Antarctic Expedition Inspires Employee to Create Unique Learning Center

Young people in Virginia in the US can now learn about climate change and sustainability at an off-grid classroom which was set up by an AkzoNobel employee who was inspired by a similar building during an expedition to Antarctica.
Jun 10, 2016 1:00 PM ET

June 10, 2016 /3BL Media/ - EBase USA, located at Apple Ridge Farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is housed in a converted railway carriage. It took Roanoke site manager James Bray more than eight years to eventually realize his dream of completing the project after he first saw the original EBase built by polar explorer Robert Swan in 2008.

Designed to teach young people about the importance of sustainable living and renewable energy, EBase USA runs entirely on solar and wind power. It was officially opened by Robert Swan at a special ceremony attended by students and local dignitaries, as well as many of the 20 AkzoNobel employees who volunteered more than 2,000 combined hours over a period of 44 months to help James complete the conversion.

"It was meeting Robert and having the opportunity to visit the EBase in Antarctica that gave me the inspiration to spearhead this project," explained James. "I witnessed first-hand the effects of climate change in Earth's last great wilderness and I knew I had to do something that could potentially change the course we're on.

"Students now have a unique opportunity to learn about renewable energy and I hope that the project has a lasting benefit for the local community for many generations to come."

As well as having a strong link to AkzoNobel's Planet Possible approach to sustainability (which focuses on doing more with less), EBase USA highlights the company's commitment to improving, energizing and regenerating communities around the world. It’s also an inspiring example of how employees are encouraged to get actively involved in local activities that can make a real difference.

Commenting on the opening of what is the world's fourth EBase (the other two are in India), Swan said: "Building an EBase in the USA would be mission impossible for many people, but James and his team – supported by AkzoNobel – have made his dream a reality. All the EBases are focused on educating people about the environment and climate change and their purpose is simple – to inspire a global audience to tackle the very serious issues that the planet is facing."

Funding came from AkzoNobel's Community Program, which supports volunteer projects carried out by employees around the world. The company's Performance Coatings business also donated paint used throughout the EBase, while customers of the Wood Coatings business donated materials such as flooring and plywood. The carriage itself was donated by the National Railway Historical Society.

A total of 24 AkzoNobel employees traveled with Swan to Antarctica in 2008 and 2009 to take part in the leadership expeditions run by his 2041 organization. They remain ambassadors for sustainability in the company and have since developed various initiatives and launched a number of products based on what they learned and experienced.