The RNLI’s search for sustainable solutions
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is making progress towards its goal to send zero waste to landfill by 2024.
So far this year, the lifesaving charity has 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 has also switched plastic bags to paper bags in its shops – charged at 15p each to cover the charity’s cost to make them.
For the past decade, the charity has also 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 various lifeboat stations and the charity’s Grace Darling Museum in Northumberland. This is helping to generate energy as well as money for the charity, and is also helping the charity to reduce its impact on the environment.
Recently, the RNLI has been working with students at the Royal College of Art to come up with solutions for re-using non-recyclable materials from decommissioned lifeboats. Students at the Royal College of Art were given material from an old D-class lifeboat and were given one week to come up with innovative solutions to give the material a new lease of life. The students were asked to create something that could 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.
Anna Frizzell, Sustainability Manager for the RNLI said, ‘We’re always looking for more solutions to make the RNLI more sustainable. It was great working with the Royal College of Art: the students came up with some really interesting ideas for re-using the non-recyclable material from our lifeboats, and we’ll now look at these ideas to see which options we could use in the future. As a charity, we’re committed to ensuring our supporters’ donations are spent wisely, and if we’re able to re-use materials for other purposes then we can ensure that money goes further.’
The RNLI already recycles its lifejackets when they reach the end of their service. The latest collection Since 1824 uses yellow fabric from the inflatable inner section of the lifejacket. The items are all skillfully crafted by hand in the UK, and vary in colour, detail and finish depending on the unique history of the lifejacket it was made from.
RNLI media contacts
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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, in a normal year, 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.