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

Follow us:

Facebook: EnvironmentStA 

Twitter: EnvironmentStA




Waste Hierarchy – “The 6 R’s”

Everyone knows that it’s a good idea to recycle, but did you know that recycling actually falls quite far down on the order of preference for managing waste?

This order of preference is commonly known as the waste hierarchy, as shown in the diagram below. This diagram clearly shows the different options for waste management (“the 6 R’s”), with the most favourable option (refusing waste) located at the top of the triangle, and the least favourable option (rot – sending waste to landfill) at the bottom.

So how can the 6R’s help you reduce the environmental impact of your waste?

Waste Hierarchy

REFUSE to buy things you don’t need, and refuse to buy products that come overly packaged (like a box inside a box, wrapped in plastic, in a box…you know the sort!), or that you know will have limited lifespan.

REDUCE the amount of goods that you do need. The idea is to consume less, which results in less waste produced. Look out for multi-purpose products, and buy in bulk where possible e.g. buy larger sizes of toiletries, washing detergent, non-perishable food (pasta, rice, lentils), etc.

REUSE items you no longer need. Get creative and try to find alternative uses for your items, (inspiration available here and here) or donate them to a charity shop. For larger items, such as furniture, large electricals, and bikes, call the National Reuse Phoneline who will collect your items for free and give them a new lease of life.

RECYCLE items you cannot reuse. Look up your local council’s recycling guidance to make sure you are clued up on what you can and cannot recycle (Fife’s recycling information is available here) to make sure you are recycling as much as you can! Find your nearest recycling point, and use the banks of recycling bins located in all university buildings when out and about. Remember you can also recycle your glass, batteries, printer cartridges, and waste electricals, with more information available on our website.

RECOVER energy from your food waste if you don’t use it in a composter at home. By separating your food waste from the rest of your waste, it can be collected and anaerobically digested to produce biofuels and other useful products. Find out what happens to your food waste in Fife here.

ROT – the least favoured option. The waste you cannot reuse, recycle, or recover energy from will be sent to landfill or incinerated.

Follow the 6 R’s and see how empty you can make your landfill waste bin…and as an added bonus, by having less stuff in it you won’t have to empty it as often!

Freshers Week 2014 – Green Event Line-Up

Freshers Welcome Facebook HeaderThere’s just a few short days to go until St Andrews will be full of new faces (and some more familiar ones) ready to embark on another year of studying and socialising. If you’re keen on getting involved with any of the “green” societies and groups in St Andrews then read on for the Environment Team’s top picks of environmental events happening across the town over the next week or so…

Friday 5th September

7.30 – 10pm – Bioblitz at St Andrews Botanic Garden

Saturday 6th September

10am – 4pm – Bioblitz at St Andrews Botanic Garden

Monday 8th September

11am – 3pm – Big Green Fair – St Katharine’s Lawn

11am – 12.30pm – St AndRe-Use Giveaway – Arts Lecture Theatre

2 – 3pm – Local Food Shop Walk, hosted by the One World Society – St Katharine’s Lawn

Tuesday 9th September

1 – 4pm – Sow, Grow, & Eat with Transition – Community Garden

Wednesday 10th September

10am – 12pm – Wild Food Walk – Sailing Club (East Sands)

12.30 – 4pm – Gardening Session & Pot Luck Lunch – Albany Park Community Garden

2 – 3pm – Pizza & Beer with BioSoc and WildSoc – Bell Pettigrew Museum

3 – 5pm – Carbon Conversations Taster Session – Old Union Diner

Thursday 11th September

11am – Rockpooling with WildSoc – West Sands

11am – 2pm – Charitable & Volunteering Fair – Venue 1

1pm – Saint Exchange Free Picnic – St Mary’s Quad Lawn

1 – 2.30pm – Veggie Pot Luck Picnic with VegSoc – Students’ Association Garden

6 – 8pm – Green Drinks Social with Transition – Old Union Diner

Friday 12th September

10.30am – Bike Sale – Agnes Blackadder Hall car park

12.30 – 2pm – One Pound Lunch with the One World Society – St John’s Garden

2.30 – 4pm – Edible Campus Tomato Session – St Andrews Botanic Garden

Sunday 14th September

10am – 4pm – Freshers’ Fair – Venue 1

The Environment Team will be getting stuck into the Big Green Fair with our “Green Pledge Mural”, dishing out cycle safety tips at the bike sale, and of course, will be on hand at the Environment table at the Freshers’ Fair to answer any questions. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to St Andrews, and look forward to a green year ahead!

