Waste not: a word from our sustainability officer

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If you do not waste food you will never go hungry – so the old saying ‘waste not, want not’ leads us believe. To many, this phrase conjures up images of queues outside grocers of wartime Britain and a by-gone era of thrift. While the phrase may feel out-dated, the philosophy of reducing waste is more relevant than ever and has been re-invigorated by a growing sustainability agenda. Meanwhile food waste continues to present problems worldwide; one-third of all produce in the world is not actually eaten according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN) and, shockingly, almost half is thrown away in the UK.

Bringing it a bit closer to home we can look at how much we waste in St Andrews. As a University we produce over 150 tonnes of food waste each year, and whilst this figure has been falling there is clearly more we can do. To find out more, I spoke to Alan Riddell, Catering Manager for the halls of residences across the University. He tells me the on-going challenges faced in increasing the choices for over 2,000 students: “It’s a delicate balance but we’re trying to reduce waste, improve our menus and provide good value for money.”

With these aims in mind, Mr Riddell talks through the process of how these meals are made: “Firstly all portion sizes are standardised throughout halls, but it proves difficult to always accurately predict how much food to cook on a day-to-day basis.” The difficulty lies in the fact there is not a tried and tested method to understand why meals are popular; often, unpredictable factors such as the weather, the previous nights’ activites and events or even peoples’ timetables make planning impossible. Inevitably this can lead to an increased amount of food waste, but there are steps that are being taken to tackle this, such as providing second helpings for students and staff after each meal.

Simple behavioural changes can also help to reduce waste, as Mr Riddell highlights when talking about vegetable and salad servings, which anyone can help themselves to. He says: “We want to encourage students to eat everything they put on their plates in the first place and to go for second helpings rather than taking larger portions which aren’t eaten and have to be disposed of.” At the University of Manchester they tackled this issue by requiring students to clear their own plates into food recycling bins to make it more obvious how much was being thrown away and to shift responsibility.

Here in St Andrews Transition have been running the CookSMARTER (Save Money and Reduce Time Energy and Resources) programme to provide training for sustainable and healthy cooking around catered halls to help change behaviours whilst also helping to improve recycling facilities with the roll-out of food waste caddies to residents in self-catered halls, including Albany Park.

Back in catered halls, Mr Riddell reminds me that the catering team are open to engaging with new ideas. For this semester’s Green Week extra vegetarian options were offered to provide more choice whilst considering the carbon footprint of the meal, in response the suggestions from various students. This setup is currently being reviewed to ensure that food waste does not increase as a result of greater menu choice and that the new menu is popular. But it shows that these issues are taken seriously.

Furthermore, it is becoming harder to throw away food waste to landfill, which makes the case for food waste reduction even stronger. In January 2014 the Scottish Government introduced legislation affecting all large businesses and organisations that requires them to dispose of their food waste separately from landfill. Alongside the University’s aims to send zero waste to landfill by 2020 as part of its sustainable development strategy, nearly all of the food waste from the University is transported to an anaerobic digester 25 miles away at Glenfarg (Perthshire) where it is converted into electricity.

Whilst this is a clever solution, it is clear that we need to reduce the amount of food wasted in the first instance; our current practices are unsustainable. There are simple things we can all do, such as more considerate meal planning, to foster a culture of ‘waste not’ into the future.

If you have any ideas for how food waste in your halls or the University then you can contact the Environment Team at environment@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Original article: http://www.thesaint-online.com/2015/11/waste-not-a-word-from-our-sustainability-officer/

Research Buzzing in the North Haugh

beesThe Environment and Grounds teams have collaborated on a project to build a research apiary in the North Haugh. Professor David Evans, School of Biology, how has recently joined the University of St Andrews said “this is an outstanding resource to underpin our research on the virus diseases of honeybees which are responsible for high levels of colony losses every year. Bees dislike rain and strong winds, so keeping hives under cover means the colonies are a lot less disturbed when opened during bad weather.” He went on to add that “our studies depend on having bees available for as much of the year as possible. The sheltered environment of the ‘bee shed’ will help keep colonies active in early Spring and late Autumn.” Further details are available from the research group website http://www.evanslab.org.uk/bees/

 

 

Green Raisin Competition Huge Success

The Environment Team have partnered with outdoor adventure group Blown Away Experiences, to deliver a hugely successful Green Raisin Competition, which seeks to promote and reward environmentally-friendly behaviour amongst students.

