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Submitted by Education on Wed, 26/06/2013 - 00:00

As you’ve probably already heard, this year we’re becoming green. Indeed, sustainability has become something of an office mantra in the build up to this weekend’s Open Studios. Green, green, green… Our conscience is white, our deeds are green.

Or are they?

With only three days to go until the much anticipated day of our Open Studios, we’re taking a moment to reflect on what we’ve achieved and what we could have done better. The deep breath before the plunge, if you will.

During our recent efforts to act more sustainably, we’ve had to acknowledge that being sustainable involves many different lines of approach and that carrying out the one is certainly proving to be more difficult than carrying out the other. These last few weeks have taught us that our responsibilities concern both social and environmental interests and that acting upon the former comes decidedly more naturally to us than acting upon the latter.

As we’ve explored before, ‘giving back’ to your community makes up an important part of sustainability. This year we’ve truly - and we mean truly – done our best to do just that. Rather than source our suppliers and contributors according to competitive rates, we’ve decided to look no further than home. In an attempt to interact with our immediate surroundings, then, we’ve aimed to engage as many local businesses and charities to be part of our Open as possible.

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Local involvement during this year’s Open Studios stretches from areas such as entertainment, right the way over to drinks and food. Whilst London based bands Cook and the Case and The Vamp will be playing on Saturday night, the East End community group Bubble Club are sending down four of their DJs on the Sunday afternoon. What’s more, the beer we’ll be serving is brewed only four miles down the road in Hackney by London Fields Brewery. We’ll also be selling organically-sourced Butler’s Gin which, again from Hackney, will be making an equally short journey down to our studios. Still closer yet is the East End Women’s Institute who, located less than two miles away from Bow Road in Bethnal Green, will be supplying us with cake and tea. Beating the lot in terms of proximity however, are Bow’s local Three Bees who will be providing some delicious vegetarian eats on the Saturday eve. Oh, and then of course we mustn’t forget our very own Michael Needham, the Carmelite Cafe’sproprietor, who will be serving all sorts of local treats sourced from local and independent suppliers.

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By sourcing our products from local and independent organisations in this way, we’ve both reduced the need for transport and any resultant environmentally harmful emissions and successfully supported small and growing businesses. If anything it’s been easier, and certainly a pleasure.

Becoming environmentally sustainable by contrast has been slightly more complicated. Where to begin? Well, that’s exactly what we’ve been asking ourselves. Recycling and keeping waste to a minimum seemed to be an attainable aim. So that’s where we started.

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Last week we told you about our artist swap shop where we encouraged artists to avoid the production of unnecessary rubbish by alternately swapping unwanted goods amongst each other. What’s more, for the Open itself we have purchased a number of recycling bins and created some advisory signs which will hopefully not only help us discard bottles and cups appropriately but also educate some of our visitors on the rights and wrongs of recycling.

For a while we also deliberated over whether, instead of using plastic cups, we should purchase vegware beakers - eco friendly catering disposables - which are both compostable and sustainably-sourced. Eventually, however, we agreed that the concept might still be confusing to some and should therefore be revisited for next year’s Open. Which is why, for now, we have opted for a compromise and have decided not to give you any cups at all. If you’re drinking beer that is (it comes in bottles). Drinkers of wine and soft drinks will be given fully recyclable cups. Moreover, Saturday’s food (which does not come in bottles) will be served on biodegradable plates with biodegradable cutlery!

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You see, our attempts at attaining environmental sustainability are slightly more humble than our attempts at attaining social sustainability. Nevertheless, we’ve seen a marked improvement from last year, no doubt helped by having Green Team representation throughout the entire planning process. We have also learnt a great deal from this year’s experience and are already busy planning possible improvements to next year’s Open.