effort between staff, members and the local community.

The initial vision for the garden is to create a food growing area and relaxation area based on
permaculture design principles and environmentally friendly methods such as re-using/recycling materials where possible, organic growing techniques and creating habitats for wildlife.

Some of the idea
s for food growing are to:
  • create a forest garden
  • create raised growing beds to grow fruit, vegetables and herbal teas for the Castle Cafe
  • use the abundant wall space to grow "climbing" and espaliered fruit trees and fruit bushes
  • mini plots for people to grow their own vegetables
  • gardening workshops for staff, members and local community
  • create wildlife areas such as a pond
  • bring in a bee keeper and bee hives and run bee-keeping courses
  • offer a small space to Growing Communities to be part of their "patchwork" farm to grow organic salads for their local box scheme in Stoke Newington. (Some Castle members may have already tried some of their delicious mixed salad leaves at the Castle cafe this week)
Of course this won't be done all at once - and not all by me! The idea is to start small, generate interest and a "gardening team" and start from there. This autumn and winter we will start with developing some areas. I will keep you posted.

I also work f
or Capital Growth A London wide campaign to help create 2012 new community food growing spaces by 2012. The Castle Garden has already registered to be part of this scheme and is space 102!

of re-using materials found at the Castle.

growing beds made by Ray last week at the Castle. We will be ordering some top soil and planting some green veg for winter soon...

Used Castle climbing rope for the Capital Growth display at the
Hampton Court palace Flower show in July this year - on the "freecycled" balcony. For other photos click here

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Sustainable Food

There’s growing awareness that a lot of our food comes with a big carbon footprint and there have been a couple of excellent programmes on TV recently highlighting the problem. Farm for the Future discusses how peak oil will affect UK farming
The Future of Food discusses food security both in the UK and worldwide.

Food accounts for roughly one third of the carbon footprint of the average person in the UK and that’s mostly from transport, petrochemicals used by farmers and heating for greenhouses. Local, organic food avoids most of these carbon emissions. So, we can actually reduce our personal contribution to climate change more easily by changing what we eat than by changing the way we travel and use energy at home. The Castle Café buys several tonnes of food every year and we’ve started to make changes to what we buy to make our food selection more sustainable. You may have noticed some of the improvements already.

Of course the most sustainable way of getting food is to grow it organically in your own garden. So that’s what we’re going to do. We have about an acre of garden at The Castle, which won’t be enough space to grow all the food currently supplied to the Café but, it could produce a significant proportion of it. Lots of us are very keen to get stuck in but we don’t have much experience. Luckily we know someone who does!

Ida Fabrizio climbs at The Castle so some of you will know her already. She works with several organisations that promote growing food, sustainably in London, including Sustain, Capital Growth and Growing Communities. She’s passionate about food and seems to have spent most of her life learning how to grow it. So we’re really lucky that, as of last week, Ida will be working at The Castle one day week to develop our garden into a sustainable food growing space. Of course, she won’t be able to do it on her own so her main focus will be organising all us willing, but inexperienced, volunteers to do the bulk of the work.

Look out for Ida’s post introducing what she’s got planned for us.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Low Energy Refurbishment

Seeing as it was me that started this environmental revolution at The Castle nearly a year ago, and given the amount and time and effort that everyone here has put in, it’s about time I owned up to what I’ve been doing to further the cause.

Well, I’ve been overseeing the whole process of making our business sustainable and continuing to learn as much as I can about what climate change means for us and what we can do about it. The climbing world is taking notice of our environmental commitment at The Castle. Last month I was interviewed by Es Tresidder for as part of an article about climbers and climate change. It’s a well presented piece which got a lot of responses. However, my main practical task is to turn this historic Victorian water pumping station into a low energy building. That’s not going to be easy because it was designed for a completely different purpose to the one it’s being used for now. The Victorians weren’t too worried about heating, draught-proofing or insulation. Retro fitting those items without damaging the original structure, all of which is subject to a Grade 2* listing by English Heritage, will be a challenge.

Earlier this year we commissioned a feasibility study, from a firm of specialist low energy building services consultants, to tell us what the potential is to both conserve energy and generate our own renewable energy at The Castle. The conclusions of the study were unexpected but very illuminating. For a start we’re using far more energy that we assumed and it looks like our options for replacing it with renewable energy generated on site are severely limited. So, not a great start, but I’ve learned a lot from the study so far and there is still hope that we can achieve our goal of a carbon neutral business. When I embarked on this project I tried not to have too many preconceived ideas but I confess that I thought it would be a question of spending a bit of money, tweaking a few of our operating procedures and emerging into a brightly lit new, eco friendly world. It’s not going to be quite that easy. In fact I don’t think we’re going to achieve our goals without a fundamental change in the way we think about energy, food and transport.

