Open-access content 6th April 2010
The 10:10 project is encouraging the UK to achieve a 10 per cent cut in carbon emissions in 2010. David Arminas meets the enthusiastic team behind it and sees how their office reflects their bold endeavour.
8 April 2010
Remember what it was like to have nothing and be happy? Your needs were few, your dreams were big and you got by with whatever was at hand. Importantly, there was a deep-rooted, if unconscious, belief that you were on your way to better things. A quick gaze around the “new” office of the 10:10 organisation is reminder that little has changed for young people. No stuffed white shirts drifting between corporate cubicles here. The set up is reminiscent of a start-up business with the determination that their efforts are not just hum-drum work but are socially worthwhile.
The average age of the 20 or so employees is the mid twenties. Dress is casual but the atmosphere is intellectually intense. And the facilities are Spartan – but consciously so.
“It’s all about practising what you preach, you have to walk the talk,” says Ben Evans, 23, and the closest thing to an FM that 10:10 has. Evans is the designated office manager; titles aren’t a big deal around 10:10. This is his first full-time job after graduating from the University of Surrey last year with an economics and international relations degree. With several months of volunteer work at 10:10 prior to and just after its official launch in September, he joined at the end of January.
Part of his remit is bookkeeping – “I handle money and bills”. He also takes care of office organisation including the refurbishment.
They moved only from just around the corner, but it was a single room office of 40 square metres in an unattractive 1960s office block. It made the new premises of two floors of 60 square metres each in the renovated Victorian warehouse seem spacious: “We’ve also got a great landlord who is very receptive to what we’re doing,” says Evans. “We keep him well informed, run things past him and he makes improvements, such as installing energy efficient lighting”.
Evans admits there was “a lot of head scratching” over what an FM does. But he quickly realised two things. People often pay FMs attention only when things go wrong, and FMs are the ones who will make a success of the 10:10 campaign to save energy and cut emissions.
Seeing as 10:10’s raison d’etre is to get organisations and people to commit to reducing their CO2 emissions, he has to show FMs that 10:10, too, is cutting emissions. Evans is effectively aligning the FM strategy with that of the business, a difficult enough task for many FMs with years of senior management experience.
While the official launch of 10:10 was at London’s prestigious Tate Modern, the office is down a narrow passageway in Camden Town. Visitors pass by two plastic pink flamingos in a flower pot (“left over from the previous tenant”) in the tiny front garden area and are let into the office, literally.
No fancy reception area here in the single first-floor 60 square metre open-plan room. Just 15 fresh young faces looking up when the self-conscious visitor arrives. Directly in front is the start of the untreated, roughly hewn inch-thick Norwegian birch-ply desk. People and laptops are dotted along it as it zig-zags its way to the far wall which is covered in makeshift bookshelves.
The bookshelf cinderblocks with an environmentally-friendly high-ash content were surplus at a builder’s yard. So was the wood for shelving, although some is from old desks at their previous office – call it recycling.
Carpeting is from a major floor-covering supplier at a knock down price, explains Evans. The multi-coloured tiles are from showroom contracts, trade shows and B-grade less-than-perfect batches.
One of the side walls is all blackboard and a step ladder is there for anyone who wants to reach for the heights to put up whatever message they wish.
On prominent show are the ever-increasing statistics of commitments: people, 57,800; businesses, 2,257; councils 140; health organisations, 102. “It’s a lot better than some faceless e-mail with stats attached to it,” says Evans.
The second floor “stairs are steep, mind your head” is the more quiet area, with a small IT and storage room off to one side. Several people are gathered around a large work table sitting in front of laptops and a meeting room is at the far end, with a big glass window making it feel larger.
A feature of the 10:10 commitment is that small changes may often be the only things needed to reach the goal, explains Evans. “In time I’d like to look at renewable energy on the roof and installing some internal insulation. But reflective radiation panels behind radiators like we installed can save up to 20 per cent of a heating bill.”
The zig-zag desk downstairs is the most efficient use of space, he says. But he envisages around 25 people will be working for 10:10 by next year, but not all will need desks. And desktop computers are not on his shopping list – too bulky, too much energy consumption and not portable which hampers mobile working. Only two are used in the office, one of which is used for company bookkeeping.
Some laptops will likely be bought but most employees use their own. It is, says Evans, a personal thing and similar to their personal mobile.
The 10:10 campaign is explicit as to what counts towards a carbon footprint and counting emissions is made simple (see box). Reduction in CO2 in those areas is the goal, but the ethos of carbon reduction goes deeper. In that respect, Evans tries to save CO2 emissions even if they are not counted towards their own campaign goal.
The zig-zag desk made of sustainable Norwegian wood is an example. So are the un-matching office chairs, picked up from Green Works, a social enterprise that recycles office equipment and the winner of the 2008 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development. “Very few of them match, but we’ve got 24 of the most funky desk chairs ever and I tell anyone that it’s first in the office in the morning gets their pick.”
Like business titles, ownership of space is not an issue. The freedom to move around – mobile working to the rest of us – is the way the people work at 10:10. But ownership of the business strategy is important. Everyone is aware of why they work there and that teamwork is essential.
It is, says Evans, more like a coop. “When we put up our shelving some people came in on the weekend to do it and brought in their children. In this way also we come together to save money. It gives all of us ownership in our office space.”
Spreading the 10:10 message
10:10, a not-for-profit company, staffed mostly by volunteers and all help is welcome. The campaign asks people and organisations to take a simple but meaningful action. Companies commit to aiming for a 10 per cent target. Even businesses on the road to becoming low-carbon operations will be making at least 3 per cent annual cuts. 10:10 is about becoming part of a business community that is doing the same. There are also specially designed targets for schools and other organisations.
10/10 was conceived by the team behind the 2008 film The Age of Stupid. Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite stars as a man living alone in the devastated future of 2055. He is looking at old footage from 2008 and asking why people didn’t top climate change when they had the chance.
Partner organisations for 10:10 include The Guardian, ActionAid, Comic Relief, the Energy Saving Trust, the Carbon Trust and the Public Interest Research Centre.