At the end of 2009 I was fortunate enough to attend the Seacourt Seminar -'Sustainability....Moving Forwards'. The seminar promised to look at exciting new movements in sustainable practices, from energy and investments to communications and zero-waste.

Seacourt are a "naturally responsible" print company, who have worked their way to being virtually 100% zero waste over the last 40+ years. As the primary person responsible for moving Allen & York towards being a fully sustainable company, I am always looking for new innovative ideas on how we can reduce, recycle and reuse more of our waste.

The speakers featured David Kidney MP from the Department of Climate Change & Energy, Peter Maddox from WRAP, Stile Jensen from Radley Yeldar (an award winning business communications expert) and Jim Dinnage, the MD of Seacourt - however without a shadow of a doubt the highlight of the day was Professor Jim Barber from Imperial College who expounded the innovative process of creating a bio-fuel using the the 'Artificial Leaf' theory.

Professor Barber is an expert in photovoltaic science and in his lecture to the Seacourt audience he explained the method of 'creating' energy as a leaf would in nature, similar to the process of photosynthesis, in order to produce a renewable source of energy. The process would involve the splitting of Water (H2O) into Oxygen and Hydrogen - the hydrogen then being turned into bio-fuel and the water a harmless bi-product.

According to Professor Barber, if artificial photosynthesis systems could use around 10 per cent of the sunlight falling on them, they would only need to cover 0.16 per cent of the Earth’s surface to satisfy a global energy consumption rate of 20 terawatts, the amount it is predicted that the world will need in 2030.

The main issue is not whether the 'theory' is possible, as it has been proven to work, but rather at there has been a lack of investment given to the development to enable this type of bio-fuel to be produced on a mass scale.

Professor Barber pointed out that the future is not nuclear (you would need to build a nuclear power station every week for the next 10 years to supply the world's energy supply) but instead it could be a truly sustainable solution, such as extracting hydrogen from water!

Professor Barber left us with the Jules Verne quote "I foresee that in the future, water will be used as fuel... water will be the coal of the future." - who would have thought that a 19th Century French science fiction writer would become such a visionary.

For more information about Professor Barber & 'The Artificial Leaf' please visit

by Miriam Heale
Allen & York Sustainable Recruitment