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The Green Paper The Sustainability Lab, BANgor university

Welcome to the August 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:

  • The UN SDG 12 Responsible Consumption & Production
  • Resource Efficiency (Waste Management) at Bangor University
  • Getting to know Professor David Thomas
  • Sustainability in action in the KESS 2 & KESS 2 East projects
  • An introduction to: Dŵr Uisce
  • Book of the month
  • Plant of the month

Please send your comments/contributions to the paper to sustainability@bangor.ac.uk and join our Green Teatime chats. The next one is at 10.30am, August 25th.

The United Nations (UN) is 75 years old - The Sustainability Lab’s spotlight is on the 17 goals.

Join our UN75 Green TeaTime

Tuesday 8th September 10.00-11.00am

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. Will we emerge stronger and better equipped to work together? Or will distrust and isolation grow further? 2020 must be a year of dialogue, when we come together to discuss our priorities as a human family, and how we can build a better future for all.

Do you have ideas for action?

Hot off the press from Undeb Bangor!

Undeb Bangor has just received the fantastic news that we have once again achieved ‘Excellence’ in the Green Impact award for 2019/20. This award demonstrates how sustainability is deep rooted in Undeb Bangor’s activities and champions our student leaders.

As we are all aware, this academic year has been challenging for everyone, however, this achievement highlights how, with detailed planning, we can still excel in our field by working in collaboration with you all as Bangor University students.

We would also like to thank the University and specifically the Sustainability lab for all their support and joint working this year and we would also like to give a special mention to Kinga Niedzinska, who took a lead role in our submission for this award and her passion and dedication allows us once again to celebrate our excellence in Sustainability.

Dr Einir Young, the University’s Director of Sustainability said

“I am so chuffed to hear that the excellent work undertaken by our students has been recognised again this year. Our students are central to everything we do, and the Sustainability Lab team is looking forward to working together with Undeb Bangor to tackle the unusual challenges that we will face in the coming year”.

United Nations Goal of the Month - Goal 12

Responsible Consumption and Production

In August, we look at Responsible Consumption and Production – Sustainable Development Goal 12. Worldwide consumption and production – a driving force of the global economy – depend on the use of the natural environment and resources in a way that have destructive impacts on the planet. Sustainable consumption and production is about doing more and better with less.

Did you know?

  • Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices.
  • If people worldwide switched to energy efficient light bulbs the world would save US$120 billion annually.

Resources

Recourse Efficiency (Waste Management) at Bangor University

Managing our resources efficiently is a key part of ensuring that our University is operating sustainably. This edition features two short stories about how Bangor University is currently reducing usage and reusing valuable resources.

Think Before You Buy! How to reduce waste by procuring sustainably

Every member of staff who purchases goods can contribute positively to the University’s sustainability agenda. Here are four quick and easy points to consider when buying any goods:

  1. Only buy what you need. Are the goods essential? Are there alternative goods already freely available elsewhere within the University?
  2. Buy goods that are refurbished* or contain a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content, where possible.
  3. Buy goods that can be easily maintained/repaired, and refurbished or recycled at end-of-life.
  4. Buy goods that are resource/energy efficient.

*Please note that refurbished goods must meet the minimum safety standards required under Health & Safety legislation.

For larger equipment purchases or service contracts, we ask you to complete a more in-depth analysis to ensure that wider environmental, social and economic matters are considered and incorporated into contracts. Further information to follow in a future edition.

Please contact the Sustainability Lab or the Procurement Team if you require any assistance or guidance relating to sustainable procurement.

Donating not disposing! End of Term Halls Reuse Drive with Antur Waunfawr

Due to Covid-19, this year’s End of Term Reuse Drive (organised collaboratively by Halls, PaCS and the Sustainability Lab), faced unprecedented challenges as our long-standing partners (Britsh Heart Foundation Cymru) were forced to temporarily close retail shops and stores, and thus ceased collections for a few months.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Antur Waunfawr for stepping into the breach at such short notice to collect our student’s donations at the end of term. Since the start of July, a weekly collection has taken place and will likely continue until the end of August, to ensure that everything that can be reused is collected for that purpose. 1,168kg of donations have been collected in three weeks, with 945kg (81%) being of good enough quality to be reused. Donations have included textiles, cutlery, crockery, kitchen utensils, radios, clocks, lamps etc. and many of those donations will be used to create home ‘starter packs’.

David John Evans and Mel Parry with some of the donations collected from Bangor University, the donations will be used as part of Antur Waenfawr's Starter Packs scheme.

Further information about the great work that Antur Waunfawr do in the community and for the environment can be found by clicking the link below.

Getting to know Professor David Thomas

Professor David Thomas is leaving Bangor soon. The Green Paper caught up with him to ask him about his experiences in Bangor – the good and the bad, and to give us some insights into the environmental challenges facing us.

