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.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The University of Greenwich's caterers ABM Catering have been awarded a Bronze award in the Soil Association's Food For Life campaign. This award is for ABM Catering's outlets on the University's three campuses and stands as recognition for serving fresh food which is free from controversial e-numbers and better for animal welfare. The Bronze award criteria is as follows:
  • Meals contain no undesirable food additives or hydrogenated fats
  • 75% of dishes are freshly prepared
  • Meat is from farms which satisfy UK welfare standards
  • Eggs are from cage-free hens
  • Menus are seasonal
  • Training is provided for all catering staff
  • No GM ingredients are used

Ben Silcock the Catering Manager at ABM's Pilkington Restaurant in Medway commented on receiving the award, "We are delighted to have achieved the bronze award at our first attempt, we feel that it shows that we are moving in the right direction to becoming a more sustainable operation. It was good to know that the initiatives we launched to reduce packaging, using local suppliers and healthier food options have all made a difference, and we are looking forward to achieving silver next year."

On top of this the University has already won a Good Egg Award for only using free-range eggs, been accredited as a Fairtrade University and received accreditation from the Marine Stewardship Council for using sustainable fish. The University of Greenwich has been working hard with the university's caterers and students unions to ensure that the quality of food on campus to implement the Sustainable Food Policy which can be seen here: 

Pilkington Restaurant at Medway (photo courtesy of University of Kent)
If you would like to try the award winning food head along to either Pilkington Restaurant at the Medway Campus, Queen Mary Cafe at Greenwich or Greengages at the Mansion Site, Avery Hill.