So, why are we using more energy than we thought? In short, we don’t know! We assumed that our energy usage would be fairly low because our operation is fairly clunky and down to earth with no unnecessary frills. However, it turns out that, we use twice as much energy per square meter a typical dry sports centre (i.e. one where playing in water isn’t the main focus). At first we wondered if it was a mistake or if one of our neighbours had tapped into our supply and was having a non-stop party at our expense. A far more likely explanation is that the centre has developed organically over fourteen years with extra electrical circuits and gas heaters added on when needed and a lot of our electrical equipment is old or second hand. It’s all been tested to make sure it’s safe but efficiency has never really been considered.

The feasibility study also gave us an indication of how much renewable energy we could expect to generate on site and the various technologies that we could use. Once all the practicalities have been considered this came down to a very short list.
1. We have a huge south facing roof so solar water heating and solar photovoltaic (PV) generation are viable but expensive.
2. Wind power is a possibility but it doesn’t tend to work well in unban areas and the listed status of our building will be a consideration. We’re investigating this option by monitoring wind conditions at roof level but the chances of it being viable are fairly slim.
3. Ground source heat pumps use warmth in the ground to bring low level heat into a building but they take power to pump the fluids round so they’re best thought of as very efficient electric heating rather than a renewable source of energy. We still need to get the electricity to run them from somewhere.
4. The remaining option is biomass heating using wood or plant oil as fuel in a boiler. A lot of businesses and even households are going down this route because it’s relatively cheap both to install and run, it’s seen as renewable and non polluting because the CO2 produced is equal to that absorbed by the plants as they grew and it’s seen as abundant. Unfortunately, I don’t see it that way. If we’re talking about someone living in a shack in a wood and burning coppiced timber for heating and cooking then biomass is a sustainable, low carbon fuel. Commercially, it’s nothing of the sort. The energy involved in transporting and processing the fuel represents up to two thirds of the energy released when it’s burned. All biomass produces particulates and toxins when it’s burned. Some are worse than others. But, my biggest problem with it is that it takes up agricultural land. In a world that’s running out of food (yes we are and Britain isn’t immune) using agricultural land to grow energy crops doesn’t make any kind of sense. This is bound to be a controversial view, and hope it starts a debate; however, we’re not going to be using biomass heating.

In short, solar power is our only reliable option for renewable energy, so how much of it can we produce? Maybe about one fifth of the energy we currently use! It’s going to take some serious efficiency measures to balance our energy use with our energy generation. But why would we need to do that? We’re a climbing centre not a power station. Surely, we can just convert everything over to electrical power and buy it from a 100% renewable source (which we already do) and then we’ll be carbon neutral, at least as far as energy’s concerned, won’t we? Technically, that’s probably true but do you honestly think that approach would be sustainable if everyone took the same attitude, using as much energy as they want as long as the power company tells you it’s green? There’s lots of scope for debate on this issue as well but this approach doesn’t make any sense to me.

I believe we need to drastically reduce our energy consumption to get as close as possible to the amount of energy we can produce ourselves and then source the remainder intelligently. A typical approach to reducing energy consumption would be to examine all our areas of energy consumption and make them as efficient as we can. I intend to take the opposite approach and completely rethink our energy use buy considering what we need to run the centre and not basing it on what we do now. I think that’s the only way we’ll find out how efficient we can get. This may sound radical and unmanageable but once we have a plan we’ve given ourselves five years to implement it so it doesn’t have to mean ripping the place apart and putting it back together again all in one go.

Generating our own energy gives us some resilience to supply interruptions and price fluctuations. Teaming up with some of our neighbours to share resources would bring even greater local resilience and this is something we can try to do as the project progresses, but how do we source the remainder of our energy needs intelligently? Well, we can buy our energy from a 100% renewable supplier, which we already do. We also need to support the development of national infrastructure which will allow large scale, efficient renewable energy generation to be made available to everyone. This support could take the form of offsetting some of the carbon emissions we can’t reduce any more (once we’ve done all we can) by supporting appropriate renewable generation schemes. This is something we’re going to look into.

The first practical step at The Castle is to install a monitoring system so that we can see where all our energy is going in real time and develop an understanding of what functions use the most energy and how that can be improved. Then we’ll be in a position to design something better. The monitoring system will be installed this month and we’re taking the opportunity to record gas and water use plus internal temperatures with the same system.

I’ll let you know what we learn from the monitoring programme and what we intend to do next.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Environmental Policy Interviews - Episode One

We will be running a series of mini-interviews with staff at The Castle. We've asked them how our Environmental Policy has affected their work here and whether it has altered their personal life as well. Here in the first of our series, we spoke to Managing Director, Audrey Seguy. Next week, we'll be speaking to our Chief Routesetter Mike Langley.

