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Graham Hillier, Cash Bases, Newhaven
Utilise Plus Event Report: Sustainability Tour of Wakehurst Place
On a bright morning in November, the Sustainable Business Partnership CIC welcomed a number of Sustainable Business Network members from a wide range of sectors to Wakehurst Place. Funded and managed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wakehurst Place boasts world-renowned gardens, woodlands, wildlife and the state-of-the-art Millennium Seed Bank.
The SBP CIC’s Louise Downey gave a short introduction, followed by Councillor Phillip Coote, Vice-Chairman of Mid Sussex District Council, which has been a long-time supporter of the SBP CIC’s work in Sussex.
Keith Manger, Wakehurst’s Sustainability Manager, then spoke about the many energy efficiency measures that have been introduced around the site. Keith has been an active member of our Sustainable Business Network for a number of years. He attended one of our Utilise workshops in 2010 and subsequently made use of our grant funding to implement more efficient incubator units which replicate the conditions required to germinate seeds. The new incubators are a staggering 94% more efficient, providing huge energy and cost savings. Keith has also engaged a number of suppliers met through the Sustainable Business Network. One interesting insight was that when tendering he asks suppliers for full life-cycle costings. This not only ensures that he’s getting the most for his money but also helps him to justify choosing the option that is not necessarily the cheapest up-front, but is cheaper across five years of operation. A great tip for anyone looking to tender for their own energy saving project!
After the talk, it was time for a tour! Keith started off by showing us around the glasshouses packed full of plants from all over the world. We were then treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the Millennium Seed Bank, consisting of laboratories, offices, a visitor centre and the underground vault where seeds are stored at -20°C. The Seed Bank is the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. The aim is to provide an ‘insurance policy’ against the extinction of plants in the wild. By 2020, they aim to conserve 25% of the world’s plant species, a target they’re on-track to meet. We finished the tour with a look at their flat-plate heat exchanger, a far more efficient means of heating water.
The event ended with delegates networking over refreshments. Everyone present was inspired by Keith’s contagious passion for sustainability and the incredible energy efficiency improvements he’s overseen. Keith recognises that sustainability is always a work-in-progress. For example, in preparation for this event, he took thermographic pictures of buildings around the site to show delegates and ended up finding even more areas he wants to improve!
At the Sustainable Business Partnership, we’re always keen to hear about interesting venues for Sustainability Tours, as well as enthusiastic speakers who want to share their knowledge. If you’d like to work with us, please get in touch.
This Sustainability Tour was part of our Utilise Plus programme, fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).