Biodiversity On The Mind

State of Nature

The latest comprehensive report of the status of wildlife in Britain

During my brief lunchbreak today I found myself totally engrossed in the State of Nature Reporta first of it’s kind document detailing the health of the UK’s wildlife populations (available from the RSPB).

It was a beautiful day and I should have been eating outside, away from my computer and enjoying the great outdoors! (that will be my goal for tomorrow)… As it turns out I found some useful insights from this remarkable document, helping remind me that biodiversity loss is not an easy concept to get your head around. The report’s foreword by Sir David Attenborough puts it this way,

“even the most casual of observers may have noticed that all is not well. They may have noticed the loss of butterflies from a favourite walk, the disappearance of sparrows from their garden, or the absence of the colourful wildflower meadows of their youth. To gain a true picture of the balance of our nature, we require a broad and objective assessment of the best available evidence.” (my emphasis)

No easy task. But this recent report does an impressive job at achieving such a broad and objective assessment by integrating species research over the past 50+ years on thousands of species of significance who live in the UK and overseas territories. Everything from the hazel doormouse to the harbour seal is covered in their analysis.

SoN doormouse

(State of Nature, pg 38)

Overall, the numbers and figures are not surprising. Indicator species (particularly of butterfly, moth and bird species) continue to decline significantly. Of total data covering 3,000+ species, 60% have declined and 31% have declined strongly over the past 50 years. I find these numbers difficult to truly grasp. That means 91% of all species highlighted in these studies are in some form of decline?

With a statistic so high, is there room for any good news?

Well, what I would add to Sir David Attenborough’s introductory words is that biodiversity requires science and wonder, reasoning and re-enchantment (something his has always excelled at sharing with audiences). The best surveys in the world will not stop biodiversity attrition alone.

This is partly why we have developed a new internship for students to work towards improving biodiversity right here in St Andrews. In partnership with our local Transition initiative – Transition University of St Andrews – we recruited five “biodiversity interns” to work with us this semester. While we too, like the researchers in this report, will be surveying and accounting for the local biodiversity among the University’s scattered landscape, we hope to also bring as muchring enthusiasm, excitement, and genuine compassion to this topic.

Our first step? To master new survey techniques that allow non-specialists (eg, students, staff and residents) to get outside and map the landscape around their halls of residence, staff departments or academic schools. Our online tool, the Biodiversity Index, guides us novices through the process and includes a concise report at the end that provides a benchmark score from which to improve upon. The report gives suggestions for improving our scores, such as to incorporate less intensive landscaping practises (leaving a wildlife meadow unmown during summer for example) or planting a community orchard in an otherwise unused area. All ideas will be considered which help increase habitat and vegetation diversity – indicators of species richness and the success of specific species of concern such as the common bee.

bio survey

Results from our first pilot survey of the Gateway building and surround area

 Our plan is to “divide and conquer” the University’s landscape in Spring 2014 by leading students and staff on multiple mini survey’s of their own, in places that mean something to them. We have high hopes that when people are given the chance to investigate, record, and reflect on their own local landscapes, more creative ideas will be generated with stronger chances for success. We hope you can join us by participating in these surveys as we work towards turning under-used landscapes into beautiful, resilient and healthy places to work and play.

This can only be done to the backdrop of global biodiversity concerns, such as impressively documented in the State of Nature report. I am eternally grateful to those researchers contributing to this latest report on the health of our living community. Let’s also remember that improving biodiversity begins with attention – where better to start then our own doorsteps?

