Thursday, 15 December 2011

Carpet tiles

We have bought new carpet tiles from a manufacturer who are paying more than lipservice to sustainability.

Interfaceflor are a company who have revolutionised every aspect of their business to reduce their environmental impact. This journey began in 1994 with their chairman Ray Anderson having an epiphany about the environmental and social repercussions of the industrial processes within manufacturing and setting a Mission Zero for Interface.

To achieve Mission Zero, they have set out clear goals in seven key areas:
1. Eliminate wasteEliminating the concept of waste, not just incrementally reducing it.
2. Benign emissionsFocusing on the elimination of waste emissions. Eliminating waste streams that have negative or toxic effects on natural systems.
3. Renewable energyReducing our energy demands while substituting non-renewable sources with renewable ones like solar, wind and landfill gas.
4. Closing the loopRedesigning processes and products so that all resources used can be recovered and reused, closing the technical or natural loop.
5. Resource-efficient transportationTransporting all of our people and products efficiently and with minimal waste and emissions. This includes plant location, logistics and commuting.
6. Sensitising stakeholdersCreating a community within and around InterfaceFLOR that understands the functioning of natural systems and our impact on them.
7. Redesign commerceRedesigning commerce to focus on the delivery of service and value instead of material. Encouraging external organisations to create policies and market incentives.

This ezine about their progress towards environmental sustainability makes an interesting read:

Zero Waste to Landfill- one step closer!

We're now one step closer to our goal of being zero waste to landfill! Thanks to our new waste contractor Bywaters, we've been able to reduce waste to landfill from one 1100L bin per week to one 240L (household size) bin.

Bywaters, using their state of the art Materials Recovery Facility in Bow are able to collect and stream almost all other waste. Prior to starting our new contract we sent two of our managers to check out the facilities. They were very impressed and satisfied that nearly everything that gets sent to the MRF does indeed get recycled.

You can watch a video of the MRF in action here.
Finger tape and cloth (gaffa) tape seem to be the only sticking point remaining....

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Castle Garden Autumn 2011

This autumn, more scrumping, apple pressing, hedges and bonfires..

We couldn't resist to get some climbers out again in the local area to go round the houses climbing trees and picking and shaking trees to get some unwanted fruit. We got,several varieties of apples and pears. A few people came in to the Castle too to donate some crates of apples from their back gardens and their granny's back gardens, so we had even more fruit this year! One of the houses let us take all their grapes, so as well as pear and apple juice, (and cider..) we pressed some grapes and make wine too. All ready to be drunk after next Spring hopefully!

We had a great pressing day in the castle, with apple games. We borrowed the apple press from Urban Harvest, who lent it to us last year. Embarrassingly again, we broke the cross beam on it second year running! They have lent it to community groups so many times, and it hadn't happened before. - I guess a lot of strength here being a bunch of active climbers!

In November, we planted a new hedge at the front. We took part in a community tree planting scheme with the Woodland Trust. Thanks to Nick, who's in charge of hedges here, put in an order earlier in the year . They donated 450 saplings. We had a great team of us who planted out 300 plants ( crab apples, dog rose, elder, hazel and blackthorn) all useful for a wild harvest later!

We ended the day with a nice huge bonfire, thanks to Tom Trimmins who y
et again shared his woodwork skills and made us another great "wickerman" using bits of old unwanted volumes from the climbing walls. Also thanks to Barry and Min who have been making use of the old bricks that came out of the Castle shop refurbishment to make our swanky new fire pit and make some pretty paving patterns around the pond and some pathways in the forest garden.

This winter, some of us have headed to the mountains ( Min has gone to Chamonix until next summer, the garden will surely miss her, she has been great in the garden and did so much in the year she spent here).

Look out for some hand made hand balms in the shop, made with beeswax from our bees and other Hackney bees, organic olive oil and infused with herbs from our garden - comfrey, calendula and plantain - all good for the skin.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Castle Garden Summer 2011

This summer was our second growing season and this year we had more areas of the garden created, more produce, more flowers, more herbs and more wildlife and people!
Our resident medicinal horticulturalist Quinn, created more amazing herb gardens at the front and planted a lavender hedge. Min our terracing queen, got stuck in on the hill and terraced her way down filling it with bee and human loving herbs and flowers, which she has been maintaining and harvesting from all summer.
In August, we had our first harvest of honey. (about 33 jars which all sold out within a few days!)
Barry, our loyal garden soldier researched, designed, dug and created our pond, which within a few days attracted some of the Castle wildlife.
We had a go at growing hops. We grew 1.5 metre square of wheat and it was scythed, threshed and winnowed, and we got 1.17kg of wheat.

Our young fruit trees and shrubs started to produce a little bit of fruit, and we ate raspberries, strawberries, apricots, apples, pears, plums and figs!
The Castle Cafe team have been harvesting and using green leaf salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, peppers, onions, garlic, carrot, beetroot, chard, sweetcorn, courguettes, lots and lots of french beans (purple and yellow ones) and herbal teas. There was lots of grass mowing using austrian scythes. We had more castle staff come out to use and work in the garden, turning compost, harvesting, weeding, watering, making bunting and decorations for the garden party. We've been doing some outdoor cooking on our rocket stove and made tempura and chips from garden vegetables. We've also been busy harvesting seeds and herbs to dry for use in the cafe over winter.
All in all it has been a very productive summer and thanks to everyone who took part to make it look even more amazing this year!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Environmental Report 2010