You’ve been in Bangor for almost a quarter of a century how would you describe the University and the area to people who’ve never been here?

When I arrived in Bangor, the then head of marketing, welcomed me by saying “Welcome to the biggest ambition killer of all time”. I was of course shocked & upset, but then he went on to explain “It is a great University in a stunning location, with relatively inexpensive housing and decent schools for your children.” All of that is true and I can see the point he was trying to make.

Fortunately, he was wrong about the “ambition killer” bit. My experience has been exactly the opposite, since the University has given me every support and opportunity to realise my ambitions. Over the past 14 months as PVC-R, I have had the immense privilege of seeing first hand the huge ambition being realised by so many colleagues.

What will you miss most?

This will sound cliché, but there is a remarkable staff in Bangor pulling with all their endeavour to make the university work for students and staff. Over several phases over my 24 years, but especially recently, there have been huge knockdowns to staff morale. However, when there is a crisis you really do see people pulling together to make it work. Current Covid19 crisis is a great example, but equally impressive I have seen how people rally round when colleagues are not able to work for whatever reason. I am constantly amazed by how much effort folks are prepared to put into making Bangor University work.

And another cliché - I am going to miss living in this part of the world.

What will you miss least?

Without a doubt it is the one, or worse two, day trips to Cardiff and/or London that I absolutely relish not having to do again. Potentially the Covid19 crisis has put an end to them, but they were a horror of my past 7 years in particular. Early mornings and late evenings at Bangor station will not be missed.

You have been very supportive of all things sustainable. What do you think is the biggest environmental challenge facing Bangor University and why?

Forgetting issues about the estate, the biggest challenges I see is making sure that the teaching and research we do is at the forefront of rapidly changing global sustainable agendas. Climate change, food & health security, resilient societies, protection of natural resources, biodiversity loss are all colossal issue. It is vital that the teaching and research at Bangor is agile enough to address these enormous & fast changing challenges.

Do you have a favourite teatime tale or anecdote that you can share?

Much of my work has involved fieldwork on Antarctic sea ice, often just two of us being deployed by helicopter onto an ice floe for several hours while the ship sailed off into the distance. They were magical moments that I am so privileged to have enjoyed. Just 1 or 2 metre thick ice flexing gently with the swell, with 1000s of metres of cold ocean below. Memories of many curious penguins coming to observe our work, even a huge whale gracefully surfacing at the floe edge where we were standing. Hours and hours spent in the wonder of the pack ice after completing our work, waiting for the helicopter to pick us up – the colours, the ice sculptures, the at times absolute silence and at other times dreadful noise of ice floes straining and grinding together.

We even once had time for a game of cricket…..old ice cores for the wicket, a spade for a bat and lumps of ice for the ball.

Enjoying a game of cricket on the Antarctic ice plane. Credit: Louisa Norman

David’s new book is about to be published:

DN Thomas (editor) (2020) Arctic Ecology. Wiley-Blackwell. 350 pages. ISBN 978-111884654

Sustainability in action in the KESS 2 & KESS 2 East projects

The Sustainability Lab work in partnership with the KESS 2 & KESS 2 East projects. The United Nations declared 2020 the start of The Decade of Action, which calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges — ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap.

In response, KESS 2 & KESS 2 East have launched a new series of webinars on the United Nations Goal of the month, to explore each goal further.

The first was held in June on Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals, where four KESS 2 postgraduate researchers shared good practice examples of partnerships within their research. This included some new partnerships that have formed as a response to COVID-19. You can watch the short talks from three KESS 2 participants; Andrew Rogers, Jessica Hughes and John Barker.

In July the focus was on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. A strong and resilient infrastructure remains the backbone of thriving communities. It is the driving force to ensure access to sustainable, smart and innovative technologies, equitable rights to innovation, financial markets and jobs. Again, KESS 2 postgraduate researchers shared how their research contributes to this goal, with examples of digital cyber security, innovation in office space design for well-being, and how big industry in Wales is trying to reduce their carbon footprint. Details of these presentations will be made available on the KESS 2 website Sustainability section shortly.

We are already looking forward to August’s webinar on Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.

This series of webinars is in addition to regular interactive ‘Introduction to Sustainability’ webinars that are available to all KESS 2 participants through the KESS 2 Postgraduate Skills Development Programme.

Further details can be found on the KESS2 website outlining how the KESS 2 and KESS 2 East projects contribute to the Welsh Well-being Goals and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

An introduction to: Dŵr Uisce

Dŵr Uisce is an interdisciplinary EU-funded cross-border water-energy nexus research project. The main objective is the reduction of energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions in the water sector. Dŵr Uisce is looking into the whole water systems’ life cycle – from provisioning, to use, and disposal – to highlight current and emerging technologies and intervention measures that can help save energy.

