Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sustainability Policy - v2.0

Well, it's not the most fun or glamorous job, but a key part of a proper environmental management system is to take a step back and review the general policy and aims. Why are we doing this? What exactly are we trying to do?

So version 2.0 of our Sustainability Policy has been proposed, debated and finally approved. You can download a copy of our new policy here. Below I've also listed some of the changes we've made and why we've made them.

1. Changing the title from 'Environmental Policy' to 'Sustainability Policy'. This is more accurate because our policy is based on the business being sustainable in an economic, social and, of course, ecological sense.

2. Including the shop. We've taken over the management of the climbing shop at The Castle (formerly Urban Rock) and we will be holding the shop to the same high standards that we have for the rest of the centre. There's a lot of research yet to be done in the way of reducing environmental impact in the climbing industry, but we've opened up this dialogue with our suppliers and we're excited to hear that many of them are already waking up and making changes to the way they do business, the materials they use and the waste the produce.

3. Revising our water policy. Our first policy stated that we wanted to be 'water neutral'. What does this mean? Well, we weren't sure either. Of course, we want to reduce water consumption, but we also don't want to have to use up more energy to keep harvested rainwater to a drinking standard. We commissioned a paper on this subject from our environmental consultant - Es Tresider- and he laid out some facts for us. We'd need to treat and ciruclate water every 24 hours for it to be adequate for drinking and washing. Weighing this up against the relative efficiency of the mains water system, we concluded that it would be more reasonable for us to reformulate our water aims. So, we're going to come off the mains water for the garden and use rainwater collected from the roofs and greywater from the centre. With the rest of the centre, our focus will remain to reduce our water consumption. To this end, we have put in waterless urinals and we will be building composting toilets in the next 2-5 years.

4. Developing a garden based on permaculture principles to grow food for the cafe. Those of you following our Sustainability Blog will probably be surprised to find out that the garden - undoubtedly one of our biggest projects- wasn't even mentioned in our original Environmental Policy! We couldn't leave it out, so it's there- loud and proud- in version 2. Although we are still limited by our lack of a proper kitchen, but our Cafe Manager, Thomas, has delighted with roasted potatoes, salads, gratins and all kinds of other treats fresh from the garden.

5. The final change is that the Statement of Intent is signed by all of our Core Management Team in addition to the Board of Directors- showing real commitment from the top to making this happen.

Hope you'll find this inspiring, interesting or even intriguing!

Best Regards,

Audrey Seguy
Managing Director

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Castle Garden Summer 2010

What a great summer we've had in the Castle Garden. Despite the drought in July, then the sudden amount of rain in August, food and flowers have been growing in many exposed as well as hidden corners of the garden!

The Castle staff and volunteers have been great in keeping on top of the watering. The volutneers have been also really helpful in constantly pulling out the vigourous weeds growing around the new small hedge plants and fruit plants, helping in giving the poor young things a chance to establish in their first year, and not

In the garden over summer, the jobs are mainly weeding and harvesting, but on top of this we've made sure to relax, have a few celebration bbq's and enjoy the lovely the garden has produced.

The Castle Cafe have been serving up lots of fresh mixed leaf salad. They've been harvesting every other day. They have not had buy any all summer. This goes for the cucumbers as well. (I over planted and we've had a healthy glut!)

They've been making the most of other goodies from the garden too, and included them in some great seasonal specialities. Roast courguettes, steamed cavolo nero in toasted sandwiches, french bean salad, grated beetroot and carrot salad and recenty some roast potatoes and squashes. The mixed leaf salads have been enjoyed by many staff and customers, which included a mix of herbs and edible flowers. Also, there have been some very lovely fresh herb tea infusions, such as mint, lemonvebena, lemon balm and fennel.

One of the best harvests has been the compost. We recently sieved our first compost from all the waste that has come out of the Castle in the past year, and it looks like lovely stuff. This will be used for mulching all those new fruit trees and bushes we planted in the first year.
The Castle Quid
The Castle's own currency! (our own Local Exchange Trading System!) This is offered to volutneers who have helped us in the garden. Each session they come and do, they can earn a Castle quid, (they are specially marked screw on smears!) which can be exchanged for a free climb, or a course, depending on how many they earn. After this full year of activity I have awarded about 55 credits. Some of the volunteers have never climbed before are now able to book onto a free beginners course.

the fig tree in its first year started to show some fruit, but we won't probably get some until next year

Growing Communities micro site has done really well in it's first season! Since June, there has been up to 70 kilos of salad harvested! All sold to restaurants on Stoke Newington Church Street. If you've been to the Fat Cat Cafe, Alistairs or the Three Crowns, you may have sampled some. This October, this site will be going into organic conversion through the Soil Association.

We've been making the most out of old climbing rope and even old shoes - they make great hanging flower features! The rope has been perfect as a support for the tomatoes and a trellis for climbing plants.

It's been great watching the bees at work!
they love the cucumber flowers, borage and the big sunflower!

The castle garden party in June around the cafe plots
One year on...
This project started under a year ago, and am amazed at what has been achieved with such limited time. I am very happy to see what can happen when you bring lots of enthusiatic and strong people together! Autumn is now on its way and there are more plans to develop the garden further. A new forest garden with fruit and nut trees and fruit bushes planted, more vegetable plots, more flowers, planting on the hill, earth ovens and more...
A big thank you to Susie Norris for taking lots of nice pictures! To see more of them see her flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/squeezemonkey/sets/72157623545015791/