Friday, 21 October 2011

Sloes and Carbon 2.0 Can London Lead the Low carbon Revolution?

This week the Sustainability Team celebrated the arrival of winter and the first frosts in London by using our lunch breaks to harvest hundreds of sloes from the countless bushes spread across Avery Hill Campus. Sloes are the berries found on the Prunus spinosa or blackthorn bush – a common shrub or small tree found in hedgerows all across the United Kingdom and are abundant among the rosehips (Rosaceae), hawthorns (Crataegus) and snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) hedges at Avery Hill.

Avery Hill Sloes Picked on Monday
With the sloes we have been busy making sloe gin, a liqueur that is made by mixing the berries, sugar and gin. This year Nigel Slater’s recipe is the one being followed:

“Prick your sloes, about 450g, with a needle or freeze them and bash with a heavy weight. Tip them into sterilised bottles, the fruit coming a third of the way up. Divide 350g of caster or granulated sugar among them then top up with gin or vodka. It will take about 750ml. There is little point in using an expensive brand, by the way. Place the sealed bottles somewhere cool and dark. Leave for 8-10 weeks, turning the bottle occasionally, giving it a shake every week.” (taken from:

It is best to avoid the recipes that start with, “buy a bottle of gin, drink half....”

As well as picking sloes the Sustainability Team has been gallivanting around central London. On Wednesday evening we headed to London’s City Hall for the event ‘Carbon 2.0: Can London lead the low-carbon revolution?’ The event was put together by Carbon Culture, an organisation that tries to marry up the technical and cultural approaches to embedding sustainability in an organisation. Carbon Culture’s most famous work is the real-time energy monitoring for the Department for Energy and Climate Change that we have mentioned on this blog before:

View from the top of City Hall: Tower Bridge with Canary Wharf in the background.
The panel was debating the title question and taking questions from the floor that was made up from staff of universities, councils, airports, financial Institutions, construction companies, charities, theatres and a whole host of sustainability minded professionals from the public and private sector. While the overriding feeling at the event was positive and the panel seemed to genuinely believe London (and perhaps more specifically intelligent design) could bring about the low-carbon revolution there were also a lot of quite challenging questions.

- How do you cater for a global middle class that will have 3 billion more people?
- How can you join use technology to influence behaviour?
- What future is there for consumerism?
- How do you make loft insulation sexy?

Phwoarr! Check out that loft-insulation!
The questions are intrinsically linked and if you can find an answer you also provide an answer for a lot of other questions regarding the world of sustainability. Luke Nicholson from Carbon Culture was keen to push the idea that you need to make your sustainable solution/product appealing to the end user. If you can give someone what they want, they will use it and it is only once they are already engaged with it that you add the ‘sustainability story’. As long as the popular products and practices of the future are low carbon then you are already on the way towards a sustainable future effectively by ‘tricking’ people into sustainable practices. By answering the last of the four questions you can perhaps see how this might work – instead of selling loft insulation as a great way of saving money and cutting carbon emissions, sell it as a way of making your home warmer, more cosy, a more desirable place to live and for friends to visit and stay. This is a well known method for communicating sustainability and Futerra’s ‘Sell the Sizzle’ is the sustainability communicator’s bible:

As for the future of consumerism, well we have already decided everyone will be buying into great technologies that are not only appealing but also more sustainable - but how do you cater for the extra billions of people projected to be living on the planet over the next decades when you have limited resources to go round? Mat Hunter from the Design Council suggested making London a ‘shareable city’ a place where ‘collaborative consumption’ is the order of the day. Instead of everyone owning a car people will be members of car clubs like StreetCar or ZipCar, instead of owning a bike people will use the ‘Boris Bikes’. Mat Hunter was particularly positive that London could lead in this way because the city is ‘a densely packed vast Petri dish with a concentrated group of highly intelligent people.’ High praise indeed for London.

1 comment:

  1. Any effort to maintain the ecological balance should be highly appreciated.
    Thanx for sharing.