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The Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CEB) Green Challenge team formed in the middle of 2020 and is made up of students, technical staff, researchers and management staff alike. Despite the complications of Covid-19, we’ve seen a passionate interest in taking part in Green Impact and improving the sustainability of the department. As normal life was interrupted, it presented an unusual opportunity to step back and reprioritise. As a team, we have felt a culture change at CEB and hope to keep sustainability at the top of our department’s agenda.

With busy schedules and a global pandemic that’s easier said than done! But here’s how we’re engaging staff and students in our sustainability journey.

A team effort

To get the ball rolling with our Green Impact Bronze award, we sent out an anonymous form to everyone in the building. This allowed us to gauge interest in sustainability, identify any problem areas and collect ideas from students and staff. The survey gave us a fantastic basis to start rolling out small changes within the department, but it also meant we understood the values and priorities of our staff and students. Once we knew that there was an interest in making sustainable change, we just had to provide the opportunity.

Community-based communications

To engage the department as a whole and maximise sustainability progress, the Green Challenge team produce a weekly departmental newsletter. Our newsletter includes important events coming up as well as useful information on sustainability practices, and it also acts as a platform to share and celebrate our achievements. From the beginning, the newsletter has had a strong focus on volunteer recruitment as each new volunteer brings fresh ideas and an injection of energy. The core Green Challenge team is growing each week and jobs are shared regardless of role in the department. All CEB staff and students can get involved, and all can make a difference.


In order to stand out in people’s busy inboxes, a member of the Green Challenge team also developed our custom CEB logo (pictured above). The logo is associated with sustainability and recycling and provides a strong identity for the team. To balance this identity with a community feel, we run a monthly photo competition where winning images are featured in the sustainability newsletter. Avoiding stock photos gives a personal touch to the communications as well as celebrating staff and student talent. The winner each month receives a ‘green prize’ and we’re currently collecting submissions on ‘all things spring.’

What progress do we share?

Whether working from home or in the department, we’ve seen some real sustainability progress across CEB. As a multi-disciplinary department, we initially focused on improving each individual waste stream where possible. Clearly-labelled recycling bins can be found throughout the building and food bins are provided in the cafeteria area. An area we’ve made real progress in is replacing our plastic biological waste bins with more environmentally-friendly biological bins (Bio-bin®). Whilst there are some restrictions on this waste stream, it is certainly a step in the right direction! More information on these bins made from 96% recycled paper can be found online.

Looking at the results of the University’s Single Out campaign, we know that research-related activities are responsible for contributing vast quantities of single-use items of waste. As an active research department we dispose of nitrile gloves on a daily basis, whilst this is currently unavoidable, we are proud to be making change where we can. We have recently signed up to a recycling scheme for Kimtech™ gloves and hope to be able to expand such schemes where possible.

Energy efficiency in labs

We have also started initial energy assessments of equipment in the department, particularly monitoring the energy consumption of our drying cabinets to see if there was scope for replacing them with a more sustainable alternative. The data was collected by connecting the equipment to energy monitors, and periodically recording and measuring readings at set and continuous intervals. This process highlighted two important factors which other departments may find helpful:

  • Sustainable practice is extremely beneficial when lowering the energy demands of a piece of equipment such as a drying cabinet. Turning something off when not in use, not leaving it running overnight/over the weekend, and not leaving a door open for longer than necessary all greatly reduce the overall power consumption.
  • When taking readings, it is important to show the actual use of the equipment, and not just a number obtained from a website. Equipment calibration and validation from the supplier could provide energy information based off a timescale or usage that is not appropriate to your working schedule or load. When compared to the manufacturing information, we found our cabinets to be consuming less energy than expected (we put this down to sustainable practice).

Making change from home

Whilst some of our staff and students have been able to make changes in departmental buildings, to include everyone we make sure to offer working from home options and ideas in our communications. In our March newsletters we shared ideas for making energy and financial savings at home, from making sustainable dietary choices to bleeding radiators and changing tariffs. Now, as spring has well and truly sprung, our April issues have shifted to the world outside, discussing topics such as leaving a mess for biodiversity, planting native plants for pollinators and helping with wildlife identification. Click on the images below to view some of our latest newsletters.

Thanks for reading, we hope this has given your department or Green Impact team some ideas for sharing your sustainability journey!

              Written by Alexander Carvell, Science Technician