LONDON, July 11, 2008 — -- Going green has never been more mainstream. Climate change was the hot topic at this year's G-8 summit, and now one London businessman is hoping that the new vogue for all things eco will translate into big bucks for his new venture.
Bar Surya, billed as the world's first eco-nightclub, is powered by a wind turbine and solar panels — fitting for a club named after the Hindu sun god.
The furniture is recycled: Rolled-up magazines pose as table legs; a ceramic bathtub becomes a sofa; and the front of the bar showcases smashed-up mobile phones.
But the biggest surprise is the dance floor, which is made of crystals. According to the club's owner, Andrew Charalambous, this dance floor holds the key to the club's air-conditioning system.
Charalambous, aka Dr. Earth (as his team calls him), explained the system to ABC News. "As people dance, the crystals are pressed together, it creates a current, the current then powers the electricity which powers up the light, and the air conditioning," he said.
It's all part of a concept called piezoelectricity, which enables some crystals and ceramics to generate electricity in response to physical pressure.
Does it actually work in this case? It's hard to say for sure, but Charalambous has garnered the support of some heavy-hitters from the political and celebrity circuit.
The launch party Thursday night was attended by the opposition Conservative Party's environment minister, Gregory Barker. Jade Jagger, daughter of Mick, turned up briefly to lend her support, as did British singer Mutya Buena.
But lest anyone think Bar Surya is all hype and no substance, Charalambous was at pains to point out the club's special features — from bar to bathroom.
From waterless urinals to low-flush toilets, the club has many features that the 35-year-old property developer hopes will catch on with other clubs.
"It's a very humble, very early first step. It's a beginning," he said.
More traditional environmentalists are less convinced about its value and ultimate sustainability.
Joseph Oliver, one of the London Leaders selected by the London Sustainable Development Commission, expressed his doubts, saying, "I don't know if this will be around in a few months or not — we will have to wait and see."
In the meantime, Charalambous' idea seems to be catching on.
The Sustainable Dance Club, in Rotterdam, Holland, plans to open its own eco-friendly nightclub, WATT, in September, suggesting that the eco-entertainment trend may be here to stay.
But can one really "dance to save the world," as Charalambous puts it? Or is this simply environmentalism made too easy?
Unlike environmental groups that campaign against excessive flying, Charalambous, like another famous and controversial figure, Virgin boss Richard Branson, is unequivocal in his support of planes and cars.
"I support flying, I support driving, I support consumer goods," he declared.
But many caution that, as rising oil prices put the pressure on drivers and passengers, it's likely to take more than an eco-friendly nightclub to tackle global warming.
None of that matters to Charalambous, though, so long as Bar Surya gets young people talking and thinking green.
"Club culture is the gateway to a younger generation," he claimed, adding, "there's no language more universal than music."
No language, except money, maybe. But when quizzed about projected profits, the millionaire laughed off questions, saying, "let me tell you, there are many easier ways to make money than this."
As for whether Bar Surya will expand the eco-consciousness of London's bright young things, "it's too early to say now," according to environmental campaigner Oliver.
But he conceded that all the hype was not a bad thing, because "it is good to have people think about it and move in that direction."
"I think the initiative is great and we need more of this in London and the U.K.," he said.
Few would think that the road to a cleaner environment could involve detours at nightclubs and bars. But for those who prefer clubbing to climate change conferences, this new hot spot may be the most glamorous way to go green.