If you have any questions about the environmental policy and what changes we are making- just drop us a line. Audrey would be happy to hear from you at

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Trains, planes and automobiles

When you consider the scope of climate change, just picking on flying might seem at first as a bit silly. It's like making a big deal about plastic bags when the real problem is the carbon footprint of what you're putting in your hemp, re-usable tote. Flying is not the largest contributor to carbon emissions by any stretch of the imagination. And when you realise that the flight you're considering booking is probably going to go ahead whether you're on it or not, you might feel that you may as well be on it.

The real problem is not personal carbon footprints, but industry and government carbon footprints. But, these are more difficult for us to affect and control. It can be frustrating, but if we don't do anything then it's impossible for anything positive to happen. So what can we do? For most most of us, we can only affect our own personal carbon footprint. And travel is often the biggest contributor to individual carbon emissions.

Likewise, for a climber, transport is often the biggest environmental impact of our sport. UKClimbing published a good article on it recently. You can read it here.

Two years ago, I was still travelling by plane a lot. Long weekends in France or Spain, competitions in Russia, Switzerland, Italy. For several years I was abroad an average of 2 months a year, mostly on short trips like that. Last year, I decided to stop. In the last 12 months I've only taken one flight, so I've made some good improvement. I've been to Southern France several times, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. I travel by van and train now. It does cost a lot more in time and general expenses, but I've started to really enjoy travelling this way. Just last month I was picking up a friend at an airport. I realised I hadn't been inside an airport in nearly a year and I remember how unpleasant the experience generally is. Not that train stations are all that. The last journey I did, coming back from Cannes involved a one hour delay to get onto a slow train that had no air-conditioning in over 30 degree heat! Not very pleasant at all. But, I don't think that travel should be easy. There is a cost to traveling by plane (and I'm not talking about the ticket cost!) and we're just kidding ourselves if we don't realise it. It's unfortunate that the market doesn't reflect the true cost of flying because if it did tickets wouldn't cost £50 but £500.

Audrey at Baume Rousse - in Southern France. One of many climbing areas you can get to by train.

I feel so fortunate to be living in Europe where there is such great and diverse climbing all within relatively access. My home country, the USA also has world class climbing, but everything is so isolated. Yes, us Americans notoriously love to drive long distances, but let's face it, living in London I can be in a number of different countries within one day's drive. Back home, I could drive all day and still be in the middle of cornfields.
When I have to spend more money and take more time to travel by train I don't think of it as being ripped off or that it's inconvenient. It's just the true cost of being able to travel. Like all good things it does involve a sacrifice, but the rewards are worth it. Now if teleporting were viable...

Monday, 17 August 2009

In with the new and re-use the old....

Over the last week we took delivery of over a 1000 new climbing holds. Following on from the previous blog you will know that we are only purchasing holds from selected manufactures that we deem to be as sustainable as we can find whilst maintaining absolute quality. So if we are in with the new what’s occurring with all the old holds?

Yeah sure we could just lob them at a Chinese land fill and forget about it but what about our ambitious zero waste to landfill by 2015 target?

So I put the word out that we are giving away vast quantities of our old holds to charitable organisations or to other good homes. So far we have given around 500 holds to Greenpeace UK which got their first outing at this year’s Glastonbury Climbing wall. We have also given 250+ holds to Baranbas adventure charity. James Hodges from Baranbas;

“The climbing holds are now being put into place, routes are being created and the wall is starting to take shape....Without your help and support this would never have happened in the time frame that we have now achieved - so many thanks for all your help”.

In the local area Dean Plant (Castle head instructor) is working with some youth clubs on the Woodberry Down and Mydleton Grange estates to build traversing walls that will have all the holds supplied by the Castle.



Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Enviromental route setting?

To keep with the Green theme the route setting department i.e. Mike A.K.A me has been researching how climbing holds are made and looking into whether we can source our holds from the most sustainable companies out there. But first I had to find out how the holds are made.

Unfortunately for the world the results were not good. Currently these are some the materials that are going into making the pretty plastic shapes we love so much;
Styrene, Methyl Ethyl Ketone Peroxide, Epichlorohydrine, Bisphenol-A ,Toluene diisocyanate-TDI, Hexamethylene diisocyanate-HMDI

If these words mean as much to you as they did to me let me summarise what some of these bad boys can do;
They are Carcinogenic, mutagenic, harmful to skin and eyes, form explosive mixtures in the air, highly flammable, extremely destructive to tissue , affect embryo or foetus, are a reproductive hazard, very toxic by inhalation and may explode when heated! Don’t panic and run for your bio hazard outfit just yet though because all these materials become stable once cured and the finished hold is perfectly safe to handle.

