Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Students Working for Sustainability and Festive Cheer

This week the Sustainability Team has been finding a little bit of time in between eating mince pies and chocolates to consider the opportunities we have for students working in the Sustainability Office. We met Sarah Sheikh from the Business School, who has been encouraged by Mary McCartney (Business School Sustainability Champion), to find out what we have within the Sustainability Team for students to get involved in.

As usual the Sustainability Team is looking for students to become involved in all sorts of projects relating to a multitude of different subjects. The first position we are offering through the Business School is the position of Fairtrade Intern. With Fairtrade Fortnight coming up in February and March next year there is loads of Fairtrade fun to get involved with and great opportunity for a student to get experience in running events, project management, communications, administration, charity sector work and of course trying out all the latest Fairtrade products - whether it is chocolate, bananas or cotton buds! Sarah will be inviting Business School students to make an application to the role and if you are the lucky chosen student you will get a chance to really get involved and help influence the University's policies and delivery of Fairtrade events.

Naomi Debrah the 2010/11 Fairtrade Intern
The Sustainability Team will not be stopping there though! We have many more opportunities within the team for all sorts of different things, just last week Stuart Ashenden  in the School of Engineering recruited a student to start auditing the University's water usage, following on from previous projects completed by students on the University's energy use and travel. We currently have a couple of students working with Debbie Bartlett in the School of Science on the biodiversity projects going on across the campuses, you may remember Michael Fray providing us with some excellent bee photos while conducting a bee survey at Avery Hill: and recently Charmaine Wijemanna presented to the Biodiversity Steering Group on a pioneering new project developing the University's Campus Management Plan: At the School of Education the students training to be teachers are currently implementing sustainability projects in the schools where they are completeing their placement.
Isabelle Monk collecting for the end-of-term Re-use Project
The Sustainability Team is always keen to make the best use of the amazing resource we have within the student population and we have loads more opportunities whether it is with Fairtrade, biodiversity, waste, communications, event management, water, energy, video making....... anyway you get the picture! Thinking back over the last year the Sustainability Team has been greatly supported by student interns who have all now gone on to graduate and find employment, often with a bit of support from the Sustainability Team as well. Naomi Debrah was our most recent Fairtrade intern, a great personality during Green Week this year and instrumental in gaining the University Fairtrade status. Stefano Maggi has gone onto work for an Australian radio station after being the driving force behind the communications of Green Week, Catherine Brown and Keir Burrows have both found work after helping us with our environmental management system and Isabelle Monk who worked on the end-of-year Re-use scheme went on to get a job in the charity sector and now works at ATD Fourth World.

As well as asking for some new student interns this Christmas we have also noticed that Santa has been starting to consider his environmental impact and the carbon footprint of his work. Ethical Ocean have had a go at measuring Santa's carbon footprint for him:

And Santa also got Futerra to compile an end of year sustainability report for him. 
If you are considering how you can have a green Christmas you may want to check out how to 'upcycle' a Christmas tree: 
Whatever you are doing this Christmas the Sustainability Team wish you a very merry holiday season and a happy new year:

Friday, 9 December 2011

Launch of Team Greenhouse at the Mansion Site

On Wednesday afternoon the Avery Hill Mansion Site took a huge step towards a more sustainable future as the School of Education launched a new group to integrate sustainability into the School's practises. The group which has been launched by Mark Potter, the School's sustainability champion and Yana Tainsh, the Director of Resources, is named 'Team Greenhouse' and its inaugural meeting brought together 15 members of the School's staff.

Team Greenhouse listen with enthusiasm at the inaugral meeting

Chris Philpott the Dean of the School gave an opening address, proclaiming the School's ambitions to move forward on the subject of sustainability and to integrate it not just into the working practises of the school but into the teaching and research elements as well. Yana and Mark both explained how the group was going to work and invited the other members of staff to fully immerse themselves in the implementation of the Green Impact workbook. The School have set out to achieve the Bronze award of the Green Impact workbook but will be keeping an eye on the Silver tasks and starting a few of them as well. The Green Gnome is predicting that they will be getting themselves the Silver award as well this year!

The spirits were high amongst the group and there was a big sense of enthusiasm to get started with the tasks in the Green Impact workbook - so much so that the second meeting for Team Greenhouse is already lined up for next week! Here's a cheer for Team Greenhouse - Huzzah! - and we are looking forward to seeing what innovative ideas they come up with over the coming months.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Guest Blog: Recycling Helping Alleviate Student Hardship

Today, Vicky Noden, Alumni Officer for the University of Greenwich, sustainability champion and keen runner writes a guest blog entry about an initiative that not only helps students in hardship but has a brilliant sustainability twist as well!

Vicky Noden - Alumni Officer and Sustainability Champion
The School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences (CMS) staff and students have been helping those in need of support at the university reducing waste! The CMS School Office has been recycling and fundraising by collecting donations in exchange for second-hand stationery items. All the funds raised have been donated to the Alumni Fund to help support Greenwich students in financial difficulty.

The CMS School Office had a surplus of used items such as folders and ring binders, which were in good condition, and felt that they should be reused rather than simply thrown away. Their students snapped up the items, in exchange for a small donation, thereby saving them money on new stationery.

