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.


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.



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.


The result!


Waste not: a word from our sustainability officer


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/

Consumer’s Guide to Ethical Food Certifications

It’s the third Sunday of the month: your turn to cook dinner – that’s fine because you’re not in charge of washing the dishes. As you meander through the store aisles, you remember that your flatmates are picky; John only eats “ethical” meat and Michael, organic produce. Fortunately there are certified products galore in the store, so now the only issue remaining is deciding which ones to purchase.

In this time of green consumerism, choosing between certain standards and labels really can be confusing. There are so many issues to consider: your health, the environment, workers’ rights and even animal rights. If you are someone who is interested in conserving biodiversity, hopefully this can shed some light on the labels that we see in Tesco Morrisons or Sainsburys, more specifically, the Rainforest Alliance, the Marine Stewardship Council, the Soil Association, Certified Humane and the Fairtrade Foundation.

rainforest alliance

The Rainforest Alliancehttp://www.rainforest-alliance.org

The Rainforest Alliance works to prevent deforestation and land degradation and to increase conservation around the world by training and educating land managers and entrepreneurs who produce food products such as bananas and tea. They also work with communities to conserve local biodiversity by establishing sustainable eco-tourism businesses (Rainforest Alliance 2014). In order to be certified, producers’ practices must meet certain criteria, some of which are “conserving local wildlife and water resources, minimizing soil erosion” and “protecting forests and reforesting where possible” (McAllister 2004). Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must follow the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standards, which can be found at the bottom of this paragraph. Some of the criteria call for providing a natural habitat for endangered species, letting land lie fallow to improve soil health and planting vegetation barriers to minimize the impact of agrochemicals. It is important to note that only 80% of the total criteria must be met for certification and that some certified products might have been produced using pesticides (Standard Agriculture Network 2010).  Further, it allows products that have at least 30% of its ingredients Rainforest Alliance Certified to bear its seal, which has caused many consumers to criticize the organization and call for an increase the percentage of certified content (Rainforest Alliance 2014).  The SAN standards can be found here: http://www.sanstandards.org/userfiles/SAN-S-1-1_2%20Sustainable%20Agriculture%20Standard_docx(1).pdf

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – http://www.msc.org/

The MSC encourages sustainable fishing practices to preserve marine life by proposing standards for fisheries to follow if they wish to be certified. Part of the standards require sustainable management of stock populations and that the fishery operations have as little impact as possible on the local environment. This can be done through effective waste management and by ensuring that none of the farmed species escape into the wild. This way, the species diversity and structures of nearby natural ecosystems are preserved. Additionally, the MSC prides itself on its products’ traceability, that is, the chain of custody that can allow consumers to see where their seafood came from and how it ended up on the store shelf. The MSC also encourages fishers to be more aware of bycatch and the effects of their fishing on non-target species. Sometimes, turtles or even dolphins are captured as bycatch when fishers lay out long fishing lines with many hooks, and these hooks can end in places such as albatross nests (Agnew et al 2006). Despite its good intentions, MSC has, at times, been found to act in ways that contradict its principles. In early 2013 National Public Radio published an article detailing that some seafood may be certified by the MSC, despite a lack of accord with MSC certification standards (Zwerdling and Williams 2013). Later in the year, a Nature article included scientist Jenifer Jacquet’s observation that the MSC’s scoring system is subjective and can be understood in ways that would easily allow fisheries to be granted the MSC seal of approval (Cressey 2013).

