Fairtrade Christmas

As the holidays approach we are flooded with consumer adverts, deals and sales, finding it hard to resist spending on things we may not even need, or end up never using. However, we could use the this time of the year to vote with our wallets on more sustainable and ethical gifts and products. Read on to find out what the University of St Andrews does to promote ethical food and consumer products.

With the Christmas holidays and Boxing Day upon us, it is a good time to consider the things we purchase beyond their monetary value.

Sometimes the reason why a product is very cheap is due to someone else baring the cost along the production value chain. And when the goods we purchase are produced in countries, where labour protection laws are either non-existent or weekly enforced, it is the workers who are deprived of something, in order for us to have the cheaper option.

University of St Andrews recognises this problem and tries to correct for it by supplying fairtrade-certified products, where possible. At the time of writing all of our bananas, sugar, coffee, hot chocolate and the majority of our tea is fairtrade, with all non-fairtrade tea being supplied by a non-profit, the proceeds of which fund educational charities.

Our catering and procurement departments constantly look to expand the University’s fairtrade product range, educating staff and students about its importance, but also listening to their feedback. For instance, after a University-wide student survey in spring 2017, where the majority of students indicated a preference towards fairtrade bananas, all of the bananas offered on campus are now fairtrade. Further, our chefs regularly try out new fairtrade products and brands, trying to find a good fit for their catering requirements, while procurement works hard to identify fairtrade suppliers able to meet the demand from a large institution such as ours.

Building up on this good record, the Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA) has introduced a fairtrade product range in their gift shop, as part of the exhibition – Encountering Africa: Henri Gaden’s Life and Photography in Colonial French West Africa, 1894-1939.

This temporary exhibition showcases the photographs of Henri Gaden (1867-1939), a French colonial officer who lived in West Africa for almost 45 years. An ethnographer, linguist and gifted photographer, Gaden captured on camera a rich variety of encounters with Africa. His photographs provide an important pictorial record of military campaigns, colonial life at French outposts, local communities and portraits of individuals he met in West Africa.

As MUSA’s Visitor Service Team wanted to be respectful of the culture and people, represented in the photography exhibition, they decided to source fairtrade merchandise, in support of African producers.

In MUSA’s gift shop you can find a range of fairtrade bags made from recycled plastics – a big environmental issue around the coast of Ghana where clean water is routinely consumed from non-biodegradable plastic sachets which are then discarded on the streets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the bags, the shop offers wooden hand-made decorations and olivewood beaded coffee spoons, carved in Kenya. These products are made by people who previously carved in ivory and have had to adapt their trade due to the ban on poaching. All of the products are sourced from Tilnar Art, which is a BAFTS-certified supplier.

 

Buying more ethically-sourced products is a great New Year’s resolution, and if you are considering this, make sure to stop by MUSA for some great ethical and environmentally-friendly gifts when it opens again on January 4th!

Meanwhile, if you still haven’t done your Christmas shopping and are looking for some last-minute gift ideas, why not have a look at this Fairtrade Foundation gift guide or browse through their website?

And for more sustainable gift-wrapping options such as Japanese fabric(furoshiki) or newspaper wrapping check out this interesting blog post.

Happy Holidays from the Environment Team and keep on being sustainable!

 

Encountering Africa is on display at MUSA until 25 February 2018.

 

 

Welcome, class of 2021!

With the academic year fast approaching we are excited to welcome a new cohort of students to University of St Andrews. It could be overwhelming for some when moving to a new place and learning your way around town. This is why as a recent graduate our sustainability intern, Mariya Simeonova, is here to offer some advice about how you can foster a low-carbon way of living as soon as you arrive in St Andrews.

Hello and welcome, class of 2021! I know you must be equal parts excited and terrified about starting this new chapter of your life, and I would try to ease the load a bit by providing you with some handy and very concise information about everything sustainable in St Andrews.

Grocery Shopping and Cooking

Many of you will be in catered halls, however, in case of getting tired of take-aways on weekend nights, here are some tips for grocery shopping and food preparation.