The initiative has raised £52 to help alleviate student hardship. This money alone could be enough to help enable several Greenwich students to carry on studying. Some students need a small bursary of just £10-£30 to see them through an emergency and to prevent them from having to miss lessons, or even drop out altogether. Students who have benefited from the fund in the past include:
· A student who had their wallet stolen and had no money to get home
· Several students whose student bursaries/loans were not paid on time, leaving them unable to buy food
· A student who was the victim of online credit card fraud

We also have some very serious cases of students who have to flee their homes as a result of racial or domestic abuse. This fund also supports these individuals during desperate times and helps them to keep on studying.

A number of small contributions from students is helping to make a huge difference to the lives of others in our community. The CMS School Office has been specifically thanked for supporting the fund and it is wonderful that this also helps the university’s sustainability agenda. We are hoping this initiative may inspire other teams in the university to support others that are in need of help here at Greenwich.

Any other departments or offices in the university considering a similar fundraising initiative should contact Vicky in the Alumni and Development Office on 020 8331 7940 or e-mail

If you would like further information on what Vicky does for the Alumni Office, visit click on “Support Us” or contact the Alumni and Development Office directly.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

New Orchard at Avery Hill

Today staff, students, local residents, graduates, friends, family, children and a member of parliament came together to plant a community orchard at the University of Greenwich. At Avery Hill Campus a huge group of volunteers (and a couple of experts from the London orchard Project) took a break from their regular working day to get their hands dirty and plant one of 20 fruit trees in the new community orchard.

The orchard will be supplying staff, students and local residents with a tasty array of fruit (apples, pears, medlar, plums, cherries, damsons, mulberries) for coming decades! It has come as a result of a partnership between the University and the London Orchard Project, who are creating new community orchards in London’s unused spaces to promote community production and ownership of fruit. Plus of course helping us rediscover the pleasures of eating fruit grown close to home (or work). These community orchards are contributing towards the ‘greening’ of the urban environment and are creating new and enhanced habitats for wildlife – especially true at Avery Hill where the orchard will be surrounded by long grass and wildflowers which will be great for encouraging bees, insects and the predators of pests such as aphids and codling moths.
A dozen spades prepare for the digging

The orchard planting is part of a wider University push to improve and enhance the biodiversity on campus and promote local food. The majority of trees have been chosen to fruit during University term time and after three years some of the apple trees will be producing about 300 apples per crop. Students at Avery Hill will never need to buy an apple again!

Russell from the London Orchard Project teaching the volunteers how to plant a fruit tree

Claire Evenden, who came with her colleagues from the Student Records, planted an apple tree called a ‘Fiesta’, said she was looking forward to watching the tree grow from her window in the Bronte building.

Paulina Bush from the University of Greenwich nursery came along with a dozen children who planted two of the apple trees (Discovery and Pinova) with the spades they normally use for maintaining their forest garden. Paulina said that the children would be coming back to the orchard regularly to water the trees and of course help harvest the fruit as well!

The volunteers digging away and planting the trees
 The plan is not to stop at just an orchard either. Close to the orchard we have a space on the Southwood Site where work is about to commence on a community allotment and forest garden, with plans for a nut orchard (or is that a nuttery?), a vineyard and hops also being considered for future food growing projects. Of course if you would like to find out more about any of the food growing projects or indeed get involved with the allotment and forest garden please email us at:

Here is a complete list of the 20 fruit trees planted on campus today:
1. Egremont Russet. Late Victorian English variety, most important commercial Russet, a hardy variety with a nutty, sweet flavour ripe in late September. Originated in Sussex in the early 1800s.
2. Falstaff. Very good disease and frost resistance, crisp and juicy red desert apple, ripe late September
3. Tydeman's Late Orange. Variety raised in 1930s in Kent, rich aromatic flavour, firm and sweet, orange to red in colour, picking time mid October. A cross between a Laxton Superb and a Cox Orange Pippin, but a lot easier to grow than a Cox Orange Pippin. Picking time mid-October
4. Tentation. New variety, yellow to golden fruit, picking time late September and stores until March
5. Greensleaves. Green to yellow mid-season apple, tasting a bit like a Golden Delicious, picking time mid-September. We think this apple is essential due to the Henry VIII theme it shares with the campus buildings. Fruits mid-September.
6. Fiesta. Another Cox-like apple but hardier. Heavy cropping with brightly coloured, aromatic fruits, picking time early October.
7. Pinova. A hardy tree with Cox and Golden Delicious as parents. The fruit hangs late on the tree and stores well. Harvesting time late September.
8. Discovery. Bright red, crisp, juicy with a sharp fresh flavour. This is an early apple (early August) so will provide fruit for staff/ any students on campus over the summer.
9. Bramley's seedling. The classic British cooker, grown from seed in a garden in Nottingham, the original tree is 200 years old and still going strong. Creamy white flesh, full of flabour – though there are alternative cookers if you want something more unusual. Also makes lovely sharp juice.
10. Howgate Wonder. A cooker that can also be eaten/ juiced when fully ripe. Pale green with brown-red flush, fruits early October.
11. Doyenne du Comice. French pear grown from seed, first fruiting in 1849. Reached England in 1858 and soon became very popular for its delicious flavour and jucy texture. Picking mid-October.
12. Williams Bon Chretien. Pears known to the Romans, considered by the best pear in the 16th century. Raised by a schoolmaster in Aldermarston near Reading in 1770. Needs to be eaten off the tree in September as does not store.
13. Concorde. A reliable, heavy cropper with melting, juicy flesh. Picking time late October.
Plums and other stone fruit:
14. Marjorie’s Seedling. Excellent late plum (picking time late September). Oval-shaped purple fruit with yellow flesh.
15. Victoria. A classic plum, discovered in a garden in Sussex and named after Queen Victoria. Picking time is August so another fruit for staff and summer-students to enjoy.
16. Shropshire Damson. A hardy damson with some plum-like characteristics. Best used for cooking and has a rich flavour but can also be eaten from the tree if left to ripen. Picking time late August / early September.
17. Cherry Early Rivers. One of the earliest cherries, with very dark skin and flesh, and excellent flavour. Produces a heavy crop, ready for picking in mid-June.
18. Cherry Stella. Juicy dark-red cherries, ready for picking in late July. Fruiting time isn’t ideal for students but it does make a good pollinator for other cherries.
Other fruit:
19. Medlar. A beautiful, squat and spreading tree with attractive blossom. It is also interesting from heritage perspective, being popular in the middle ages and mentioned by Chaucer as being “ripe when rotten”. Picking time is November and the fruits should then be left to decay (blet) before turning soft and sweet.
20. Black Mulberry. A large stately tree that will grow to form gnarled branches and a distinctive form. The fruit is delicious and almost never commercially available. Said to have been introduced in the 16th Century in the mistaken belief that black mulberries harbour silk worms. (In fact silk worms live on white mulberry trees.)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Medway Campus Green Impact Collaboration

