What is at the heart of Meadowhall? Its customers, yes, its retailers, yes.
But would you have ever thought that the environment was at the heart of a shopping centre? Probably not, but it plays a big role at Meadowhall.
Darren Pearce, centre director, said the shopping centre has a strong focus on the environment and the community it serves and is ‘leading the way’ with its ideas and solutions.
The initiatives are probably not what would be expected from a huge organisation which has 8,500 staff at peak times, attracts 25 million customers a year and generates more than £900 million in retail sales. They are, as Darren describes them, ground breaking.
Harvested rainwater provides 50 per cent of the water consumption of the centre. But it’s what happens during the summer when there is far less rainfall that is really ground breaking. A bore hole has been drilled into the ground and huge pipes – near the entrance to Next – extracting water from an underground river, to supplement the harvested rainwater and help flush the dozens of toilets around Meadowhall along with other facilities.
Meadowhall inevitably produces thousands of tonnes of waste each year.
The centre also boasts the country’s first resources recycling centre at a shopping centre, meaning that none of its waste ever goes to landfill.
Since opening in 2005, the facility has recycled thousands of tonnes of waste, sorting through waste from the centre’s stores, separating cans, cardboard, paper, plastic and other items for recycling.
The on-site recycling centre employs people with autism and is run in partnership with The Love Street Project.
A new strategy was developed last year, which has resulted in recycling levels doubling from 30 per cent to 60 per cent – with a target of nearer 70 per cent by the end of the financial year.
Darren said: “There is a lot more segregation of food waste. We’ve also done lots of simple things like introducing colour coded bins.”
Meadowhall has teamed up with ReFood, based in Doncaster, to turn all the food waste generated in the Oasis into bioenergy and fertilisers.
Energy consumption is another area which Darren is particularly proud of.
Meadowhall consumes millions of kilowatt hours of electricity each year, but this has already been cut by 38 per cent and is due to fall by over half.
And the shopping centre is set to be the first in the country to have LED lights fitted throughout the whole of its mall area.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found out we would be the first,” said Darren.
“I went round other shopping centres – like the Trafford Centre in Manchester and Lakeside in Essex – like I often do, looking up at all the lights.
“All the new shopping centres haven’t done it. You go around them thinking they surely must have, but they haven’t.”
Through the creative use of retrofit lamps and new installations, the centre has managed to save £25,000 a month.
Also high on the agenda for Darren is promoting green transport and making staff and customers more environmentally conscious.
The centre ploughs £1 million into public transport each year.
More than 50 per cent of retail staff currently use public transport and Darren, a passionate cyclist himself, is often seen pedalling across the city to and from work.
A new permanent staff car park is also being opened.
The car park, based on Alsing Road near the Tinsley viaduct, will be controlled by an automatic number plate recognition barrier.
It will be open 24 hours with full lighting and CCTV cover and there will be a permanent security lodge for assistance and there will be lit walk routes to and from the shopping centre.
Darren said: “We will also encourage model shifts. Last year we did a bus boost scheme for Christmas, which saw 500 people given free travel on public transport to and from work. More than 65 per cent of them carried on using it after it finished.”
Capitalising on the legacy of the Tour de France coming past Meadowhall, the centre has new cycle pods, and will have one of three cycle hubs for Sheffield next summer.
Darren said he wants Meadowhall to be a leader, not just in its environmental initiatives but in promoting the area and encouraging visitors.
“If we can show people how we have done and if they all follow suit then we will be in a much better place. It’s about partnership work across the county and leading the way for people,” he said.