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Green Impact award winners

Sustainability progress at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CEB)

The Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology (CEB) Green Impact team and Sustainability Committee consists of students, technical staff, researchers, and management staff. We are aiming to achieve the Green Impact Gold award for this year. We had new students joining us this year, one of them is MPhil student Luigi Rizzo, who has taken on the role of our Sustainability Champion. 

We are proud to announce sustainability progress we achieved this year. Some of the highlights are below.

In the building

We continue engaging with the department through our Green Challenge 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. Given the current energy crisis, we decided to provide useful advice on reducing energy consumption over the winter in the lab, office and at home. This was a great reminder for everyone in addition to our energy saving action posters that are hung throughout the department. While working on the Green Impact tasks and conducting a travel survey, we realised that many students were struggling to buy bikes at a reasonable price to travel to the CEB. Other students who are leaving Cambridge for a new job or opportunity, were struggling to sell their bikes. That is where we came up with the idea of the CEB Bike Marketplace. We created a pinboard on level 2 of the department where everyone at CEB can write a note to sell or buy a bike. We will monitor the popularity of the Bike Marketplace in the next few months, but hope to promote sustainable travel to CEB, which is located further away from the city centre than many other departments.

In the past few years, major improvements in terms of waste recycling in the department have been achieved. We noticed that correct waste separation is still not always performed. We performed a bin audit to assess how they conform with the Seven Principles for further encouraging recycling. In total, the office and teaching section of the department, excluding the laboratory block, contains approximately 80 bins. We noticed that some of the labelling was not consistent enough, with some labelling outdated at very key locations in the building. Once identified, we created a consistent and clearer recycling label and replaced on those bins.  We hope the new labelling will improve recycling at CEB. 

In the lab

Throughout the years we have made major improvements in terms of reduction of energy, water and waste and more sustainable procurement in the lab. We have been taking part in various take-back and recycling schemes for single-use items such as non-contaminated gloves (Kimtech™), tip boxes and racks (StarLab™).  Recycling is, however, not the ideal solution.  We have therefore spent time into looking into reducing waste and packaging. We have changed to TipOne™ pipette tips (StarLab™) that have thinner walls and therefore less plastic. Since March 2023, we have been trialling the eco delivery scheme with RS components, one of our largest suppliers for electronics and sensors at CEB. RS components are switching to lower-carbon modes of transport by using electric fleets, simplifying their distribution network and reducing cargo weight. The deliveries will be packaged in reusable eco totes that will be returned to the driver instead of single-use packaging. 

A study led by Martin Farley (LEAF) quantified the carbon footprint of reusing supposedly single-use plastic and glass items. It was incredibly insightful to our Green Team showing that reusing is better for the environment, although caution must be considered when working under sterile conditions. Reusing items is not advised then! At CEB, we have replaced some single-use plastic items to reusable glass beads for cell culture and bacterial growth.  We have been also looking into different pipette tip and falcon tube washing protocols for non-contaminated items, so that we can reuse and therefore reduce plastic waste further. The Green Impact team is planning to share the best working protocol and advice with all groups at CEB and help them to get started to reuse more of their plastics or replace them with glass if beneficial.

In the classroom

The Green Impact team organised together with the EPSRC Sensor CDT a workshop called “The not (so) hidden footprint of carbon footprint of scientific computation” with Dr. Loic Lannelouge in November 2022 at CEB. It was well attended and Loic shared eye-opening statistics about the 'invisible' impact of computation (e.g. running simulations) on the environment, advice on more sustainable computational practices and developed a tool on how to measure your computational footprint. We shared Loic' top sustainable practices in our Green Newsletter and I made a podcast episode about this, which can be listened to here.

This year, I co-led the Green Team at CEB and I learnt a lot. It inspired me to improve my course 'Sustainable Research Practices', which I teach at the EPSRC Sensor CDT to MRes students and interested CEB students and staff, as part of the Responsible and Inclusive Innovation module. It provides insights into UN Sustainability Goals, life-cycle assessments, carbon footprint estimations, discusses potential solutions and provides hands-on advice. The final assignment involves thinking about the societal, ethical and environmental implications of the student’s research projects and, requires students to reflect and suggest actions to address these. 

Science generally aims at improving life on earth. Yet, it also contributes to worsening it through climate change. Therefore, I believe it is incredibly important to implement sustainable thinking and strategies into the University curriculum to educate the next generation of scientists to conduct science in a more responsible and environmentally friendly. 

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

Written by: Dr. Adriana Wolf Perez

Swish! St John’s College

St John’s College put on it’s first Swish (Clothes swap) this year.  This took place at the beginning of February and was an event put on with the support of Cambridge Footprint in a bid to encourage sustainable fashion habits.

All members of College were invited to donate clothes that were no longer wanted and were then able to look and see if there were any items that they would like to rehome although you did not need to donate to be able to rehome items.  In total 156kg of clothes were donated and the majority found a new home as students, staff and Fellows gathered in our conference centre to take some new items home for free.  

Any items which were not rehomed on the day were donated to Charity.  There were also refreshments available on the day and these raised the sum of £110.22 which was donated to the Cambridge Food Bank.

Many thanks to the organisers for their hard work on this. This was a very popular event and we would recommend it to other College’s and Departments to put on – another one is planned for Michaelmas term!

Written by: Vicky Jeffries, Maintenance Accounts & Utilities Co-Ordinator

Brilliant Botanic Gardens

During 2022/3 the Garden has continued with evolving and embracing initiatives from the staff to include in daily life. This year our Horticultural staff have developed a method of plant support and fencing from natural materiel's (destined for the compost heap), to replace unsightly plastic fences and frames. they blend in with the Garden, cost nothing, have no plastic or wire content and rot down when finished with.

In addition, the team have invested in a novel way of watering the collection which minimizes water waste and evaporation. In our rose garden, seep hoses have been dug into the bed to directly water the root system and not be wasted through the ambient temperature - of particular use should we experience another heatwave.

Written by: Carl Tatterton, Head of Estates and Operations Manager New Keep Cups from University of Cambridge Investment Management Limited! 

New Keep Cups from University of Cambridge Investment Management Limited