The Green Paper The Sustainability Lab, BANgor university

Welcome to the September edition of our Green Paper – the one-stop shop for information on the environment and sustainability at Bangor University and the work of the Sustainability Lab and our partners across Campus.

In this issue we are focussing on:

  • Special Award awarded to UNDEB Bangor
  • Celebrating 75 years of the United Nations
  • Bangor’s Annual Environment Report
  • Resource Efficiency (Waste Management) at Bangor University
  • Getting to know the three new Deans: Professor Martina Feilzer, Professor Morag McDonald and Professor John Parkinson
  • Plant of the month
  • Book of the month

Please send your comments/contributions to the paper to sustainability@bangor.ac.uk

Green Impact Students’ Unions Special Award awarded to UNDEB Bangor

We are delighted that UNDEB Bangor has been awarded the Green Impact Students’ Unions Special Award for the Highest Scoring from the Nations (405 points).

Undeb Bangor have had another productive year, supporting and running many events and projects representing Sustainability. These included the Sustainability Carnifal, Waste Awareness Week, Big Give Project and the Think Before You Drink campaign. For the Big Give Project, food was donated and collected in university student accommodation with 130kg of food donated at the end of summer 2019 to Bangor Cathedral Food Bank. Whilst students who were living in private student housing were engaged through Waste Awareness Week as representatives from the union, including officers, visited students and spoke with them to understand their engagement with waste and recycling. This helped the union to realise student behaviours and attitudes towards waste and recycling, and highlighted issues and concerns. Other areas the union focused on and progressed this year included increasing the number of water fountains, adding in a sustainability sections to club and society agreements and supporting two Youth Climate Strikes.

Celebrating 75 years of the United Nations

This year, the UN is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. The United Nations serves as a global forum where countries can raise and discuss the most difficult issues, including problems of war and peace. In addition to maintaining international peace and security, the UN protects human rights, delivers humanitarian aid, promotes sustainable development and international law.

Central to its sustainable development agenda are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone everywhere. Now more than ever, the goals provide a critical framework for COVID-19 recovery and to build a better future for all.

The Sustainability Lab at Bangor University have a central role in RCE Cymru, which is part of the Global RCE Network run by the United Nations University promoting Education for Sustainable Development. There are 175 RCEs (Regional Centres of Expertise) that are part of this network contributing to the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

RCE Cymru is a collaboration across Welsh Universities to facilitate research, develop and promote a greater understanding of sustainability. There are currently seven circles of interest:

  • Healthy Universities and Colleges
  • Circular Economy Research and Innovation Group Wales
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Resilient Communities
  • Language and Culture
  • Social Prescribing
  • Adult Learning


Bangor’s Annual Environment Report

Bangor University is proud to have an ISO14001:2015 certified Environmental Management System (EMS). The EMS helps to ensure we are working to continually improve our environmental performance, reducing the negative impact of our operations and activities on the environment.

The University has had an EMS in place since 2009, originally under the Green Dragon standard, and have been certified to the International ISO14001 standard in 2014.

As part of the Environmental Management System, we produce a report each year on our environmental performance.

The Campus Environmental Performance Team are currently in the process of preparing the 2020 report, which will provide details of performance against our environmental targets and an assessment of the Environmental Management System. The report will be evaluated by the Sustainability Strategy Group in October. Once it has been approved by the Sustainability Strategy Group and the University Executive it will be published online on our Environmental Management webpage and we will publish highlights here in the Green Paper.

The University has been producing an Annual Environment Report every year since 2011, and all of the past reports can also be found on the Environmental Management webpage, along with lots more information about the Environmental Management System as a whole.

In May, The Sustainability Lab held an online introduction to the Environmental Management System that was very well attended. We hope to be able to run another similar session soon and to make the past session available on-demand for those who missed it.

Resource Efficiency (Waste Management) at Bangor University

Having recently collated our waste data for 2019/2020, we thought it would be a great opportunity to share the most recent information with our readers.

Current Performance

In 2019/20 Bangor University diverted 100% of its waste from landfill. Out of the waste diverted, 2% was reused, 59% was recycled and 39% was recovered. 617 tonnes of waste was generated in total, a 196 tonne (24%) reduction from the previous year.

However, we aim to do better.

Coming Up…

In 2020/21 Bangor University is moving from a comingled (mixed) recycling system to a semi-segregated (separated) recycling system in order to improve recycling rates and produce cleaner, higher-quality recycling, with a greater likelihood that the recyclates will be used here in Wales or in the UK (in line with the aims set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016). We had hoped to launch the new scheme over the summer months having already purchased the new bins, but due to Covid-19, this has not yet been possible.

We are also currently working on our annual waste campaign – Waste Awareness Week (#WAW20). WAW will take place between the 5th-9th October 2020, information will follow on our website and social media pages.

The Green Paper in conversation with the three new Deans.

The Green Paper caught up with the three Deans to ask them about their experiences in Bangor, the upcoming challenges facing us in the new academic term, and how they relax after a hard day's work.