Interested in joining the biodiversity interns on their mission? Signup for Spring 2014 survey updates by emailing

Electric Vehicles Impress


Front profile of the new Nissan Leaf EV

What would your commute feel like in an electric vehicle?

To find out the answer I met with the University’s Electrochemistry PhD researcher Euan McTurk to discuss his vintage Peugeot 106 electric vehicle (“EV” to the uninitiated) which he has been using on his commute from Dundee to St Andrews.

After thirteen years of TLC his 106 still works like a charm, and surprisingly, is very fast off the line! Recently he replaced the original nickel-cadmium battery with a new lithium ion pack which takes him 60 miles per charge – well more than enough to cover the distance there and back.  Euan had the option to fit larger pack that offers a range of over 100 miles but found that the smaller pack was sufficient for his needs.

Euan discusses ‘EV etiquette’, a phase he uses to refer to the particular issues of being an EV owner. For example, while out on our test drive around town, we stopped at the new electric charging station in Argyle Streetcar park. With only two available spaces for electric vehicles at the charger, Euan reminds me that EV users must be respectful of others and avoid parking at public chargers for longer than they need to so as not to cause others to wait at the charger for extended periods. This is only rarely an issue however, as I soon learn that a rapid charger can replenish a battery in as little as 20 minutes – comparable even to waiting in line at a petrol station!

“Nissan Leaf – best car I’ve ever driven”

Euan has a passion for all things electric and is quick to update me on the improvements in EV technology and design since his 106 version originally came out in 1995. While a number of new models are in production, Euan highly recommends the Nissan Leaf line which comes equipped with the latest comforts and tech – compromising nothing, while gaining impressive EV credentials that blow hybrids out of the water! In fact the fellow EV we met at the charging point was one of a fleet of Nissan Leafs used by Fife Council.


The new electric charging point for St Andrews located in Argyle Street carpark

Why choose an electric vehicle?

With no operating pollution from exhaust (thus no emissions of CO2, nitrogen and sulphur oxides, or other gases emitted by a convenient petrol engine that contribute to global warming, smog, and pollution), and no reliance on fossil fuels (if using renewably sourced electricity) and the economic and political controversies associated with oil production, EV’s are one of the greenest forms of transport. These are huge benefits that if replicated on a large scale have the potential for making a dramatic influence on society-wide ecological and carbon footprints.


Electrochemistry PhD researcher Euan McTurk takes us for a testride in his vintage Peugeot 106 electric vehicle

Top tips for going electric

During my hour with Euan I realised there are few downsides to EV’s and many benefits. Here are some to keep in mind when you consider test driving an EV for your next car!


  • Excellent environmental credentials: Euan reckons that even the footprint of building and running a new EV is several tonnes less than the footprint of using an existing petrol car over the 8+yrs of the EV battery’s lifetime,
  • Great new models to choose from with all the latest comforts and tech,
  • Falling prices of EV’s as the market increases and technology improves,
  • Better technology, especially with regards to battery lifetime and charge – meaning you can go further, recharge quicker, and increase overall efficiency.
  • Vastly reduced running costs versus petrol and diesel cars; Euan’s commute, which uses 100% electricity from renewable energy, costs £1 per day, saving him £700 a year on fuel costs alone, and more when you factor in the free car tax and reduced maintenance bills!


  • Cost is generally higher than a similarly designed petrol car (e.g. a new Nissan Leaf goes for c£17,000) but prices are expected to continue decreasing,
  • EV’s can only take you so far before needing a recharge; luckily this is getting easier and easier as batteries become more efficient, more charging points become available (like our new charge point in St Andrews), and rapid chargers decrease charging times.  Additionally, some manufacturers give EV buyers the opportunity to borrow a petrol or diesel car for a few days a year to cover the odd trip that is outwith the range of the EV.