So with this newfound knowledge on the materials involved I emailed all the hold companies we currently purchase holds from and asked them what their stand on the hold making game was and what, if any, environmental policies they had.

From the responses I got and through further research via it was becoming clear that the technology for making quality environmentally friendly climbing holds just is not out there at the moment.

So what can I do? At this stage we can concentrate on the companies with the strongest written environmental policies and avoid air freight delivery. So our latest purchases have been with Bulgarian based HRT safety whose green policy is extremely strong and make the majority of the holds we have ordered from Polyurethane. We have also ordered from Chesterfield based company Core Climbing.

So where can hold manufacturing go from here? According to sites such as Greengrip the technologies and materials are becoming available but they need to be embraced and tested via the companies that are making 1000’s of holds every week. On the current available materials side companies such as HRT and Holdz are now switching over to a Polyurethane set-up similar to that of the American market. Polyurethane is used as opposed to Polyester resin which is a different form of plastic that uses around a fifth less material to make each hold and this form of the plastic is less toxic in handling and is therefore said to be more environmentally friendly way of producing climbing holds.
From here it’s over to those companies who make the holds to push the technology forward and try and reduce the impact that hold production currently has on the environment.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Check us out!

The guys over at UKClimbing seem to think it's big news -

They must be right. In the first two hours of the news item going live it was viewed over 300 times- and not just by me ;-)

Thanks UKC! Hopefully this will get the word out and we'll be getting plenty of applications in...the more the better.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Environmental Awards- deadline extension

We've already had some interest in the Environmental Awards, but we want to extend the deadline to make sure that everyone has a chance to research and put together a good application.

New initial application deadline: 15 September 2009
Shortlist: 15 October 2009
Awards: 1 November 2009

You can download our application form and notes for applicants here:
E0 Environmental Awards Notes for Applicants.pdf
E1 Environmental Award Application Form.doc

For further information contact


Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The Castle goes to Glastonbury with Greenpeace

A number of very tired sunburnt members of staff have just returned from the Glastonbury festival having spent 6 days building , running and then dismantling the Greenpeace "out of control tower" climbing wall. The Greenpeace field at Glastonbury this year was transformed into a replica of Sipson village and the Greenpeace AirPlot - which will be obliterated by a third runway at Heathrow, residents from the village were in attendance as well as dozens of Greenpeace volunteers who all weekend did a great job of informing festival goers about the issues surrounding the enviromental disaster that the proposed third runway at Heathrow would create. The wall was a massive success with over 1100 adults and children managing to keep Mike, Iwona, Richard, Aron, Olly and Dean busy in between their meditation and yoga sessions that made up their times off shift from the wall. (I think they may have also attended a performance or two of some popular music combos).

Friday, 26 June 2009


So, I spent all afternoon researching paper!

I have three issues:

1. I heard somewhere that the energy used to recycle the paper was more than the energy to produce it…
2. I was attempting to buy not only recycled but chlorine free and good quality as well…
3. I wanted to try to buy paper produced in UK.

I have settled on 3com paper.
(This 100% recycled A4 copier is off-white/grey in appearance, due to the use of low-grade post-consumer waste material, which is generally in low demand and hence more likely to be consigned to landfill. Manufactured at the Steinbeis mill in Germany, this 80gsm paper passes the Blauer Engel/Blue Angel certification. Sold in reams of 500 sheets.)

It ticks as many boxes as I could do without resorting to buying Elephant poo paper (made in the UK but with poo from Sri Lanka???)
Unfortunately it is made in Germany (I could not find a recycled paper made in UK that ticks as many boxes, they are mainly in France or Germany) but it has the highest ‘right type’ of recycled material in it (hence its colour) and no Chlorine has been used in the recycling process. It also has the badge of recycling honour Blue Angel Cert. My third issue with the energy used for recycling was discussed in the article below and seemed to make sense to me. However, i am still quite interested in finding out about how recycling plants actually sort all the stuff they collect. Watching them collect in the dump trucks they seem to just chuck everything in and compress it, surly this makes it make harder to seperate, which makes me wonder if they do...

Phew – Let’s hope it doesn’t jam the printer…
It was delivered today, its very thin and i guess we will find out soon if it was the right choice.

I came across an article after reading many others; this is by far the best.
Happy reading…

It's from the website linked below where i also ended up buying the paper from.
Recycled paper, sustainable forestry and bleaching

A Pleasant Email to Hackney Commercial Waste Services

We're starting to see some results from the changes that have been implemented around here! Today, I had the pleasure of sending this email to our Waste Removal contractors:

Dear Sir / Madam:

Last year we started making some changes to our business and made a commitment to send less waste to landfill. We’re very pleased that we are achieving this and we are now in a position to downgrade our waste removal contract. Currently we have two bins removed on a weekly basis. We would like this reduced to 1 bin per week.

