Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas Round Up

With the winter break approaching it is time for one last update from the Sustainability Team before we disappear to gorge on mince pies and be merry.

We have been working away on EcoCampus our environmental management system this week, as you know we received our bronze award in the summer and we are hoping to add a silver award to that early next year. Kat has also been working away on the Carbon Management Plan and we are in the process of updating the draft and getting the document together. Look out for it when it is launched early next year.
The Sustainable Food Policy was passed though the resources sub committee last week which states the University’s desire to encourage and promote ‘sustainable food’ on campus and the Students Union (SUUG) will also be implementing the policy across their retail outlets too. Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming define sustainable food as food that should be produced, processed and traded in ways that:
·         contribute to thriving local economies and sustainable livelihoods – both in the UK and, in the case of imported products, in producer countries;
·         protect the diversity of both plants and animals (and the welfare of farmed and wild species), and avoid damaging natural resources and contributing to climate change;
·         provide social benefits, such as good quality food, safe and healthy products and educational opportunities.
Whether the food is organic, Fairtrade, MSC certified or local produced, the sustainable food policy will ensure the University’s efforts that led to recently being awarded the ‘Good Egg Award’ will continue and become even more focussed as we move forward.
Look out for this logo when you get your fish and chips

Keeping with the theme of food the University has been working alongside the Greenwich Council for Fairtrade Fortnight (28th Feb – 13th March) and will be announcing our plans for the fortnight soon. Both ABM and the Students Union have come up with a number of ideas and Sodexo are going to have an action plan for Fairtrade Fortnight in early January. Helping them along the way is our new Sustainability Intern Naomi Debrah who will be joined by a number of other students from the University in helping out with the events we decide to run over the fortnight.
The second meeting of the University of Greenwich Biodiversity Steering Group has seen a number of actions agreed for positive action to understand and enhance the biodiversity on campus. There will be a stretch of wildflower seed planted along ‘Forty Foot Way’ on the Avery Hill Campus, bird feeders put up at Avery Hill and Medway – to help us record the different species we have on campus – and there is investigation into the feasibility of an area next to Sparrows Farm where we could set up a community garden or food growing space.
Make sure you switch off before you go home

In the meantime make sure you wrap up warm over the Christmas break, and if you are leaving work for a few days make sure you have everything switched off. There is no need to be using energy or electricity during the shutdown period and we can achieve significant carbon savings over the winter break with a few simple finger movements in the direction of power buttons! Merry Christmas and we all look forward to catching up with you again in the New Year.

Friday, 17 December 2010

London Bee Summit

Yesterday saw John head down to London South Bank for the London Bee Summit which brought together the country’s experts on bees, bugs, pesticides and organic gardening to discuss the plight of the bee and launch a new funding package for bee keeping in London.

Myles Bremmer, the CEO of Garden Organic, chaired the afternoon proceedings and introduced Lord Henley, a Peer who works as Under-Secretary of State for Environment as part of the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Lord Henley was quick to boast about his qualities as a marmalade maker but used his opening address to encourage beekeepers to register on Beebase which is set out to ‘provide a wide range of free information for beekeepers, to help keep their honey bees healthy.’ Clearly a large part of the bee keeping audience felt that DEFRA was not doing enough and this came through when the floor was opened up to questions. Quickly Lord Henley felt the room turn hostile as beekeepers questioned him on the use of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are a type of pesticide which has been linked to a decline in bee numbers and colony collapse disorder which has seen vast numbers of bee colonies die out or ‘collapse’. The UK still allows the use of these types of pesticide despite growing pressure from beekeepers for their use to be limited or banned – something which has happened in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. After Lord Henley denounced the claims from the beekeepers that there was significant evidence for the banning of neonicotinoids, and claiming UK laws were tougher than most of our European counterparts, he left the room as the pantomime villain and the target of jeers and hissing from the frustrated beekeepers.

Next up we had the esteemed Professor Opi Outhwaite from the University of Greenwich discussing what role regulation could play in honey bee health. Opi is currently working on research into the laws surrounding conservation and biosecurity of honey bees and (quite wisely) decided to avoid the sticky subject of pesticides on this occasion. Mike Brown from the Food and Environment Research Agency Bee Unit (FERA a subsidiary of DEFRA) described how FERA were working on research around the honey bee and again encouraged the audience to use their website beebase.

