Monthly Archives: January 2023

Travelling Sustainably

One of the largest industries on the planet is the travel industry. Every year, millions of people travel across the globe for business, to see friends and family or just for a holiday getaway. Unfortunately, this industry is accompanied by problematic environmental impacts. In fact, according to the International Council on Clean transport (2019), aviation contributes 2.4% of all global carbon emissions. As we realise it is not possible to completely stop travelling, we have put together a few tips to help make your travels as environmentally friendly as possible. 

An airplane flying in the sky

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  1. Fly Economy Class 

Flying business/first-class has a larger carbon footprint than flying economy class. This is because the business and first class seats are using much more space and are therefore accountable for a greater share of the aircraft’s fuel. Economy seats, especially on an airline with a high number of seats, are a lower impact option on the plane. 

  1. Travel slowly 

If you’re taking a short-haul or domestic trip, think about alternative methods of transport to flying. A train or coach can allow you to appreciate culture as you travel to your destination. If you’re looking for a sustainable way to reach a destination, check out this carbon saving emissions tool by Manchester University. 

  1. Try to avoid layovers 

Did you know that the highest amount of greenhouse gases of a plane journey, are released during take-off and landing? This means that if you make multiple stops on your trip the extra emissions can quickly add up. Connecting flights also mean you usually have to travel a greater distance, adding even more emissions onto the journey. 

  1. Find local adventures 

If it is not necessary for your trip to be abroad, why not explore your local area instead? There are often some great destinations within a few hours train or car ride away. Here are some great short trips you can travel to by train and by car from Newcastle. 

Local Adventures! Some pictures from our team of North-East treasures.  

Bamburgh Castle
Holy Island, Lindisfarne
St Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay

What about carbon offsetting? 

Carbon offsetting involves individuals or companies investing in environmental projects in order to balance out their own carbon emissions. This could include activities such as forestry conservation (to encourage plants that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) or the creation of renewable energy resources. Whilst these projects may appear very beneficial, carbon offsetting does not come problem free. 

Carbon offsets do not work for the core issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They often allow a ‘business as usual’ approach, encouraging an idea that you can just offset whatever carbon you produce. Furthermore, not all of these projects are realised, and sometimes those that are, aren’t completed to their full potential. For example, you may pay to create a forest, however if that forest burns down in its infancy, the project’s full efficacy is not reached. 

For carbon offsetting to be an effective action, it must be coupled with reducing your overall emissions and not just as a substitute for reducing. 

Have we missed one of your favourite eco-friendly travel tips? Let us know in the comments below! 

The Newcastle Clean Air Zone: Your questions answered

A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) has now been introduced for parts of Newcastle in order to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Confused about what this means for you? This blog post will hopefully answer your questions. 

What is the CAZ and when does it start? 

The CAZ is an area within Newcastle where measures have been put into place in order to improve air quality. The zone covers most of Newcastle city centre as well as the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh bridges. Only buses, coaches, taxis, vans and heavy goods vehicles that do not meet Clear Air Zone emissions standards are affected by the zone. Private cars are currently not affected. 

Map of the Clean Air Zone in Newcastle City Centre. View an interactive map on the Newcastle CAZ (Breathe) webpages. 

The CAZ is now in place, however no charges will apply to vehicles (taxis, buses, coaches and HGVs) until 30th January 2023. Charges for vans and light goods vehicles will be delayed until July 2023 due to national vehicle supply issues. 

Why do we need a CAZ? 

Clean air is essential to our wellbeing. Poor air quality is linked to serious health conditions including heart disease, cancers and breathing problems. This can be especially serious in older people, young children and those who spend a lot of time driving. As a consequence, the government made it a legal requirement for councils to take action to reduce harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions from vehicles. A CAZ is a highly effective way of doing this. 

Newcastle isn’t alone in introducing a CAZ. Several other cities have implemented them including Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Portsmouth and soon Sheffield. 

A CAZ will also support important efforts to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles in the city. 

How do I know if my vehicle will be charged? 

You can check if your vehicle is affected by the CAZ by using the government’s online vehicle checker.  

Table showing a guide as to which vehicles meet the CAZ standards. Make sure to check your vehicle using the link above. 

If your vehicle does not meet CAZ standards, you can apply for funding to help replace/upgrade it so that it is complaint with the new rules. There is eligibility criteria and advice on applying for a grant online on the Newcastle CAZ (Breathe) webpages. 

