Hull, UK, hosted a Green Vision Summit on Monday where businesses and interest groups across the spectrum were invited to contribute to thinking on how the City could enhance its green credentials. Hull CC’s environment portfolio holder Martin Mancey wants to see the city improve public transport, create more green spaces and promote the work of green community projects. Green has the potential to transform the city but we need to express this in ways that can generate jobs. This means a sustainable agenda that can inspire people to think green as a means to improve life and career prospects and, every business to think green to build new products; shape more sustainable supply chains and grow new markets.
There is no doubt that Hull has made significant strides recently on the triple bottom line of economics; social and the environment. The Green Port Hull Project can act as an economic catalyst to serve the offshore windfarms as well as nurture a second wave of Hull and Humber firms in global energy markets; Recycling has made significant strides in Hull and, with cycle pathways and usage awareness is more than skin deep. Hull is making progress but, this is not enough. Everywhere else is NOT standing still and many places are building momentum with nothing like the green and blue assets that Hull and Humber have. We need to up the pace. Let’s look at three key areas:
1. The built environment. How many people know that Hull College has a state of the art construction centre designed to champion and lead on green technologies in the construction sector? How many people know that Hull is a top five city on cycle use and, that Hull has a lead on recycling. Now is the time to forge ahead. What can be done to explore ideas like Arup’s sustainable cities initiative that transformed Manchester into a green belt of vertical gardens and, rooftop vegetable gardens? What about using the cargo railtracks from the port as a commuter service around 9 and 17 each day? More specifically, what can be done to challenge the way we use energy in the home and at work now? What about smart metres in every home so that we now 24/7 what we are using and, can see the impact of changing our pattern of usage. If you don’t think that this is important just try reading your latest utility bill and translating that into what to do for the best on green!
The BIG idea. What about a pedestrian island in the shape of the Old Town? This would mean all roads within the island closed to motor transport – except delivery vehicles and short hop buses. The island is bounded by Queens Gardens to the North; the marina to the West; the River Hull to the East and, the Humber to the South. See the map.
2. The jobs. Hull has high unemployment; a low skills base and, has failed to attract premier league multinationals to the area – until now. Siemens and Green Port Hull can be the catalyst for a new industry and, generate jobs.
Much has been said of the job bonanza that will come from the wind turbines offshore. This optimism needs to be tempered by a realistic assessment of skills now / next / needs. What are the skills we have in the workforce and, what is the message that is given to high school students on what they should be aiming for?
It is crazily optimistic to suppose that in a city with high levels of unemployment and areas blighted by long term unemployment that young people would have any clear idea of the jobs of the future. After all, over 50% of the jobs of the future have yet to be invented and, many of our local youth have little or no direct experience of jobs now. If we are to lead on green then we have to understand what this means and communicate accordingly. What about looking hard at how we educate youth. In Latin (the original meaning of the word for education is educare – which means to bring out. What can be done to nurture the sustainable agenda to the full?
3. The supply chain. Green is not a PR exercise; it is a means to transform any business and in this context we can learn from logistics. These days, supply chains not companies compete and this means that SMEs need to ensure that they are part of a better, cheaper and faster supply chain than their competitors. German industry is full of SMEs (the Mittelstand) that do exactly this and concentrate on B2B (Business to Business) business rather than direct to the consumer. Each supply chain has to focus on:
- Facilities. Are the buildings we work in sustainable? What are we doing on building materials; energy use and waste? Do we even know where we are now so that we can measure progress? Can we learn from elsewhere?
- Materials handling equipment. This can mean everything from truck fleets to fork lifts. What is the impact of reduced speed? For example, every shipowner in the world is slowing their fleet down and, using the ship as a warehouse in transit instead of dashing from A to B without thinking of smoothing the journeys.
- Products and packaging. Are we exploring sustainable options from the design stage? This can mean everything from reducing the packaging on all products – just look at the cardboard and plastic used to “package” the weekly shop. What about being the City that champions sustainable packaging for ALL companies working within the Region? This could mean workshops sharing ideas on how to achieve this.
- Energy use. What is the right energy mix for products processes and people in the city and beyond? Clarity on this should set the agenda. German cities are already using urban waste (some of it imported from the UK) to generate energy. Meanwhile, in the UK Venture Capital companies advise against this feedstock and for wood chip – which is proven technology but the increase in demand will generate a wood war as companies and projects compete for scarce resource.
Anybody involved in the sustainability agenda will speak of re-cycling and re-use. Why don’t we apply this to the built environment? Here’s an idea that builds from the New Generation slogan that one delegate coined.
Take a map of the city and re-think the space. Walk out of the railway station and cross the street. Imagine that we are now walking Green Boulevard all the way to the Humber – every step of the way will be pedestrian only and, the trail will feature trees every step of the way; an urban arborium in fact. We walk to Queen Victoria Square and can go East to the River Hull via Whitefriargate or, South towards Humber Street Artists Quarter and the Humber.
Green Boulevard East takes us down a re-vitalised Whitefriargate and on past the Land of Green Ginger to the High Street; the museum quarter and the River Hull walkway to the Deep. Green Boulevard South takes us past Trinity House; over the Castle Street traffic moat and into the Humber Street Artists Quarter. I say moat because Lisbon has a similar Artists Barrio that is “cut off” from the rest of the city by a road and a railway line. Let’s stop talking about “cut and cover” and start talking about what can be done at little or no expense. Built the Artist and Innovation Quarter beyond the moat!
Back in Medieval times the towns of Europe had no such thing as industrial estates and separate residential neighbourhoods; people lived and worked in one and the same place. The same is now true of the Favelhas of Brazil; the shanty towns of South Africa and, the slums of India. Take a walk in Dharavi, the scene of Slum Dog Millionaire and you will see a place where 1 million people live in 550 acres. You will also see an area with a turnover of $1 billion a year and a place where recycling has been developed into a way of life. No one is suggesting a return to these Dickensian conditions but what could happen is this.
The Humber Street Arts Quarter should be accelerated to do what is says on the tin. Drop the rates to build the community; incentivise; run a regular street market; attract artists and artisans – do everything to build footfall and support this with a social media blitzkrieg that reinforces momentum.
And then, in the middle of that innovation community close by the river Hull and the Humber Estuary re-think and re-model the use of one of the buildings. Re-cycle the place into a place where the skills of the future – the skills that can make products and supply chains sustainable – are on stage. The University of Hull is a leader in computer graphics used by the video games industry; the Logistics Institute works with some of the leading simulation and simulator companies that can give youth a chance to experience work on everything from cranes to oil rigs; trucks to welding equipment. This could be the chance to simulate and emulate green supply chains. Given this platform, other ideas can take shape to help that process of imagining the jobs of the future and helping to shape the skills that can make this happen.
BIG IDEA 2. The Skills Lab – a laboratory or DO-TANK for re-thinking products; packaging; processes and supply chains in a sustainable manner. We have all heard of Siemens in relation to the Green Port and turbines off the coast. How many people know that Siemens is again the uncontested leader in patent applications in Europe – that is 2,235 patent applications. How many of these product ideas have a manufacturing home or hub? We could use the DO-TANK to simulate and emulate design and delivery for all sorts of jobs and supply chains.
This is the agenda for New Generation thinking and fresh practice. It can happen in Hull and, if not, it will happen elsewhere. This is not the time to play catch up. This is the time to lead.