Striving for Sustainable Labs – Interns join the Environment Team

Daniel and Jasmin (see photo below) will be joining the Environment Team for 6 weeks this summer, as Sustainable Lab Interns.

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They are going to be focusing on laboratory sustainability, specifically looking at energy usage, good practice case studies, and ways to raise awareness among regular lab users.

They hope they can put their scientific degree backgrounds – chemistry and biology, respectively – to good use, looking at ways to improve the operations that take place throughout the University’s science faculty here in St Andrews.

Crossing Scotland in an Electric Car: a How-to Guide

George King, from the University’s Environment Team, describes his experience of driving an electric car on a long distance journey. The Environment Team strive to improve the sustainability agenda across the University and St Andrews.

As an occasional driver (and one who doesn’t own a car) the prospect of driving an electric car is always exciting. Previous excursions with E-Car St Andrews have been limited to Fife to avoid the need for a re-charge. However this time I decided to venture further afield – heading west to Loch Lomond – with a group of friends in tow.

You can hire electric cars and vans across St Andrews, at affordable pay-as-you-go rates

You can hire electric cars and vans across St Andrews, at affordable pay-as-you-go rates

For those who have never set foot in an electric car (aka electric vehicles, or ‘EVs’ for short) there are a few things to consider:

  1. No jangling keys. Instead you use your membership card (credit card sized) as a key to open the car. Inside the EV there is a thicker plastic card key, which you need to insert before you press the ‘start/stop’ button. All silently of course.
  2. There are no gears. Unlike most cars in the UK, there is no need for a manual transmission and instead EVs behave like automatics. Put it into ‘Drive’ and you’re good to go.
  3. You can re-charge the vehicle in various places across Scotland and the UK. Coverage of charging points is surprisingly good and with Charge Your Car (CYC) covering 99% of them you’re sure to find somewhere to plug in. It is worth noting that charging is also free.
  4. Planning is key. As we found out planning your route is essential for longer journeys to ensure you reach a charging point in time to recharge the batteries.

For our journey we set off from St Andrews, picking up a friend in Anstruther on the way, and decided to take the slightly longer route via the Forth Road Bridge and Glasgow to put the car to the test.

We knew in advance that we couldn’t make it to our destination without charging but rather than planning charge stops beforehand, we  took the impromptu method – using the CYC app to locate a charging point, on the way.

Waiting for the last bit of charge

Almost there – just 20 more minutes for this charge in Bathgate

Once the range of the EV dropped to 15 miles the ‘range anxiety’ started to kick in, we decided it was time to look for a charger as soon as we could. After a brief navigation mishap (a pessimist may say ‘lost’) we found ourselves a vacant charger. Stopping at Bathgate for an hour, we were able leave the car to charge and use the time productively, shopping for our tea and weekend supplies while we waited.

Back on the road again, we soon arrived at our friend’s flat in Balloch, where we were staying for the weekend. It was then a matter of dropping the car off at a local point, 1 mile from the flat, to re-charge overnight.

Setting out bright and early the next morning we headed for the summit of Ben Lomond in the sunshine, struggling at first with the gradient and then, believe it or not, with the heat.

Enjoying the view from the summit of Ben Lomond

Enjoying the view from the summit of Ben Lomond

After lunch a-top the Ben, we completed the circuit route, managing a swim in Loch Lomond and a pint at a local pub before the day’s end.

On the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

We found a lovely secluded beach on the shore of Loch Lomond

The next day we had to say our goodbyes and planned our route back to St Andrews in the EV. For the return journey, we decided to go a more direct route and to charge in two short 20 minute bursts – in Stirling and Kinross. Learning from our previous mistakes we found both charging points without difficulty, giving us a brief chance to explore the outskirts of Stirling and to grab a coffee on the banks of Loch Leven.

Over the whole weekend we travelled a total of 216 miles, charged 4 times (including one overnight charge) and spent around 8 hours on the road or charging.

Our round trip route. Google predicts this round trip would take almost 6 hours in a conventional car

Our round trip route. Google predicts this round trip would take almost 6 hours in a conventional car

Although it didn’t always go to plan (when we had one), the weekend was a success and the EV certainly made the trip even more memorable – all for the right reasons.

It won’t be long before we plan our next low carbon getaway; let’s just hope another heatwave decides to join us again next time.

Help St Andrews win best in Scotland – sign-up for the Scottish Journey Challenge today

sustrans-logo-2005Sustrans, the UK’s leading smarter travel charity, are challenging people across Scotland to commute by low-carbon means, during May 2016. Here in St Andrews we are already blazing a trail; the University is in 5th place. We can make that 1st place with your help.

You can download the app and sign up here for the challenge. Record all of your journeys (including during work) which used the following modes of transport and avoided driving a car alone:

  • Walking
  • Cycling
  • Public Transport
  • Lift sharing
  • Virtual meetings (such as using Skype for Business)
  • Working from home

Why take part?