Professor Martina Feilzer, Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Business
Professor Morag McDonald, Dean of the College of Environmental Science and Engineering
Professor John Parkinson, Dean of the College of Human Sciences

How long have you been in Bangor and how has your career path brought you to this point?

Martina Feilzer: I have been at Bangor since 2007 and started my first lectureship here. I was a research officer in the area of criminal justice research at the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford, on a string of fixed-term research contracts for 6 years before joining the (then) School of Social Sciences at Bangor. I was finishing my DPhil and had just had my second child so I was ready for a new challenge and keen to take up an academic role. Bangor had a prominent criminologist leading the Criminology team for many years who was doing very exciting work on prisons and Russian Gulags – it seemed a good place to come to. It also happened that I attended my interview on a beautiful sunny summer day, went to the Bangor Pier for a panad and fell in love with the place. Mind you after we moved in November 2006 in seemed to rain for 6 months solid.

Morag McDonald: I have been employed by Bangor since 1991, but for the first seven years I was based at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Kingston, Jamaica working on DFiD funded projects researching the effects of deforestation in the Blue Mountains, and developing forestry and agroforestry curriculum in UWI. My career path prior to that started with a BSc in Agriculture & Environmental Science (Newcastle) and a PhD in Forestry (Edinburgh). My PhD was very much rooted (no pun intended) in Scottish plantation forestry productivity which felt quite narrow at that time, so afterwards I embarked on a career with BBC Scotland as a radio producer in the environmental unit. I might still be there was it not for the lifetime opportunity of a post-doctoral fellowship with the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, researching forest regeneration on Vancouver Island. This research was again focussed on production silviculture and a hankering to work in tropical forestry and international development then led me to Bangor, who has a world-wide reputation in these areas. On coming back to Bangor from Jamaica, I have continued my involvement in overseas forestry in a range of countries including Ghana, Cameroon, Nepal, Indonesia amongst others. I retained my interests in curriculum development and this has involved me in teaching leadership roles, culminating in Head of School and now Dean.

John Parkinson: I came to Bangor in 2004 for the combined reasons that it is a stunning place to live with a high quality of life, and a research excellent university where my work could flourish.

Bangor prides itself on being a sustainable University. What does Sustainability mean for you and how will you ensure that the principles of sustainability reach into all parts of your college – both operationally and in your teaching, learning and research?

Martina Feilzer: Sustainability for me is about ensuring that we behave in a way that ensures that future generations can continue to live in an ecologically, economically and socially healthy Environment. Where such healthy Environments do not exist currently, we will need to work to create them.

Thinking about sustainability and how this can be implemented across all our activities may involve changing the way we do things based on a good understanding of the effects of our activities – printing lecture materials and paperwork, duplicating work, etc. Thinking more sustainably means to query why we do things a certain way and whether there may be a better way which reduces the use of resources and has a positive impact on the environment, our finances, and our wellbeing. Covid has opened our eyes to new ways of doing things; some may be worth maintaining. Going forward, I am very keen to build principles of sustainability into College processes and review our operations and processes according to these principles over the next few years.

Morag McDonald: Without doubt, sustainability is embedded in all aspects of the College, in teaching and research. There are very few of the UN Sustainable Development Goals that we don't contribute directly to - ranging from renewable energy, food and water security right through to quality education and responsible consumption and production. And of course we have the edge on 'life on land' and 'life below water'! Operationally we have perhaps been reliant on long haul travel in a College working at international scales, but we have all learned lessons, and and introduced innovations, in the current climate on better use of the digital environment.

John Parkinson: Sustainability is a core value which, if honestly held as a priority, helps drive considerate behaviour. A core part of sustainability is around the resilience of a system. The College is a system, as are the schools and teams within, including each individual. A recurrent question then is how might they be supported in improving system resilience.

What gives you the greatest pleasure in your job, and what annoys you most?

Martina Feilzer: I do really enjoy teaching – at least for the first few weeks – I am always glad and excited to be back in front of a class – the butterfly moment is still there. I also live for the moment of starting fieldwork for research - it is never what you thought it would be and that is great – the unpredictability of criminal justice research is very exciting.

I am not a big fan of TEAMS meetings but hey that cannot be helped. What is probably most annoying is dealing with problems caused due to poor communication or because of personal conflicts – they seem easily avoidable but once they have escalated, very difficult to resolve.

Morag McDonald: Greatest pleasure has been working with a global community of staff and students and the tremendous innovations that can be achieved through collaboration. It's not an annoyance, and is a necessity, but staying on top of e-mail traffic is a challenge.

John Parkinson: Pleasure: The enthusiasm of working with a team to overcome challenges and achieve a goal.

Annoy: Individuals who do not take pride in their roles and don’t try to do their best when delivering to their role.

Health and wellbeing are a priority for the University. You have a tough job, what hobbies do you enjoy to help you relax after a hard day’s work?

Martina Feilzer: I am a bit of a cliché when it comes to hobbies - I love going for walks across Anglesey and Gwynedd regardless of the weather - to my family’s delight(!) – and do enjoy my runs around Bangor. I also love reading fiction but do not get to that often enough.

