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Sustainability - what would it mean for Golden Lane Estate?

sustainable city is a city designed with consideration of environmental impact, inhabited by people dedicated to minimization of required inputs of energy, water and food, and waste output of heat, air pollution - CO2methane, and water pollution. This definition of a sustainable city derives from Wikipedia and is a good starting point for reviewing  the ways in which Golden Lane Estate is or is not sustainable.  

There have been a number of very constructive changes to the estate to make it more sustainable, notably the work of the Gardening Group and the creation of the allotments in the old nursery school playground. The planned improvements to Great Arthur House will also go a long way to making the building easier to heat and reducing heating bills for residents.  However, is this enough? There are many examples in London where modest changes are having an impact on energy conservation, use of water, recycling of waste materials and urban horticulture.  In this blog, I want to offer a few illustrations when I find them of ideas that might be relevant to Golden Lane; any comments would be appreciated.

This is what happens when you cut off a down pipe. Instead of sending water to the sewerage system where it has to be piped across the city and cleaned, this pipe goes straight into a rain garden where it is used to water an allotment.

Here is a new roof garden at Cannon Street Station.  It is a recent construction, it is an amenity for people in the building but it also increases biodiversity in the City of London, creates a place for pollination to take place and helps reduce the urban heat island effect.

Islington is promoting sustainable drainage. This will bring a range of benefits. SUDS manage runoff from development in an integrated way to reduce the quantity of water entering drains and therefore to reduce surface water flood risk – an important consideration in a dense urban area like Islington, particularly given the increase in heavy rainfall likely as a result of climate change. SUDS also improve the quality of runoff from development, bringing clean water back into use in our urban environment to create attractive places for people and wildlife. Here is a link to the Islington SUDS site.

The Greater London Authority has provided guidance on living roofs and green walls.  Here is a useful guide.

And here is a great wall created by Transport for London near the Westway and on the wall of Edgware Road Station. It is designed specifically to tackle air pollution.

The City of London Corporation has a department devoted to sustainability and has published a number of reviews. A Bigger Picture is a useful summary of the City's current position.

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Comment by Jane Bartlett on April 18, 2014 at 16:37

FOLLOWING UP CHRISTINE'S LINK to today's Guardian article on AQUAPONICS...

If any of us are thinking that we might like to get Prior Weston and/or Waitrose or Whitecross Market involved... This is what has been achieved just over the river, just south of Borough Market...

The Grow-Up Box in an SE1 car-park... (a shipping container where fish and veg are born!) First the 'kickstarter' crowd-funding campaign, now a successful and integral part of a wider local food growing initiative 

"Fish and vegetables could be produced in a Bermondsey car park this summer if the GrowUp project succeeds in raising £15,000 by the end of the month.

"The GrowUp Box is an upcycled shipping container with a greenhouse on top which is a highly productive demonstration of aquaponic urban farming. We built the first GrowUp Box thanks to an incredible group of more than 300 supporters who helped us raise over £16,500 through a Kickstarter crowd-funding initiative. Take a virtual tour of the GrowUp Box by watching our video...!for-schools-and-universities/c1v6f

"In the shipping container, we farm tilapia. Tilapia is an omnivorous white fish which tastes great. We farm the tilapia at the right stocking density so they have enough room and are in a comfortable sized shoal that means their stress levels are kept low and we can ensure that we are producing the best tasting fish. Inside the greenhouse, using vertical growing techniques, we can grow 400 salads and herbs at any one time as well as producing delicious microgreens. During the summer we were harvesting an average of salad from the box on a weekly basis and selling it to local restaurants. ...The GrowUp Box isn't currently open to visitors but keep checking the events page and we'll be announcing our 2014 opening times soon."

"We are GrowUp – experts in growing local sustainable food. We grow great quality salads and fish for urban communities. We do this using a low-impact agricultural technology called aquaponics, a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture. Through indoor growing, aquaponics and local distribution we can minimise the environmental impacts of our food production. Since we grow so close to our customers, we can offer freshness that you'd normally only get if you grew your own. Most importantly, our produce tastes great - just ask the chefs who've used it in their restaurants."

"Interested in buying a GrowUpBox for your school or business or community? Please contact to find out more."!for-schools-and-universities/c1v6f

Meanwhile, in East London, there's the wonderfully 'community-fed' and community-building 'Supermarket Bypass' ( -- with even bigger plans for the future, not least a non-members online 'shopwindow! ...especially with the demise of 'unpackaged', that once thriving, packaging-free, buy-only-as-much-as-you-need, EC1 business that re-located to London Fields but lost its way enroute)  

Supermarket Bypass is a informal network of neighbours aggregating individuals shopping lists (and individual taste preferences!) and sourcing 'known-provenance' produce in bulk from workers' co-operative wholesalers [ and similarly ] for local distribution, by way of social gatherings, in E8/2/5.

So if Golden Lane and/or Barbican want their own food-buying co-operative and the associated socialising of their food supply -- not least to challenge the Waitrose monopoly! ...and to bring a little bit of the spirit of Whitecross Market indoors  -- then I'm sure 'we' can set up one here too  :-)


Comment by Jane Bartlett on April 18, 2014 at 16:01

Christine, hello -- Paul, Jean and Sarah too [Sarah, I was talking to Rob Barker (RA Secretary) last night, specifically about this blog, so he suggested he might be slipping my contact details into your inbox sometime very soon!] 


'Sustainability' of course has many manifestations and guises therefore [ thankfully :=) ] has many different 'in-points' that effectively communicated and demonstrated can capture the attention, interest and commitment of different people, and in so doing challenge and ultimately defy what otherwise can be an all too limited and negative popular perception of what Sustainability 'looks' and 'feels' like.

So we design projects and networks, events and interventions, with the prevailing psychology and associated aspirations in mind! We work on and with whatever people are already interested in and doing.

My feeling is that 'we' start where people are at. And I don't much mind why someone goes ahead and adopts/initiates/evolves behaviors that can then be deemed to be (by whoever) more sustainable or 'sustainable' plain and simple without additional qualification or 'relative qualifiers', especially when -- if we're being honest and suitably humble -- we know that 'absolute sustainability' is in fact rare in the case of anything any of us do  :-)

And it is so interesting to see, again and again, that once the 'new habits' are being lived, and the very real pleasures and rewards being experienced and understood, that it's then at this point that people -- not least the most vocal of the former sceptics! -- often feel able and willing take up the sustainability 'story', to the point of becoming really very persuasive in terms of their interactions and relationships with others including those who still hold out, out of ignorance or complacency!

In this way, and for this reason, our networks and communities grow become ever more inclusive and diverse -- importantly, and sustainably as such  :-)

So for me -- in terms of designing 'how' (at a community level) -- it's about taking a 'something for everyone' approach, talking boldly and with tireless enthusiasm about the 'gains' for each and all (rather than appealing to any particular virtue or sense of righteousness on the part of the individual!).

[something that Solitaire Townsend et al of local, Charterhouse-Street-based sustainability communications agency, Futerra, knows and does so well: ...with much of their much-in-demand advice being free to download  :-) ]

And yes, possibly, depending on the audience -- and with the specific intention of reaching beyond the given constituency of self-primed, sustainability-minded people -- being prepared to dispense with the 'sus' word altogether favour of 'Gift Economy', 'knowledge networking', 'Who shares Wins', sharing communities, collaborative consumption, 'Transition Pioneers', 'Slow Food and Long Living' 'Circular Economy', 'resource security and optimisation', 'liberation from the market', 'de-monetarisation', etc [blah, blah, blah  :-) ]...

[including as advocated and made 'real' by Annie Leonard's 'Story of Stuff' project -- ...Annie's stories of 'Solutions' and 'Stuff' drawing plenty of people in, despite the very American accent and earnestness!]

On our borders -- just outside to the east, north and south [mainly!] -- Sustainable Hackney, for example, are certainly doing many good and varied things, from greening/gardening projects and local energy generation, to 'cycle kitchens' (repairs and maintenance), upcycled fashion and e-waste resurrection.

The 'teach tech' tech-revival parties organised by Restart [] -- often in conjunction with Sustainable Hackney, and Friends of the Earth et al, but also local TMO's and council officers -- have become so popular, not least with mothers and grandmothers with old lamps, TVs and kettles in need of repair, and children with their broken game consoles and 'i-anything', that among the 'City boys' (including some of our EC1-4 neighbours) there were those who've ensured that, in just the last few weeks, Deutsche Bank have had a whole day Restart party at it's City offices (where staff bought in their laptops, smart phones etc and learnt how to bring them back from the dead and/or make them work faster and more 'smoothly') and KPMG are now taking Restart (including one of my best friends who recently starred on the BBC 'One Show') to Paris, with a trip to a Darlington corporate HQ in the meantime  :-) And yes, I'm determined in the coming months to get Restart into more schools, while still ensuring that community halls continue to be their 'natural home'  :-)

Amongst my 'Environmentors' -- the inner circle :-) -- there are the 'best' friends engaging communities down in Lambeth and Southwark in building green-roofs, where hard-to-reach Dads are working alongside their children's ...10 or more feet above ground! And for those who want to wear their 'sustainability' on their sleeve or somewhere close to it, an artist best friend is making award-winning cuff-links, wedding rings and 'love tokens' from Fairtrade-Fairmined gold, recycled silver, and bio-resin (that looks like coral but is in fact made from sunflowers). And with every piece of her 'wearable sculpture' -- which is soon to be part of a high-profile exhibition on the King's Road thereby making another sustainable alternative (product and thinking) available on the high street -- she tells the supply-chain story and what each of us can do to bring sustainability 'home' so as to ensure that our 'love' for things and the 'love' that we would have them symbolise is indeed a 'true love' ...with no scorched earth or blood on our hands, literally in the case of a gold wedding band or mobile phone (with gold in its circuitry) where the all too precious metal has been traded for drugs and or arms further up the supply chain. Islington-based, she is regularly courted by our local Goldsmiths livery, workshopping in the community and holding master-classes, by invitation, at the City Lit -- so is one of many people that our Sustainability Groups could make use of to give sustainability 'everyday-life' meaning and value. 

But that's more than enough from me, on any Friday let alone the 'Good' one  :-)

I actually just want to start by helping make Paul's blog sustainable, and actionable ...any way I can  :-)

And so, a further 'biographical footnote', to hopefully explain [ briefly :-) ] where some of the motivation comes from and indeed where some of the most compelling sustainability practices have been witnessed and learnt, (actually from Kashmir to the East Caribbean, via my brother's 'patch' down in Sutton!) For 9 years I was working as a 'hard news' field producer and production manager (for European, Asian and Middle-Eastern broadcasters) and subsequently as a 'gender' and 'trade' consultant at the Commonwealth Secretariat, across the 53 states -- now in development and communications strategy, at home and abroad, most importantly in communities ...'anywhere'  :-) It's therefore from these grassroots and 'frontlines' that I take the view that for sustainability to move off the page from being theory, policy and/or aspirational commentary,  people need to network and collaborate constructively around local, issues-driven politics and day-to-day economics, articulated through the Arts, craft, media and social interaction at its most personal and 'hands-on  :-)

So yes, here's to 'Transition Golden Lane' -- literally, collectively, gradually, hopefully!


AND A P.S for Christine... in the last 1980's I was working in a closed Tibet in the lead-up to the Tiananmen Square massacre, and all these years later I really love your signature icon and the fact that Tank Man is now faced not with rubber batons or bullets but rubber ducks ...the 'comfort capitalism' that has taken over our cities street by street the world over!


