A case study - Carnegie Great Outdoors: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Gavin Booth from Carnegie Great Outdoors (CGO) talks to Beckett Sustainability about how they have worked to reduce their environmental impact as a service.
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Gavin Booth with repaired canoes

CGO undertake a wide range of outdoor activities with hundreds of clients a year. They use lots of clothing and equipment during their activities and much of it experiences harsh environments and heavy wear & tear in use. I spoke to Gavin about some of the many measures they have put in place to minimise their environmental impact, extend the working life of equipment and avoid products that are end of life, becoming waste.

CGO have approximately 600 wetsuits and they suffer a hard service life. In the first instance when they have large holes they are initially repaired onsite at Headingley, or offsite by a local Bramley based company called Aqualand. Eventually they reach the point where they are no longer serviceable. Recently they donated 100kg of “waste” neoprene wetsuits to the School of Arts, diverting it from the general waste stream. This will be reused by students on both the BA Fashion and BA Product Design courses as part of their studies and some of it will doubtless find its way into new garments, creating a more circular rather than a disposable economy, at least in part.

Over time Gavin expects CGO will produce more waste wetsuits than the School of Arts need. He is currently negotiating with TikiSurf a Devon based wetsuit manufacturer, who will take back these wetsuits and arrange to recycle them as part of the polluter pays principle. He is even looking at when they will have a vehicle heading that way as part of their program so he can minimise the carbon footprint from transport.

wet suit showing rear patch

Tents sleeping bags and caving overalls are repaired again at Aqualand or in-house. Once more this extends as far as possible their service life and minimises cost and consumption.

CGO use many Canadian canoes thought the year and repeatedly dragging them in and out of the water from the shore wears away at the bottom of the bow. Left unrepaired Canadian canoes last around 4 seasons of use. By repairing the canoes and adding “Skid Plates” to the base CGO can effectively double the working life of the canoes to eight years and potentially more, keeping down cost and reducing resource usage.

Climbing Equipment is obviously primarily safety critical and so lengthening their service life is not an option. Ropes are retired after a maximum of 5 years, or prior to that, if they fail a safety inspection. Retired ropes are downgraded to non-safety critical uses for example for raft building. Some of the retired harnesses are re-worked into caving belts where they serve to improve the fit of oversuits rather than function as PPE. Again, this minimizes both consumption and cost as well as reducing environmental impact. Recently CGO has switched their water sports helmet supplier to Palm helmets because as well as being competitive on price and functionality, when the Helmets are at the end of their lifespan, Palm will take them back and take responsibility for recycling them

I spoke to Gavin about what motivated him to start to make these changes as no-one had compelled him and his response was straightforward. “When you have kids you start to think about this stuff (he didn’t actually say stuff) and you think, we have to do everything we can to get our waste down.”

Sustainability are keen to work with other schools and services to look at ways they can also bring about sustainable change. Our Green Impact scheme currently has 14 teams made up of academic and service colleagues working to help make our university more sustainable. We will be relaunching Green Impact for 2020 on February 27th.

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By Dave Prince
19 Oct 2021
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