On Thursday the University of Greenwich teamed up with the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University to bring the efforts of the three universities together in implementing the Green Impact workbook at the Medway Campus. All three universities are taking part in the NUS Green Impact project and are working on three variations of the Green Impact workbook, which sets out tasks for improving the office or department you are working in. The project includes regular workshops which are run at each campus but rather than three different people running three different workshops for three different sets of sustainability champions we decided to bring the whole lot together in one big Medway Green Impact workshop.

Emily Crockford from Kent and Lucy Brown from Canterbury Christ Church lead a group task in the workshop.
 The workshop was focussed around introducing the concept of the Green Impact workbook to those that were new to the project and demonstrating what will be expected of the champions when they come to present their evidence during the auditing process. On top of the more regular parts of the workshop we had an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the crossover work, collective targets and opportunity for collaboration between the three universities.

Sustainability Champions from Greenwich, Kent and Canterbury Universities working together at Medway

The Medway collaboration will give sustainability champions a chance to share their work and ideas between all three universities and give everyone a chance to benefit from examples of best practice and the experiences of a wider pool of sustainability champions. At the same time the three respective sustainability teams implementing the Green Impact project at their campuses are benefiting from sharing ideas and resources for putting together the workshops and activities for Green Impact but are also able to discuss implementing sustainability on a wider reaching level across the three different universities. We are expecting this to be the start of a long and happy partnership between the three universities and a great opportunity for all involved to share the workload and push forward in implementing the Green Impact project.

Either side of the Green Impact workshop at the Medway Campus John Bailey was moonlighting as a guest lecturer for the civil engineers. After attending the ‘Sustainability Induction’ staff development workshop Deborah Sims, a senior lecturer in Civil Engineering decided that her students would benefit from seeing how the university is implementing sustainability on a practical level to go hand in hand with the theory the engineers are already learning. Thus she invited John to come to Medway and talk to two sets of engineering students that she teaches. The lectures gave the students an overview of some of the global challenges around population growth and resource use followed by a focussed insight on what these challenges mean to the university, how the university is responding to these challenges and what we can all do on a personal level.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Photos from a Fungi Foray in Falconwood

While you may have been disappointed to see the weather taking a turn for the wetter over the last few days, thousands of fungi have been lapping up the damp and starting to fruit in the form of mushrooms. On Wednesday John from the Sustainability Team went foraging in Falconwood to see what he could find.

A selection of fungi picked and brought back to the office for closer inspection

Lepista nuda (Wood blewits) they have a distinct perfumed smell and a rich lilac colour

Lycoperdon perlatum (Common puffball) edible when young and quite easy to identify

Agaricus silvicola (Wood mushroom). This mushroom was very damp and fragile and found hiding among the brambles - ouch!  

Lepista nuda (Wood blewit) growing in a small troop among the leaf litter.

Chlorophyllum rhacodes (Shaggy parasol) this one is edible but can be quite easily confused with poisonous varieties

Clitocybe nebularis (Clouded agaric) there are hundreds of these toadstools scattered all across Falconwood
Clitocybe nebularis (Clouded agaric)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Saving Energy in the Halls of Residence

Two University of Greenwich Students have been entered into the national competition for the monthly Student Switch Off photo competition. Ross and Malaika’s photo (see the competition here is up against a whole host of pictures of students from other universities showing off their energy saving efforts. The pictures with the most ‘likes’ on Facebook get to pick their prizes from a whole load of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Amazon vouchers and THTC t-shirts. 

The competition finishes on Friday, so make sure you get onto the Facebook page and vote for them now! Even if it doesn't win the overall competition Ross and Malaika will no doubt be pleased with the money they saved by wrapping up instead of switching the heating on. They will also be in with a chance at winning the Avery Hill Halls energy saving competition where the flat that uses the least amount of energy wins an massive Ben & Jerry's ice cream party at the end of the year!

If you're looking for some energy saving ideas have a look at our Eco Power Ranger saving energy, time and money in his morning ritual.

