It’s Pretty Easy, Being Green…
Written by Rebecca Broad
I wrote in the previous issue of Grow Exeter about the tiny thoughtful actions that can increase a culture of mental wellbeing in the workplace and, before that, about the impact that a small amount of excellent customer service can have on a person’s experience of a brand.
What became evident to me writing this piece – and researching the sustainable practices that Exeter businesses undertake every day – is that the same rule of ‘little and often’ applies to being green, too.
Take Exeter Cookery School, based at the Quay, for example. After careers spanning City of London positions, cheffing alongside Rick Stein, reaching the Masterchef semi-final and setting up a cooking school in the South West of France, co-founders Jim and Lucy Fisher returned to the city in which they met: Exeter. Sustainability, they say, is at the forefront of any decisions they make in business.
An obvious challenge of Exeter Cookery School would be food waste, but careful management means the School rarely struggles.“With Lucy’s expert ordering skills we find we are rarely have an issue with food waste, and where we have hosted events with ingredients left over that we have been unable to use, we have donated to local charities such as Exeter Food Cycle and Exeter YMCA.” This is a key part of sustainability – thinking about the bigger social picture, as well as the environmental take.
So, food waste might not be applicable to your business, but the next challenge that Exeter Cookery School faces almost definitely is: energy use. Whether your organisation rents hundreds of square metres of retail space or is just you as a sole trader facing a laptop under a light, energy efficiency should be on everyone’s minds.
“Right from the start, Jim and Lucy wanted to ensure the green credentials of the building. We used as much of the existing materials for the renovation of the building, plus installed energy efficient underfloor heating. Also, all our appliances are supplied by Gaggenau or Bosch, and hold the highest energy ratings possible.”
Using local producers cuts down on transportation energy too, as well as helping to foster a sustainable business community.
A hot topic right now is food packaging. Much packaging is SUP – single use plastic – which not only uses lots of energy to produce and recycle, but often ends up polluting the environment.
Jim and Lucy Fisher have an arsenal of tools to avoid these materials adding: “We have reduced our reliance on cling film by replacing it with re-useable silicone lids for covering our bread dough when proving. We also use local supplier GMB (Green My Business), which has helped to source sustainable, and in many cases compostable, materials for storage and for students to take away from cookery courses what they have cooked but not been able to consume on site.”
In addition, Exeter Cookery School’s suppliers (Dart Fresh, Pipers Farm and Fishers) often deliver in reusable boxes. The cleaning products used at Exeter Cookery School are environmentally friendly refills too, which reduce container use. Plastic straws are out, as are plastic cups, replaced with a compostable material alternative.
It is the seemingly innocent coffee cup which boosted local Westcountry chain Boston Tea Party into national news headlines. From the beginning of June, BTP banned the use of single-use coffee cups from all of its 22 cafes. A brave move, given the chain’s annual sales income from takeaway drinks exceeds £1m. In their eyes, the true sustainable move is reuse.
Exeter Scrapstore, meanwhile, exists to reuse – they take products otherwise destined for landfill, like boxes and textiles and paper, and use them for creative and educational purposes – so get in touch with them if you’ve got donations!
In fact, all around Exeter, small businesses are taking sustainable steps forward: from the staff of Ransoms Lettings walking between meetings, to Bake Free composting their kitchen green waste and using it to grow the herbs used in their recipes.
Hopefully some of these actions – use local producers, cut down on single use material, compost, walk to meetings if possible – are possible for everyone reading this. A good place to start, if you’re not sure, is collaborative schemes.
As Jim and Lucy Fisher of Exeter Cookery School say, “We are delighted to have become members of Green Tourism to underpin our green credentials and ensure we continue to become greener as a business as well as championing green credentials in others.”
Grow magazine recently launched the Grow Green initiative, aiming to get 1000 local businesses committed to working together in order to make the city of Exeter greener and cleaner. Sarah West Recruitment Consultants left the launch event inspired to take a look at how they can make a difference and have settled on car sharing and cycling to work as a start.
Aside from the small sustainable practices that any organisation can have a go at implementing, if you’re familiar with Exeter’s business scene you’ll be aware of a number of innovative start-ups and companies looking to change the way society as a whole operates. It’s these ground-breaking ideas that will – hopefully – noticeably reduce the amount of climate change we are set to experience over the coming decades.
Take Lightfoot. This company is based in Exeter, but has a global reach, attracting international attention for its technology helping drivers to reduce their vehicle emissions. I spoke to Dan Regan, Head of Innovation at the fast-growing company.
“Most people don’t expect to see a green automotive tech company like us based down here – but there’s nowhere we’d rather be. In fact, we’ve just this week moved to our brand new, purpose-built offices just outside of Exeter’s city limits – with plenty of space to help us get to around 100 staff by the end of the year.”
Not only is Lightfoot being used by vehicle fleets, they’re now testing individual devices. “We have around 300 Beta users in the Exeter area testing the Lightfoot consumer product for private motorists and they’re saving, collectively, around 3 tonnes of CO2 a week – doing their bit to improve the air quality of the city.”
No need for vehicles in your business, but still need to transport items locally?
Check out Escargo Delivery, whose electric-assisted pedal bikes deliver items to a range of Exeter businesses including Real Food Store and Harry’s Restaurant (to be honest, I’d use them just for their fantastic name!).
Though the common phrase is ‘it’s not easy being green’, I’d argue that in this day and age – and in our wonderful city – it really can be easy if you spare sustainability a second thought.