Plugs, insurance, credit crunch, beetles and lunch (Jan09)

Michael Pawlyn fom Exploration Architecture, with his Brompton bike
Close up of the plug chains at Konstam Restaurant


Last week was busy. I flew from meeting to meeting. Not literally I hasten to add – they were mostly in London.

I started with a meeting about insurance – I’m not a great fan of the industry. They’re so inefficient and bureaucratic. Talk about excessive paper production.

I was talking to Adam Clutterbuck. He’s looking at how to reduce claims for the insurance industry by investing in preventative measures. Wouldn’t it be better for houses to be protected from flooding rather than sending in huge bills for ruined carpets and damaged property? This would save money for the insurance companies, hassle for householders and environmental impacts too….

From there I went on the Chair a meeting of the Food Ethics Council. Attendees included representatives from McDonalds, Unilever and Weetabix. And we were talking about whether the credit crunch was going to reduce consumption – and get people looking for better value products or whether they’d just buy cheaper goods.

Clearly, none of us are going to stop eating. So the debate for the food sector is a bit different than for other industries. An early indicator of the crunch affecting food seems to have been in the plummeting sales of organic produce. The general view, however, was that pressures on land and water were going to have an even more significant impact on food than the world economy. Either way it seems we’re going to have to tighten our belts.

My first meeting the next day was about wind power. I’m a big fan of wind – apart from anything else I like seeing the whirling turbines. And I’m interested in how polarised opinion is on the issue.

Lunch was at a restaurant called Konstam, near Kings Cross. It was amazing. Suspended from the ceiling were displays made from plug chains – see photo. And the menu was equally original. It’s all sourced from within the M25. I had pigeon and some rather interesting vegetarian dish.

Was being taken to lunch by Michael Pawlyn, founder of Exploration Architecture – he used to work at Grimshaws and was one of the architects involved in the Eden Project. His approach is to take ideas from nature and apply them to buildings and design. I particularly love the Water Theatre combined with a de-salination plant that was inspired by the Namibian fog-basking beetle.

Next stop was London Bridge – the offices of Blue Rubicon. They work with British Gas on Generation Green a schools and community plan encouraging green behaviour – and have asked me to work with them on this.

Down to Woking in the evening to watch the Vagina Monologues. Anthea Turner was one of the three women on stage talking about vaginas in both comical and tragic turns. It was quite a revelation. The man I went with was out-numbered by about 100 to 1 – but I thought it was much more fun to go with a date!

Had a lunch meeting the following day at SustainAbility, the company I set up with John Elkington, in 1987. It was rather shocking to discover that I hardly knew anyone there – and hadn’t worked with any of those I did know.

A short walk from their to Chancery Lane, my next meeting was in the offices of London Remade. It had been organised by Kit Strange from the Resources Recovery Forum, to discuss innovative solutions for waste.

Fortunately for me, Kit was coming to the Rushlight Awards black tie dinner event in the evening. He let me come and change at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and share a taxi. I had been a judge for the overall winner of this renewable energy awards scheme that’s in its second year. Novacem, a company developing a cement that actually locks up CO2 rather than releases it, won the main prize. The cement industry is close to the top of the league for its climate change impact, so Novacem’s idea could make a huge difference.

The following morning, I was relieved to be heading back home. Although I have lots to do in the office it’s less tiring than being out and about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *