Organic Muesli Man Leads the Way
15 Jun 2009
The London Development Agency has made Alex Smith, Managing Director of organic cereal company Alara, a London Leader of Sustainability.
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The London Development Agency has made Alex Smith, Managing Director of organic cereal company Alara, a London Leader of Sustainability. This appointment is a far cry from 30 years ago, when Alex, who used to be a squatter, started his company with just two pound notes that he had found in the street.
The new London Leader now wants to make his mark, by installing the first community-based anaerobic digester in Kings Cross, in the Borough of Camden. Based on the circular economy of nature, the ‘Urban Dream Farm’ would recycle organic wastes into fertiliser and energy.
Alex has already made a start to the ‘Urban Dream Farm’ concept. Over the years, he has added to Alara’s eclectic environment by planting a permaculture forest garden, where delicious lettuces, beehives, beans and around a hundred fruit trees can flourish. The garden runs parallel with the railway and is an urban green corridor, stocked with fruit, such as blueberries, plums, mulberries, kiwi-fruit, passion fruit and pomegranates. A large cabin, which is Alex’s garden shed, is topped with a windmill that generates enough electricity to read by.
The potential of recycling 200 tonnes of kitchen waste borough-wide per year has caught the attention of the Council. They believe that a community biogas project could provide a waste hub, which would integrate the interests of around 120 social enterprise schemes operating in the area. A working model would also provide multiple local benefits, such as training and permanent employment to get people into ‘green’ jobs.
Anaerobic digestion produces biogas and a solid, nutrient rich, compost-like material, known as digestate. Alex is excited about its potential to transform the quality of the soil in his garden projects, in local parks and amenity spaces. His aim is to place two tonnes of digestate onto the land around Alara every year.
Building the first community biogas digester in the UK would set the standard for a more sustainable London and be an inspiration for generations to come.
Founder of Alara, Alex Smith
Photo: courtesy of Sam Burcher
Sam Burcher is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Science in Society
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