Biking to work (and beyond)

Lindsey Mackay, the Sustainability Intern for the Environment Team, discusses the benefits of cycling to work and on-going projects and developments. The Environment Team strive to improve the sustainability agenda across the University and St Andrews.

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A cyclist enjoys a morning ride through the Old Course.

The image that sprung to mind when I first considered biking to work was not a particularly appealing one. Last year the UK saw 1272 mm of rainfall and with this in mind the thought of biking to work didn’t excite me in the slightest. Why would I want to arrive at work cold and wet?

Having recently moved to the edge of St Andrews I decided it would be a good idea to bring through my bike so I could easily get from a to b. In St Andrews the image of cycling to work or class is idyllic; cobbled, narrow lanes tucked away within the town center, a backpack full of books, and perhaps a bag full of groceries hanging from the handle bars. Students often choose to bike to their classes only to jump back on at the day to make a mad dash to get back to halls in time for dinner. This image may be familiar to many people, whether you cycle to work or class in and around St Andrews but cycling really does have many benefits!

I admit that at the beginning it was a struggle, particularly since I haven’t biked properly for 4 years. However, after a couple of days I started to feel the benefits. I noticed that I arrived at work energised, and found myself to be more productive throughout the whole working day. Now this might not seem like an obvious outcome, and for someone who often needs a mid-morning coffee to help me through to lunch, I certainly was taken by surprise at how refreshed I felt. Cycling provides a brilliant time to think about the day, to reflect and work off any built up stress. Furthermore, you get to beat the morning and evening work traffic which can be rather satisfying, it’s free with no fuel costs to consider, and there are absolutely no concerns about where you will park once you are home. Moreover, cycling is a green and sustainable form of transport, one with 0 carbon emissions and a way in which I can do my part to reduce my carbon footprint. Of course, there are some negatives to cycling, however I wholeheartedly believe that the benefits outweigh any negative aspects.

For some using their car is the only way they can get to work but for others biking to work is a very viable option. In 2012 cars represented 13.4% of all the UK’s CO2 emissions for that year. Since then these numbers have been declining, however more action is required. One way in which we can help to reduce the impacts of climate change on our world, the people and ecosystems within is by assessing our individual carbon footprints and taking action to reduce it. It’s true, the actions required may not always be easy however, we have a responsibility to care for our environment. On average you could save £1000 annually by choosing to bike to work. Although these results are conditional on factors including length of journey and type of car, it is evident that the savings are significant making it a more attractive option for people to switch to.

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Taking an evening bike ride past the Old Course and West Sands.

I have now found a way to use an enjoyable mode of exercise to transport me quickly to work, whilst benefiting the environment and reducing my carbon footprint. And biking to work is not the end of the story. Taking evening rides to chase the setting sun across the Old Course and West Sands has become a favourite past time, and with a beautiful setting like St Andrews I would encourage anyone to go explore in the quiet of the evenings on their bike. It’s true that up till now I have only experienced biking to work in the sunshine and haven’t yet faced the brutalities that can come with a true Scottish winter. I may need to invest in some good quality waterproof trousers. Any recommendations?

The University of St Andrews’ Environment team strives to help make the community of students and staff at the university live and act in sustainable ways. Just one of the ways in which we aim to do this is by engaging with staff and students. Recently we conducted a travel survey, now implemented every year, in order to establish the travel patterns and behaviours of those working within the university. The survey included potential effects of the developments at Guardbridge by considering the effects on travel when selected departments move out to the new site. We hope that the results of this survey will help us to put long terms plans into place to encourage and support staff to switch to (or keep using) sustainable modes of transport amidst all the upcoming changes.

THIS WEEK in St Andrews there will be a free bike to work breakfast at the Students’ Association on the 25th of August from 8 am – 10 am, and all staff members are warmly welcome. The Bike Pool team will be on hand to give advice and to do maintenance work. Bike Pool do regular drop in sessions around St Andrews and more details can be found by clicking here. If you are interested in cycling in St Andrews please take a look at the new St Andrews cycle map which is now available on the university website.

Click on the links for more information or get in contact with us!

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Evening views across the Old Course.