Soil assoc

Soil Associationhttp://www.soilassociation.org

The Soil Association is a British charity that campaigns for organic production of food, clothes and make-up. Unlike some of the other certification schemes, the Soil Association’s standards and requirements are more concrete and easier to locate. By producing goods organically, the Soil Association believes that the Earth’s health improves, as well as humans’ wellbeing. In order to conserve biodiversity, the Soil Association urges farmers to create wildlife corridors to link habitats by establishing hedgerows or field margins, and it prohibits genetically modified (GM) crops. Further, it maintains that any green waste must be checked for GM contamination. Green waste, along with crop rotations, is encouraged as it promotes nutrient recycling and improves soil health. For aquaculture operations, the Soil Association requires detailed management plans that include an analysis about the fishery’s impact on the local environment and how it will be implemented. Even though the Soil Association produces its goods organically, keep in mind that 5% of ingredients are allowed to be non-organic, probably because they are hard to grow organically (Soil Association 2013). Though some products are not grown organically, that does not necessarily mean that they were grown using pesticides. To further its mission of conserving biodiversity and improving environmental quality the Soil Association has introduced new projects, such as the Duchy Originals Future Farming Programme and Low Carbon Farming, to help farmers improve their productivity in an environmentally responsible manner. For more information on the Soil Association’s organic standards, browse through them here: http://soilassociation.org/organicstandards.

Certified humane

Certified Humanehttp://www.certifiedhumane.org

For people who shop for meat that has been raised ethically, Certified Humane can be their answer. Certified Humane concerns itself with animal welfare; certified farms provide plenty of space in which animals can move, unlike industrial farms where cows, pigs and chickens are crammed tightly into pens. If an animal product is labeled as Certified Humane, farmers have not used antibiotics and have allowed the animals to have access to space, food and water. Some animal activists might take issue with the fact that Certified Humane standards permit beak trimming, but in some cases it is done to prevent hens from violently pecking one another (Certified Humane 2013). Animals products labeled as Certified Humane were not necessarily were raised according to organic standards (Certified Humane 2013). Certified Humane focuses on ethical treatment of animals, while organic programs emphasize environmental health. It is also possible that some meats were raised ethically and/ or organically, but the producers could not afford to be certified. If you want to know more about how your meat is raised, it’s best to do research on the farm on that it came from or you can ask farmers if you buy meat directly from them at local farmers’ markets. Here are the label’s standards: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=standards.

Fairtrade Foundation – http://www.fairtrade.org.ukFT

In a fashion similar to Certified Humane’s, the Fairtrade Foundation chooses not to focus on the environment but rather on farmers and workers in developing countries. It aims to tackle poverty by empowering producers and giving them the opportunity to be more actively involved in the global market. It still, however, has some rules for producers regarding the environment. It prohibits the use of GM crops, but it does not check for them (Fairtrade Foundation 2008). Buffer zones are required around bodies of water to reduce the risk of chemical contamination from pesticides, and farmers must report how they measure soil quality. The Fairtrade Foundation encourages farmers to be aware of local wildlife so that they do not hunt or collect threatened species or introduce invasive species to the area. Though it has taken some measures to protect the environment, the Fairtrade Foundation can do more. For example, with a stricter GM crop policy, local systems can support native species, which in turn can support farming productivity. If you are interested in Fairtrade and want to stay up-to-date on all things Fairtrade-related in St Andrews, like and follow the Fairtrade in St Andrews Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/FairtradeInStAndrews.

So, why is biodiversity important? Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. Without it, life would be bland, not to mention difficult. Can you imagine living without seeing different types of plants, animals and climates? All organisms – big or small – play a role in a complex network of ecosystem dynamics. While we may not be conscious of it, we are dependent on these ecosystems for the services and resources that they provide. They act as storm buffers, pollution filters, water purifiers and climate regulators. Sand dunes on beaches serve to lessen the impact of storms, which is why there has been a concerted effort to restore West Sands in the past few years. Medicines, cosmetics and some foods come from plant species found in select parts of the world. If biodiversity “hot spots” like the Amazon Rainforest continue to be degraded and destroyed, our favorite foods will disappear from our diets, and we risk losing valuable cultural knowledge that can better inform us about plant and animal species. When it comes to buying food, try to educate yourself about the food’s origin by finding out where and how it was produced. While it may not be immediately obvious, those labels, like the Rainforest Alliance frog on the tea boxes, remind us that our lifestyle choices affect other species and people somewhere else in the world.

