Lifesaving boats to live on: RNLI and RCA search for sustainable solutions

Lifeguards News Release

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has been working with students from the Royal College of Art to find ways of upcycling old lifeboats, as part of the charity’s drive to send no waste to landfill by 2024.

Royal College of Art students' concept design for keyrings made out of part of a decommissioned lifeboat

Royal College of Art

Royal College of Art students' concept design for keyrings made out of part of a decommissioned lifeboat

The RNLI has been working with students at the Royal College of Art to come up with ideas for re-using materials from decommissioned lifeboats. The students were given boat materials that cannot currently be recycled, and were asked to come up with ideas for how those materials could be re-used to create products to help the charity raise vital funds, and promote its safety messages and its lifesaving work.

Ideas from the students included playground equipment to help the charity’s Youth Education team, keyrings that could be given out by the charity’s Face-to-Face fundraisers, and bespoke decorative brooches that could be sold in the RNLI’s shops.

Hannah Nobbs, Innovation Scout for the RNLI said, ‘It’s been great collaborating with the Royal College of Art and we are really excited to see the ideas from the different perspectives that the Royal College of Art students brought to the challenge of re-purposing waste. We’ll now look at their ideas and see which are options that we could use in future. Several of the students hadn’t heard of the RNLI before the project, and it was great to see them learning about the charity whilst coming up with innovative solutions.’

Kenny Arnold, Co-Leader of the project and student of Design Products at the Royal College of Art, said, ‘The main idea behind the Circular Harvest project is the belief that we can leave behind the old mentality of disposability by exploring ways of extending the life of materials through developing new products and services. Receiving the decommissioned D-Class in the post was an eye-opening experience. It was the moment when the idea really started to become reality. It wouldn’t have been possible without the RNLI’s openness and commitment to sustainability.’

Almha McCarten, a Textiles Design student at the Royal College of Art who participated in the project, said ‘Using waste material as a starting point for developing designs was challenging as I hadn’t thought about it that before. By focusing on what I could make with the material directly it made the process approachable and fun. I definitely intend to use this type of process again.’

The project comes as part of the lifesaving charity’s aim to send zero waste to landfill by 2024. This year, the RNLI have swapped plastic cups and plastic spoons for more sustainable alternatives at its headquarters – resulting in 198,000 plastic spoons and 172,000 plastic cups no longer being sent to landfill each year. The charity also changed plastic bags to paper bags in its shops.

The RNLI’s Face-to-Face fundraising team has also been looking at reducing plastic in their products and searching for sustainable and affordable alternatives.

Meanwhile, the charity has been moving to more sustainable energy alternatives at 48 of its sites around the country. This includes solar panels at 28 sites (including 18 lifeboat stations), a wind turbine installed at Aith Lifeboat Station in Scotland, and 28 ground source heat pumps at lifeboat stations and the charity’s Grace Darling Museum in Northumberland. This is helping to generate energy as well as money for the charity, as well as helping the charity to reduce its impact on the environment.

London is home to three RNLI lifeboat stations on the Thames: Chiswick RNLI, Teddington RNLI, and Tower RNLI next to Waterloo Bridge – which is also the RNLI’s busiest station.

Notes to editors

  • London is home to three RNLI lifeboat stations on the Thames: Chiswick RNLI, Teddington RNLI, and Tower RNLI. Tower RNLI is the charity’s busiest lifeboat station.

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email pressoffice@RNLI.org.uk

Royal College of Art students' concept design for brooches made from non-recyclable materials

Royal College of Art

Royal College of Art students' concept design for brooches made from non-recyclable materials
Royal College of Art students unpacking the decommissioned D class lifeboat for use in the project

Royal College of Art

Royal College of Art students unpacking the decommissioned D class lifeboat for use in the project
One of the Royal College of Art students' concept design for a brooch made from non-recyclable materials

Royal College of Art

One of the Royal College of Art students' concept design for a brooch made from non-recyclable materials
RNLI D-class lifeboat in action - similar to the decommissioned one that Royal College of Art students used in their project

RNLI/Nathan Williams

RNLI D-class lifeboat in action - similar to the decommissioned one that Royal College of Art students used in their project

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.

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