Please let me know when this can be implemented. Thank you very much.


Audrey Seguy
Managing Director
The Castle Climbing Centre

How cool is that- we've reduced our waste to landfill by half already (not to mention reduce our waste collection bills).
Well done everyone.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Home 2009 video project

I watched this film last night...all 1.5 hours of it. I can only describe it as a cross between Planet Earth (amazing footage) and Age of Stupid. Anyways- I highly recommend it. You may have heard of Yann Arthus-Bertrand who shot 'Earth from Above'. His techniques are so effective for showing the scale of the changes that we are responsible for.

The beginning is a bit slow, but stick with it and you will be rewarded. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Audits, Codes and Blogs

Well if I thought that launching the EP was the hard part, I was wrong. Now comes the real nitty gritty of auditing, assessing, reporting and monitoring.

Thankfully most of the really boring stuff is for Audrey to sort out. She is currently working on an Environmental Report for 2008 (including our Carbon Footprint) and getting us Acorn registered, both of which require a lot of paperwork and writing of action plans.

For my part, I have tried to bring some sort of order to the timeline of changes and started this blog with the intention of letting our customers and the wider public know what we're up to: why we started this, where we started and how far we've come. A common worry has been that we'll get too focused on the EP and lose focus on our business: climbing. With so many plans afoot for developing the climbing within the centre, I don't see this as a real concern (though I might need to find some more inspiring climbing magazines for the cafe again - they seem to have been replaced with one called "Rhubarb").

Other changes in progress at the moment are:

  • Improving our bike parking facilities

  • finding an alternative for disposable ice packs

  • subsidies for staff to buy bicycles

  • trying to find more vegan/vegetarian alternatives in the cafe

  • researching low energy lighting solutions

  • monitoring wind power potential

  • monitoring the power circuits

  • Researching agroforestry potential for the garden

And now the EP launched, I'm off for a year's sabbatical from the Castle but will be watching this space closely for many more exciting and radical changes. It's something I'm really proud to be involved in, as I've come to think in the last 9 months that preventing "runaway global warming" is the single most important thing humanity can do, and in fact has to do now. To paraphrase Leo Murray in Wake Up Freak Out: Those who came before didn't know about this problem and those who come after will be powerless to do anything. It's fallen to us to do something about it. These are exciting times.


Monday, 15 June 2009

Environmental Award Scheme

The Castle is proud to announce the launch of it's Environmental Awards Scheme.
For more info on how to apply, look on our website here.
Closing date for applications is 31st July 2009.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Thank you from the boss

Hi Everyone,


The Environmental Policy launch was a great success because everyone pitched in and helped out. I have heard so much positive feedback from our customers and other people who attended the day. A few personal mentions:

Janos- your food was divine. Thanks.

Ray – your illustrations and creativity made the event look amazing. Your support for the policy over the past months has really helped get everyone enthused.

Kerry- Thank you for all your hard work- you’ve done more things for this than I can begin to mention. Your commitment was evident when you stayed until the bitter end (nearly 11?)

Dean – In addition to all of the research that you’ve done for us on the issues, thank you for the tents and sorry about the banner.

Steve – It really meant a lot to us that you came down just for this on Saturday and your speech introducing the film was just right.

I’m sorry if I missed out specific people who organised things (Sieta, Min with the DJs, Caroline, etc…) but the list would be endless!

OK, now the policy is officially launched and we’ve got to keep the ball rolling! There will be new information on the Environmental Policy Intranet and the website this week. The Castle Enivronmental Awards will be publicised this week on the Intranet and by email.

In the meantime I’m going to be working on our Enivronmental Report 2008 and getting accreditation for our Environmental Management Scheme.


Thursday, 4 June 2009

Environmental Policy is Launched

EP Launch Festival 2009

On Saturday 30th May, we launched our new Environmental Policy in style with a festival in the garden, DJs and a film powered by bicycles, a free BBQ, workshops, stalls and a surprising amount of organic pear cider! The environment must have sensed what we were up to and been pleased with our new initiatives as the weather was absolutely perfect!

…So where did our journey start? It’s a bit hard to say – it was mostly a dawning realisation that things can’t go on as they are. About 9 months ago, The Castle’s CEO Steve Taylor approached the core managers and the board of directors with his thoughts about the state of the planet. He’d been reading up on climate change, carbon emissions and peak oil and become certain that if he didn’t act now in any and every way he could then he too would be to blame for runaway global warming – the point of no return for human life on our planet.