Nicholas Wells, Transition biodiversity intern


Agnew, D., Grieve, C. , Orr, P., Parkes, G. and Barker, N. (2006) Environmental benefits resulting from certification against MSC’s Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Fishing, London: MRAG UK Ltd and Marine Stewardship Council.
 Certified Humane (2013) ‘Beak Trimming’ [online], available: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/uploads/pdf/Fact%20Sheets/beak_trimming.pdf [accessed 4 Jan 2014].
 Certified Humane (2013) ‘Does Certified Humane mean organic?’ Frequently Asked Questions [online], available: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/uploads/Frequently%20Asked%20Questions%2011.5.13.pdf [accessed 5 Jan 2014].
 Cressey, D. (2013) ‘Eco-label seafood body attempts to convince critics’, Nature, 17 July, available: http://www.nature.com/news/eco-label-seafood-body-attempts-to-convince-critics-1.13409 [accessed 4 Jan 2014].
Fairtrade Foundation (2008) ‘Are Fairtrade Products Guaranteed to be GM Free?’ Q&A: Fairtrade Standards and Genetically Modified Organisms (GM) [online], available: http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2011/f/fairtrade_gm_q_a_jan_08.pdf [accessed 6 Jan 2014].
McAllister, S. (2004) ‘Who is the fairest of them all?’ The Guardian, 24 Nov, available: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2004/nov/24/foodanddrink.shopping1 [accessed 3 Jan 2014].
Rainforest Alliance (2014) ‘How Does Rainforest Alliance Certified Compare to Fair Trade Certified?’ [online], available: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture/faq-fairtrade [accessed 3 Jan 2014].
 Soil Association (2013) ‘Standards’ What is organic? [online], available: http://www.soilassociation.org/organicstandards [accessed 4 Jan 2014].
 Sustainable Agriculture Network. (2010) ‘Farm Standards’ [online], available: http://www.sanstandards.org/userfiles/SAN-S-1-1_2%20Sustainable%20Agriculture%20Standard_docx(1).pdf [accessed 3 Jan 2014].
 Zwerdling, D. and Williams, M. (2013) ‘Is Sustainable-Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?’ NPR, 11 Feb, available: http://www.npr.org/2013/02/11/171376509/is-sustainable-labeled-seafood-really-sustainable [accessed 4 Jan 2014].

What Happens To Our Food Waste?

The environment team visits the anaerobic digestor that turns our food waste into biogas

“Like a stomach”… is how our guide, Alan, describes the anaerobic digestion process that is used to break down our food waste into biogas, liquid fertilizer and nutrient-rich compost.

Standing next to the tall, twin vessel AD (anaerobic digestion) plant operated by TEG in Glenfarg, on the border of Fife and Perth and Kinross councils, I listen as Alan elaborates. He explains how organic matter – our potato peelings and plate scrapings – are broken down by anaerobic bacteria under controlled temperatures in much the same way food is processed in our stomachs. If the AD plant is not ‘fed’ properly (eg, with food waste with too high a carbon content) the process will be disrupted. Yes, I get it, like a stomach!

It takes only 60 days for food waste to be processed in this way starting from the time of collection at recycling points across the University of St Andrews, to the electricity generated and sent straight to the grid by using the biogas to power a generator. With the anaerobic process monitored and controlled to produce a constant supply of 40-65% rich CH4 (methane) gas, which would otherwise have escaped from a landfill site if not recovered, our food waste is being utilised as a clean energy resource. Now that’s impressive!


A view of the twin anaerobic digestors which are responsible for the natural break down of food waste and capture of biogas.

Here at the University we’ve been composting our raw (uncooked) food waste in a small in-vessel composter, affectionately known as “Hamish”, since 2007. Now, as of January 1st 2014, TEG’s AD plant processes the remaining food waste from our student catered halls, our retail outlets and delivered catering in special green collection bins. This is in line the with the Waste Scotland regulations that stipulate all businesses must recycle food waste produced, prepared or distributed in excess of 50 kg per week by catering units.

Recycle your food waste in these specially marked green bins. For full details of what can and cannot be recycled, please visit X.

Recycle your food waste in these specially marked green bins. For full details of what can and cannot be recycled, please visit our recycling webpages.

