The Brighton Palace Pier is going green with big changes affecting packaging, the power supply and the way that waste is dealt with.
As one of the biggest employers in Brighton and one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country, the staff have also signed up to make a difference.
They put their names to a staff Team Charter to help the pier to become more sustainable – and just as the first pier’s vegan food outlet opens for business.
Food and beverage operations manager Remy Haudecoeur, 34, said: “It’s the right time to do this.”
Mr Haudecoeur was recently promoted from general manager of the Palm Court Restaurant and Bar and is the project manager for the pier going green.
He said: “I was always looking to do something like this. When I was promoted, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
And with the pier – unusually – having to close when a storm damaged roofing last month, the elements appeared to underline his eco push.
Mr Haudecoeur said: “The storm that we had was a good wake up call.
“The pier’s been here 120 years and if we don’t look after it then it won’t be here 120 years in the future. It’s the same with our planet.
“We won’t be using plastic packaging any more. It’s being replaced by wooden cutlery and vegware – and the vegware is plant-based and it’s compostable in 12 weeks.
“Previously we were using 600,000 items of plastic packaging, including 160,000 plastic water bottles – and those will be replaced with cans in a year.
“We’re working with Life Water which is a Brighton company. It’s part of trying to reduce our carbon footprint.
“It’s really important to us, especially when you think about our location – on the sea.”
There was so much more awareness of the importance of not dumping plastic in the sea, he said, since the Blue Planet – the David Attenborough programme – on BBC TV.
From the start of this month the pier has also switched its energy provider so that its electricity is sourced from a 100 per cent renewable supplier.
With the view of the Rampion Wind Farm from the pier, he said, it’s a reminder of what’s possible.
Mr Haudecoeur said that the pier had also signed a new waste contract, adding: “All the general waste and food waste is being separated before collection.”
This would cover not just the Palm Court Restaurant and Horatio’s bar but all the smaller food units too.
And the growing taste for sustainable food would be catered for with the pier’s first dedicated vegan outlet called Veg Up Your Day.
He said: “It sells 100 per cent plant-based food. And it will be the first food outlet on the pier to work on home delivery.
“The main menu includes 10 starters, 10 mains, and 10 desserts. And there’s a breakfast menu – and organics drinks.”
Mr Haudecoeur has been impressed by the enthusiasm for the Eco-Friendly Staff Team Charter.
He said: “I asked the staff if they’d sign a charter not to use plastic water bottles but use refillable bottles – and the same with coffee cups – and they jumped at it. We’ve bought one for everyone to start with, to help them.”
The pier employs about 170 people in the winter months and 500 in the summer, with many of them aged 18 to 25 years old.
He said: “Most of them are young and they’re all very aware of climate change and the environment.”
The storm at the start of November certainly emphasised climatic challenges, with the rare decision being made to close the attraction.
Mr Haudecoeur said: “The waves were coming over the side. It was like a proper hurricane. We decided to evacuate our staff.”
Although some roofing came off, it was fixed very quickly, he said.
The Brighton Palace Pier’s annual reports and accounts have laid bare the multimillion-pound cost of battling the elements and maintaining the draw for customers.
The sustainable changes come at a price too. Mr Haudecoeur said: “All the new packaging is more expensive but we looked for the best deal so we won’t have to put up process for our customers.
“But we are going to save money on food waste – so it’s swings and roundabouts.
“It’s never easy to change a big business but this is a good time to change things because it’s quieter than the summer – although it is still busy.”
We’re open throughout the winter, he said, and every day except Christmas Day. And while some may wish for a white Christmas, Mr Haudecoeur is just pleased that it will be greener.