Bow Arts: Re-Freshing Re-Engagement

In April - May 2015, Bow Arts Green launched an environmental campaign to get everyone back on board with sustainability. Drawing inspiration from within their team, the campaign included bike workshops, a herbal tea garden and a “how green can you go?” challenge..

Every so often, you hear a story about people doing great things that puts a smile on your face. The Bow Arts Green Team are on a mission to ensure their organisation is as sustainable as possible. Their environmental campaign was run on a shoestring and goes to show that dedication and commitment can go a long way.


Bow Arts' mission is to support community renewal in east London by delivering arts and creative services via a financially sustainable business model. This is achieved through the provision of affordable studio spaces for artists, a contemporary art space, the Nunnery Gallery, and an extensive education programme which takes world class artists into schools to improve the lives and learning of young people. Bow Arts currently operates across five sites, providing around 400 studios in the capital. Established in 1995, this year sees the organisation celebrate 20 years of activity.

Bow Arts’ environmental sustainability work continues to grow and this commitment is evident within their team, senior management and at board level. They set their base line in 2011 and are committed to reducing their carbon emissions by the year 2025. (This is in line with the Mayor of London’s Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy, which aims for a 60% reduction in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by the year 2025.)

They have identified four key areas to reduce their emissions: Energy, Water, Waste and Travel and will take action within the following areas:

  • Administration and management
  • Staff and stakeholder engagement
  • Buildings and facilities management
  • Transport and travel
  • Suppliers and contractors
  • Campaigns and certification

Re-Engaging with Sustainability

As an organisation, Bow Arts are incredibly resourceful and sustainability sits at the heart of their work. They have an enthusiastic and motivated green team, who work hard to make sure the organisation is as green as possible.

Regardless of how far your organisation has come in sustainability, it’s always good to refresh your sustainability messages and remind team members of your goals. This will nudge your staff in the right direction and stop any old habits creeping back.

Getting Down To It

In April and May 2015, the Bow Arts Green Team did just this, by launching a six week environmental campaign designed to re-engage their staff and artists with environmental sustainability. Following a recent capital development, and staff changes, this was an ideal opportunity to revisit their sustainability goals and to encourage a positive culture shift within the organisation a series of events, competitions and rewards. Progress was documented on their blog and across Twitter for everyone to be kept updated on what was going on.

Here are four of the inspirational ideas this wonderful green team came up with:

How Green Can You Go?

Ten challenges were set, to add a little healthy competition, the team who achieved the best statistics and reductions over six weeks were given a prize at the Closing Ceremony in the final week of the campaign.

1. Walk, run or cycle to work for a week.

2. No plastic bags for a week.

3. Use scrap paper (only) for a day

4. Hire a Boris bike

6. Go vegetarian for a day (extra points if you go vegan!)

7. Swap something (e.g. a book, a record, an item of clothing) with someone

8. Buy something from or donate something to a charity shop

9. Have a recycled lunch at the Bromley-by-Bow Centre

10. Make an entirely carbon free work journey.

Bow Arts Bike Workshop

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”

– H.G Wells

Cycling is an amazing way to explore the hidden sites of the city, it’s low cost, great for your health and of course is low carbon!

To get more pedals pushed, the Green Team organised free drop in bike maintenance sessions for any staff members and artists interested in fixing up their wheels. These workshops were organised via the TFL Cycling Worksplaces Scheme. This was also a great opportunity for Bow Arts to shout about a local cycling initiative The Bamboo Bicycle Club: who make their own bicycles from bamboo frames and cycle them across the desert.

You can find out about free bike maintenance workshops here:

Fancy a Bow Arts Brew?

A bunch of dedicated tea drinkers, the Green Team decided that it time to make their own herbal tea garden. This was not only a great learning project, but it also encouraged a grow your own ethic as well as involving the local Tower Hamlets community.

Once again their learnings and progress were documented on their blog for the different members of their community to follow. You can check the stories out here.

As well as recycling an old planter that existed on site, team members went to collect free compost from their neighbours the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, which was a great way to get them started.

The tea garden now has ambitions to be grown into an edible garden in the courtyard.

Bow Arts Swap Shop

‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ or so the saying goes. Bow Arts held their infamous swap shop for different team members and their artists to come along and bring items that they no longer wanted or used in exchange for something else.

Check out the hidden gems their team members brought along!

Celebrating Success

The final week of the campaign was a celebration of everything the organisation achieved throughout the campaign, as well as an award ceremony for the winning Green Champions.

The winners were commended for their green efforts which included: paperless meetings, eating recycled food at the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, walking to work, cycling to work, using Boris Bikes and diligently turning off all unnecessary lights. They were rewarded with Bow Arts tote bags, local beer, Fairtrade chocolate and a coveted Bow Arts custom made bottle, created and donated by their friends The Raw Foundation.

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