Monthly Archives: December 2022

Tips and tricks to introduce sustainability to your Christmas

Christmas is a time when a large amount of consumption, and often over-consumption, takes place. 

This post is an introduction to some ideas and tips that could help to reduce the negative impacts that holidays, such as Christmas, can create on the environment. 

We would like to think that these ideas are creative and fun, that you can involve friends and family, and if you are a parent, why not turn these into activities that you can do with your kids together? 

Gift ideas: 

Are you struggling to choose gifts for people which aren’t generic gifts that you aren’t even sure they would like? Here are some alternative options that will provide memories or meaning to the people you are giving them too.  

  • Gift an experience such as:  ziplining, an art workshop, or drink tasting. 
  • Adopt an endangered animal for your friend or loved one that they can receive updates about. 
  • Shop locally with independent businesses for more original gifts such as personalised posters or bookmarks 
  • You could make your own presents by baking, sewing, painting, performing etc. 
  • Donate to a charity on their behalf, choose something they are passionate about   
Why not make a gingerbread house as a gift?

Christmas practices and traditions: 

Here are some swaps we can make on Christmas Day, and in the run up, that will help to reduce waste. 

  • If you would like an advent calendar, why not invest in a reusable calendar that you add treats to, instead of buying a plastic one from the supermarket. 
  • By skipping the Christmas crackers at lunch, or making your own, with paper (or other recyclable materials) , and with useful eco-friendly gifts inside, we can cut down on plastic that has little use.  
  • Reuse the clothes in your wardrobe:  Try to avoid buying a new outfit for Christmas if you can. Instead have fun shopping your own, your family or friends’ wardrobes (with their permission, of course).  
  • If you would like a Christmas jumper, instead of buying a brand new one, you could knit one or check out some local charity shops. 

“two out of five Christmas jumpers only being worn once over the festive period” 


Decorations and present wrapping:  

While decorations can last for many years, they can get broken, or you may be tempted to buy new ones. Here are some tips for decorations and wrapping that you can use this Christmas and in future years. 

  • Think about your Christmas tree lights: If you need to buy new ones, make sure to recycle your broken ones at a recycling facility. Also, when buying new ones, opt for LED as they use less energy.  
  • Why not send e-cards instead of paper cards. They can be personalised with family pictures for an extra special touch.  
  • Keep a bag of ribbons, gift bags and labels from other occasions that could be re-used for the next Christmas or birthdays in the future. 
  • Don’t throw away a plastic tree that you already own. They can be re-used for many years, and this will help to reduce plastic waste and save you some money. 
  • Use natural decorations such as pressed dried flowers and brown paper, instead of wrapping paper that cannot be recycled, to give presents a festive touch. 
  • We can also use fabric for wrapping by tying knots in fabrics such as vintage scarfs, which are re-used.  

Food practices and food waste:  

Food is a large contributor to waste, which is heightened around Christmas, however by adjusting our buying practices we can cut down on some of it. It is also worth noting that by adjusting what we consume we can reduce our carbon footprint. 

  • We can incorporate more plant-based and vegetarian meals into our holiday schedules. 
  • When buying ingredients for your Christmas meals, why not try shopping at markets for loose vegetables, nuts and dried fruits using a reusable bag, instead of pre-packaged vegetables from a supermarket? 
  • Try not to over buy, think about what you are able to consume based on who will be attending your meals and plan around this to reduce food waste. 
  • If you grow your own vegetables, use as many of these as possible for you Christmas meals instead of buying produce that may have been imported. 
  • Utilise your freezer: Freeze food that was leftover or due to go off, it makes great January lunches at work. 

Recipes that use leftover Christmas food to reduce food waste: 

Here are some recipes we found online that focus on reusing various ingredients that you may have left over from a Christmas meal, but can reuse in the days after Christmas.  

Thank you very much for reading our blog this year, we hope you have a wonderful festive break and we look forward to writing more posts for you in the new year! 

Best wishes, 

The Sustainability Team 

Food Waste at Newcastle University

Globally, it’s estimated that 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste every year – that’s around 1.3 billion tons! This is a huge problem, especially as we have limited resources to feed an ever-growing population. It is therefore essential we work to avoid waste and make the most of what we have. 

Food waste at Newcastle University

Newcastle University is highly aware of the issues surrounding food waste and has implemented several initiatives to combat this. These include: 

  • Giving excess food to local food banks and to our new Student Pantry. 
  • Catered events are advised to order an amount of food which is less than the amount of people visiting so there is less waste. 
  • Ingredients which are left over are used to make other meals if possible. 
  • If one food outlet closes earlier than another, the food is transported to another that is open later. 

The university also has food waste bins across campus. This waste is taken by an external contractor to an anaerobic digestion facility. Here, billions of bacteria ‘feed’ on the food waste and produce a methane rich ‘biogas’ which can be used for heating and energy production.  For more information on the anaerobic digestion process, check out our current food waste contractor’s website.

Want to know how you can make a difference? Check out these top tips to lower your individual food waste. 

  1. Take stock of what you have 

By checking what you have before you go shopping, you can stop overbuying groceries. Apps such as Kitche are a great way to do this! They allow you to list what you have (and its expiration date!) so you only buy what you need. 

  1. Plan your meals 

By planning a few meals a week, you know exactly what you need to buy when you hit the supermarket and will avoid unnecessary purchases.  A plan can also help you eat healthier and have more variety in your meals. It stops your falling back on the same recipes as you know you have the ingredients to try something new!  

  1. Don’t throw your leftovers 

If you have food leftover from a meal, put it in the fridge or freezer. This means you can eat it at a later date, and it doesn’t get wasted! Top tip: Make sure to label your food with a date so you know how long it has been there to ensure its safe to eat. 

  1. Store your Fruit and Veg right 

Did you know that millions of us are storing our fruit and veg the wrong way? For example, onions and potatoes should not be stored together as onions produce a gas which causes potatoes to spoil. This guide created by Love Food Hate Waste has some great tips about how to best store different products. 

A guide how to organise your fridge by Love Food Hate Waste

  1. Check your fridge temperature  

The average UK fridge is set at least 2°C too warm! This means food will go out of date quicker, leading to more waste. Make sure your fridge is set below 5°C to keep your food fresh for longer. If you’re not sure how to change your fridge temperature, check out this useful guide.  

  1. Try a food waste app 

If you know you won’t use your item and it is still within its use-by date, list it on a food waste app like Olio. This way, you can get rid of items you won’t use and somebody in your community can benefit from a free food donation!   

Did we miss any of your favourite food waste tips? Let us know in the comments below! 

Top 6 Sustainable Fashion Tips

In the past, clothes shopping used to be a special event. It was restricted to something we mostly did when we no longer fit in what we had, or the seasons changed. However, around 25 years ago, this trend changed. 

Fast fashion is a business model which involves copying and mass-producing catwalk/fashion trends. This usually happens very quickly as it aims to make products available while demand is still high. Unfortunately, this usually means that clothes are cheaply made and so are thrown away after a few wears.  Furthermore, the production of these clothes often has serious social and environmental consequences including the over abstraction and pollution of water sources and the exploitation of workers. 

We have put together a few simple tips to stay in style in a more eco-friendly way. 

  1. Be more informed. 

Before you buy something do some background research about the brand’s social and environmental values. This will help you to understand the story behind your purchase and make an informed decision about whether you would like to buy it or not. Sites such as Good on You or the Fashion Transparency Index make finding this information super simple and help you to avoid any greenwashing.  

  1. Change your attitude to shopping. 

Only take to the shops when there is something you need rather than as a way to pass time. This will stop you buying things you don’t need and creating unnecessary waste when they are discarded. Try taking up an alternative hobby such as crocheting or knitting. The results are much more satisfying and better for your wallet too! 

  1. Invest in a Capsule Wardrobe. 

The fast fashion industry is designed to make you feel ‘out of trend’ after a few short weeks. While previously many brands had 4 fashion ’seasons’, many now have 52 ‘micro-seasons’, bringing out new styles every week. This means that it can be difficult to stay up to date with current trends and clothes are quickly disregarded by consumers after a few short wears. We recommend instead investing in a capsule wardrobe. This involves buying some timeless pieces including coats, jackets and t-shirts which you can re-wear throughout the seasons. This will not only help the environment but save you money too! Check out this link for how to create your own capsule wardrobe. 