TEG’s massive twin-chambered AD plant is rather unique. Designed to collect a wide range of food waste  – including meat products – TEG was the 1st plant licensed for operation after the foot & mouth scandal which saw much stricter legislation come into effect in 2003. Since then, TEG has been well underway converting the food we chuck out into useful natural bi-products. These include nutrient rich compost and liquid fertiliser for use by local farms, as well as biogas for generating electricity.

We visited the site in early January to see exactly how an anaerobic digestion system works.

BinWaste AD in a nutshell diagram

A simplified version of the anaerobic digestion process.

The process begins when food waste is collected here in St Andrews by special food waste collection vehicles. The food waste then travels a mere 26 miles to TEG’s plant located in Glenfarg at the edge of Fife where it undergoes de-packaging and pre-treatment. This is when any unwanted plastic, metal, or other non-food materials are screened and sent through their own recycling systems. At this point, it is absolutely crucial that any non-food items are kept out of the AD process. Glass, cutlery and fabric clothe are notable offenders that can severely damage the pre-screening machinery – ever more reason to make sure we only dispose of food waste in the correct collection bins!

Rather than ending up in a Fife Council landfill near Ladybank, our food waste is transported to TEG's recycling facilities located just 26 miles away.

Rather than ending up in a Fife Council landfill near Ladybank, our food waste is transported to TEG’s recycling facilities located just 26 miles away.

After pre-screening is complete the food waste enters two large containers where the anaerobic digestion process occurs. In this oxygen-less environment, food waste is churned around in a digestive “soup”, where it is broken down by natural bacteria and releases gases that rise to the surface. These gases are then collected and stored in an expandable gas holder for later use as fuel for powering an electric generator.

The “soup” which is still inside the anaerobic containers is then pumped through a pasteurisation system and separated into dry and wet components. Dry components are mixed with garden waste and aged as nutrient-rich compost. Wet components are stored as liquid biofertiliser and sold to local farms as an alternative to petrochemical fertilisers.

In the end, the nutrient and calorific values of ordinary food waste is converted into three highly useful products without producing any further environmentally damaging outputs. No further pollution or un-used waste sent to landfill. Now that is worth being excited about! 


Food waste is pre-screened before entering the anaerobic digestion system.


Plastics are removed and sent to recycling facilities located just down the road.

After completion of the anaerobic digestion process, biogas is collected in an expandable container.

After completion of the anaerobic digestion process, biogas is collected in an expandable container.


Liquid contents are separated and sold to local farmers as a liquid biofertiliser alternative to petrochemical fertilisers (seen here at the pumping station).

Dry matter can be seen here on it's way to maturation in a storage building where it will become high grade garden compost.

Dry matter can be seen here on it’s way to maturation in a storage building where it will become high grade garden compost.

A view of the nearby plastic, metal, and paper recycling facilities which sort and bale these resources for future use.

A view of the nearby plastic, metal, and paper recycling facilities which sort and bale these resources for future use.

It’s sobering to remember that this process all begins back home in our kitchens and halls of residence. We can improve this cycle of reusing food waste in a local, environmentally friendly way by following these 3 simple reminders.

  1. Think before you toss out uneaten food. Can this be used as leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch? Do I need to plan my portion sizes smaller?
  2. Plan before you shop. Don’t buy too much before you can reasonably eat it before the sell by date.
  3. Read directions. Please, please, please only put food waste into the food waste bins! Take a closer look at the instructions for what can and cannot be place in the bins, and ask if your uncertain.

For more information about reducing food waste and healthy cooking visit Love Food Hate Waste, Transition UOSA Cooksmarter and Fife Diet websites.

For more information relating to the recycling facilities provided at the University, please visit our waste and recycling pages.

Fairtrade, Fair-trade, or Fairly Traded?… Investigating the Ethics Behind the Term

FT advert for Orientation GuideHave you ever wondered what the difference is between labels which claim to be fairly traded? While picking out that packet of rice on your way home from work I bet this is the last thing on your mind! Is a ‘Fairtrade’ product better than one that says ‘fair-trade’, or one that says ‘fairly traded’…

Well for some time now our chefs and catering managers in our halls of residence have been splitting hairs over just these differences. I am here to tell you why – and who it matters to!