Most grocery shops in town offer a variety of organic, and fairtrade products at affordable prices, so you are spoiled for choice. There also are many locally-owned shops offering regional and local food with minimal packaging, resulting in a lower carbon footprint. Further, Transition University of St Andrews runs a non-profit online and pop-up shop for affordable local, organic and fairtrade produce called The Tree, so make sure to check their website.

When it comes to food preparation, chopping the produce into small pieces, allows for a faster cooking process and less energy consumption. Transition also offer various Skillshare events on how to cook and prepare food staples such as bread, chocolate and hummus, which you would otherwise buy from the store with all the packaging they come in.

Travel

Moving on to the topic of commute, most University halls and buildings are within a walking distance from each other and the town centre. Yet, if you are based at DRA or Albany Park, you might be tempted every once in a while to call a taxi. Yet, there are so many cheaper and more sustainable options for you to consider.

Walking

Walking is not only a great exercise but it also stimulates creativity and mindfulness. Plus the beautiful wildlife and architecture you come across when exploring St Andrews on foot is worth the walk! If you live in DRA for example and would like to do some grocery shopping, why not take a short cut through Lade Braes and head over to Aldi, Morrison or M&S?

Cycling

Cycling is a great way to travel carbon-free, and we work hard on ever-improving the cycling infrastructure in and around St Andrews. You can purchase a bicycle at some of the bike sales organised during Freshers’ Week, and cycling lights and robust bike locks can be found at a cost-price form the University Shop – just go in and ask for them as they are not on display. And if you miss the bike sale at the beginning of the academic year, fear not! Transition runs a bike hire scheme, lending bicycles equipped with everything you might need.

Longer distance

If you would like to explore North-East Fife or even further, why not take advantage of your student discount and buy a week pass for public transport. The bus station is very central, the route network is good and you get free WiFi on board! And, in case you need to travel further afield, Leuchars railway station is just 20 minutes away by bus.

Electric vehicles

Our university has partnered with E-car to create our very own car club! If you want to explore a route,not serviced by public transport, are moving house, or need a car for any other reason, we’ve got you covered! Our car club has a fleet of ten all-electric vehicles and a network of charging stations across campus, all at your disposal for an affordable price.

How to get involved

There is such a wide variety of environmentally-themed student societies and local organisation, that we even have our very own Green Fayre at the start of Fresher’s Week. If you would like to meet our team and the rest of the ‘green’ societies and organisations, on Monday 11th September come along to the lawn, located between the University Library and the International Relations Building. There will be lots of friendly people to meet and chat with, live music, lots of freebies and maybe even some delicious food!

In conclusion…

For the purpose of brevity, this post doesn’t even begin to cover all the sustainable initiatives taking place across campus and the opportunities and amenities you have at your disposal. Hopefully I didn’t overwhelm you and will get the chance to chat about sustainability with some of you at Green Fayre!

The New Sustainability Intern

This week the Environment Team welcomed their new Sustainability Intern, Mariya Simeonova, to the team.

Mariya recently graduated from the University of St Andrews with Geography and Management (BSc JH). She is looking forward to taking over and developing the projects that Lindsey Mackay, the previous Sustainability Intern, has been working hard on over the past year. Having spent four years studying about sustainability and environmental management, Mariya is keen to apply that knowledge to her new role and contribute to the University’s sustainability agenda.

Over the next year, Mariya will be concentrating on outreach and engagement with the student community, university staff and local residents. Mariya’s main role consist in collaborating with university departments and units on sustainability initiatives such as the Environmental Facilitators Network, Fairtrade and the annual Travel Survey. Further, she will be working alongside Transition and student societies to deliver a calendar of environmentally-themed events including Green Fayre, Green Week and Fairtrade Fortnight.

She will also support the other members of the team: David Stutchfield (Sustainability Manager) and Barbara Aitken (Environment Officer) on their projects and the development of the university’s wider sustainability agenda.

You can stay up to date with what the Environment Team are working on through their Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.

If you would like to get in contact with Mariya directly please don’t hesitate to send her an email at mps5@st-andrews.ac.uk

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