Modern ‘raisin receipts’ have made a departure from traditional Latin parchment once given to academic children and have since gained a reputation for being oversized, unwanted items instead. This has become a problem when it comes to their disposal as they are hard to recycle and contribute to landfill waste.

To combat this waste, students are being encouraged to think about the environmental impact of their receipt and costume efforts. Now in its third year, the Green Raisin Competition encourages academic parents to design their children’s costumes and receipts so that they are made from 12122578_10207943469213463_2715722554013700019_nreused materials, which are light and easily recyclable.

Congratulations to this year’s winning entry which was both creative and gave consideration to its environmental impact. Their ‘dragon’ costume was made entirely of unwanted cardboard boxes gathered from shops around St Andrews, bed sheets from local charity shops and old bamboo canes from their garden. As a reward, the winning family were treated to a kayaking and SUP-ing (stand up paddle boarding) session, courtesy of Blown Away Experiences.

blown away prize croppedThese efforts to engage students with waste reduction were acknowledged at the Public Sector Sustainability Awards, where St Andrews were ‘Highly Commended’ in the Best Waste and Recycling category.

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Get secure! Locks, security marking and flashing armbands giveaway

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Locks, cycling safety leaflets and flashing armbands

Want to reduce the risk of your bike from being stolen? Looking for a lock to protect it? Want to be more visible as the nights draw in? Then come along to one of our ‘get secure’ sessions!

Not only are we selling bike locks at a subsidised price of £10 (RRP £15) but we are also giving away reflective and flashing armbands for *free*. That’s right – free!

On top of that Police Scotland will be offering security markings for your bicycles and electronic equipment – again – at no cost.

All of the sessions are between 1230 and 1400 and the dates and locations are as follows:

Thursday 1st October  – Andrew Melville Hall
Thursday 8th Oct – Agnes Blackadder Hall
Thurs 15th Oct – University Hall
Thurs 22nd Oct – John Burnett Hall
Thurs 29th Oct – St Salvator’s Hall
Thurs 5th November – Albany Park
Thurs 12th Nov – St Regulus’ Hall

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Last week’s session at DRAFP

If you are still looking to purchase a bike then you can join the Bike Pool on Facebook or contact BikeWorks on Facebook or by phone on 01592 751500 who provide second hand refurbished bicycles.

Road closures necessary as work on Fife Green Energy Centre begins

Residents and workers in North East Fife are being advised to expect travel disruption during early Spring 2016, when major pipe-laying works get underway on the main A919 Guardbridge to St Andrews road.

Fife Council will close the road, from 15 February 2016 to 8 April 2016, to allow 4 miles of water-pipe to be laid, connecting Guardbridge’s new £25 million Green Energy Centre with St Andrews, and providing the essential infrastructure for ongoing inward investment into Fife, job creation, and renewable energy production.

The new Energy Centre is being developed by the University of St Andrews and will pump hot water to St Andrews where it will be used to heat and cool student residences and laboratories.

To ensure safety to road users and to keep disruption to a minimum, diversions will be in place through Balmullo, adding an extra 7.5 miles to journeys north of St Andrews and south of St Michaels.

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Detailed consultation will take place with emergency services, bus operators, local businesses and community representatives and wherever possible the University will ensure that arrangements are in place to minimise the impact on services.

The University’s Chief Operating Officer, Derek Watson, said: “We are very sensitive to the fact that these works will cause varying levels of disruption to people who live or work in the Guardbridge, Leuchars and St Andrews areas, and we are very grateful for the support and consideration  which the community has shown so far as we have developed our plans to establish Guardbridge as a major centre for renewable energy.

“The Guardbridge development represents an investment of £25 million in north east Fife – creating more than 225 jobs in the construction phase alone, supporting apprenticeships, promoting the environment, and re-establishing Guardbridge as a key economic centre.”

Initially, the University had been directed by the Fife roads authorities to undertake the pipe-laying works in October and November this year. Following consultation with councillors however, it became apparent that the road closure might impact on commuting Madras pupils due to sit prelim exams in November.

The University lobbied for permission to undertake the works in January and February 2016 at the quietest time of year for traffic, but has now been informed that the road closures cannot start until February 2016.