Our story begins with St Andrews being a Fairtrade town (one word spelling), which has a townwide steering group that meets in order to raise awareness, campaign, and continually improve this status (http://www.fairtrade-standrews.org.uk/). The University also has Fairtrade status (one word spelling as well) and a steering group who do much the same work (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/fairtrade/). Both groups are made up of the loveliest people (as I am a member of both I can vouch for this!) and are always eager for newcomers to join them (that means YOU).

…As part of the University Fairtrade status, our halls of residence as well as other catering outlets are encouraged to provide as many Fairtrade goods as possible. Thus far we are exceedingly proud to offer Fairtrade coffee, teas, sugar, select baked goods, select fruits, and of course, everyone’s favourite… chocolate!

Not content with resting on these laurels, we have been investigating additional Fairtrade items to offer which support the ethical responsibilities taken seriously by the Univeristy (most recently incorporated in or Sustainable Development 2012-2022 policy http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/environment/sdstrategy/). Fairtrade cotton has caught the attention of BESS, the Student’s Union shop, where select Fairtrade clothing is offered. Most recently however, our chefs discovered fairly traded lentils and rice which comes from Malawian growers and helps support their livelihoods through a give-back scheme (http://www.justtradingscotland.co.uk/categories/901-Malawi-Kitchen/products). We were overjoyed to find these new ethically sourced items to offer in our halls which get consumed by such large amounts and on such a regular basis.

Low and behold, these lentils and rice products are not certified by the Fairtrade organisation, and therefore cannot be referred to as Fairtrade – instead they must be called ‘fairly traded’. While this is a slight issue for our steering groups who cannot include these items in representing their Fairtrade status (but that is largely beside the point)… we decided once and for all to figure out the phraseology of these two simple words. And here we have it:

“Fairtrade is an ethical standards label which provides a guarantee, via audits carried out by an independent certification body, that developing world producers have been paid a fair price, and had decent working conditions, for products carrying the Fairtrade mark. In the UK the Fairtrade Foundation (http://www.fairtrade.org.uk) licenses companies to use the Fairtrade mark on products that meet the Fairtrade standards…”

“Fairly-traded refers to products that don’t have Fairtrade certification but which state they have been traded in an ethical manner. Businesses registered with, and listed on, the ethical networks World Fair Trade Organization – WFTO (http://www.wfto.com) or The British Association For Fair Trade Shops – BAFTS (http://www.bafts.org.uk) are dedicated to trading fairly and creating trading partnerships, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seek greater equity in international trade… The process of agreeing international Fairtrade standards can take time, and for many of the products these organisations sell, there may not yet be standards available to certify their products. Businesses selling fairly-traded products who are members of the WFTO or BAFTS should have ethics keywords of fairly-traded and either WFTO member or BAFTS member in their categorisation on the mapping…”

“Other ‘fair trade’ claims: There are also other companies making their own ‘fair trade’ or ‘fairly-traded’ claims without having the independent scrutiny of the Fairtrade certification mark, or being part of a recognised network such as WFTO and BAFTS. You should ask what these claims are based upon and satisfy yourself that the company is working to fair trade principles in its dealings with suppliers. For instance the company should be able to demonstrate that it has a transparent supply chain, meaning that it can trace the journey of the product back to its original source, and be able to ensure that producers have been paid a fair price for their work…”

(Source: http://www.purpledot.org/mapping/faqs/fairtrade-or-fairly-traded#sthash.zbsTXyfl.uSh6Pcai.dpuf)

So there you have it! Each of these phrases might be a headache to us, our chefs, and the procurement office… but to the grower, say the Malawian lentil & rice farmer, the real meaning is in the action. Fair trade however you spell it should mean ethical trade, a benefitial and just exchange between both parties. So please… continue buying & eating ethically!

We’ll be unveiling some exciting Fairtrade projects in the near future, so stay tuned…


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.

The Footprint of Food

I’m getting really into the idea of sustainable food these days and have come across a fab blog by Monica from DeMontfort University which has some really interesting posts about sustainable food. 

Here’s one borrowed (with permission) from her blog for you to enjoy!