If you want some help coercing your housemates into joining you in your energy saving crusade - Katie from People and Planet has written a blog post on exactly that:

Friday, 4 November 2011

Bigger, Better but with a Smaller Footprint.....

Green Impact II: The Sequel
Tuesday saw the launch of the second year of the University’s Green Impact project and Sustainability Champions Network. The project brings together sustainability champions from nearly every department within the University to complete a workbook-full of tasks set to improve the University’s environmental performance.
John tries to explain how much bigger the new workbook is
There are a lot of new sustainability champions joining the network this year bringing the total number of staff members implementing the Green Impact workbook to over 40. The champions will be trying to earn their department either Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum awards before they hand the workbooks in before Easter next year. Joining the various schools and offices in the University taking part in the scheme will also be Hadlow College – one of the University’s partner colleges that is working to reduce their carbon footprint and looking for new initiatives to do this. Sue Brimlow the college’s Sustainability Manager joined us for the event to find out what they could gain from working with Greenwich on implementing Green Impact workbook at Hadlow.

Kat Thorne – Head of Sustainability for the University kicked of proceedings by giving us an overview of sustainability at the University and how the global issues of population growth and increased demand on resources are impacting on the university. This was followed by highlighting some of the key areas of the Sustainability Policy and how the University was implementing them plus emphasising some of the key areas the Sustainability Team will be working on over the next 12 months.

Following Kat was David Young, one of the sustainability champions for IT at the Greenwich campus and self-titled ‘University of Greenwich Quiz Master’ – who’d put together an interactive quiz (Who Wants to be a Millionaire style) just to make sure the sustainability champions were listening to Kat’s speech. Despite a few iffy answers we are pleased to announce that the vast majority got the answers correct. Following the quiz John Bailey the Sustainability Projects Officer for the University went on to explain a few of the ins and outs of how the sustainability champions network works and how the new champions could expect to be communicating the sustainability message across the university.

Charlotte Taylor followed up giving us a national perspective on the NUS Green Impact scheme and showed how it had grown from being a pilot project at Bristol University to being taken up by 48 different universities for this academic year. At the University of Greenwich the sustainability champions completed 561 tasks through the Green Impact scheme and this fantastic number is being repeated all around the country with nearly 4,000 people directly involved and 19,620 tasks completed across the 35 universities that took part last year! That’s a great achievement and just goes to show how we are not alone fighting the sustainability corner but part of a much larger positive movement taking place nationwide!

Neil demonstrates a hire bike Brompton folding away
As well as Neil Garrod giving the champions a sneak preview of the University's proposed Brompton bike hire scheme (complete with a slick demonstration of how to fold a Brompton bike as if trained by Mr. Brompton himself) he talked about how he'd recently gone back to look at the book on 'nudge theory' after recently surfacing on the government's agenda. He mentioned how the nudge theory applied to the work that the champions are doing across the University and would be key to successfully embedding the behaviour change that is needed in order for the University to achieve its sustainability goals.

Neil has been championing sustainability for over 20 years and cited an example about being viewed as a lone nut while working at a previous university where he tried to bring sustainability onto the agenda through the medium of recycled toilet paper. Neil has seen a change in the support from senior management at the University of Greenwich; he used to be the only one championing sustainability with others claiming that sustainability was not a priority. He now finds himself in the opposite situation with those who used to claim that sustainability is not a priority now championing sustainability themselves. The University’s high score in the People and Planet Green League and the potential savings shown in the carbon management plan have swayed the senior managers and explained to the sustainability champions that they need to understand what sustainability means to those they work with and appeal to their colleagues' individual agendas. 

Graeme Collie explains the culinary delights on offer
After the morning’s speeches and presentations we were delighted with a sustainable hospitality menu from the university’s caterers ABM Catering. Graeme Collie from ABM explained how the menu had made best use of local, seasonal, organic and free-range or high welfare ingredients and that they were working towards achieving a Silver Food for Life Award after implementing so many positive changes to the menus.

John Bisbrown explaining the results from the first workshop

Sustainability champions discussing some of the challenges ahead
The afternoon was packed full of workshops focused on challenging areas in the workbook and gave the champions a chance to work together to find a practical and pragmatic way of implementing some of the tasks. There was a strong focus on communication – as ever with sustainability – half the task is in how you communicate to your colleagues and win them over to the new practices and behaviours you are trying to implement. Positivity is a key message and focus for sustainability communications and is often far more effective than pedalling the doom and gloom stories. The Green Impact project and the Sustainability Policy and strategy are starting the move towards creating a more efficient university that creates a net positive impact. We finished the workshops with a great video from TED on how to start a movement in less than three minutes and how ‘a lone nut can become a leader’.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Breaking Ground at our Community Garden and Gearing up for the Orchard Planting

Today the Sustainability Team joined forces with the School of Architecture, James Hallybone and Tom Barnsley from Roundfield and Michael Unsworth from the Grounds team to break ground at the site for our new community garden. We haven’t quite started to dig to plant yet but we have dug one meter below the surface to inspect the soil and get an idea of what the quality is like.

Ducan Goodwin gets into the hole to investigate the soil
So what’s it like then I hear you cry? Well, just below the surface there is a fair bit of rubble – not too much though, then after that there’s some well drained soil a few pebbles and gravel and then the clay. The School of Architecture first year garden design student will returning to the site to do some more robust testing over the coming weeks but certainly the first look is positive. The soil may not be of an award winning standard it is certainly good enough that we can get a bit of compost mixed in and start digging and planting when the time is right.