There are several reasons you should take part:

  1. It’s fun!

You can compete with colleagues, other organisations across Scotland and yourself. There is an online leader board so you can compare key stats and track your progress and your colleagues’.

  1. Keeps you fighting fit

Last year’s bike to work breakfast was a great success

Active modes of travel (ones which incorporate physical exercise) help improve fitness and wellbeing. So far staff in St Andrews have burnt a whopping 7,307 calories

  1. Points mean prizes

By taking part in the challenge (a minimum of 1 journey per week) you could be in for a chance to win prizes. Plus walking, cycling and lift sharing are all guaranteed to save you pennies.

  1. Opportunity to enjoy the weather

Walking or cycling to work or between meetings at this time of year gives you the best opportunity to enjoy the sun. Make the most of it… while it lasts. You can also pat yourself on the back for avoiding carbon emissions – staff have saved 63kg CO2 already

Find out more about the challenge and sign up here on the Sustrans website

Further Green Award Successes in 2016

Following the successes of the annual Green Sports Award, an award introduced to recognise and reward sustainable behaviour change within our sports clubs, the Environment Team have introduced a second award – the Green Society Award -to bestow upon the greenest societies of the Students’ Asssociation.

The Green Sports Award, now celebrating its third year, was won by the St Andrews University Canoe Club (STAUCC) for their wholehearted efforts to reduce their environmental impact as a club and to improve the local area. This year they undertook a recycling project with other sports clubs, to collect bras for the charity ‘Against Breast Cancer’ (ABC) which helped to avoid unnecessary landfill waste whilst fundraising for ABC. Their members also undertook a beach clean and clean-up of the Kinnessburn and helped improve biodiversity at Cambo Estate by purchasing bird boxes.

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Hugo Fairclough from STAUCC picks up the Green Sports Award from Mark Simpson, Director of Estates at the Sports Awards Ceremony

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STAAG’s 24-hour cycle ride outside the Students’ Association

For the inaugural Green Society Award, the St Andrews Adventure Group (STAAG) were announced winners for their use of sustainable transport on their

expeditions and by encouraging their members to think carefully about travel. For their Canoe Across Scotland challenge participants canoed from Fort William to Inverness and made sure to only use electric vehicles in the process, renting from the local E-Car club. Nearer to home, they run micro-adventures which support local hiking and camping without the need for transport at all and recently hosted a 24-hour cycle event to raise money for the charity Fauna and Flora International, who seek to protect and conserve threatened ecosystems worldwide.

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Stephanie Haywood of STAAG talks about their green activities at the Societies Award

St Andrews hosts Energy Ethics Conference

Last week saw the University of St Andrews host an international Energy Ethics conference, where the ethical dilemmas surrounding our  relationships with energy were explored by over 25 academics. Topics of discussion ranged from the energy injustices for the ‘off-grid’ citizen, to the complicated ethical considerations ex-coal miners must face, in response to a declining industry.

Drawing from debates in anthropology and sustainability, they presented at the conference alongside Prof Debbora Battaglia and Prof Benjamin Sovacool who discussed the ethics of aeroponic horticulture and energy policy-making in Europe, respectively, in the two keynote lectures of the event.

Those attending the conference were offered an opportunity to visit the Guardbridge Energy Centre to see the installation of a sustainable district heating system, which will heat the University’s North Haugh campus buildings for the next 50 years.

David Stutchfield, Energy Officer at the University of St Andrews, led the tour of Guardbridge, from the biomass boiler to the wood chipping area (see photos below).

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Inside the Energy Centre

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David Stutchfield describes the retrofitting process for the old coal power station, a listed building which will become office space for University support staff

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Inside the Energy Centre. Biomass boiler (blue, right) will produce the heat for the district heating system whilst the thermal stores (silver, centre) will ensure efficiency is maximised

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Across the Motray Water to the chipping site

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The conference group pause for thought on the Motray Bridge. The old coal power station (immediately behind) and new biomass centre (left) are visible

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David Stutchfield points out the prospective site for the wood chipping equipment

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One last view of the Guardbridge Energy Centre, a key capital project which will help the University become carbon neutral for energy

Thank you to all our delegates and to Dr Mette High and Dr Jessica Smith for organising the conference.

 

 

 

 

Students’ petition for Fossil Free St Andrews signed by over 500

12711061_954294577985316_4958869231947097092_oStudents at the University of St Andrews have formed a campaign group ‘Fossil Free St Andrews’ which is seeking to see the University divest its current investments out of fossil fuel companies.

Since a petition to launch the campaign was launched on the 15th January, over 500 students, staff and alumni have signed.

Find out more about the campaign on their Facebook page

Electrifying talk at Lawhead Primary

Pupils at Lawhead Primary were given a talk by Dita, manager at E-car club St Andrews, and Mike from the University of St Andrews. As part of the talk they were given a demonstration of the University ‘Wee Green Machine’ and the E-Car Renault Zoe.