If you, or a friend, commute with an EV please let me know – I would love to hear about your experiences as well! (contact directly at

For the latest on EV news, charging point locations, and reviews visit EV Association Scotland at

The End of the Road…

So the time has come for me to say goodbye to the Environment Team and to St Andrews. I have had a fantastic time as the 2012/13 Sustainability Officer. I have learnt so much, met so many great people, been to many interesting courses and events and (hopefully) helped the University of St Andrews along the path to sustainability.

The staff and students I have met during the year have been great and there are clearly many people at St Andrews who share our vision in the Environment Team for a carbon neutral future. I have very much enjoyed working with everyone here, I will be sad to leave but I’m sure I’ll be back to visit.

But the nature of a graduate position means I must move on and I am excited to explore new places and to see sustainability in actions in other organisations.

Fresh Sustainable Development graduate Tucker joins the team on Monday, I know he will do a fantastic job and I will leave the rest of the introductions to him!

If you are interested in reading about what I have been up to this year please follow this link:

To keep up with (more regular) posts from the Environment Team like us on facebook or check out our website

Over and out,


Green Week – What’s On

What’s On


St Andrews Green week is packed with events and activities aimed at taking positive local action on our environment.

Saturday 9th March

Compost Making Workshop 10am – 12noon Botanic Gardens (click for directions)
Free  event but advance booking required – phone 0770 458 7310
Zero Waste Treasure Trail 10am – 4pm Botanic Gardens – Running all week
One World Community Dinner
(click for more information)
6.30pm Episcopal Church

Sunday 10th March

Botanics Open Day
INCLUDING free drop-in at Glass Class – green activities
10am til 4pm Botanic Gardens

Monday 11th March

Red Squirrel Talk 9am – 11.30am Botanic Gardens – Free but advance booking required – 0770 458 7310
Cycletricity 9am – 5pm Church Square
Meat free Monday Evening Meal Catered halls accross the University
Film Screening: ‘Trashed’ 7pm Medical School Building, Main Lecture Theatre

Tuesday 12th March

St And Reuse Swap Shop 12noon – 4pm Mansfield Car Park (opp Students Union), St Marys Place
Guess the Veg – Fun competition 2pm – 4pm Outside Students Union
Transition Open Forum 5.30pm – 7.30pm St Mary’s College :T205 – Lecture Room 2

Wednesday 13th March

Dune Action Morning 10am – 2pm West Sands
Albany Park Starts Diggin’
(The very first garden session of the Albany Park Garden- be part of history!)
10am – 4pm Albany Park Garden
The open area to the very north edge of albany park boundary
Bike Maintenance and Sustainability Fayre 12noon – 4pm Outside University Library
Tree planting 600 trees for 600th 1pm – 3pm Fife Park
Canoe Club Beach Clean 2pm start East Sands Slipway
Community Garden Session 2pm – 4pm Community Garden
SD Seminar Series – Grill an Environmentalist Evening School 1, St Salvator’s Quad
Greenpeace Open Mic 8pm – 10.30pm Venue 2
Students Union, St Mary’s Place


Thursday 14th March

Glass Class activities – Garden Science workshop 10am – 12noon Botanic Gardens
Tour of Hamish the Composter 1pm -2pm University Grounds Staff HQ(behind new hall at the bottom of the path up to the sports centre
Green Week Pub Quiz 8pm Upstairs in The Rule (pub), South Street
St And Reuse AGM TBC
Seminar room 2,
University Arts building
BioSoc Film Screening:
‘The End of the Line’
7.30pm School 2,
St. Salvator’s Quad.

Friday 15th March

Staff Bike to Work Breakfast 8am – 9am John Burnett Hall
Fish for Today, Fish for Tomorrow – The Global Sustainable Seafood Movement 10am – 12noon Irvine Lecture Theatre,
Irvine Building

Saturday 16th March

Junior Hortus Spring Bulb Prizegiving and Spring Plant Sale 10.30am – 12noon Botanic Gardens
Orchard work day 1pm – 3pm Community Orchard – behind Macs papershop on Lamond Drive (park on Lamond Drive)

The Future of Food at the University of St Andrews


Fife is now recognised as a leading light in the UK’s local food revolution as demand soars for seasonal, fresh food, made and sold on our doorstep. For large organisations like the University of St Andrews, reconnecting with local food networks poses benefits as well as challenges.