Looking at the different layers in soil
We are now looking for students, staff members and locals who are interested in getting their hands dirty and getting involved with either the design, building of, maintenance and growing in the garden. If you are interested please email:

Sticking with the theme of growing your own, we are just one month away from our orchard planting at the Avery Hill Campus. On the 1st December this year we will be planting 20 trees including ten varieties of apple, three varieties of pear, two plum trees, two cherry trees, a damson, a medlar and a mulberry tree. The orchard will need staff and students to adopt a tree for watering, pruning and a little bit of care, particularly for the first two years. Not to worry if you don’t have any experience in managing orchards for the London Orchard Project will be offering a training session telling you exactly how to look after a tree through its early years. Once again if you want to be involved in the planting of and adoption of one of our trees please email us at:

Seeing as its Halloween this Monday we have a few little interesting links that we've noticed come up today. Firstly over at Planet Pals they have a nearly endless supply of ideas for a green Halloween: and Creations by Kara have come up with a great way of recycling an old book into a pumpkin that you will be ablt to use year after year:

Creation by Kara: Pumpkin book
P.S. Don't forget to turn the bottles of sloe gin you made last week!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sloes and Carbon 2.0 Can London Lead the Low carbon Revolution?

This week the Sustainability Team celebrated the arrival of winter and the first frosts in London by using our lunch breaks to harvest hundreds of sloes from the countless bushes spread across Avery Hill Campus. Sloes are the berries found on the Prunus spinosa or blackthorn bush – a common shrub or small tree found in hedgerows all across the United Kingdom and are abundant among the rosehips (Rosaceae), hawthorns (Crataegus) and snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) hedges at Avery Hill.

Avery Hill Sloes Picked on Monday
With the sloes we have been busy making sloe gin, a liqueur that is made by mixing the berries, sugar and gin. This year Nigel Slater’s recipe is the one being followed:

“Prick your sloes, about 450g, with a needle or freeze them and bash with a heavy weight. Tip them into sterilised bottles, the fruit coming a third of the way up. Divide 350g of caster or granulated sugar among them then top up with gin or vodka. It will take about 750ml. There is little point in using an expensive brand, by the way. Place the sealed bottles somewhere cool and dark. Leave for 8-10 weeks, turning the bottle occasionally, giving it a shake every week.” (taken from:

It is best to avoid the recipes that start with, “buy a bottle of gin, drink half....”

As well as picking sloes the Sustainability Team has been gallivanting around central London. On Wednesday evening we headed to London’s City Hall for the event ‘Carbon 2.0: Can London lead the low-carbon revolution?’ The event was put together by Carbon Culture, an organisation that tries to marry up the technical and cultural approaches to embedding sustainability in an organisation. Carbon Culture’s most famous work is the real-time energy monitoring for the Department for Energy and Climate Change that we have mentioned on this blog before:

View from the top of City Hall: Tower Bridge with Canary Wharf in the background.
The panel was debating the title question and taking questions from the floor that was made up from staff of universities, councils, airports, financial Institutions, construction companies, charities, theatres and a whole host of sustainability minded professionals from the public and private sector. While the overriding feeling at the event was positive and the panel seemed to genuinely believe London (and perhaps more specifically intelligent design) could bring about the low-carbon revolution there were also a lot of quite challenging questions.

- How do you cater for a global middle class that will have 3 billion more people?
- How can you join use technology to influence behaviour?
- What future is there for consumerism?
- How do you make loft insulation sexy?

Phwoarr! Check out that loft-insulation!
The questions are intrinsically linked and if you can find an answer you also provide an answer for a lot of other questions regarding the world of sustainability. Luke Nicholson from Carbon Culture was keen to push the idea that you need to make your sustainable solution/product appealing to the end user. If you can give someone what they want, they will use it and it is only once they are already engaged with it that you add the ‘sustainability story’. As long as the popular products and practices of the future are low carbon then you are already on the way towards a sustainable future effectively by ‘tricking’ people into sustainable practices. By answering the last of the four questions you can perhaps see how this might work – instead of selling loft insulation as a great way of saving money and cutting carbon emissions, sell it as a way of making your home warmer, more cosy, a more desirable place to live and for friends to visit and stay. This is a well known method for communicating sustainability and Futerra’s ‘Sell the Sizzle’ is the sustainability communicator’s bible:

As for the future of consumerism, well we have already decided everyone will be buying into great technologies that are not only appealing but also more sustainable - but how do you cater for the extra billions of people projected to be living on the planet over the next decades when you have limited resources to go round? Mat Hunter from the Design Council suggested making London a ‘shareable city’ a place where ‘collaborative consumption’ is the order of the day. Instead of everyone owning a car people will be members of car clubs like StreetCar or ZipCar, instead of owning a bike people will use the ‘Boris Bikes’. Mat Hunter was particularly positive that London could lead in this way because the city is ‘a densely packed vast Petri dish with a concentrated group of highly intelligent people.’ High praise indeed for London.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Education for Sustainable Development

This week has seen the Sustainability Team spread across all three campuses flitting from meeting to meeting and from one sustainability event to another. This week we have had the Sustainable Procurement Exhibition - giving staff members a chance to meet suppliers and quiz them on their sustainability credentials, a meeting with Kent University and Canterbury Christchurch University about combining the three universities' efforts on Green Impact, the monthly meeting of the London Universities Environmental Group and an appearance on the Guardian HE Network website! Phew!

