Centre for nature and green living

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The Environment Centre

Come and see our unusual Environment Centre, which was designed with sustainability in mind and showcases a number of green features. You can hire the Centre for meetings and other events or come for a guided tour.

See our events page for upcoming opportunities to visit the centre and garden. We hold monthly drop in / drop off days when you can come say hello to our friendly team and drop off any TerraCycle items.

Some of our volunteer groups meet here on a weekly basis: please see our volunteering pages for more details and how to get involved in looking after our beautiful nature reserve.

The Centre, which opened in May 2000, was designed to exemplify sustainability, energy conservation and energy production from renewable sources:

  • A 2.5kW wind turbine and 1.7kW photovoltaic (solar) panels supplied a good share of the electricity needed to run the Centre and our Recycling Team’s electric vehicles.
  • Passive solar design – the building has large south facing windows, triple glazing and exceptionally good insulation to allow it to be heated directly by the sun’s energy while minimising heat loss.
  • Rainwater used to be collected and purified for use at the Centre until 2012. We connected to the water mains that summer because the water supply had become too unreliable.
  • Solar-thermal panel heats the water and additional room heating comes from a smoke-free wood burning stove.
  • Modern compost toilets reduce the need for water by thousands of litres, produce nutrient-rich compost for trees in the nature reserve, and provide a popular talking point.
  • The building has a ‘living roof’, covered with low growing Sedum acre, a drought resistant succulent plant. The leaves turn red in dry conditions and green again when it rains. The blanket of plants helps to insulate the building, reducing heating requirements. The roof also minimises water run-off, contributes to the local oxygen balance and provides a habitat for a wide range of insects.

A lot of lessons can be learnt from the building. Some of its green features have performed well over the years and others not so. At the time of its opening, it was one of the first community buildings combining all those green features under one roof, and the wind turbine was the first one of its scale to be connected to the national grid.

Join St Nicks

Over more than two decades, volunteers and supporters have made St Nicks what it is today: a flourishing hub of green inspiration for the city. You can help grow the green heart of York by joining St Nicks. Your support will help us sustain and expand our work.

Join us to help fulfill our vision for York to be a city where people value wildlife, the environment and each other equally to sustain a rich and healthy life for all.

Learn more