Fairtrade and Brownies

Lindsey Mackay, the Sustainability Intern for the Environment Team, discusses Fairtrade and shares a recipe which can be enjoyed by everyone. The Environment Team strive to improve the sustainability agenda across the University and St Andrews.

Fairtrade is an international movement helping to improve trading conditions for producers in poor countries. The movement strives to achieve and maintain fair prices for farmers to cover aspects including production costs, and to ensure that they can achieve long term sustainable living. In addition, Fairtrade guarantees long term contracts with the farmers to provide security for their families and local communities, and the opportunity to benefit from expertise that will enhance the skills needed to develop their businesses and increase production in a sustainable way. Fairtrade is fundamental to changing the lives of farmers’ and workers’ lives for the better. For example, according to latest data from the Fairtrade Foundation, workers on plantations spent 26% of their Fairtrade premium on education1.

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Look out for the Fairtrade symbol when you are at the shops.

It is important that we all think about the choices we make on a day to day basis, particularly when they can directly affect the livelihoods of others. Having researched the effects of the international food trade during my time at University, I strongly believe in movements like Fairtrade. We can often take the food on our plates for granted, but I have come to discover and learn about the shocking, unjust, and yet sadly true stories behind the treatment and payment of farmers who work hard to support and provide for their families and local communities. I now actively seek to look for the Fairtrade Mark (see picture above) when I go on my weekly shop, and it’s easier than you think. Many products are covered by the mark including bananas and chocolate (two staples of my weekly shop), yet still more can be done. You can play an important role in supporting this movement by looking out for and buying products in your local supermarkets and shops with the Fairtrade Mark on the packaging.

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Before..

I have to admit that I am a bit of a baking enthusiast. If I could live of cake for the rest of my life I would. I like to think of myself as a good baker, however, one bake that has always defeated me is the brownie. Multiple recipes have been tried and multiple methods used but all with the same result; a soggy mess. When I recently received a recipe from a friend I was skeptical due to previous failed attempts in the kitchen but I wanted to give it a go. The result? Mouth-watering, rich and moreish brownies that the Environment Team seemed to enjoy. Success!

If you want to try out the recipe I was recommended follow the link, and remember to look for Fairtrade ingredients when you go to the shops (I find that Green & Black’s Organic Fairtrade Cooks’ Dark Chocolate works particularly well with this recipe!). Stay tuned for more delicious recipes using Fairtrade products!

If you would like to get to more about Fairtrade in St Andrews and how you can get involved please email lm222@st-andrews.ac.uk, visit our Fairtrade Facebook page or click here for more information.

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The result!

1http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/en/what-is-fairtrade/facts-and-figures

The New Sustainability Intern

Last week the Environment Team welcomed their new Sustainability Intern, Lindsey Mackay, to the team.

11407155_10204150318418553_3892817286074196572_nLindsey has recently graduated from the University of St Andrews’ Geography and Sustainable Development department with Geography (BSc). She is looking forward to taking over and developing the projects that George King, the previous Sustainability Intern, has been working hard on over the past year. Having thoroughly enjoyed her last four years as an undergraduate at the University, Lindsey is thrilled that she is able to stay another year in St Andrews whilst using the skills and knowledge she has developed through her studies to help make the University a more sustainable place.

Over the next year Lindsey will be focusing on outreach, engagement and communication with student, staff and the local community. Lindsey will primarily be helping the University to achieve the sustainability agenda and goals. Part of the intern’s role is to support with University sustainability initiatives including Transition. She will also support the other members of the team: David Sutchfield (Energy Officer) and Barbara Aitken (Environment Officer) on their projects including the Environmental Facilitators Network, developments with projects including the renewable energy park at Guardbridge and Environmental Hall Rep training.

You can stay up to date with what the Environment Team are working on through their Facebook page and via Twitter. The team have also joined Instagram and you can follow them by searching environmentteamstandrews.

Lindsey enjoys horse riding, baking and going on walks with her camera so expect to see a few photographs from time to time!

If you would like to get in contact with Lindsey directly please don’t hesitate to send her an email at lm222@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Follow us:

Facebook: EnvironmentStA 

Twitter: EnvironmentStA

 

 

 

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.

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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.