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P2s and P5/6s at Lawhead were invited to explore the cars.

All photos reproduced have received permission from Lawhead Primary School to do so.

Park and pedal – Guardbridge to St Andrews

Everyone is familiar with the benefits of regular exercise. Most obviously, improved cardiovascular fitness, better muscle tone and increased fat burning potential. Not to mention reducing stress and fighting off low mood with those post-exercise feel good endorphins.

It was with these points in mind that I decided to take advantage of Transition’s park and pedal scheme for the duration of the Guardbridge road closure.

For those not in the know, Transition have provided car parking spaces, a new bike shelter and hire bikes at Guardbridge to allow staff, students and members of the public travelling from Dundee to avoid the diversion and complete the Guardbridge to St Andrews leg of their journey by bike.

More information on the park and pedal scheme can be found on the Sustainability section of the website.

I can’t deny that I did have initial reservations, so I made a deal with myself to try it for a week and go back to driving if I really didn’t like it.

One week in and I am pleased to report that I have really enjoyed commuting by bike and plan to continue to do so for the remainder of the road closure (and maybe beyond).

To encourage others to give it a go, I’ve addressed some of my initial concerns below.

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Navigation

This was my primary concern since I had never used the cycle path between Guardbridge and St Andrews before.

Sustrans, the charity responsible for the National Cycle Network, have very clear maps of all major UK cycle paths on their website along with a wealth of cycling related resources that I found very helpful.

For those who are still unsure, Transition are running a series of led rides from Guardbridge to St Andrews for the duration of the road closure. These are free and open to all – so absolutely no excuses!

Energy levels

I was concerned that getting up early and exercising before work (a previously foreign concept to me) would contribute to my usual post-lunch energy slump.

In practice, however, I have found the opposite to be true. Not only do I arrive at the office refreshed and motivated, my energy levels are generally higher throughout the day. The cycle back to Guardbridge in the evening has yet to feel like a struggle and is, in fact, great for blowing away the cobwebs after sitting at my desk all day.

General hassle

The thought of having to pack a bag with my work clothes every morning did initially make me baulk. However, I was forgetting that I normally pack a gym bag every morning and this task was no more onerous.

This leads on to a separate and fairly self-explanatory point about being able to forgo the gym for exercise in the fresh air with a lovely view.

The drawbacks

The only major drawback I’ve experienced is a mild case of helmet hair. Of course, if you decide to take advantage of the University’s shower facilities this will not be of concern to you. Luckily, my team are very encouraging and have promised not to discuss my hair for the next eight weeks.

In sum, I’d encourage everyone to give the park and pedal a shot. I challenge you to try it for a week and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Words by Felicity Wild, digital communications team.

For enquiries, contact transition@st-andrews.ac.uk or tel 01334 46 4000

A ‘Fuel Good’ New Year’s Resolution

In 2014-15 the University emitted 88 tonnes of CO2 from its fleet. To lessen this impact, twelve of our drivers have completed ‘Fuel Good’ Driver Training, a fuel efficiency course provided by the Energy Savings Trust and Transport Scotland.

The aim of the course is to teach drivers skills that will help them to drive more economically, avoiding harsh braking and over-acceleration.

In each of 50 minute one-to-one sessions the drivers are assessed on their current driving habits, with their average MPG compared before and after each training session. A video of an example session can be found here.

Upon completion of the course, our drivers have increased their MPG by an average of 14%, to around 46 MPG; saving fuel, avoiding pollution and shrinking the University’s carbon footprint. If these savings are applied to the whole year, over 3.6 tonnes of CO2 will be avoided by the University.Tam, Jim and Sam

Tam McMullan, Jimmy Webster and Sam Wood (pictured above) from Estates were the first three members of staff to complete the training. Congratulations to them and to Adam Taylor, Ross Grieve and Terry Mitchell, also from Estates and Andy Braid, David Jarrett, Jim Moonie, Steven Gonzalez, Mike Mulreany and Ray Schiavetta from IT Services who recently completed the course as well.

In the coming weeks staff from the School of Geography and Geoscience and the University Library will undergo training.
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University Winter Shutdown 2015/16

Before leaving the University for the festive break please remember to:

  • switch off ALL electrical appliances at the wall
  • switch off ALL lights
  • turn down radiators to “1”
  • do not leave anything on standby

Remember that energy use really does all add up, so switch off all equipment, including printers and mobile phone chargers as well as the obvious computer and lights!  Turning off any equipment over the Christmas break will help us meet our carbon reduction targets and reduce cost to the University over the break.

Last year we avoided a whopping 249 tonnes of CO2 and saved £51,436 – a 27% reduction of the University’s total energy use! This was 50 tonnes more CO2 avoided than 2013/14, so hopefully we can continue the trend and avoid even more this Christmas