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Great BloQs of Green

With Offset Warehouse coming to Building BloQs on Saturday morning (6th May) to talk about and create with sustainable textiles, we felt compelled to investigate the green credentials of our makers – and of Building BloQs itself.

As many know, Building BloQs is scaling up towards the end of this year. We're moving to a space four times bigger on the other side of the canal here at Enfield. If you've seen Building BloQs' introductory video, you'll see a bunch of us walking agog into the new warehouse. 

When we move across the road, our sustainability programme will – along with the rest of our business – shift up a gear or four. But at present we still do what we can to ensure Building BloQs keeps its carbon footprint to a minimum.

The very fabric of the workshop space has been built from recycled materials from other sites or workspaces wherever possible, and we go much further than simply using offcuts and sifting the green bins once a week.

In the metal and wood areas, the machines themselves, if not brought new to expand the capabilities of the space, are brought in from other workshops. ‘If it ain’t broke’, and all that.

The Cafe, for so long the heart of evening the we do at BloQs, was built entirely from recycled materials. Everything from the bookshelves and the furniture to the tessellated glass wall that surrounds the kitchen staff has been created with the same ethos of creatively reusing and repurposing discarded unwanted or unappreciated materials and products to make something new.

Even outside the facility, we encourage members to pool their materials orders. Not only does that approach equal bulk discounts, it means that one van turns up one time with multiple orders. It's that or a convoy of lorries turning up throughout the day blowing their gunk into the air.

Building BloQs is a PAYG, shared workshop. Members share space and machines, and we ensure kit is used as efficiently as possible. Our philosophy of gleaning maximum value from our space also defines our outlook when it comes to materials and waste.

We promote a no-waste culture here. In the wood workshop, the metal workshop, and the textile studio, big buckets of offcuts sit for anyone to use.

Most of those off-cuts are repurposed and added to other makers' work. Ollie Morrison, for example, gifted London Mayor Sadiq Khan a wooden desk tidy made entirely of workshop scraps.

If ever there's materials in the big offcut bins that aren't reused, we stick them in the furnace and generate the heat which powers the building.

We do what we can today, in preparation for the big green push in our new location, conscious that we need to be at the forefront of an evolving making scene. As BloQs' co-founder Al Parra said in a recent interview with Positive News [LINK]: “We are part of the new industrial revolution: a much shorter manufacturing chain that is closer to home, more adaptable and more accessible.”

BloQs' members today also do what they can to minimise our environmental impact. Bridal dress designer Stephanie Porter uses only local materials and supply, except when she has to go to Europe for more specialists lace.

In the cafe, outgoing chef Alex has always sourced responsibly, using local fruit and veg suppliers and refusing to handle meat and fish that doesn't come with the right certification.

The duo behind Knotch.Design have a clear philosophy when it comes to their materials: it must always be locally sourced and responsibly used. Knotch would rather change timber if the desired wood isn't locally and readily available.

As Noah from Knotch told us, “We look at sustainability as a bigger picture, it’s more than simply trying to do the right thing, we want to see what we can do with locally sourced materials. You need to have a reason for using a piece of timber for a specific thing. You can’t just be like ‘I fancy using fakimba.’”

Once thing we have noticed is that our makers – and we as BloQs – often caveat our sustainability practices with the words “wherever possible”. And unfortunately it's not always possible to go local, to buy sustainable, and to ensure that materials have been responsibly made and handled near to home.

As long as the words “wherever possible” are in use, Building BloQs and our members will continue assessing ways in which we can work sustainable, in-house and out. In our current venue and especially in our new home.