Features / Environment

Bristol’s sustainable business success stories

By ellie pipe, Tuesday Jan 8, 2019

From the outside, it could be any ordinary business park, but take a wander round and it’s clear Filwood Green has something a bit different to offer.

It was the people of south Bristol who came up with the idea for an eco-friendly centre that puts sustainability at the heart of all it does, while providing much-needed local jobs and industry.

Filwood Green Business Park opened in 2015 and from its grass-topped roof and recycled furniture, to the big wooden planters and dedicated drying room for cyclists, it remains ahead of the curve with its environmental ethos.

A workshop in the factory wing of Knowle West Media Centre. Photo by Nathalie Schenk

The Factory focuses on upcycling and sustainable materials. Photo by Nathalie Schenk

Over in one of the ground floor units, a workshop is underway in the factory wing of Knowle West Media Centre.

A pleasant scent of woodchip lingers in the air and there’s a small display of intricate laser-cut finished pieces, while most of the expansive space is dedicated to machinery, tools and worktops.

It is in here that the unique recycled furniture used throughout the business park was created.

Ian says the workshop helps provide skills and training for local people. Photo by Nathalie Schenk

“Our ethos is focused on recycling and using sustainable resources,” explains Ian Abbott, who runs the community-led maker-space

“Plus, we form part of the circular economy because local people produce those items.”

Reflecting on the Factory’s HQ, Ian says Filwood Green Business Park is attracting more and more interest, although he says it is still a challenge getting people to know it’s there.

Sarah says Filwood Green boosts local business growth and provides jobs for people in south Bristol

Sarah Classick, Filwood Green’s enterprise support officer, explains that the park works hard to encourage sustainable businesses, with a strong environmental ethos and a local connection.

A broad mix of companies are in residence, enabling businesses to forge local connections and supply chains.

“For so long, south Bristol has not had the growth and development it needed, so we encourage businesses that have strong links to the area, building growth and job opportunities,” says Sarah.

In the midst of the economic downturn, Bristol City Council successfully applied for just shy of £5.5m of European Regional Development funding to make the project – part of the regeneration of Knowle West and Filwood – a reality.

It has also received £6.2m funding from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership’s Revolving Infrastructure Fund and the building meets the highest environmental standard – BREEAM Outstanding.

It was fitting that the father and son team behind Revolutionworks should opt to move into a unit here in 2017. The pair are in the process of revolutionising cycling for many with their invention that turns any regular bike into an e-bike.

Hugo is working to make his business as sustainable as possible. Photo by Nathalie Schenk

“It is the lightest e-bike you can possibly get,” says the brains behind the idea, Hugo Palmer, who is working with his dad, Mark, to produce the mechanism for the mass market.

Aside from the obvious benefits of promoting more sustainable transport, the company takes every effort to minimise its impact on the environment, with measures that include stripping packaging back to the bare minimum.

“I was absolutely on board with optimising from the start,” explains Hugo. “So, this facility could not be better – it’s exactly what we were looking for.”

Revolutionworks moved to Filwood Green in 2017. Photo by Nathalie Schenk


While a localised approach is gradually producing positive change in south Bristol, a few miles into the centre, the city’s flagship shopping centre is also doing its bit to promote sustainability.

Stephanie Lacey, general manager for Cabot Circus, says that ‘self-generation’ is a key focus within the centre, with measures in place to mitigate the economic, social and environmental impacts.

Photovoltaic panels on the roof of Cabot Circus generate electricity for the centre

Cabot Circus’ photovoltaic panels, installed on the roof, started generating energy in January this year and the newly-upgraded rainwater harvesting system provides precipitation for use in public toilets.

A Biowhale – an innovative on-site anaerobic digester that converts food waste into gas – has been also been installed in the centre. Between January and September, this converted 253.54 tonnes of food waste, the equivalent weight of 40 elephants.

Read more: Can Bristol crowdfund its way to a sustainable future?

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