Needless to say, if we weren’t already switched on to the urgency of the situation (and some had been for years) we all got excited by Steve’s approach that “now is not the time to panic or despair, now is the time to act!” as it became obvious that we can’t rely on governments to help us, and it is not enough to make individual changes in our own lives – businesses like us HAVE to change the way we do things.

Since last September, The Castle managers and staff have been reading books, watching films, debating vegetarianism, planting vegetables, going through the rubbish, looking at light bulbs, writing policy and trying not to panic. Finally around April we came up with our Vision Statement:

Our aim is to make The Castle Climbing Centre a benchmark for environmental and economic sustainability and to demonstrate that there is a place for sport and commerce in a sustainable future without compromising financial success and high standards.

The full Environmental Policy (EP) can be found here

And a thankyou letter to staff from Audrey here.

Included in it are our goals of:
  • Producing our own energy
  • Capturing our own water
  • Zero waste to landfill by 2015

No greenwash here!

Our launch party was to be a celebration of our exciting new policy that has brought about so many changes since we began just talking about it, and with some help from our friends it was one of the best festivals The Castle has ever seen. (We might even do it every year…)

It wouldn’t have been what it was without all the other inspiring organisations who joined us on the day:
Magnificent Revolution (bicycle-powered DJ, film and workshop)
The Energy Saving Trust (info on helping everyone save energy in their homes)
Greenpeace (info on taking action for the environment. And lending us their tents)
Climate Camp (info on camping for climate action)
Growing Communities (organic local veg boxes)
The Pangea Project (veggie BBQ and delicious curries)
AK Press (Anarchist and Environmental literature)
Small Mountains (illustrations of the EP journey)
The Age of Stupid (the film)
Transition Finsbury Park (part of the Transition Towns Network)
Ecoclimber (climb harder, climb greener)
Ecoactive (the worms!)
Sustain London (the alliance for better food and farming and the lovely Ida with a planting workshop)
Capital Growth (2012 new green spaces in London by 2012)
London Plains (seasonal cookery demo. Get in touch with Deborah via Growing Communities)
The DJs: Ed, Mike and Simon.
(sorry if I missed anyone!)

Of course our journey does not stop here – it has only just begun!

Finally – the biggest thanks must go to you, the humble climber. For getting excited, for getting involved, for coming along and joining us in our love of climbing. It’s our love of climbing that has got us where we are and we hope to help preserve our wonderful climbing habitats for future generations.


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Wake Up Freak Out

- Then Get a Grip.

This is (in my opinion) a really good explanation of climate change. It helped wake us up to what is going on and galvanised us into action...

Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Power Issues

Lots happened in May, not the least of which was WE FINALISED THE EP AND LAUNCHED IT LIKE A (small, green, non-polluting) ROCKET!

Check out the write-up of the launch event here

And Audrey's thank you letter here

So, with those exciting developments, it's surprising that we've had time to make more changes around here, but we have!

Firstly, Steve introduced a moratorium on the purchasing of ANY new electrical equipment

Secondly (with this first point in mind) we purchased some hand shredders to replace our old electrical one. Hours of fun! We also need the shredded paper for our compost which is rather wet at the moment.

Thirdly, Tumble sorted out the lighting for the bike park area so it's on a sensor.

Fourthly (is that a word?) we got an additional water point on the mezzanine (so now we have 3) and made the decision to stop selling water from the cafe. All our water points are fitted with filters so now you can get a free glassful or buy one of the attractive, washable, re-usable castle-branded drink bottles to use at your leisure.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Environmental Policy - Issue 1 April 2009

1. Statement of Intent

Climate change is a real problem that is already affecting us. Resources are running out rapidly and the future economic landscape is increasingly uncertain.
We must put in place an effective Environmental Management Scheme and radically alter the way we operate to minimise our environmental impact and reduce our dependency on scarce resources.

High Performance Sports Ltd is committed to doing this because we believe that we are collectively responsible for the causes of climate change and that we can, and therefore must, take action. In doing so, we can inspire change in other people and companies to also reduce their impact.

Our aim is to make The Castle Climbing Centre a benchmark for environmental and economic sustainability and to demonstrate that there is a place for sport and commerce in a sustainable future without compromising financial success and high standards.

The purpose of this Environmental Policy statement is to provide structure and direction to our actions in reducing our environmental impact. The challenge is a complex and broad one and cannot be solved by a simple solution.

It is only possible to make the business sustainable by changing our practices. While it is not in our power nor is it appropriate to prescribe or prevent certain behaviours, some aspects of the Policy will be mandatory and become part of performance appraisals, enforced through our Disciplinary Procedures and incorporated in each employee’s terms of work here. In areas outside the scope of our influence we will include systems and processes designed to encourage the reduction of negative environmental impact in the lives of our staff and customers.

This is a position supported by the Board of Directors and the Core Management Team.