This is important because the water industry is highly energy intensive, and on average between 2 – 3% of the world’s energy use is used to treat water to potable quality, deliver it to consumers, and to process and dispose of wastewater. In the UK, for example, around 2% of total energy use is by water companies. Reducing the energy use of the sector can also offer considerable economic savings to end-users.

Dŵr Uisce is implicitly addressing Sustainable Development Goal 12 through working to improve energy efficiency in different sectors and the water sector overall through life cycle analysis, economic assessments, benchmarking, and climate change impact assessment; and by working to increase the share of renewable energy through technology development with pilot installations of small-scale hydropower and assessing heat recovery potential in several sectors in both Ireland and Wales.

Save Water Campaign by Dŵr Uisce

Dŵr Uisce is also working on household water-related energy efficiency, in particular, because of the high water and energy use in homes. It is estimated that up to 95% of energy use in homes is for space and water heating. This is particularly worse in rural areas like North Wales where houses tend to be older and therefore less efficient. Dŵr Uisce is investigating emissions abatement potential of low-carbon space and water heating technologies for Welsh households; and are developing a benchmarking tool for household water-energy efficiency, as well as a water-energy ratings system modelled on the EPC system.

For more information on Dŵr Uisce, please visit the website or contact Prysor Williams prysor.williams@bangor.ac.uk / Aisha Bello-Dambatta a.bellodambatta@bangor.ac.uk

Plant of the month

Centaurea nigra (Lesser knapweed)

Centaurea nigra is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family known by the common names lesser knapweed, common knapweed and black knapweed.

It is a perennial herb growing up to about a metre in height with deep purple, thistle-like flowers. The flowers are actually composite flower heads made up of many small 'florets' (tiny flowers), surrounded by a crown of long, ragged, pink bracts. The leaves are up to 25 centimetres long, usually deeply lobed, and hairy.

Knapweed is a wildflower of meadows and other grassland habitats from lawns to cliff-tops. It can often be seen on road verges and hedgerows where wildlife is allowed to thrive.

Of all meadow flowers, Lesser knapweed, Centaurea nigra is arguably the best in terms of its wildlife value. It attracts hoverflies, honeybees and bumblebees, and is also is a favourite of many butterfly species including common blue, meadow brown, ringlet and small tortoiseshell, which all feed from its nectar. Flowering from June to September it placed second as a producer of nectar sugar per floral unit among native meadow perennials.

Come along to Treborth Botanic Garden to enjoy it in full flower in our orchard meadow and woodland margins.

Book of the Month

Stuffocation: Living More with Less

James Wallman, Penguin Random House UK, 2017

Are you falling out of love with your ‘stuff’. At birthdays and Christmas are you filled with dismay as the gifts arrive? – not another pair of socks! Or ‘where on earth can I park that piece of tatt? Are they destined for the next jumble sale?

More and more of us are feeling this way. We would be astonished if we were to count the number of individual items in our homes and it’s virtually impossible to keep track of what’s what and where they are. Questions need to be asked as to whether we really need as many things be they items of clothing or kit. Does anyone actually use an egg mandolin?

These are questions for everyone not just the chronic hoarders who are a danger to themselves and others. If you are buckling under the strain of unwanted things this is the book for you.

The book is divided into four parts with an introduction, conclusion and appendix:

Introduction: With a handy questionnaire to determine where you sit on the spectrum.

Part one: Outlines the problem of ‘Stuffocation’, notes the dark forces behind the ‘problem’. The economy thrives on persuading us to purchase shoddy things we may not need. There is a dark side to materialism.

Part 2: How did it come to this and the origins of our throwaway culture? Individuals and agencies thrive on feeding our desire for ‘more’ and ‘better’ – but are we any happier?

Part 3: The crossroads and signposts to a better future. Minimalism is introduced as a concept. It appears that being ultra-minimalist is an obsession in and of itself. There are merits in the ‘medium-chill’, half-way house. It’s for us to define our own comfort zone.

Part 4: The road ahead. Experientialism is overtaking materialism. Collecting (and boasting about) our experiences is taking over from bragging about our bling. But this doesn’t necessarily make the garden rosy – consider the new angst of keeping up with the Joneses on Facebook and Instagram. The new pressure to share beautiful photos of increasingly exotic destinations and activities can be just as debilitating.

The conclusion and appendix offer steps to Experientialism and suggests habits to adopt in order to achieve this new way of being.

It’s possible that some of the more impatient amongst you will find this book irritating towards the end as some of the comments and advice is fairly obvious.

As we consider the challenges of over-consumption facing the world and the need to reduce our reliance on single use stuff in particular, this book is an entertaining starting point to consider the extent of the problem and offers some solutions.