To better understand this phenomenon, the St Andrews Sustainability Institute (SASI) is hosting a lunchtime seminar on Wednesday 20th February at the Gateway Building (LR 3) addressing the ‘Future of Food’ at the University of St Andrews.

While individuals are making positive food choices, larger organisations can find it difficult to make the switch; this seminar aims to explore the benefits of local food and how it might come to play a much larger role in feeding the University of St Andrews. Featuring two excellent and experienced “local food” experts, Mike Small and Robin Gourlay, attendees will be able to hear first-hand how changing our diet can lead to benefits for our local economy, the environment, health and culture.

  • Mike Small is an activist, writer and publisher originally from Aberdeen. He has led on the Fife Diet local eating experiment, which aims to re-localise food production and distribution on a regional basis as a response to globalisation and climate change.
  • Robin Gourlay is responsible for driving forward the Scottish Government’s National Food and Drinks Policy, for the public sector and was instrumental in making School in East Ayrshire buy more local food. Robin has wide experience in catering and facilities management in both public and private sectors through a career which spans, hotels, Universities, Further Education, Colleges and Local Government.

Our chair will be Dr Shona Russell, Lecturer in Knowledge and Practice within St Andrews University School of Management

With a welcome and introduction from Professor Louise Richardson, Principal and Vice Chancellor the university, this seminar really will pose food for thought on an issue that is close to our hearts – and mouths!

This free seminar is open to all and especially those who have a professional interest in local food.

Wednesday 20th February from  1pm to 2pm (Coffee from 12.30pm)

Lecture Room 3.

The Gateway Building, North Haugh, St Andrews University, St Andrews

This event is sponsored by the St Andrews Sustainability Institute  –  a group of people at the University of St Andrews who are working towards a sustainable future for everyone.
Poster with full details here.

Green Week 2012!

Green Week is back and there are a huge amount of events to get involved in. This is the main Green Week page, please like and enjoy:

Green Week will be running during Week 3 in Semester 1 from Monday 1st October to Sunday 7th October.

Monday 1st October 

Animal Welfare Society stall and raffle

2-6pm, Union

Oxfam film screening: The Age of Stupid

6.30pm, Beer Bar, Venue 1, Union

Tuesday 2nd October

Vegbox Scheme/Guess the Veg Event

2-4pm at the Union

Come along to see if you can win a Vegbox ! Are you a pro at local scottish Veg? if you are able to guess right, the box is yours !
Come to see how our Vegbox-scheme works if you are interested in local and organic produce.
Come to the Union (outside if the weather is good, and inside the Union Corridor if it rains) from 2-4.

Transition Film Premiere and Open Forum

5.15pm, Arts Lecture Theatre

Animal Welfare Society marine conservation film showing

6.30pm, Union

St Andrews Model United Nations Debate – The Green Climate Fund

7.30pm , School 2

Wednesday 3rd October

Fairtrade Bake Sale

10am – 3pm, outside the Library

Raising the roof at the Community Garden

2pm -4pm Community Garden

One World Bread Making Workshop

5.00 or 6.30pm Mansefield

Thursday 4th October

Bike Doctor session

10am – 2pm, St Marys

Friday 5th October

Fife Diet Smoothie Bike (cheapest smoothies in town, powered by bicycles!)

12noon – 2pm, outside the Union

Saturday 6th October

Grow your own workshop

1pm – 3pm St Johns Garden

Sunday 7th October

Reclaim Energy! Day, hosted by One World Society and People and Planet

10.30am – 5pm, Union

Looking forward to seeing you at as many of these events as possible!