As we assembled at Waterloo station, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. This was a first for Global Generation. We have worked closely with the construction contractors in King’s Cross since 2009, and, based on the workshops we have run for them in Kings Cross Skip Garden, we were asked if we could run a Sustainability Training programme for them down at our Pertwood campsite in Wiltshire, writes Jane Riddiford.
What might we have to offer a crew of mostly men, dealing with the hardcore realities of frontline construction?
The participants of our 48 hours together were from Kier and BAM Nuttall, two of the largest construction companies in the UK. On a daily basis, they are sourcing materials, working with tools and dealing with tonnes of waste.
How to make sense of the need for environmental action and sustainability beyond the legislated needs of compliance? Could we find a way to open up the bigger picture? Where do we and all things come from? How does it all connect?
The barriers began to drop between us as we sat around the fire at the campsite on the first night speaking about values. What value did each of us want to develop over the next few days?
A willingness to try new things seemed to permeate the group, so it wasn’t a hard ask to suggest that when we got up in the morning we would hold a silence between us.
Going on a long walk without speaking or city noise was a new experience for many. It provided an opportunity for the land, the sky and everything in between to come and meet us and say “hello”.
The Wiltshire Downs where Pertwood is based are dotted with Neolithic markings, dew ponds, burial mounds, an ancient field system and a plethora of flora and fauna missing from our cities and much of the countryside.
To understand the land we walked on, we journeyed back in time... Imagine billions of years ago when everything that now seems so solid was a molten ball of lava. Imagine how our ancestors lived. We foraged for food, and found flint and fibre. Ingenuity was applied to the making of tools and shelters, under which we could build a fire.
The conversation around our feast of local food went deeper that night. “How can we describe this experience? Everyone should experience it at least once… If we really understand what we are part of, it could help the construction industry become a better army for good.”
Innovation flowed on our final day, as designs were made for shelters, showers, gardens and energy systems – drawing from and contributing to the land around us.