Why York Handmade is built on sustainable foundations

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Why York Handmade is built on sustainable foundations

Brick is not only one of the most attractive of building materials, it is also one of the most sustainable. It is a natural, quality and maintenance-friendly product which is durable during all phases of its life cycle – from its construction phase with the use of raw materials through to the production process to packaging. Meanwhile the porous structure of bricks offers a huge advantage: the ability to accumulate heat. In winter, during sunny days, bricks can store heat from the sun and radiate the energy back when necessary. During the summer they can combat the heat and thus avoid overheating a building.

This sustainable nature of bricks is something of which we are very proud here at York Handmade. We are very careful to manage and monitor the many things that brick-makers do that affect the environment. This includes monitoring emissions and managing their use to reduce them as far as possible. For example our new efficient dryer, built in-house, facilitated a drop in gas use of 20% as part of our continual drive for improvement. It also means having emergency contingency plans in the unlikely event of any spillages.

We also have full waste audits so we know where our waste is going and ensure as much as possible is reduced, reused or recycled. You might think all this would be a given, but if you are buying bricks sourced from the Punjab belt, we are not sure they could tick any of these boxes. This underlines why it is absolutely crucial to know where your bricks have been manufactured.

As a local business we have an annual turnover of nearly £3,000,000, much of which is spent locally with suppliers and contractors. We also employ 30 local people. We have been trading since 1988 on a very consistent basis, playing our role in helping to sustain the local economy.

Our redundant quarry provided a landfill site for 20 years. The methane gas is captured and providing 0.5 MW of electric energy per year the local grid. Our new quarry site, next to our factory, has gone through environmental impact assessments and requires approval from the water board, the environment agency and the local authority, which needs a full restoration plan for when it is finished.  The quarry will undergo ecology, hydrology and even archaeological surveys. All this is underpinned by law with the directors responsible we do not satisfy all these organisations.

York Handmade Factory pond and reservoirOur 35-acre acre site houses a restored quarry pond (pictured) which supplies water to the factory, thus reducing our demand on mains water. This water, which cycles through the factory, mixing only with inert materials such as clay and sand, warms up the water and aerates it to the benefit of the fish. The pond is regularly fished and has at least a dozen species of very healthy fish and has done since 1988. The renowned Gatsby Plant Centre send their students here every year because of the wide spectrum of plant species they can find, including the relatively rare bee orchid.

Ultimately, we are really passionate about consumers being able to make informed choices about the credentials and provenance of their products and are very happy to host visits around the factory to help reassure them that our environmental credentials really are what they say they are. We are relentless in looking for more sustainable ways of working so we can look after our planet for future generations. And we are proud to do so.