Morag McDonald: I am very privileged to live right next to a wonderful beach so running and walking with my dog are a great way to unwind.

John Parkinson: My passion is fell running, though as I age I have been cross-training more through triathlons. Swimming in Llyn Padarn is a particular favourite. The underlying benefits are both mental: – giving me time and psychological space to clear my head.

And physical: – raising my heart rate significantly allowing beneficial physiological (stress-reduction/ wellbeing) mechanisms. I can recommend HIIT [high intensity interval training] as a particularly effective exercise for health and wellbeing.

This academic year starts under the most unusual circumstances. What advice would you give students as they return or join us for the first time?

Martina Feilzer: Enjoy what you can do under the current circumstances and make the most of University life but do adjust your expectations – University will feel different but there is still so much to take from this experience. Try to not be too focused on results and outcomes in terms of your education but take advantage of the opportunities that the University will offer – internships, placements, international experience, meeting different people and enjoy debates and discussions about social problems, politics, and all.

Morag McDonald: That this might not be the way that you thought it was going to be, but everyone is the same boat and do get involved. Clubs and societies may be virtual to begin with, but that provides an opportunity to explore wider opportunities than you might have had in 'normal' times. And ask for help if you need it, your lecturers will be more than happy to arrange virtual meetings if office contact isn't feasible in the early days.

John Parkinson: Epictetus (Greek stoic philosopher and a forefather of cognitive behavioural therapy) said: “It is not events that hurt us, but the views which we take of them.” My advice would be to use this as a touchstone throughout the programme, if not life. Make the most of the opportunities you have. Be curious, accept and tolerate uncertainty, seek help when you struggle. Be compassionate, forgiving and give others the benefit of the doubt.

Plant of the month

Calluna vulgaris – Heather (Family: Ericaceae)

Calluna vulgaris is the dominant heathland plant in many parts of Wales, where it can be found on almost any heath or moorland and in some places the combination of heather and gorse creates a colourful (and often impenetrable) patchwork on hillsides and coastal cliffs. Anglesey has some of the best UK examples of dry heaths and vegetated sea cliffs of the Atlantic Coast, which are important and threatened habitats.

The delicate, symmetrical pink flowers of heather appear from August to October and are a contrast to the tough, wiry, sprawling stems they grow on. Plants grow tightly packed together and can live for up to 40 years or more. The flowers contain an abundance of nectar which enables the bees an opportunity to stock up before the winter begins.

The genus name ‘Calluna’ is derived from the Greek verb kalluno, which means 'to sweep' - a reference to the tradition of using Common Heather/Ling to make brooms and brushes. The specific epithet ‘vulgaris’ means common.

Book of the Month

Health Warning.


Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less

James Hamblin

Wait for it – this is going to be disgusting.

What would you say if to someone who told you that they haven’t used shampoo or shower gel for five years? Eyes out on stalks? Bring out a peg to put on your nose? Disbelief and horror?

That is exactly what soap dodging doctor and Yale School of Public Health lecturer Dr James Hamblin tells people in his new book.

His reasons for such a dramatic change in behaviour is the result of a growing concern that we are harming the trillions of microbes that live in symbiotic harmony with humans. We are slowly realising that they are not nasty bugs and germs after all but play an important role in developing our immune systems. A full-scale, daily massacre of these tiny organisms might be a foolish move; we should all take this seriously.

Food for thought. Why do we fear and stigmatise body odour? Our obsession with cleanliness is, apparently, the result of a clever marketing strategy that quadrupled the sales of Lifebuoy, the medicated soap produced in Port Sunlight, in the 1920s. Hats off to the genius who thought of the strap line ‘Life Buoy makes health infectious’.

There is an 18th Century proverb that says we all have to eat a peck of dirt before we die. Those people of old were ahead of their time. Microbiologists have found that hunter-gatherers and people who work together on farms from childhood, have optimally diverse microbiomes and minimal chances of contracting autoimmune conditions and associated inflammations. Townies could benefit from close contact with other people and animals and spending as much time as possible in nature, preferably getting dirty.

BUT – we are now in a PANDEMIC. We were already living in a relatively sterile world which was compromising our microbial balance. The lockdowns and social distancing are making it almost impossible to indulge in such behaviour.

Revealing any more would spoil the book – it’s well worth a read.

Points to note:

WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP, FREQUENTLY – Dr Hamblin emphasises this point and notes that despite our obsession with fragrant shampoo, conditioner and moisturisers, most of us don’t wash our hands thoroughly or often enough.

DEODERANT. Apparently, body odour is not a problem if you adopt the ‘no soap’ approach but if you are squeamish and fearful of offending others and losing your friends you might consider NATURAL MINERAL SALT DEODERANT. This works to prevent odour unlike other products that attempt to mask the smell or plug pores with aluminum chlorohydrate or alumina zirconium.

LAUNDRY. Products such as ECO-EGG help us reduce single plastic use, do not contain harmful chemicals, might be helpful for people with sensitive skin and ideal for vegans as it’s not tested on animals and doesn’t use animal derivatives.

Remember the health warning: