A Special Place to… Work
05 Dec 2007
Alastair Sawday has moved his company into an eco office and explains the inspiration behind the relocation and why it was a step in the right direction.
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Alastair Sawday, author of the ‘Special Places to Stay’ guides, is an avid environmentalist. He ran for the Green Party in 1992 and was vice-chair of the Soil Association. Founder of the first ever carbon-neutral publishing company, he plants trees to compensate for air travel, promotes environmental awareness and believes wholly in the art of sustainable living, so much so, he has moved his company into an eco office. Alastair explains the inspiration behind the relocation and why it was a step in the right direction.
Our change of office was driven by sheer embarrassment. For years we had been promoting greener travel, carbon neutrality –still embarrassing– low energy use, alternative transport options, recycled paper and all those other aspects of green business that are now so popular. In a rush of enthusiasm, we had an Environmental Audit done too and the results caused a sharp intake of company breath. On the crucial matter of the buildings themselves, we were given a severe thumbs down. They leaked warmth, used electricity for heating, used wasteful –if effective– halogen lighting and, well, there was little to be said for them.
We were renting from a landlord who came from the country tradition of environmental awareness, more a matter of pheasant populations than energy usage. He heated his house with vast logs and the occasional fox and was unlikely to rebuild the offices to satisfy a bizarre little publishing company’s odd ideas about the environment. Fair enough; this was our thing. So we had to move and move to a place of which we could be proud.
As luck would have it, we were not far away from a friendly farmer who was flogging off his barns. After gazumping Massive Attack, who were planning a recording studio, we shook hands with him and were committed. A year and a half later we were settled in, astonished and almost bewildered by what we had achieved. Rain ran off the roof into a 6,000 litre tank for flushing the loos and feeding the showers. Sun heated the kitchen water. Wooden pellets burned to heat the under-floor pipes. The offices were soft and serene, probably because of the paints we had used and our determination to avoid anything toxic. The heat we generated was trapped inside by massive amounts of insulation. The Mediterranean-style garden was already showing small signs of life.
We have been here for a year and a half. The garden looks beautiful: the great mound that hides one of two small carparks is lushly green and protective. The ornamental pond is, almost unexpectedly, the very centre of it all and has given us a swimming pool and surprisingly some newts. The great green-oak barn that fills the space between two older buildings has provided space for two guitar concerts, a couple of huge parties and, lest I forget, several office desks, each flooded with light.
We have won awards for it too, which has been unexpected and encouraging. The Queen’s Award was for general Sustainable Development and the Green Apple Award was specifically for the building. We also won an award for Environmental Business. All these things have boosted our determination to carry on trying to ‘walk the talk’ and to look for other ways of doing so. This is our next challenge and we begin with trying to persuade more and more of ‘our’ owners to green up their acts. With time, we will be able to claim that we have made a real difference.
Contact: Alistair Sawday Publishing
The Old Farmyard,Yanley Lane,
Long Ashton, Bristol, BS41 9LR
Tel: +44 (0)1275 395431
The beautiful eco offices in Long Ashton
Photo: Alistair Sawday
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