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(orginally published in The National in June 2009)

On first glance it looks like a squatter’s home; the bathtub is a sofa, there are melted CDs used as tabletops and large construction drums double as tables and chairs. But Bar Surya, located in London’s King’s Cross neighborhood, is actually an environmental oasis amid one of the busiest and most polluted intersections in the British capital. Almost everything in the club—named after the Hindu sun god—has been recycled, reclaimed or made from sustainable material; hemp curtains cover the ground floor windows while newspapers, postcards and CDs are used as wallpaper and discarded paint has been re-mixed to create nature-themed murals. The bar chairs, found in rubbish heaps, have been repainted and recovered with a black and white jungle fabric. Part of the club’s electricity comes from the two wind turbines and solar panels fitted on the roof while the state-of-the-art dance floor uses crystals to generate light; the club owners hope one day soon the dance floor will be able to generate more than half of the club’s electricity. And the eco-friendliness doesn’t end with the party space; waterless urinals in the men’s room and low-flush toilets in the ladies help save on water. So far most clubbers—ranging from young hipsters to post-35 revelers—seem more attracted to the Bar Surya’s house and funk soul nights than by its eco-friendly theme. But says the bar’s director Paul Edwards, they hope that by drawing people in with the great music they can then show guests how easy it is to be green. “We just want people to come in and have a good time and go away with the idea that even if they change their lives by 10 percent they can still make a difference,” he says. “If they aren’t aware of their individual impact on the environment we make sure they know in a positive way by the time they leave.” Read more