The facts and figures behind food are difficult to see. Often, we don’t know the exact origins of our food and maybe we don’t think about them every time we are doing our shopping. However, it is important not to ignore the sustainable or unsustainable nature of our food.

The carbon footprint of food is created by its production, transport and disposal. Therefore it’s not an easy calculation.


The ‘virtuous’ circle of food from production to waste. Unfortunately it doesn’t always happen as the picture describes.

How can we tell what foods are sustainable when we compare them in grocery stores? What’s more sustainable: processed local food or unprocessed imported food? What has the least impact on the earth: products in thin plastic packaging or products in a paper box? The quick answer is trying as much as possible to buy food that is local, seasonal, and organic, and that doesn’t come in packaging. Here’s an example:

Locally sourced Sunday lunch

  • 1.5Kg of local lamb – 30Km by light van, carbon footprint – 0.072Kg
  • 1Kg of local potatoes – 30Km by light van, carbon footprint – 0.048Kg
  • 500g of local leeks – 30Km by light van, carbon footprint – 0.024Kg
  • 500g of local carrots – 30Km by light van, carbon footprint – 0.024Kg

Total distance to your plate 120Km, and 0.168Kg of carbon dioxide.

Supermarket Sunday lunch

  • 1.5Kg of New Zealand lamb – 32000Km by sea and 300Km by truck, carbon footprint – 0.858Kg
  • 1Kg of Potatoes – 300Km by HGV, carbon footprint – 0.048Kg
  • 200g of green beans from Kenya – 6800Km by air and 300Km by HGV, carbon footprint – 2.186Kg
  • 500g of carrots – 300Km by HGV,  carbon footprint – 0.024 Kg

Total distance to your plate 40000Km, and 3.12Kg of carbon dioxide.

If you add some fruit from South America and a bottle of Australian wine your food’s carbon footprint could easily exceed 5Kg of carbon dioxide.

5Kg of carbon emissions equates to driving an average (1800cc) petrol car for 25Km. Only for one dinner?!

Here a little infographic on the impact of tea and coffee on the environment. How many cup of coffee do you have in an average day!?


And if you feel really keen to lessen even more the environmental impact of your food you can always grow your own food.

Further reading:

University Donates 2 Tonnes of Items for Container to Namibia

Staff across the University of St Andrews have donated educational resources for schools in Namibia, to help children in need.


Full van of resources for Namibia from the University

Earlier this month, the Environment Team coordinated efforts to collect items for a container that was arranged by Madras College as part of their Namibia Teaching Program. Around 30 students from Madras are travelling Namibia this summer to work with kids in schools and organised this container ahead of their travels. See this website for photos of their 2011 trip http://www.madras.fife.sch.uk/news_events/namibian_trip_2011.html.

Madras student, Madras staff and Bill Close University of St Andrews Grounds staff unloading supplies

So many boxes!

The appeal for resources went out under a week before the container was due to depart and despite the short timeframe we were hugely impressed by the outpouring of support from departments across the University. Schools and Units that contributed were:  CAPOD, English Language Teaching, Environment Team, IT Services, Media Services, New Hall, School of Biology, School of Classics, School of Computer Sciences, School of Economics and Finance, and School of Psychology, and the University Library.

Thanks to their generous support a whole van load of goodies was collected which ranged from almost 10 overhead projectors, six computers, English language learning books, stationary and welcome packs with shampoo, soap and toothpaste and amounted to 2 tonnes of resources.

Packing room, full of resources from St Andrews at Madras

A huge thank you to everyone who donated and to Bill Close in the Grounds Department for his help with packing and transport!

Special thank you to WHSmith for donating office supplies (including disks for the new computers!) and to PHS Teacrate who supplied crates and other packaging materials (including loads of big bubble wrap!).

With everyone working together not only are we helping those in need of assistance in Namibia, but we are making sure that valuable resources are put to use and not wasted.

University of St Andrews staff (from left to right Lucy Arndt, Bill Close and Barbara Aitken) with Madras staff and students

Keep your eyes open for future donation and reuse opportunities!