On top of all that yesterday saw the bringing together of teachers, researchers, directors, students and other interested parties for an 'open-space' event to discuss the strategic direction for embedding sustainability across the university's curriculum. The event saw everyone discussing three key topics agreed by the group as key to embedding sustainability across the institution: Staff Training and Communications, Student Engagement and Institutional Approaches. The format of the event saw everyone split into smaller groups and really focus on the key issues at hand and to develop some actions for everyone to vote on.

Voting on the best actions for engaging students with sustainability
What actions can you take for communicating sustainability?

What would be the best institutional approaches for embedding sustainability into the curriculum?

Mind map of key issues with communicating sustainability among the staff body
There were some particularly popular actions chosen to steer the University towards embedding sustainability in the curriculum - the most popular choice being that students could take part or are required to take part in a course or unit that includes sustainability outside of their faculty and normal course programme. Another particularly popular choice among the students was using Wednesday afternoons for volunteering or sustainability activities as an alternative to sporting activities. The group has agreed to meet again and keep track on the progress of how the embedding process is going and we will of course be keeping you updated here on the blog.

Friday, 7 October 2011

How can social media help communicate sustainability?

On Wednesday the Guardian Sustainable Business Hub were hosting a seminar on communicating sustainability through the medium of social media. As keen bloggers, tweeters, facebookers, and linkedin-ers of sustainability this seemed right up the street of the Sustainability Team and we sent John Bailey along to investigate....

First up was Caroline Holtum, the Head of Content for the Guardian Sustainable Business Hub who gave us a little background on the hub and how it has fared over the last 12 months. Their first birthday is this coming Tuesday and if you haven’t ventured to the hub make sure you have a look. The hub brings together sustainability research, stories and news from the business world as well as organising events like the one I went to this week. On top of this they have an email newsletter allowing you to keep up to date with the stories of the moment.

Guardian Offices near Kings Cross
Following Caroline’s welcome Matthew Yeomans took up the reins to explain ‘why storytelling is key to social media communications'. Matthew’s first major foray into social media research was while writing a Sunday feature for a major US newspaper that was eventually dropped at the last minute – dismayed that the last two months of research and writing may not ever see the light of day he wrote about his findings and how he got there on a blog. This blog kick started his career in social media and now a few years later Matthew is working as a social media consultant, the founder of Custom Communication and Social Media Influence and has a captive audience of sustainability and communications professionals keen to hear his thoughts.

Matthew took us through the world of major social media screw ups, highlighting a few of the big corporations that have suffered at the hands of the world of social media campaigns. It turns out a lot of them were about sustainability related issues and a large number of the campaigns were run by Greenpeace. One example is Greenpeace’s recent social media campaign targeted at Mattel for using packaging that used pulp made from unusustainable wood sources. Greenpeace used twitter and youtube to create a fun campaign involving Ken breaking up with Barbie, and 'Chainsaw Barbies' being hidden around the UK to draw attention to the issues. As a result of the campaign Mattel have now agreed to use paper that is 70% recycled or sustainable material by the end of 2011. You can see Matthew’s social media screw ups summary on slideshare:

The aptly named 'company screw up chart' shown by Matthew Yeomans
Matthew was insistent that the keys to using social media are to be honest, respect your audience and to be useful – social media grew as a response to PR spin, giving people the chance to rant and complain but also to share. Companies and organisations using social media have to move beyond slick marketing campaigns, know their audience and be where there audience is – this can be everywhere!

James Farrar, Vice President of Sustainability for SAP (software company developing business management software) was next up to explain how IT can be a catalyst to sustainability. He demonstrated how SAP had made their sustainability report available to be manipulated and shared by users using social media. The report can be seen here It contains a breakdown of the key environmental, social and economic impacts including energy consumption, women in top management, revenue and customer satisfaction. The interactivity of the report reminded me of the energy use displays we saw in Hadlow College’s Rural Regeneration Centre and the work that Carbon Culture have done for the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Screenshot of SAP Carbon Footprint
SAP allows users' tweets to appear on the website meaning that they end up with real time, honest feedback from their customers. While this does carry a risk if your customers are not happy with your service, making sure that you are honest, transparent, providing a decent service and responding to your customers complaints and queries. This is a good way of ensuring that you don’t end up enduring the wrath of angry customers. The worst thing you can do is block someone’s tweets from appearing on your site – this will only encourage them to round-up their followers and re-tweet the offending message!

My top James Farrar quotes and tips from the presentation are:

- Treat online engagement as seriously as you would a journalist from a national newspaper
- Tell a story that works with social media (interactive, interesting, useful)
- One dimensional sustainability reporting is like a lighthouse in a bog
- You don’t need a sustainability strategy, you need a strategy that is sustainable
- Never let your CEO have a blog! (Correction: this point was Matthew Yeomans' advice)

(Interesting last point as he said this on a day that we found out our new Vice Chancellor David Maguire is going to be writing a blog - - however as an experienced blogger of ‘GIS Matters’ and arguably one of the most technically savvy Vice Chancellors around I think we can breathe easy, particularly if his first full post is anything to go by! And to be fair, James Farrar pointed out some good examples of CEO blogs.)