Green Events not to miss this Freshers’ Week

Here are the highlights for all things sustainability-related in St Andrews during Freshers’ Week – don’t miss out!

Monday

The Big Green Fair (St Katherine’s Lawn behind Library, 11am-3pm) is an outdoor festival celebrating the environment, with live music and great local food. Find out more about what our eco-friendly societies are up to this year and how to get involved in their activities & projects.

The Big Giveaway with StAnd Re-Use (same time, Arts lecture theatre): Household items, kitchenware and stationery donated by previous students, all available for free! That’s right – FREE! Arrive early to avoid disappointment and don’t forget to bring a bag

Tuesday – Carbon Conversations, St Andrews Botanic Garden, 12pm – 1:30pm

Carbon Conversations is a free 6-session programme run in St Andrews which looks at individual carbon footprints and what can be done to reduce them, through interactive sessions which include games and group discussions as well as individual reflection. This taster session will introduce you to some of the activities so you can decide if it is for you, while enjoying lunch in the beautiful surroundings of the St Andrews Botanic Gardens. Bring a friend and pick up some great energy and money-saving tips!
Meet at the front gate at 12pm or find us either in the glassclass or learning den. Bring your lunch and we will have some to share

Wednesday – Sow, Grow and Eat at the University Community Garden, 2-4pm
Growing your own food is a skill for life. With the University now having 10 food growing spaces that are open to students, staff and local people it’s also a very popular part of life here. Find out more and get your hands dirty at this special session in the St Andrews University Community Garden where we will be harvesting crops and enjoying some food made from the garden’s produce. Drop in at any time during this session. (Edible Campus: Transition UStA event)IMG_1524

University Community Garden (opposite the Observatory on Buchanan Gardens)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1145078895519158/

 

Thursday – Charitable and Volunteering Fair, Students’ Association, 11am onwards

Passionate about development and Fairtrade? Then come to our stall at the Charitable and Volunteering Fair and find out how you can get involved. This is an especially exciting time to do so as the town is celebrating its 10 year anniversary as a ‘Fairtrade Town’ and the University will also be celebrating its 10 year anniversay, in 2016. What are you waiting for?

Friday – Freshers’ Bike Sale, Agnes Blackadder Car Park, 10am onwards

Looking for a cheap, green and healthy way of getting  around town? Want to learn how to fix your bike? Then come along to our annual and extremely popular second hand bike sale!

This year Bikeworks will bring bikes, teaming up with St Andrews Bike Pool so you can learn to fix your new bike or bring along one you own already to ensure it’s in good working order.

We sell out very quickly so make sure to be early to avoid disappointment!

 

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Spades of potential

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Deputy First Minster John Swinney joined in the official start of construction work on the £25 million University’s green energy centre at Guardbridge this month (Monday 6 July 2015).

A state-of-the-art biomass facility, using only wood from sustainable local sources, will be built on the site of a former paper mill at Guardbridge and which will pump hot water from the plant four miles underground to heat and cool laboratories and student residences in St Andrews.

The green energy centre will help to regenerate north east Fife by creating more than 225 jobs in the construction phase. The University has developed the Guardbridge Guarantee as part of the project. This ensures that the project supports apprenticeship and graduate training, creating and sustaining jobs while working with the local community to promote environment and energy projects and local business.

Mr Swinney met representatives from the University to formally hand the site over to the construction team to start work. Addressing a gathering of St Andrews staff, funders and community representatives, Mr Swinney spoke of the “fantastic, imaginative potential” of the Guardbridge project.

The University’s Chief Operating Officer Derek Watson said:

“The start of construction work at Guardbridge represents a major strategic step for the University. We are committed to becoming carbon neutral for energy and this large industrial site lends itself to the creation of a range of renewable energies which are vital to our efforts to remain one of Europe’s leading research institutions.

“With the biomass at its heart, we believe the diverse range of potential uses at Guardbridge has the capacity to re-establish this huge site as a key economic centre in Fife.”

Meet the 2015 Interns – Richard Adams

Following the success of last year’s internships, the Environment Team have taken on two more interns to work on various projects with us this summer. It’s great having some new faces in the office, so we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce them to readers of our blog so you can find out a bit more about what they’ve been working on! First up is our Travel Carbon Intern, Richard:

Richard Adams

Name: Richard Adams
Where are you from?: I’m from Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England.
Internship Title: Travel Carbon Intern
Degree and year of study: I’ve just finished my second year studying Geography.

