Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Cooking with Alyssa

Today Alyssa Terrel takes over the blog. Alyssa is helping us with our EcoCampus Environmental Management System and rather than an introductory blog post explaining who she is and what she'll be doing Alyssa is delighting us with a lesson in cooking....

In my first week John asked me to make a green pledge... Although we only have a small balcony at home, I pledged to fill it with herbs and leaves of all edible sorts and to buy all the fruit & veg we couldn’t grow ourselves at our local Farmers Market at Bermondsey Square.

Besides supporting UK farmers, it also ensures that we are eating local and seasonable foods with bonus carbon points. The problem has been finding myself enamoured by the beauties of the season, which don’t put in public appearances at supermarkets (like gooseberries and red currants), getting them home and not knowing what to do with them!

Alyssa's haul from the farmer's market including the red currants
A couple of weeks back the bright red currant caught my eye. Once getting my new found treasure home, I tried one... yuck! It was like the wicked witch that had polished and positioned these little beauties right in front of me had forgotten to mask the poison! An experienced mind and a big lump of sugar was definitely in order, so I had a look on the net and found this recipe on which worked a treat... Red Currant Tart

The recipe is easy to follow and the result is definitely worth the effort, my colleagues will attest (they say mmmmmmm). For those like me that aren’t too accustomed to being in the kitchen here are some top tips:
• Before you start, make sure you have one of these funky springform tins - it saves on those moments when shaking a tin upside down ends in disaster. Remember to suss out your borrowing or second-hand options before buying one new, the baking fad may be short-lived!

• Once you have made the pastry, ensuring you don’t handle it too much, rest it in the fridge for at least 30 mins
• Get going on the tart filling while the base is baking, putting aside a small bunch of red currants to garnish the top once it is out of the oven.
• This recipe is brilliant because it makes use of the entire egg and doesn’t leave you with extra yolks or whites. My free-range farmers market eggs made the meringue top fluffier than the recipe pictures, if I do say so myself! I am not one to invoke violence, especially on eggs, but you need to beat them like you mean it including prior to and whilst adding the sugar and cornflower, and for at least 5 mins after. The best way to do this is good ol’ arm power, no electric beaters in this household!
• My tart topping took a tad longer than 10 mins to cook but just leave it in there until the peaks are slightly browned and the top is firm and slightly crumbly to touch.
• Finally, enjoy! I served mine with natural yogurt which cut through the tarty sweetness.

Served with a big dollop of yogurt
I enjoyed my seasonal berry adventure so much that I have made another green pledge which is to share with you my successes (and failures) in a Meat-free Monday recipe special on the blog.

For this week, I tried out a recipe from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall which appeared in the Guardian. Using beans, dill and walnuts from the Market and fresh mint from our herb garden it was a delicious summer salad with a bit of cheesy goodness. French beans with feta, walnuts and mint salad

Summer salad inspired by Hugh!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sustainable Procurement Takeover: Steps to Sustainable Procurement

Sustainable procurement is taking over the blog this week! As the new university year is beginning, we should all be considering the long term impacts of the things we are buying, to ensure that our university continues to flourish in the future.

The impact of procurement is not limited to our usage but to the full life cycle of the product, from raw materials and manufacture to disposal:

There are lots of ways we can purchase more sustainably to reduce these impacts. Here are seven simple steps to more sustainable procurement, both at work and at home:

1. Do we really need this?! Value for money is impossible to achieve if we don’t really need an item in the first place so think twice before ordering to ensure money is well spent and waste is minimised

2. Reduce usage. Considerate usage saves money and resources. Paper is the key example here: staff and students can make the most of our new multifunctional printing equipment (networked photocopiers and printers all rolled into one!) to reduce the amount of paper and energy we use through printing and copying

3. Can we reuse or refurbish? Most furniture suppliers will take back old furniture and refurbish it for us to the design we specify – this saves us significant amounts of money and prevents all that lovely material from heading straight to the tip

4. Can we acquire this item elsewhere? We can use the university’s Announce emails for advertising redundant equipment – if you know you are likely to need items in the future then keep an eye out on these emails! This saves money and reduces waste and resources. Items can also be procured from other organisations: features lots of equipment and furniture for resale online

5. Collaborate with colleagues. Sharing equipment is a sustainability win, simultaneously reducing spend and environmental footprint. Collaboration on deliveries is another good idea – placing orders at the same time can minimise the deliveries to site

6. Think sustainable labels. Think recycled, Fairtrade, EU Ecolabel, FSC, Energy Star - the list goes on! Don’t let the labels daunt you as they can assist us all in buying more planet friendly options - a good guide is produced by Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), available here. Product and contract specific information for staff will also be supplied by Procurement & Business Services in the near future.

7. Badger your supplier! If you’re not sure what to buy then ask them! They want the university’s business so we’re in a brilliant position to influence the market. We’ve had progress from many suppliers already and several will be showcasing their products and services at the Sustainable Procurement Exhibition in October. Staff can sign up to attend here.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

A Summer of Re-Use at the University

The summer has arrived at the University of Greenwich, the students have gone home for a few months and many of the offices, labs and classrooms are being re-furbished and updated. Once again the students at Avery Hill used the re-use project (run in conjunction with CRISP) to donate their unwanted items to charity and this year the project was rolled out to Macmillan Halls to give students in Greenwich the opportunity to donate their unwanted items too.

The CRISP Re-use project worked with over 70 different halls of residence this year, including the two from the University of Greenwich and had a reach as far as 19,943 students from 11 different universities. In total CRISP managed to save 30 tonnes from going to waste with nearly 85% of that being re-used. The overall estimated CO2 (e) reduction achieved by the project as a whole was 342 tonnes of which 21.1 was saved from the University of Greenwich.

The students donated a wide variety of different items including clothes, bedding, electronics, televisions, books, kitchenware and food. Everything from armchairs to an old Brooks leather saddle ended up in the back of the van when CRISP arrived to collect the items and all of these re-usable objects were transported to the CRISP warehouse to be sorted and re-distributed.

A selection of items donated at Avery Hill
Once the items have been sorted they’re sent out to a variety of different charities including, Ace of Clubs, Emmaus, Manna Centre, St Mungo’s, Streetlytes, the Marylebone Project and the Upper Room who all help for the homeless and vulnerable in London. As well as this charities working to support communities, children, animals, hospitals, right through to projects establishing sustainable projects in some of the world’s poorest countries are supported by the project including Bright Sparks, Clothes Aid, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospital, OFFERS/Ex-IT and TRAID.

Outside of the halls of residence many of the University’s facilities are being upgraded and prepared for the new influx of students in September and often this means a re-organisation and sometimes the removal of furniture. Rather than send our unwanted furniture to disposal we have been looking to a variety of different organisations to re-use what we have been unable to re-home within the University. This summer we have re-homed over 50 desks from the Drill Hall Library – 40 of them going to Bexley Grammar (one of the University’s feeder schools), the further 10 desks from the Drill Hall, 70 chairs from Greenwich labs and a small selection of office furniture from the School of Business ended up going to an organisation called TRUP (The Re-Use Partnership) who refurbish and re-distribute the furniture to local charities, organisations and start-up businesses.

Bexley Grammar students Celebrate Receiving the desks - (OK they're actually celebrating their exam results but they are pretty pleased with the desks too!)