Honey Bee Pollinating
Nick Mole from the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) managed to rouse the crowd of beekeepers with his hard-line anti-pesticide stance citing pesticides as the main reason for the collapse of one fifth of UK hives. He championed the honey bees worth to the economy to the tune of a £141 billion per year and stated that bees were vital in the production of 80 million tonnes of food per year. Had he continued beyond his ten minute slot Nick could well have had the crowd roused enough to march to parliament and stage an impromptu protest against the government’s stance on pesticides!
Nick Fraser from the National Trust spoke to the audience about chemical-free gardening and what we could learn about keeping a truly organic garden from the National Trust property gardens at Nunnington Hall. He also spoke about the National Trust ‘Bee Part of It’ campaign with BBC local radio stations. Tim Lovett from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) talked about education and responsibility in apiary and Karin Courtman from the London Beekeepers Association (LBKA) talked about her love for the honey bee and how the LBKA has a mentoring service for those Londoners keen to try their hand at beekeeping too.

The half time break brought the delight of honey cake and the eagerly awaited honey tasting competition, won by the most delicious and quite fruity honey from the London Borough of Lambeth which reminded me for the ale Golden Glory. It also gave me an opportunity to meet our beekeeper, Camilla Goddard, of the five hives we have at the mausoleum in Greenwich and discuss the opportunity of running an introduction to the bees in the springtime next year – watch this space!

University of Greenwich Bees managed by Camilla Goddard

The second half of the summit was focussed more towards the community side of beekeeping. Elinor McDowall from Bungay Community Bees project told the audience about her experiences setting up a business model for community beekeeping. Tim Baker from Charlton Manor Primary School in Greenwich told us a story about how a swarm of bees had fascinated children and inspired him to set up a hive and a garden in the school grounds. Now, as Tim proudly boasts, when a swarm arrives in the local community it is his pupils that are called to collect the swarm. Perhaps we ought to invite his pupils along to the University to teach us? Steve Benbow from the London Honey Company gave a frantic presentation on his inspiration to keep bees from a maverick Ney York based beekeeper and how he has found the honey in London and urban areas can be better than that of the honey from the countryside.

Heidi Hermann from the Natural Beekeeping Trust focussed her attention towards the practices of beekeepers and looked at the practices of her peers to explain the bee losses. Heidi had a very convincing argument for a holistic and natural approach to beekeeping. She explained that she had been forced to look for alternative and sometimes illegal methods to protect her bees from pests such as the varroa mite, and avoid using standard pest control. Heidi stands by letting bees behave in a way most closely related to wild bees and like to let her bees swarm which breaks the brood cycle for the varroa mite. Her comments were warmly received by some in the audience although others mentioned the issue of a lack of understanding in the wider community – swarming bees are not especially dangerous but the general public tend to perceive them to be – and thus damages the reputation of the local beekeepers.

Sue Walton brought the end to the guest speakers by reminding everyone that it isn’t just about the honey bee. Buglife: The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, who Sue works for, are out to support all the pollinators whether they are honey bees, bumble bees, hover flies, butterflies or moths and by supporting all the pollinators we can ensure a future with coffee, strawberries and chocolate, three plants that pollinators provide that life continuing service for.

To wrap the evening up Rosie Boycott, the Chair of the London Food Board, announced the launch of the Capital Bee funding scheme, which will see 50 beehives awarded across London along with all the equipment and training to become a competent and responsible beekeeper. After the conference the Co-Operative provided wine while promoting their Plan Bee campaign a cheeky poke at Marks and Spencer’s Plan A. Plan Bee sets out that Co-Op farmers are not allowed to use neonicotinoids in their practices to protect the plight of bee.

Overall the conference gave a fascinating insight in the world of beekeeping and the issues surrounding it. One thing that was very clear from the conference is that there is a growing number of people looking to take up beekeeping and ‘Save the Bee’, and the University of Greenwich – now with no fewer than five hives across our campuses – can stand up and be counted amongst the bees growing number of advocates.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Christmas Carols, Parties, Meals and Meetings

It has reached that time of year where everything seems to come with a Christmas theme, this evening is full of excitement as Kat will be singing in the Carol Concert at the beautiful Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul in the Old Royal Naval College, Queen Mary building. Also this evening we have the Facilities Management Christmas party, so we can celebrate listening to Kat’s singing with a glass of mulled wine later on.

The Chapel of St. Peter and St. Paul at Greenwich

Tuesday was the London Universities Environmental Group (LUEG) Christmas special with workshops on Green IT and Environmental Legal Registers and a big get together with London based People & Planet members to work together on our preparations for Green Week. Green Week is set for February 7th – 14th and has a love theme as a result of coinciding with Valentine’s Day and the strap line ‘Love your Future, Love your Planet’ will be the message spread across the country by the various People & Planet groups.

Without a People & Planet group here at the University of Greenwich the Sustainability Team has decided to take up the reigns and organise some events for Green Week in February. Our Sustainability Champions have been set the task of getting their department to contribute and our champions are currently working away on their ideas for February. If you would like to get involved please email the Sustainability Team and we will help you run an event for it. If you want to find out more about Green Week and People & Planet have a look at their website.