David Maguire the New VC at Greenwich's blog
After a coffee and a biscuit it was the turn of Jo Confino, an executive editor at the Guardian to wrap things up before we took on a role-play exercise. Jo’s words of wisdom included one bit of advice for anyone wanting to become a social media leader in their field – make sure your stories / blogs / posts / tweets are sector-wide rather than just limiting them to your own organisation. As we turned to the role play it gave us the perfect opportunity to chat with other attendees at the seminar and of course social media was the hot topic.

Harriet Waters from the Sustainability Team at Oxford Brookes told me that she’d been comparing our social media ‘Klout’ – an online programme that works out how influential you are on the main social media sites. Currently the Sustainability Team’s score is 34 – not bad but plenty of room for improvement. The group also discussed using TweetDeck and HootSuite two programmes for keeping track of multiple social media channels – especially useful if you have a presence on more than one social media network. Another little piece of online software that we will be using at the first given opportunity is software that works with your PowerPoint presentation to bring together all the latest comments people have made about a particular topic. You can download it for free from here:

If you want to follow the Sustainability Team through the various social media channels we appear on click the links below:



Friday, 30 September 2011

Community Food Garden Plans Afoot at Avery Hill

Today the Sustainability Team ventured up to the Mansion Site of Avery Hill to meet with Robert Holden and the Garden and Landscape Design staff at the School of Architecture and Construction. The topic under discussion was the plans for building a University community food garden. The project will be collaboration between the three schools at Avery Hill (Architecture, Education and Health) and staff and students who work and live on the campus to create a space where they can grow fruit, vegetables, herbs, salads and whole manner of delicious treats.
Statue in the Winter Gardens at Avery Hill Mansion Site
With assistance and advice from Capital Growth and the Greenwich Co-Operative Development Agency the plans are afoot to create a space that will not only provide food but could also double up as an outdoor learning space, social area and a sensory and medicinal garden. Using inspiration from the ideas of permaculture design we are hoping to reuse and upcycle a number of items located around the campus including tyres, pallets and an unused gazebo.

The garden will be set-up on the Southwood Site, just south of the sports hall which is also where the university is planning on planting an orchard later this year. The orchard is being designed by the London Orchard Project who are trying to create a ‘fruit tree revolution’ in London by promoting the virtues of home grown fruit and planting new community orchards all across the capital. We have earmarked the 1st December as the day to start the tree planting and will be hoping to round up a good few staff and students to get stuck in and involved with the planting.

When the orchard is planted it will not be the only source of fruit on campus as the sustainability team has discovered over the past 18 months there is already a lot of fruit hidden away in the nooks and crannies of Avery Hill. Exploring the campus you can find mulberries, blackberries, crab apples, sloes, quince, damsons, plums and as we discovered today even grapes!

Greedy Green Gnome's Greenwich Green Grapes
The other discovery of the day – and almost as exciting as the grapes – was the website This website converts a body of text into a graphically delightful jumble of multi coloured words. Just look at what it has done to the University’s Sustainability Targets.

University of Greenwich Sustainability Strategy

Friday, 23 September 2011

Fresher's Fayre Fun

This week the Sustainability Team has been busy welcoming the new University of Greenwich students to their new University. There are loads of ways the new freshers can get involved with sustainability at Greenwich particularly those living in the Avery Hill Student Village.

Student Switch Off & the Sustainability Team stands at Avery Hill

As well as introducing the freshers to the University’s plans for reducing carbon emissions, reducing waste, enhancing biodiversity and promoting Fairtrade and sustainable food we were signing up freshers for the exciting new Student Switch Off campaign. The flats in the Student Village that manage to save the most energy over the course of the year will be treated with Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream parties and every two weeks we will be giving away a host of prizes for photos of students taking energy saving measures in their flats.

All the students have to do to find out more and win the prizes is get onto the facebook group: (or here: if you don’t have facebook) and upload their best photos of energy saving action! The winner of the best photo competition every few weeks will win Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Lush gift boxes, NUS Extra Cards or tickets for nights out.

The Eco-Power Ranger shows us how saving energy saving can be sexy in this rather provocative little video (be warned this is not for the feint hearted!)

As well as the Student Switch Off Campaign students were signing up to get involved with all sorts of different projects, whether they were interested in orchard planting, bees, cycling, energy reduction, recycling, promoting sustainability or Fairtrade there was something that caught the imagination of most of the students the Sustainability Team spoke to. If you missed out on getting to meet the Sustainability Team at the Fresher’s Fayres but are interested in finding out more, getting involved with volunteering or doing an internship within the Sustainability Team email

University of Greenwich Environmental Hero 2011 Mary McCartney and two freshers at Greenwich

Friday, 16 September 2011

Carbon Management Plan Update

On Monday the Carbon Management Board met for the first time since the Carbon Management Plan was adopted by the University. The board were meeting to monitor the progress of the implementation of the plan, which sets out how the University is going to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2016 and 40% by 2020 from our 2009/10 baseline.
The Carbon Management Plan
The meeting was chaired by Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Neil Garrod and attended by representatives from Facilities Management, Estates, Finance, Information Library Services, School of Science and Carbon Culture.

Nigel Heugh from the building services team gave the group an update on how the various projects were progressing and the changes in costs and improved estimations in carbon savings. For instance projects including the implementation of variable speed drives and voltage optimisation units had been brought forward to this year because the estimated carbon savings are so good.

Some of the biggest challenges that lie in the carbon management plan are with projects yet to be decided - for instance in making savings in IT and influencing the way staff and students use the campus to be more efficient. With the challenge of influencing behaviour change we have been working with Carbon Culture on developing a strategy to make carbon savings more appealing and interesting to campus users.