Some vehicles are exempt from the new charges. These include emergency vehicles, agricultural vehicles, motor caravans and community transport vehicles. You can find a full list of national and local exemptions, and information on how to apply for an exemption, on the Newcastle CAZ (Breathe) webpages

How does the CAZ affect Newcastle University

Newcastle University has a fleet of commercial vehicles, for example, for the Estates and Facilities porter team, and some minibuses. 

The University will be ensuring that all our vehicles are in line with CAZ policy. 

What if I have further questions? 

If you have any further general questions about the CAZ, email the local council at 

Or for University-specific questions email the Estates helpdesk at 

Small sustainable swaps for your kitchen

Whilst some of these products may have properties that are more sustainable than other products that we are likely to use, the most sustainable option is to use what you currently have if it is in a good condition or you have plenty of it. However, should you run out of some kitchen essentials then you should check out the post below for some eco-conscious swaps if you would like to try something new. 

Washing up:  

While some households have a dishwasher, some do not, therefore we need to address the various amounts of single-use plastic involved with mainstream washing up practices. Here are a few easy swaps to reduce the plastic in your kitchen sink:  

  • Do you need a new dish scrubber? You could swap to a bamboo and wooden brush for washing dishes instead of a plastic brush. When buying one of these brushes try and get one where you replace the scrubbing head only instead of the handle and the head as this will cut down on waste in addition to plastic. Products made from natural fibres will decompose naturally in a compost bin however plastic sits in landfill for many years. Some places that you can buy these from include: Nil Living, Peace of the Wild and eco-living. 
  • If you use disposable plastic sponges you could swap these out for an alternative such as a loofah dish sponge, these can be bought from Nil Living.  
  • An additional swap would be to use a reusable container with a pump for washing up liquid instead of buying single-use bottles. To fill the container up, either take it to a refill shop (like Nil Living in Grainger Market) or order a refill of washing up liquid from various retailers online (however when doing this try to make sure it comes in a 100% recyclable packet. Alternatively, you could try solid washing up soap bars instead such as the ones sold in Something Good.  

Cleaning surfaces: 

Often the products that we use to clean our work surfaces in the kitchen are in the form of disposable wipes or single-use plastic spray bottles. Here are a few swaps that could eliminate both products from your kitchen and keep it sparkling and clean. 

  • Switch to cleaning products that send out biodegradable refill sachets (or recyclable packaging) instead of single-use products. Some that we recommend are Method or Ocean Saver. This means that the bottle you use for your spray will be continuously reused instead of the single use sprays that are commonly bought. 
  • You can also try reusable dish and dusting cloths which can go in the wash instead of kitchen roll or non-reusable wipes.

Washing clothes  

Unfortunately, even everyday necessary activities contribute to marine plastic pollution, and this includes washing your clothes. Many clothes are made (in whole or in part) from plastics such as nylon and acrylic, which release fibres of microplastics when washed and end up in our drains, waterways and the sea.

“Plastic particles washed off from synthetic clothes contribute up to 35% of the primary microplastic that is polluting our oceans”

Planet care
  • The initial step when attempting to prevent microplastics from reaching the sea starts from before washing and stems from buying. When looking to invest in new garments (second hand or new) you could try to opt for natural fibre made products such as cotton, hemp or linen that will not release plastic. 
  • You could also invest in a microfiber filter for your washing machine which will help to catch most of the fibres that are released during washes such as the one made by PlanetCare. Alternatively, you could use a Guppy Bag to wash your garments in which also helps to capture most of the fibres. 
  • When washing your clothes, washing machines often automatically opt for the higher temperature settings even when they aren’t required, so before you put a wash on you could turn down the dial to 30 degrees to save energy and your clothes from excess heat.  
  • If you have a garden to hang your laundry to dry outside instead of using a tumble dryer (particularly in the summer) this will also help you to save money and energy within your household. If you don’t have a garden, hanging your clothes out to try indoors and using a small dehumidifier is still more energy efficient than using a tumble dryer. 


Studies have shown that food systems make up somewhere in the region of a third of global carbon emissions. By being conscious of what and how much we buy, we can help minimise the food waste coming out of our households and into landfill where it breaks down and produces even more greenhouse gases. We hope this helps to give you some inspiration for how you can operate your kitchen with sustainability as well as tasty food in mind. 