Each year, we take on the mammoth task of looking at the environmental impact of everything we do - from hosting parties to buying loo roll and everything in between. You can download a copy of our report here. Be warned it's a big piece of work.
If you don't want to go through it all, here are the main points:
- Our carbon footprint has gone down slightly by about 6% to 117.09 tonnes CO2e. This isn't the dramatic decrease we'd hoped for, but we're still laying the groundwork for the big changes to come.
- In 2010 we opened The Castle Shop. This not only has diversified our business and improved the customer experience, but it's also given us a chance to engage with suppliers about sustainability.
- 2010 was also our first full year with the Castle Garden. Highlights include a bountiful summer crop, two beehives, community mini-plots, a huge composter, a swale to filter grey water and lots of digging!
- We've installed electricity monitors on all our circuits so we can see exactly where our electricity is being used.

If you want more- just download the report.

Happy reading,


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

All talk

Back in April I was asked to go to the annual Innovation for Extremes Conference (Innov-ex) to make a presentation about our journey towards sustainability at The Castle. The conference is held at Lancaster University Business School and was originally set up to promote innovation in the textiles field of outdoor equipment manufacture. However, in the last few years the focus of the conference has shifted to encompass sustainability as well.

You can see my presentation “Committing to sustainability” on their web site The whole conference was very interesting. It was great to see what other groundbreaking companies are doing on the sustainability front.

My presentation was very well received and I’ve had a lot of people contact me to find out more. One of them, Sarah Howcroft from Rohantime, asked me to do an interview for her readers and you can see the results here
I think the piece is quite a good summary of where we started and how the story has progressed so far.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Spring 2011 in the Castle Garden

This is our second Spring since the Castle Garden project began, and what a warm welcome it was after such another snowy icy winter. On top of that we have been busy making more and more developments to the garden and trying out new things. The first one being this lovely forced rhubarb. In January we put an empty black bin over the rhubarb plant with a brick to weigh it down. In early March we took the bin off and saw this lovely pink tender rhubarb. You usually find it sold in the shops around this time - the famous forced Yorkshire rhubarb grown in huge forcing sheds. You can only keep forcing them for so long otherwise you really stress the plant. The Castle cafe harvested them and made lovely cakes and crumbles.

The Forest Garden
We spent all winter clearing the ground, for the forest garden and at the beginning of March we finally got in all the trees! We planted 1 mulberry, 2 sweet chestnuts, 6 hazels (our nuttery, 3 apple trees, 2 pear, 2 cherry and 2 plum trees, and we already started to interplant with some nitrogen fixers such as eleagnus (which produces edible berries) Siberian Pea tree, some herbs rhubarb, berries and flowers. We also planted a raspberry row and a mini vineyard for some future wine making. This garden will be an ongoing project and will develop and evolve over the next few seasons with more shrubs, flowers herbs, along with the constant mulching and battling with the bind weed and brambles!

Our Apricot tree
This is the second year of the Apricot tree we are growing by the south facing wall at the back. It's one of the first trees to blossom, plus it's amazing to see a few weeks later fruit forming! Other trees we are experimenting with to benefit from this warm area, are a couple of fig trees, grape vines and a kiwi.

Our bees swarming
Our bees swarmed this year from both hives. This was very exciting to see! Swarming is what they naturally do every year when their colony gets bigger. The old queen stays in the hive and the new queen goes out with some of the worker bees to go out to look for a new home. (several thousand of them!) This is when the beekeeper would come to catch the swarm and house them in a new hive. The bees attached themselves to a branch in our Indian bean tree. (they do this while the scout bees are out looking for their new home). Swarming is not too much to be afraid of as the bees are not as defensive at this time. They don't have their brood or honey to protect. The first swarm went into a new hive here and the second one was collected by my friend Sean at Organiclea, who practices natural beekeeping and uses Warre hives.
We will be getting our own Warre hive and a Top bar hive, which have been hand made with the help of two Castle staff, Kerry Simmons and Rosa Gonzalez who are working with Tom Trimmins. We will be demonstrating and learning about natural beekeeping methods. More to come about this soon! More info about it on the biobees website and Natural beekeeping Trust .

Castle Staff and the Garden
Leah who works in the office in accounts has been growing microgreens and sprouted seeds. She has sprouting towers, microgreens all spread out all over the shelves and on the windowsills in the office. She spends most of her time here sitting at the desk and working on the computer, and I'm amazed at what she can produce from her desk! It goes to the cafe on a weekly basis, which is just a few metres outside the office door.
In March, when the staff had a full day workshop day, the last hour and half was spent doing a garden activity.
Potato boxes made from parts of climbing wall inside - made on our staff workshop day, since then James from the shop - our potato monitor - watering and earthing them up! Two of the session stafff Justin and Rachel sowed some wheat as part of The Real Bread Campaign's "bake your lawn" . Rosa from the shop has been keeping on top of watering during the very dry period we had and our new receptionist Christina, has come out to help, and is our tomato pinching out monitor. Min's terraced bee garden and herb garden is starting to look amazing, and the summer will see most of the flowers in a beautiful full bloom!
The cafe staff have been getting involved too picking salads, drying herbs and Kip got stuck in helping Barry with the big pond dig.

What next in the garden?
This summer we hope to be harvesting more from our new cafe plots, watch our new forest garden grow, harvest some fruit, create a wildlife pond, make new seating areas and outdoor exercise areas, create more wildflower areas, and have a garden party and enjoy the produce!