2. Scope

The Environmental Policy is mandatory for all staff working at The Castle. It covers all business that takes place on Castle grounds or in connection with The Castle. A breach of the Environmental Policy may lead to Disciplinary Proceedings as per The Castle’s Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures. All staff will be informed of the Environmental Policy and this will be taken as a part of their terms of work at The Castle.

3. Method

A. Environmental Audits

We will carry out environmental audits to assess our environmental impact on an annual basis. These audits will include but are not limited to:
· Inputs – supplies brought into the centre;
· Outputs – waste produced by the centre;
· Energy and Resources – use of electricity, gas and water;
· Processes – the environmental impact of our systems of work with special attention to cleaning and maintenance products and processes;

Although a separate audit may be carried out for the Café, if practical, it can be incorporated into the general centre audit.

One of the purposes of the audit will be to establish our Carbon Footprint as per the methodology recommended by The Carbon Trust (Appendix A).

B. Action Plans

From the findings of the audit we will formulate immediate, 1 year, and 3 year action plans with specific targets. Tasks will be assigned by agreement to staff members and will form part of their general performance appraisal for their work at The Castle.

C. Performance Monitoring and Reporting

Our performance will be communicated to staff and public through the publication of an annual Environmental Report. To achieve our goal of demonstrating the possibilities of sustainability in business we will, in addition, produce monthly Environmental Updates to both customers and staff.

D. Reviewing Policy and Targets

The final piece of our Environmental Management Scheme is a review of our policy and procedures. This will be undertaken annually in conjunction with the publication of the Environmental Report.

4. Targets

Our main purpose is to reduce our environmental impact by reducing the carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions that we are directly and indirectly responsible for. In addition, we want to have a positive influence on the actions of our customers, staff and other businesses to encourage them to reduce their contribution to climate change.

We will consider our Policy a success when we achieve the following:

· Develop and implement an Environmental Management Scheme with external accreditation;
· Become carbon neutral through minimising our emissions and genuinely offsetting what emissions we cannot eliminate;
· Source all of our electricity from renewable resources;
· Become Water Neutral by collecting and recycling water ourselves;
· Regulate the environment within the building (temperature, ventilation and lighting) with the least amount of energy;
· Reduce the environmental impact of transport associated with the business;
· Actively encourage our customers and staff to reduce their own environmental impacts through an awareness campaign;
· Source all of our supplies from companies with high environmental standards;
· Send zero waste to landfill; and
· Eliminate the use of toxic substances in our cleaning and maintenance processes.

We must do this without compromising the financial success of the company and the high standards that we have come to expect.

5. Inputs

A. Purchasing Code

When purchasing supplies, staff are obliged to take the following elements into consideration (in no particular order):
· Our need for the product;
· Suitability for our purposes;
· Cost;
· Materials and processes used in making the product;
· Transportation used to make and ship the product;
· Product packaging;
· Expected life span and end-of-life disposal possibilities; and
· Supplier environmental and ethical record.

B. Supplier Code of Conduct

We will notify our suppliers that we will now be looking at environmental impact when purchasing and that we encourage them to take the following steps: assessing their impact, formulating a policy, reporting on their progress. Those suppliers that achieve this will be our preferred suppliers.

C. Café supplies

In addition to the Purchasing Code, the Café will have additional considerations when purchasing and preparing food. Where possible, the café will use organic, sustainable, local produce. Food will be assembled on site where possible to limit packaging and waste.

D. Utilities

Our first priority will be to minimise the consumption of electricity, gas and water. Secondly we will source these in the most environmentally responsible manner.

6. Outputs

a) Waste Management Plan

Recycling and composting are mandatory for all staff and strongly encouraged for customers. We will provide adequate facilities for both recycling and composting. To keep track of performance we will monitor and report on our performance monthly as part of the Environmental Update.

Our Waste Management Plan will respect the following waste hierarchy:(
If we are not able to re-use the items ourselves we will invite outside organisations to re-use our waste unless there is a health and safety issue with the product being re-used.

b) Carbon Dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases

We will identify what emissions we are responsible (directly or indirectly) for and monitor our ‘carbon footprint’. We will accept responsibility for all activities connected with the operation of The Castle including our purchases, electricity and related activities such as climbing trips. Our aim, as stated above, is to be carbon neutral by 2015.

7. Outside Organisations

The Environmental Policy is applicable to all activities that happen in the building. To this extent organisations with activities that take place in the centre must be informed of the Policy and its implications for them. With regards to lessees and licensees we will include an environmental clause in our agreements. Where possible we will seek compliance with the policy by requiring them to engage in an Environmental Management Scheme of their own.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Is that a rocket taking off?

No, it's just the sound of the new hand dryers in the changerooms.

