What We Do
The Warehouse exists to promote, educate and inspire sustainability and positive environmental change.
How We Do It
Providing meeting, office, retail and public display space to the local community and organisations that believe in what we do.
What We Aim To Do
Create a carbon neutral and zero waste building that is accessible to everybody in Birmingham.
Welcome to Warehouse.
The Warehouse is Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s environmental community building which is home to our campaigns activity, meeting space, the vegan Warehouse Cafe, Well Rooted Wholefoods and Sprocket Cycles. We also have office spaces which are tenanted by organisations that share our values. A recent refurbishment has transformed and increased our space, made it much more accessible and helped us save energy. We want it to continue and grow as a place where people can meet to make environmental and social change happen.
If you’re interested in booking a venue, check out our venue for hire here.
A little history…
Decades of activism have made it what it is today – Friends of the Earth (Birmingham) Limited, a cooperative, first moved into the Warehouse in 1977. Friends of The Earth local groups in the late 70s were often involved in practical projects that were innovative at the time – insulation and recycling projects, wholefood retailing, and the Warehouse was originally an incubator for such enterprises, many of which still exist today. We recently completed this heritage project – where you can read more about our history.
… and now
We’d identified the need to use our space better, increase our energy efficiency and make our building more accessible – in particular, moving the cafe downstairs and creating lift access to the top floor. In 2016 we ran a community share offer and raised £240,000 to make this plan a reality. Social enterprise The Jericho Foundation were contracted to deliver this. It was a challenging time, but we are really proud of what we achieved together – the end result is a spectacular transformation.
Our values within the building
In light of our environmental campaigning, we ask our tenants and volunteers to follow the building’s environmental policies for example in recycling, energy use, purchasing, minimising waste, and sustainable travel. We also encourage our tenants and our own staff and volunteers to support the other enterprises and organisations in the building and to share resources with each other to avoid waste.
While the refurbishment has achieved a lot we still have some way to go to increase our energy, water and resource-efficiency and as we emerge from the building project we are transferring our efforts into this.
Birmingham Friends of the Earth is registered as a Community Benefit Society – a type of cooperative – under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act. The Warehouse is run with the aim of being affordable to organisations that share our values but providing enough revenue to cover our basic costs. The rest of our funding comes from supporters and from fundraising activities including providing services at music festivals.
Still want to know more? Here is more history of The Warehouse…
Birmingham Friends of the Earth started in 1972. We wanted not just to campaign, but to demonstrate practical solutions to environmental problems in the local community.
We moved into the Warehouse on Allison St, Digbeth on 1st April, 1977.
It was cold, damp and full of rotting lentils – but it was affordable and had plenty of space, so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
At first, we just wanted the building for recycling purposes, but then we realised the possibilities.
In October 1979 a charitable arm was established – The Birmingham Environmental Educational Project, aka BEEP. We bought The Warehouse with a grant from West Midlands County Council and help from supporters.
As well as the desire to demonstrate good environmental practise, we also had a strong belief in co-operative working.
Newsletters sent out throughout the 70s and 80s documented the continued commitment of volunteers and workers – everyone mucked in with the cooking, cleaning and building.
We learnt on the job and grew our knowledge in a range of skills – not many workplaces offered that variety of experience…
…and we still do!
The need to maintain and improve The Warehouse is on-going, and we have so much to offer – get in touch to volunteer with The Warehouse.
Campaigning is of course at the heart of what BFoE does. Energy, pollution, wildlife, transport, recycling and foodhave always been the focus of our efforts.
Energy was one of the earliest campaigns that BFoE got involved in – the anti-nuclear campaign in Birmingham was led by Birmingham Anti-Nuclear Group (BANG).
BFoE played a leading part in the campaign to remove lead from petrol and later worked with the Campaign for Lead Free Air (CLEAR).
The wildlife campaigns initially concentrated efforts on changing international legislation on the big issues of the day. For the cause of Whales and Endangered Species we built a 12ft model of a sperm whale and paraded it through the streets of London!
Since then the decision was made to focus on local issues, working with local groups and communities on protecting urban wildlife. This led to the eventual formation of the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust.
Some of our campaign asks are enormous – like save the oceans – we will never win in our lifetime, and don’t expect to. But we have had more specific successes. We’ve been successful in defending small pockets from land developers, such as Moseley Bog.
From the mid-80s Acid Rain was the main focus, with joint activities with European Youth Forest Action. There was also activity to ban Pesticides – many of which are now banned!
We wanted to demonstrate there were cyclists in Birmingham so we started mass participation events – 1000 people turned up to the first one.
From 1979 Pushbikes was meeting with Birmingham City Council and persuaded them to produce pothole cards.
By 1981 they were campaigning for the use of some pedestrian underpasses by cyclists, better cycle racks and cycle lanes on roads – from 1984 we saw the first signed backstreet bike route in Birmingham from Moseley to the city centre.
By the mid-eighties, we saw campaigns by BFoE against the deregulation of the buses and the M6 Toll Road.
Awareness was raised through the sale of recycled paper products, and campaigning for bottle banks and commenting extensively on the City Council’s draft Waste Disposal Plan in 1981.
BFoE was into nutrition before it was cool – campaigning for reducing sugar intake, using wholewheat flour and wholefoods. We ran the Wholefood School of Nutrition for a few years and raised funds by catering at events.
In the 80s we ran campaigns banning battery farms and promoting free-range eggs.
Leading by example by demonstrating solutions through practical action has always been a key part of the BFoE ethos. Some of the activities we’ve ran have evolved directly into separate companies!
Over the years we’ve led on insulation and recycling projects in particular.
Home Insulation Project was a major part of BFoE’s work in the 70s and 80s, and insulated 500 homes a year during that time. We carried out insulation and draught-proofing work, and gave energy advice, prioritising old and vulnerable people.
BFoE led the way in the collection of goods for recycling – first collecting paper, cans and foil by van, and later furniture and carpets. At our height (1985-6), the recycling collections covered about 40,000 households and 21 areas of Birmingham! Soon after that Birmingham Council started doing door-to-door collections.
Various schemes have been taken on to improve green spaces around the City. There has been a particular emphasis on growing good and creating tree nurseries. In 1980, a larger project Greensite was set up to work on improving green spaces in the community. For example, Monyhull hospital was a large mental health facility in Kings Norton that was becoming increasingly detached from the natural environment, so BFoE linked up with the residents and staff to create a pond, chicken and rabbit run in 1983.
Education & Publication
Education has always been a key part of BFoE’s activities to expose workers and the community to BFoE’s ideas. Over the years, we’ve:<
- Published cookbooks, information sheets, directories and guides
- Hosted exhibitions, evening classes and talks to schools & societies
- Toured The Insulation Roadshow with the Birmingham Environmental Educational Project (BEEP) Bus
- Created videos on insulation and pollution
The Journey So Far…
BFoE has grown into a highly regarded organisation in Birmingham while still maintaining our cooperative ethos. We have regular dialogues with councillors, businesses and city leaders.
We’ve survived two major fires, financial crisis and endless roof leaks. We’ve always found a way through and continues to do so.
Todays BFoE workers and volunteers are working hard for a better future for our local community and planet Earth.
We’re grateful for any help you can offer.