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Is co-working the solution to a greener future?

Words by Abi Scaife

It’s always tricky to get started in your own business - but when you need specialised equipment, it’s a whole different ballgame.

BLOQS is a London-based coworking space, but instead of being filled with desks and breakout rooms, it is filled with manufacturing equipment.

“We've got shared equipment, shared facilities, which people don't need to invest in,” says Al Parra, one of the co-founders and chief orator of BLOQS. “We have all of these tools because you can share them across a really wide community - so you share the overheads … and that makes everything affordable. That means that you [have] exactly the right tool for the right job.”

So it’s convenient, yes, but why is it so important? What does a shared, open-access factory really do for our world? The answer - more than you might think.

Al estimates that, if BLOQS somehow went out of business, as many as one-third of their members would have to get their own workshops. They would have to invest in their own solo workshops, and machinery, which not only takes up valuable land, but energy, too.

“Think of how often you use your Hoover,” says Al. “If you're really diligent, you might use it a few times a week. If you're like me, you might use it once a fortnight. If you and six or seven of your neighbours just [share] one, the energy expenditure and the cost would go down dramatically. It's the same principle on a much larger scale.”

BLO Qs Hero 09

The shared economy of BLOQS works on the same principle as sharing real estate, or clothing - two things which have become increasingly more popular in recent years. By sharing what already exists, we reduce the need to use virgin resources to create something new. Even if, for example, you rented out your t-shirt and washed it every time, it would take a long time to use up the water needed to create a new t-shirt - and that’s not even taking into account the materials used.

“There are other important aspects, environmentally, of doing everything together,” says Al. “There are efficiencies which can be done if you all use one space.”

BLOQS recoups all of the energy from any waste wood used in their factory, including off-cut and sawdust, recapturing it in their biomass boiler - something that would be difficult without the huge amount of users BLOQS sees daily.

“We covered a third of our roof spaces in solar panels; we are now generating 1/3 of our electricity needs from 1/3 of our roof space,” adds Al, sounding excited. “So if we can find a bit more money, we'll put solar all over the roof space, and then we'll be a sunlight-driven factory - that's something which can only happen when you all come together!”

From these energy sources, BLOQS heats their whole factory, including water for showers and more. 

BLOQS interiors and exteriors 01

“When we were much smaller, we put all our wood waste in a skip, and it went to landfill. [It] used to break our hearts every time the lorry came to take it away,” admits Al. “To work at scale, with the community and a building this size, we don't have to do that; you can recapture all of that energy.

If you've got hundreds of little workshops, you’re never going to be able to do that.”

Al also points out that, within a coworking space, any of your own waste material may well be useful to another business - whether as raw materials or to upcycle. The existence of BLOQS reminds us that humans were never meant to work in isolation - we’re supposed to collaborate, work together, and lean on each other.

By providing an adequate co-working space with machinery and equipment, BLOQS is levelling the playing field - creating better access to work, and encouraging a collaborative environment. Their passion for the planet takes that one step further, and truly means it is a company of the future.

BLOQS is the kind of company all should strive to be - one that has a vision for a better future, and uses it to create their path.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.   

Every Can Counts. This is a not-for-profit recycling programme, encouraging people to recycle more often, to protect our planet. Support them here.

Trees For Cities. They are working to plant more trees within large metropolitan areas, for the betterment of people and planet. Support them here.

Working Chance. This is a charity that helps women offenders make the transition into employment, helping them find paid work and offering voluntary placements. Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Affordable and Clean Energy, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Responsible Consumption and Production.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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