Thanks everyone


Comment by Jane Bartlett on April 14, 2014 at 21:19

Sarah, exactly  :-) -- thank you to you too! ....diffusion tubes having become the must-have accessories about town  :-)

As an EC4 resident, my 'Golden Lane' is in fact the 'Gold' route that is Upper Thames Street  :-/ So although I'm already in conversation with Ruth Calderwood, Steve Blake and Victor Callister about other TfL monitoring and reduction activities I'd be happy to help extend the M4C project along the City's southern boundary so as to reach and enhance the lives of CoL's smallest and most readily forgotten residential enclave between Southwark and Millenium Bridge  :-) ]

Certainly, for 45 minutes across lunchtime today, I had a very productive meeting with the relevant CoL officers down at Walbrook Wharf/Environmental Services -- re 'circular economy' (effective resource management) not least communications strategy and new practical initiatives re recycling. CoL having now contracted with a new waste management company 'Ideal' (rather than Bywaters) who rather than charging CoL/us for removing waste derive the income they decide that they need as a business from perceiving and processing this 'waste' as a 'raw material' that can be effectively re-used and resold. Which means there are now net savings which. in theory at least, can be applied to other sustainability issues  :-)

Know their brief, priorities and objectives -- not least by doing them the courtesy of reading some of their more authoritative 'output' (and therefore understanding something of their limitations not least in terms of man-power and budget!) -- and you can certainly find the people within CoL who are not only willing but tasked with facilitating 'workable, costed environmental/sustainability initiatives that residents present directly or via their CoCC Ward Councillors and for the greater part then go on to oversee if not control. Not all of the 'wish-list' can be fully resourced of course, not at once or anything like as soon as, but keep it on the table long enough in a way that 'makes sense' in terms of the wider agenda and other funding can be identified and secured (City Bridge Trust, GLA grants, Corporates providing both in-kind and financial CSR-motivated donations etc) 

Sarah, Paul -- and Jean too -- please let me know if you think more can be achieved if we create more of a North-South approach. I possibly know who we can go to if we'd like west and east too!


Comment by JM on April 13, 2014 at 19:41

Thanks for sharing Paul.  It's an important topic, but apart from their published puff piece which you also shared  I am unclear how committed the COL really is to sustainability and what practical steps they are taking to further it.

For example, if the COL took energy efficiency seriously we would not be waiting for decades to have double or triple glazing fitted to our flats (and for those on busy roadsides with some form of acoustic glazing perhaps).  As of now, we have no idea when, if at all, we are likely to have any.  So, lots of expensive heat being lost.  Nor does the COL help us in any practical way to fit our own.  A list of approved suppliers who can fit units to flats that meet EH/COL requirements?  That would be practical help for residents.  Think they'd ever do that?

Here's another thought.  If greening is a good idea, why not turn over the tennis courts (as originally planned) to green space or garden ?  It seems to me most users are not residents (happy to be proved wrong) so this facility is run purely for profit and for non-residents on the whole.  Greening this space could make a significant impact to the local environment - whether via improving air quality, recycling rain runoff, allowing local food production, acting as a sound baffle, or other potential benefits.  Do you think the COL would consider doing this, to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability?

I'd like to see some real action locally from the COL before they start expecting residents to do it all.

While they are at it, they might want to improve their upkeep of the estate generally; some areas are so run down, peeling paint, poor maintenance, poor aesthetic, they should be shamed into implementing a plan to improve the estate right now.

Sorry to be rather cynical, but experience suggests there's a lot of talk but action? - not so much.

So, to answer your question, the measures taken so far have been excellent, but plenty more could and should be done.

Comment by Sarah Hudson on April 13, 2014 at 10:17

Great blog Paul and I really like your photos. In the Barbican we have a sustainability group and apart from our heating system (!) we are looking at air quality. Since last October over 70 residents have been participating in a Citizen Science project funded by the City's air quality team and facilitated by Mapping for Change. We have been hosting diffusion tubes to measure Nitrogen Dioxide levels on balconies and there are more at street level. We are also monitoring levels of fine particles (PM2.5) using portable counters that we can carry around as we go to work/shops/school etc.  So far there are four months of data on the map

Zoom in for details. A large number of the sites are above EU limits - and not surprisingly the Beech Street bus stop has registered levels 4 times the EU limit. 

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