In the academic year 2019-2020 there have been several environmental initiatives introduced in Ustinov College by the GCR Ecology Representative to complement Durham University’s Environmental Strategy and commitment to divest from fossil fuels.
The Ustinov College community allotment, previously located at the college’s former Howlands site, has been restarted on the grounds of the Observatory. Three apple trees have been planted at Sheraton House, forming the beginnings of a community orchard which will be managed by students and local residents, as is the case at the allotment. In the effort to improve biodiversity in the area, an area of lawn to the left of Neville House has been left to grow long in order to provide habitat for, for example, butterflies and moths which lay their eggs on and/or overwinter on long grass stalks. Native oak tree seedlings from the acorns dropped by the oaks behind Neville House have been potted up and donated to Grandparents for Climate Action for planting on the banks of a river in Lanchester to prevent downstream flooding in future years.
Multiple changes have taken place in Sheraton Café in order to reduce plastic and green waste. Waste coffee grounds and out of date fruit and vegetables are now composted at the allotment and a vegan menu has been introduced. Single-use plastic cups are being phased out in favour of plexiglass reusable cups, in line with developments at other university college bars.
In terms of energy, the electricity supplied to Durham University buildings is sourced from an offshore wind farm on the North East coast and Sheraton House has solar panels on its roof. This year has seen the introduction of a shared hybrid Co-Wheels car in Sheraton Park available to students and local residents, courtesy of the local group Greening Ustinov and Sheraton Park (GUSP).
A range of environment-themed events have taken place to promote awareness of environmental issues, including a recycling event organised in conjunction with GUSP. Pub quizzes on sustainability and low-waste themes have taken place. Ustinov students represented the college at the university-wide Valentine’s Day climate strike, organised by ECO DU (Environmental Community of Durham University) and SU societies. The 2019-20 Ecology Rep Fiona Brewis has written a module on addressing the climate crisis which is being implemented by the geography department in the 2021-22 academic year.
Before the cancellation of events as a result of Covid-19, there were discussions regarding reducing the price of vegetarian options at college formals and encouraging students to bring Tupperware to formal dinners to reduce food waste. In future formals students will be encouraged to wear outfits already in their wardrobe as opposed to buying new clothes from the exploitative and unsustainable fast fashion industry. Likewise, decorations for the Summer BBQ have been stored in order to re-use in future years.
Future projects at Ustinov College include: the building of a greenhouse, the implementation of a cycle scheme, a recycling campaign to increase student awareness of correct waste disposal, and the introduction of a community herb garden.
If you have more ideas or would like to get involved with sustainability initiatives and Greening Ustinov and Sheraton Park, please contact the GCR Secretary on firstname.lastname@example.org.