This week has also seen the launch of Walking Works at the University and three lunchtime walks this week, Iain has had great success with his two walks at Avery Hill, marching through the snow and taking in the fresh air. At Greenwich on Wednesday we managed to scale the hill up to the observatory and look at the breathtaking views of London, meet our bees in the Mausoleum and learn some fascinating nuggets of information from our resident expert Alison Lawrence. These walks of course all contributed to our efforts towards the walking challenge, and I can reveal as of 11:30am December 10th I have worked off the equivalent of 2.65 mince pies this week! The University’s partnership with Walking Works is for the following 12 months so expect to see a lot more walking taking place over the campus throughout 2011. To register and work out your mince pies earned through walking go to:

Sunset and Snow at Avery Hill

Walkers at Greenwich
Yesterday saw a meeting between Sodexo, SUUG, ABM and the Sustainability Team to draw up plans for Fairtrade Fortnight at the University. ABM as usual were full of bright ideas for the fortnight and still enjoying the wave of success from receiving all those awards at the Good Food on the Public Plate awards last week. Keep an ear to the ground and eye out for more Fairtrade promotion during 2011 and the Fairtrade Fortnight from February 28th – March 13th. Fairtrade Fortnight 2011

Monday, 6 December 2010

Green Cleaning Up at the Sustainable Food Awards

Guess what? It’s been very busy with the Sustainability Team again recently with a whole load of different goings on.

Firstly we are going to do a little self congratulating. Last week Kat was at the Good Food on the Public Plate Awards and picked up not one, not two, not three, not four, but FIVE awards for our efforts on sustainable food! Through ABM (the main caterers at the University) we have been awarded for ensuring:

- Only Marine Stewardship Council fish is purchased
- Only free range eggs are used
- Only organic milk is used
- Red tractor meat is purchased as a minimum
- Fairtrade and organic coffee is offered at all sites

The Good Food on the Public Plate Awards celebrate best practice of the public sector organisations who recognise their responsibility to spend money on food produced in a way that achieves environmental, social and economic benefits for London and further afield. Through the achievements we have been awarded for the University is ‘helping to sustain a market for farm assured products and birds kept in humane conditions, guarantee a fair price for farmers overseas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’ The University has a strong Sustainable food policy in the pipeline and continues to promote sustainable and Fairtrade delicacies across campus.

Kat enjoying the glamour and glitz of being in the Sustainability Team at Greenwich
Last week has also seen the introduction of 100% recycled toilet roll in the University. Recently we retendered our cleaning contract and wrote sustainability credentials into the process for tendering and into the contract itself. Along with the toilet roll we have seen ‘Green Planet Solutions’ cleaning products introduced, new energy efficient cleaning machinery and we are also about to start experimenting with the Eco-cube waterless urinal system.

A monumental effort on Kat’s behalf this week led to the draft version of the Carbon Management Plan being submitted to Anna and Mark from the Carbon Trust and we now start the process of getting the plan ready to go to the University Court in the new year. The plan aims to set out a succinct and detailed strategy for the University to cut its carbon emissions over the next five years and set out targets for the next ten years, once this whole process is complete we will post up a link so that you can have a peruse of it.

This week we also see the launch of Walking Works at the University with John from the Sustainability Team and Alison from Greenwich Campus FM offering a scenic walk through Greenwich Park on Wednesday for all those interested (meet 12:30 outside Dreadnought Library). Iain Metters is organising two walks at Avery Hill Campus on Tuesday and Thursday (from David Fussey at 12:15) and all of this is thanks to a great initiative by Living Streets to get more people to consider walking as a viable means of transport and as a good, accessible and very cheap way of exercising. You can also sign up to the Mice Pie Challenge and work out how many mince pies you are burning off with your walking efforts.

In other news we are still interviewing for the Fairtrade internship, looking forward to the LUEG Christmas lunch tomorrow and getting ourselves prepared for the Fairtrade and biodiversity meetings coming up later on in the week.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Greenwich Bees and Avery Hill Snow

It is an incredibly busy time in the Sustainability Team at the moment with the first draft of the Carbon Management Plan due this week, Fairtrade Internship interviews and a carol concert! If that wasn't enough last week we had the launch of our Green Impact workbook, three Green Impact workshops (one at each campus) and John was sent away for two days of waste management training with CIWM and Revise.

Amongst all of that we have still managed to take a few photos and check on our new bees at the Greenwich Campus and take a moment to absorb the snowy view from our office window.

Overlooking London and Greenwich Campus from the Royal Observatory

The bees at the Greenwich Mausoleum

Looking accross Avery Hill Park towards the Mansion Site

Avery Hill Park

View from the Sustainability Office