9 September 2012

Step Down at Woodbrooke

Step Down SundayI’m afraid there’s not been enough room in my head the last couple of weeks for blog posts, but rather than miss another Step Down Sunday I thought I might just share a few things from my recent weekend away.

Several months ago I booked on a Clerking course at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. Unfortunately travel ended up being a real bug bear. Originally I was going to travel on the train, but it was a three day residential course which meant I needed to travel with medical bedding as well as luggage. Travelling with that much stuff is nearly impossible at the best of times, but I’d also been instructed to avoid strenuous activity in case I was pregnant. The only solution seemed to be Mr Goldfish driving me down, but driving to Birmingham and back twice over one weekend was going to double the trip’s carbon footprint.

In the end we compromised. We couldn’t avoid the car journey, but we could pay an additional £40 so Mr Goldfish could stay at Woodbrooke too. Poor man had a rather boring weekend while I was in meetings, but at least we had more opportunity to digest our bad news than if we’d spent the weekend apart.

As part of the Quaker commitment to low-carbon living, Woodbrooke is also working to reduce their carbon footprint. The original Grade II building has been converted from the former Cadbury residence to into educational centre and bed & breakfast. The rooms aren't especially fancy, but they are cosy and welcoming. We ended up in one of the top floor family rooms, which was a lovely - if unusual space. I didn't have too much trouble, but Mr Goldfish smacked his head on the low beams and ceilings several times.
One of the Steps Down we noticed was the four minute shower timer in the bathroom. I think Mr Goldfish took it as a daily challenge to finish before the hour glass ran out. (I'm just waiting for him to suggest one for home!)
They also use BeeKind soaps and shampoos by Gilchrist & Soames which contain no parabens, phthalates, petrol-derived ingredients, or artificial colours or dyes. Instead using honey, naturally derived glycerin and other green ingredients presented in simple recyclable packaging.
They've also converted most of the lighting to florescent or energy efficient bulbs. In communal spaces this is combined with sensors, which when activated turn the lights on for just three minutes. (I was impressed by the responsiveness of the lights. They turned on quickly and you never felt like you were feeling your way through the dark.)

In addition to offering vegetarian and vegan options, the dining hall also uses vegetables grown on the site. I had a lovely vegan chickpea, lentil and courgette dish that used yellow courgette grown in the Woodbrooke garden.
Finally for any new construction they are using sustainable materials and eco-friendly techniques. They recently completed a large garden lounge (extension pictured above), which uses Porotherm blocks, underfloor heating, a wood-burning stove, maximum insulation and special glass to reduce heat loss. It's a fantastic space which allows guests to relax and socialise.

So while we made only a small compromise to reduce our carbon-footprint this week, it was lovely to see the changes others in our community are making to achieve the same goal.


Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.