  1. Look after your Clothes. 

Looking after your clothes is one of the best ways to make sure your garments look great for as long as possible. Make sure you read the care label and only tumble dry if necessary. We also recommend trying to repair your broken items before buying new. Not only will this increase the life of your clothes but also gives you the opportunity to explore your creative side! 

  1. Buy Second-Hand 

Vintage or second-hand shopping has hugely increased in popularity in the last few years and you can certainly see why! Buying clothes second-hand keeps them in circulation for longer, thereby saving them from entering landfill. It can also help save you money and enables you to create your own unique style! Check out Depop and Vinted or some of the great charity and vintage shops we have in Newcastle for some great second-hand finds! 

An amazing charity shop find! This outfit was created by one of our students from clothes she bought from local charity shops.
  1. Rent your Outfit 

Got a big event coming up but don’t want to buy something you will only wear once? Why not rent an outfit! There are plenty of websites you can rent an outfit for an occasion and return it as soon as your event is over. 

Top Tip: Only order what you’ll wear! Some websites will not refund you if you don’t wear the item and will give you store credit instead. This is great if you want to hire clothes in the future s but works out expensive if it’s just a one off! 

Know any more sustainable fashion tips? Let us know your favourite in the comments below! 

The Christmas Switch Off at Newcastle University

What is the Christmas Switch Off? 

The Christmas Switch Off is a University-wide campaign where we encourage staff and students to turn off any electrical items that can be switched off instead of leaving them on standby over the Christmas break. 

Why is the Christmas Switch Off important?  

By turning off everything that can be turned off, we will reduce our energy consumption across the campus, which is especially important this year given the current an energy crisis. The Christmas Switch Off campaign has been run for a number of years to minimise energy wastage and contribute to our carbon reduction targets.

We also hope that promoting of the Christmas Switch Off will promote positive behaviour change more widely and remind colleagues and students to minimise their energy wastage by remembering to switch off what they can every day.

Who participates in the Switch Off? 

We would like everyone at the university to participate if they are able to, that includes staff and students across labs, offices, and accommodation. The advice on what to turn off will vary for each location – guidance on what should be switched off is in this blog post.  

When switching off your work area, it can be helpful to organise a switch off team that can check each area after most people have left for the term to ensure everything that can be switched off, has been.

Here are some examples of items that could be switched in various area across campus:

  • Staff working in offices: Lighting, computers, monitors, printers and photocopiers, kettlers and fridges (after they have been emptied and cleaned). Also, it is important to make sure that all windows have been properly closed.  
  • Labs and medical buildings: All the above can be applied in addition to drying cupboards, fume cupboards and fridges/freezers that are not needed to be on over the break.

Many students leave their accommodation will be empty over the holidays. If you are going away over the winter break, these are a few things that you could do before you leave:

  • Clean out and defrost your fridges and freezers the day before you leave by turning them off at the wall and popping a towel underneath them to soak up the melted ice.
  • Turn off your kettles and toasters at the wall.
  • If there is a wall switch for your oven this is also a good thing to turn off easily, as well as lights and plug sockets.

For more switch off information, visit the Sustainable Campus website:

If you have any questions or ideas about the Christmas Switch Off, please email the Sustainability Team at 

Upcoming Events

Find out more about some of the fascinating research we undertake on our farms.

​The School of Natural and Environmental Sciences along with NU Farms and EcoBreed, undertakes ground-breaking plant and crop science research. These discoveries help to drive the latest innovations and make positive change.

One of the many things we grow on our farms is potatoes. Every year, we grow tonnes of potatoes and this year, we’re inviting you to join us in celebrating them!

The event taking place from 10am-4pm on 15 December in the Boiler House will showcase SNES’ pioneering potato research, and working alongside the Sustainability Team, Keenan Recycling Ltd, Eat@Newcastle and Newcastle Food Bank prevent food waste resulting from the harvest.

The daylong event will have plenty of informative talks, fun activities, free tasting samples, potatoes to take away to cook yourself and other freebies, courtesy of Bayer Crop Science and Keenan.

Find out more here:

We hope to see you there!