  • You can opt for loose fruit and vegetables, if possible, you can take a bag with you to the market (such as Grainger Market) to carry them in and this way you will only buy what you need and will not be buying single use plastic. 
  • Try to eat seasonally to the country that you are in as this will mean you are buying better quality produce and will not need to be flown in. If you have a garden, you could have a go at growing some easy produce such as carrots, potatoes and herbs. 
  • To avoid adding food waste scraps to landfill, you could keep a food waste caddy in your kitchen and build a compost heap in your garden and use the output to add nutrients to your soil. 
  • Do you like to batch cook? We do too as it helps to save energy! Put your leftovers in Tupperware instead of cling film as these can be reused unlike cling film and it will also prevent spillages in your bag. You can save your takeaway containers after washing them to put your lunches and snacks in.  
  • We have also got a food waste post filled with tips for those who would like to reduce their food waste which you can find here: 

Events in January: 

Veganuary: If you haven’t tried a plant-based diet, Veganuary is a great opportunity to give it a go! Eating a more plant-based diet reduces the carbon footprint of our food.  

It is no secret that as an international community we need to reduce the harmful emissions that are an output from mass agricultural farming so if you are curious about participating in this challenge have a look at the Veganuary website and check out our recent blog post, please get in touch if you have any questions about this blog post or Veganuary.  

Tips for a ‘Planet Healthy’ Plate


It is unlikely that you have not heard of Veganuary yet – the vegan challenge for the month of January, created and run by a non-profit organisation here in the UK. You might not have known that it was such an official campaign, and that, if you wanted to, you can sign up to the challenge and join an online community of others doing it too. Whether you sign up officially or go at your own pace without committing to signing up, we want to provide support for decreasing your animal product consumption. 

Why vegan? 

There are two main reasons that people decide to become vegan or plant-based: animal ethics and/or environmental issues, and we will be shining a light on the environmental side. 

Globally, agriculture uses nearly 40% of land, 70% of freshwater and is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Willett, 2019). Moreover, land conversion for food production is the largest driver of global biodiversity loss (ibid). Dairy and meat products have an especially high environmental impact in comparison to other food groups. This because the process of raising animals is overall much more carbon intensive than harvesting plants. Animal-based food production involves clearing forests for animal pasture, making millions of tons of animal feed and large amounts of waste generated from farm animals. It is therefore important that we re-examine what we eat and move towards an eco-friendlier diet.  

“Converting grass into (meat) is like converting coal to energy. It comes with an immense cost in emissions.” –Joseph Poore 

A recent report by the EAT-Lancet Commission (2019) describes a ‘planetary health plate’. This consists of mostly ‘vegetables and fruits, with the rest made up with whole grains, plant protein sources, unsaturated plant oils, and, occasionally, small amounts of meat or fish.’ Considering this, we have put together a few tips and tricks for how you can cut down on your animal product consumption in an easy, tasty way! 


  1. Enjoy inadvertently plant-based foods 

Some of your favourite foods might be totally vegan, you have just not realised or known it! 

In almost every global cuisine, there are inadvertently vegan dishes which remain at the heart of every meal. From Indian favourites such as dhal or bhajis/pakoras to Arab plates like falafel and hummus, there is ‘vegan’ food everywhere! Even a simple tin of baked beans is plant-based! Tofu is great example of a naturally plant based signature ingredient. In South-East Asian meals, it has been used for many years to create delicious dishes. We highly recommend finding some of these great traditional recipes and giving them a go! 

  1. Discover new ingredients 

For many people, a lack of knowledge around produce makes a plant-based diet seem very limited. However, a bit of research can show that this is very much not the case. There are hundreds of delicious edible plants and fungi to choose from, some of which you may have never heard of. Why not try a recipe for a jackfruit curry or Sticky Shiitake Mushrooms? They really are delicious! 

  1. Reinvent what you know 

A great way to start incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet is to reinvent dishes you know and love. Try swapping some of the meat/dairy ingredients for plant-based alternatives. You might even find you like the vegan alternative better than the original! Check out these recipes for a plant-based chilli, pizza and macaroni cheese.   

Vegan pancakes! These delicious pancakes from a café in Newcastle are completely vegan!
  1. Try a non-dairy milk 

Plant-based milks have grown hugely in popularity in recent years due to their environmental credentials. From oat to soya to almond, there is plenty of choice when it comes to milk alternatives! Take your time to try a few different alternatives ‘til you find which one suits you. 