The old ones were very inefficient. The hand towels had to be washed at high temperatures in strong cleaning chemicals and trucked around. We've now got those new ones that dry your hands in seconds by efficiently blowing the water off them. The best alternative to wiping your hands on your trousers (which may not be a hygienic solution).

On another note, this month our Route Setting Manger Mike has been getting in touch with all our hold suppliers and requesting statements from them about their environmental policies with regards manufacturing and where they are being made. We are choosing to buy from manufacturers who make things as close to us as possible and have strong environmental statements.

Finally, Audrey has signed the Castle up for the Mayor of London's Green Procurement Challenge. It is sometimes difficult to decide which of many options is the "greenest". The Green Procurement Code reminds us to consider that a new product:

  • uses fewer natural resources

  • contains fewer hazardous or toxic materials

  • has a longer life span

  • consumes less energy or water in production or use

  • can be reused or recycled on disposal

  • generates less waste, for example be made from recycled materials, use less packaging or be recycled by the supplier.

Our EP (which is almost finalised and needs to be agreed by the Board of Directors and the Core Management Team) will also remind us to think about whether or not actually buying something is necessary at all.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Cafe Changes

I thought I'd make a separate entry about all the changes that have been happening in the cafe becasue there have been so many. Although the cafe forms such a small part of the business, it seems that it's one of the most visible aspects of the business and one of the most emotive. People really care about food!

What we have done so far:

  • Got rid of coke and nestle products

  • tried to source local, fairtrade and organic food where possible (for example all our coffee is now organic and fairtrade though obviously not local!!)

  • Got a proper milkman (Peter) who delivers organic milk in reusable glass bottles like the old days (no more plastic bottles!)

  • Peter also delivers us some juices so we can get rid of the tetrapak single portions of juice.

  • Sourced a local organic bread supplier.

  • Reduced our packaging by not using cling film any more and using proper glasses, plates and cutlery instead of disposable versions.

  • Ordered some bulk snacks to also reduce packaging.

  • Tried to find more vegetarian and vegan options.

This final point has created quite a discussion amongst the staff. We started the Great Vegetarian Debate on our staff intranet and got possibly the most passionate, involved and enlightening discussion in the history of the Castle! It seems on an environmental basis, the meat industry is simply not sustainable in its current state but people are not ready to give it up. I'm making no comment either way in here for fear of igniting the debate once again, I just want to point out that currently the cafe only serves organic ham, bacon and occasionally chicken, line-caught skipjack tuna and we're trying to find some more delicious vegan and vegetarian menu options. I'll leave it at that for now.

Meat Free Mondays anyone?

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Busy month of March

Seems like the rolling ball is gathering speed. This month we made loads of changes, and Audrey is almost there with the full EP.

Some of the things that we've done include:

  • Introducing composting. We now have compost caddys at all recycling points and in the cafe. We've got a composting tumbler in the back garden.

  • Sourcing biodegradable cleaning supplies and recycled toilet roll.

  • Setting up a new intranet site for staff specifically for the EP so they can see what's going on and get involved

  • Starting power monitoring on all the computers

  • Improving our recycling points once again. Ray did an autopsy of our recycling and discovered that the majority of our recycling is plastic milk bottles. (There is an easy solution for this in the cafe and I'll blog separately about that)

Saturday, 28 February 2009

To fly or not to fly?

Well, from an environmental perspective, Not to Fly obviously!

But if you've only got limited holiday time it's so much quicker to get anywhere! We were talking about how to encourage staff to take the train or car-share on their climbing holidays whenever possible and this was one of the biggest concerns (the other being price of course). Whilst we're not really in a position to offer cash for holidays (and if you book a train in advance it can be cheaper and much more convenient) we decided that any staff member who approached the management team about going on holiday and taking a slower, less carbon intensive route could be granted a couple of extra days holiday for travel.

Great for me becasue I hate flying and not just for environmental reasons!

Friday, 30 January 2009

the cost of consuming

We ran out of our lovely orange pens this month. We were just going to order a load more but started to wonder if going through around 2000 plastic pens every 6 months really was in fitting with our EP.

We wanted to keep having them though as they're so useful and people seem to really like them, so we found some cardboard versions. There are so many "eco" pens out there made from, amonst other things: recycled CD cases, recycled car tyres, recycled money (I really liked this one) and corn starch. We decided on the carboard ones in the end as they can easily be recycled themselves (and to be honest were a bit cheaper than some others).

We also had to order some new staff clothing this month and, as we have come to do for most new purchases, wondered where the clothing came from, who made it and was it made with consideration for the environment? Our suppliers, Continental Clothing do an "earth positive" range which is 100% organic and 90% lower CO2 so we thought we'd give that a go.

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