Carbon Culture’s most high profile work has been with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the work they have done on displaying the department’s energy use. Their energy usage is displayed in real time on their website allowing you to see the peaks and troughs in usage and see how many kWh are being used, the cost of that energy and the carbon emissions too. We will be working with Carbon Culture to deliver a similar service whereby we will be able to break down the data per building or school – so if you wanted to know how much energy the School of Science is using you would be able to see that on the website.

Screenshot from DECC website displaying the energy usage
Another very exciting project that was discussed is surrounding the fuel that the proposed combined heat and power plant (CHP) at Medway will run on. Traditionally these plants are run on finite resources like natural gas or oil, however Pat Harvey the Head of Bioenergy Research at the University is working on an alternative using glycerine instead. The glycerine which can be supplied by Aquafuel results as a bi-product of bio fuel production but can also be produced by salt water algae. The other exciting factor of using glycerine is that it is a clean product – so safe in nature you could eat it before putting it in the CHP and a major glycerine spill in the ocean would have consequences that would be insignificant comparatively to an oil spill.

A handful of algae
On the subject of clean energy the University is switching from a standard electricity tariff to a 100% renewable tariff with our electricity suppliers for over 90% of the University’s electricity supply. As well as this the University is planning on installing photovoltaic solar panels on the rooves of the student accommodation at Avery Hill this coming autumn. This very exciting news demonstrates how the University is determined to make the switch to cleaner and more sustainable energy use and is determined to be a sector leader in sustainability.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Sustainability Team visit Hadlow College

Last week the Sustainability Team headed to Hadlow in Kent to visit Dr. Howard Lee and Sue Brimlow at Hadlow College. Hadlow is one of the University’s ten partner colleges and has been implementing a number of different sustainability projects that Kat and John were keen to investigate.

Kat and John met Howard and Sue in the Broadview Garden Centre Restaurant, the garden centre is owned and run by the college as a commercial enterprise and as well as supplying all your gardening needs it also does a mean club sandwich! Sue and Kat were quick to exchange information on developing a carbon management plan. Sue is currently writing one for Hadlow and Kat finished the University’s plan earlier in the year. On top of writing the carbon management plan Sue has been developing the college’s sustainability strategy for some time now and it makes for impressive reading:

As part of the plan Sue was particularly interested in how behaviour change can make a positive contribution to reducing carbon emissions. As a result of this Hadlow will be having a team in the second year of the University’s Green Impact project. The successful project, that had the university’s schools and offices implement small positive changes outlined in a workbook, is entering its second year in October and work on the new workbook is currently taking place. The NUS who run the project have allowed Greenwich to open it up to the partner colleges and Hadlow are the first to take us up on the offer – here’s hoping we may have a couple more signed up before the launch.

After lunch it was to the Rural Regeneration Centre which is a new building converted and extended from redundant calf sheds. The building is one of the first educational establishments in the UK to have built a new building to the PassivHaus standard which requires buildings to use just 10% of the typical energy use of an equivalent modern building. The building has an energy monitoring display showing the building’s energy consumption, makes use of the natural light and also includes a ground source heat pump and waterless urinals as some of the ‘green’ features.

John Bailey, Dr, Howard Lee and Sue Brimlow outside the Rural Regeneration Centre
Another site of particular interest is the Hadlow College community allotment. The allotment which is maintained and used by 12 local families is a great example of how a previously unused piece of land can be transformed into a vibrant space. The allotment is used in a community style whereby everyone chips in to do the work and everyone gets a share of the produce. They have produced some delicious looking fruit and vegetables and they have their own website here:

Barbecue area and shed for the allotments

Some of the delicious looking produce from the allotments
The allotment is of particular interest at the moment as the university is planning on converting the unused space opposite the tennis courts at Avery Hill Campus into a community allotment for staff and students to grow their own fruit and vegetables on site and learn how to do so. Our guide for the day Dr. Howard Lee is a leading academic on sustainable agriculture has had a particular focus on the challenges of supplying a city with continuous and sustainable supply of food and looking at how urban spaces could be used more effectively to answer these challenges. The community allotment idea is a direct response to the challenges he is researching and one the University is keen to address too. Earlier in the year Howard gave a quick presentation at the university’s Sustainability Awards inspiring some of the sustainability champions to pursue their interest in food growing to the next level and sign up for evening courses at the Hadlow Mottingham Campus.

Stefan explains some of the energy saving projects to Caroline
In the afternoon the Sustainability Team were joined by Caroline Troy of the Natural Resources Institute who was keen to see how Hadlow College are reducing the amount of energy needed to heat their Greenhouses. We were introduced to Stefan Jordan a horticulture lecturer who is managing the greenhouses at Hadlow and showed us around some of the energy saving ideas they have implemented. As well as being impressed by vast numbers of tomatoes we were also shown a bizarre cross between a cucumber and a melon, not sure you’ll find that on the shelves of your local greengrocers any time soon! After looking at the greenhouses Stefan took us via a few plum, pear and apple trees where some impromptu scrumping took place – the Sustainability Team’s fridges are now full of the stuff.

John gets caught scrumping on camera!
At the end of the day the sustainability team hopped back on their bikes – now weighed down with fruit – and headed back to London full of horticultural inspiration and the start of what will hopefully become a great partnership between the Hadlow and Greenwich sustainability teams.