Key fact: for those living in the UK, oat milk comes out as the most sustainable plant milk option (by considering production and transport emissions). Read more about the different plant milks on the Ethical Consumer webpages

  1. Make small switches 

There are plenty of small switches you can make in your kitchen which can help you make a smooth transition to a more plant-based lifestyle. Trying using oil instead of butter when you cook or maple/golden syrup instead of honey. These changes shouldn’t alter the flavour of your dish too much and puts you well on your way to a more sustainable diet. 

Did we miss one of your favourite vegan tips? Let us know in the comments! 

Did you know? 

Animal products are used in food and beverage production in ways you might be shocked by. 

One example is alcohol. Some alcoholic drinks use animal products in their filtration processes, so are not classed as vegan or plant-based. Lots of wine, beer and cider is produced using gelatine, casein or isinglass (made of fish bladders!). Have a look at your favourite tipple to find out whether it’s vegan or not! 


Willett, W. et al. (2019) “Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT–lancet commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems,” The Lancet, 393(10170), pp. 447–492. Available at:

United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15)

The biodiversity conference occurs every two years and took place last month in Montreal, Canada. Within this summit an extremely important discussion surrounding a potential international biodiversity framework was the centre of goals and targets regarding biodiversity. The importance of thriving biodiversity and the significance of the biodiversity crisis has been summarised succinctly here: 

“Nature is critical to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. Adoption of a bold global biodiversity framework that addresses the key drivers of nature loss is needed to secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet”

United Nations Environment Program

Within this post, we will review some of the positive outcomes of the conference and outline what these mean for the biodiversity crisis.  

Positive outcomes from the conference: 

  • Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework 

One of the biggest outcomes from the conference was the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This is an international commitment that has been adopted by 196 countries, the framework lists four long term biodiversity orientated goals for 2050 and 23 action orientated global targets that aim to be addressed by 2030.  

The importance of the creation, implementation and adoption of this framework is very high as it provides goals, targets, resources, information, and connections for countries on a global scale. Frameworks provide tools and structures to enable change more rapidly, which is exactly what the world needs if we are going to be able to reverse the most extreme biodiversity loss that we are currently facing. As highlighted in the opening paragraph, biodiversity loss is an international problem that requires an international solution, and this framework is an important starting block for change.  

  • Nature Positive Universities Alliance 

Oxford University and the United Nations Environment Program announced the launch of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance. The alliance is:  

“A global network of universities that have made an official pledge to advance efforts to halt, prevent and reverse nature loss through addressing their own impacts and restoring ecosystems harmed by their activities”

Oxford News

The alliance aims to bring together universities across a global platform and encourage them to prioritise nature on university campuses.  At the time of writing, 522 universities from 11 countries have made a Nature Positive Pledge, and 118 Student Ambassadors have signed up to take action on their campuses. 

Making a Nature Positive Pledge requires institutions to commit to four key stages: assessing a baseline, setting SMART targets, taking action, and annual, transparent reporting on progress. 

We are thrilled to announce that Newcastle University was one of the founding signatories of the pledge announced in Montreal at the Biodiversity Conference. 

For more information on the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, visit their webpage

  • Announced support for the Indigenous community: 

Within talks regarding the Global Biodiversity Framework were prominent discussions regarding the need to provide support and positive recognition towards indigenous communities when discussing biodiversity. 

Indigenous peoples and their communities have been highlighted as crucial defenders of biodiversity and should be protected alongside their land. This is highlighted by the Guardian as “Several scientific studies have shown that Indigenous peoples are the best stewards of nature, representing 5% of humanity but protecting 80% of Earth’s biodiversity”.  

Talks regarding the need for support of Indigenous peoples and local communities proved to be successful as target 3 in the Global Biodiversity Framework specifically outlines rights, territories and contributions by Indigenous Peoples and local communities to deter from land grabbing, this has been celebrated by the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB).  

It is worth noting:  

While these three positive outcomes from the biodiversity conference are a very positive step in the right direction for biodiversity protection, it is also worth recognising some elements that can be improved on within the framework and in future conferences.  

  • Lack of focus on oceans in the Global Biodiversity Framework 
  • There are no measurable elements to the Global Biodiversity Framework so how do we measure and track progress? 
  • Conservation of land must include restoration otherwise wildlife will not be getting the help it needs (BBC News).  


Multiple positive decisions, agreements and frameworks arose from the biodiversity conference in December This includes the creation of a Global Biodiversity Framework, Nature Positive Universities Alliance announcement and the outlined support for the indigenous community within a specific target in the Global Biodiversity Framework. While these are all very positive outcomes, there is a lot more work to be done to turn the tide on the biodiversity crisis.