Ian Brown: green solutions to waste and recycling at Bradford College and beyond

Ian Brown, left, with one of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian Brown, left, with one of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian Brown is Bradford College’s Building Services Manager. He has travelled from being a temporary porter to his current post: head of building services, responsible for 137 building supervisors, porters and cleaning staff across 14 College buildings.

And along the way he has transformed the College into a centre of recycling, restoring and re-use, improving our cleaning and porterage and setting up the College-based business Green Solutions to provide low cost services to organisations and individuals across 2013 finalist 300 dpiBradford. We are delighted and proud that Ian has been named as a finalist in this year’s prestigious Green Gown Awards.

The hub of all the activity is Garden Mills, a former textile mill conveniently situated at the lower end of the College campus, and close to the City Centre. A few years ago it was filled with rubble but, true to form, Ian and his team cleared it and transformed it into a viable facility, a base for Green Solutions and the College’s cleaning, porterage, storage, recycling and safe disposal services.

“I’m a working class kid done good,” Ian says. “I’ve been on the shop floor, and I never shy away from hard work. All my staff can see that, and we have a fantastic team spirit.”

Ian (on the far right) with members of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian (on the far right) with members of the Building Services and Green Solutions team.

Ian grew up in Outwood, Wakefield. He left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications:

“I was a tearaway – the dole office was next door and I just jumped over the fence and signed on as unemployed.” A series of short term jobs followed, including portering in hospitals and labouring on building sites. “The best thing was I always played lots of rugby at a decent level,” Ian explains. “But I didn’t settle so I went travelling overseas. I came back for just two months, got a portering job here at Bradford College – and it stuck!”

The manager who hired Ian to work at Bradford College clearly saw some potential: he was gradually given more responsibility, taking charge of big clear-outs and running the Junction Mills building. He started studying, and he wrote a book about Castleford rugby player Alan Hardisty. “I got lots of compliments for the book,” Ian says. “I can see now it was a time I was discovering and developing skills.”

Ian was made Head Porter, and gained a Diploma in Management Studies in the following year. The course was pivotal: he used it as an opportunity to re-assess the College cleaning and porterage service. “I found that the porters were handling a lot of the waste, which took time,” Ian says, “and then the College was paying for it to be taken away. I researched where the waste was going and what it cost us, and I realised we could reduce the College’s carbon footprint and help the College make a profit at the same time.”

His recommendations helped him become Building Services Manager. “And the environmental work all came from that,” Ian says. He is now continually exploring new ways to help improve the College’s environmental impact.

“I hate waste – waste of money, materials, resources, even operational processes. I like to stop and look at why we do things, and how we do them – are they quick and efficient? Do they avoid waste? It’s not about people losing jobs – if anything, you can have staff who have something in them but are stifled by a procedure. I like to give all the team training and opportunities, and as a result some of them go on to bigger things.”

Another important principal for Ian is reasonable pricing: Green Solutions offers a number of services free, and others at very competitive prices. “We want to cover our costs, and to generate surplus that can help us improve the College environment,” he says. “But it’s also important we get more people recycling and discovering the benefits of fixing and adapting what’s already here.”

Garden Mills: a hub for recycling, re-using, storage and environmental initiatives and courses.

Garden Mills: a hub for recycling, re-using, storage and environmental initiatives and courses.

Garden Mills is well worth a visit – Ian gives guided tours, and gives students work experience. The Bradford Bike Hub is in the building, a centre for bike purchases, repairs, meet-ups and more. Upstairs is the Sector Skills Academy for Environmental Technologies. Nearby is the allotment at Garden Mills, redeveloped through Ian supporting the College’s award-winning Students’ Union in its bid to the Student Eats and its Time to Grow project. Food grown on the allotment has been used in the College kitchens, and taken home by the student volunteers. Plans are afoot to develop the area further.

Ian has become a man with a strong vision for the College. He sums up his team’s approach: “We chase what some people think are lost causes, and we recycle and restore what’s useful.”

Interview and text by Ruth Wilson. Photos by Paula Solloway and Ruth Wilson.

The Green Solutions stats: August 2013

Retailers 32
Manufacturers 11
Restaurants 4
Large organisations and education institutions 10

Monthly recycling averages to end of July 2013
Card: 14762.5 kg per month
Paper: 13645.83 kg per month
Metal: 1517.583 kg per month
Plastic: 256.4167 kg per month
Average monthly income: £3,015.19 Per month

Furniture restore and reuse store (to April 2013)
Number of items of furniture reused: 8,774
Items sold at low cost to local businesses, community members, staff and students: 762
Landfill saving: 94,737 kg
Cost saving: £291,414