Give a brief snapshot of your role:
My job is to take the data acquired from various sources through which the university books its business travel arrangements and use it to extrapolate a CO2 estimate from it. I am also using the staff and student survey data to estimate the emissions associated with commuting to/from the university and finally looking at how the current systems for gathering this data can be improved to make future estimates more accurate and streamlined.

What attracted you to this internship with the Environment Team?
I wanted to gain experience working within the environmental sector and doing real-world work, building on what I have studied in my first 2 years here.

What have you learnt/what skills have you acquired so far from the internship?
I have learnt a lot of Excel and data skills which will be very useful in the future, but mostly the experience of working in an office environment with meetings/reports/suppliers has given me lots of skills required for working in professional ‘real-world’ environments.

How does this internship fit into your future career plans?
I would like to work in the environmental/sustainability sector and this internship has given me experience working within a team focused on environmental work and hopefully will be valuable in getting future work in the sector.

Share one tip for sustainable living that you wish more students would adopt: Try and buy local produce that is in season. It (usually) has less packaging, has travelled less miles to get here and you’re also supporting the local economy.

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Click here to meet our EcoCampus Intern, Eloise, and check out the projects last year’s interns (Dominyka, Daihachi, and Elena) worked on last summer!

Geothermal energy could heat homes and businesses around Scotland

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A green energy centre in Fife is to investigate the feasibility of heating buildings using warm water recovered from sedimentary rocks deep below the ground. The University of St Andrews, which operates the Guardbridge Energy centre, is lead partner in a Scottish Government funded project to see if geothermal energy can be used to heat homes and businesses around Scotland.

This largely untapped resource could provide significant amounts of renewable heat for Scotland, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a low carbon heat source.

Dr Ruth Robinson, the lead for the geothermal feasibility project at the University of St Andrews, said: “Extracting geothermal heat from sedimentary rocks is similar to getting drinking water out of the ground, except in this case the water is warm enough to be used for heating. This feasibility project will investigate if there is a business case to explore for geothermal heat, and if feasible, the technological developments arising out of this project could be used for similar projects across Scotland.”

The team of collaborators working on the project with the University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences are part of a group called Fife Geothermal, and include the British Geological Survey, Ramboll, Town Rock Energy Ltd, Fife Council, and Resource Efficient Solutions Ltd.

The award to the Guardbridge project has been made from the Scottish Government’s Geothermal Energy Challenge Fund, supported by the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme, the first strategic intervention established under the new European Structural Funds programme.

Councillor John Wincott, Sustainability Champion for Fife Council, said: “Reliable, secure and affordable energy is important for Fife both for our communities and for business. Crucially, heat makes up over half the energy we use, so Fife Council is keen to support work to find local sources of renewable heat. Fife looks a good area for geothermal heat – that is basically hot, wet rocks – that could potentially supply the heat source to provide hot water and heating to local homes and businesses. We are therefore delighted to be a member of the Fife Geothermal group, and to be a part of one of only five projects to secure funding from the Scottish Government to investigate opportunities around Guardbridge.”

University of St Andrews Executive Director for Guardbridge, Ian McGrath, said:

“This is an exciting project, the potential to heat buildings from warm water underground is one of many renewable energies being considered for Guardbridge. As one of Europe’s leading research institutions, we encourage innovative concepts in renewable energy and wish Fife Geothermal every success. We believe the diverse range of potential uses for Guardbridge has the capacity to re-establish this huge site as a key economic centre in Fife.”

St Andrews University is investing £25 million at the former paper mill at Guardbridge to generate power through clean biomass and pump hot water four miles underground to St Andrews to heat and cool its labs and residences.

Alongside plans for a six-turbine wind power development at Kenly to the east of St Andrews, the Guardbridge scheme will support a strategic drive by St Andrews to become the United Kingdom’s first carbon-neutral university.

The University of St Andrews is also a partner in a second Geothermal Energy Challenge Fund project, led by ARUP, that will be centred at the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. At this site, the target heat resource is about 1km underground in one of the city’s famous granites.