Monthly Archives: February 2023

Forms of commuting to get to Newcastle University

Commuting at Newcastle University

Commuting is a part of nearly everyone’s working or studying life at Newcastle University, which is why it is included within our Climate Action Plan. Staff and student commuting contributes to around 3% of the University’s scope 3 carbon emissions alongside other sources such as business travel and capital goods. For many years, travelling by car has been the preferred travel option due to convenience, however there are more sustainable methods of commuting that create less emissions such as forms of active travel. The University community can decrease their individual carbon footprints through acts such as adapting their commuting habits, this would also decrease the University’s.

Newcastle University scope 3 emissions – headline activity % breakdown (tCO2e) p19 from our Climate Action Plan

There are multiple forms of sustainable travel that we can use to get onto Newcastle University’s campus and this post aims to communicate the various benefits of them. We will also outline the facilities and initiatives that are available to staff and students which could make the methods of travel easier for you.

Active forms of travel

Active travel refers to the extensive variety of travel methods that require using your own body to get from A to B. This includes forms of travel such as walking, wheeling, cycling, running, and using a scooter. There are multiple benefits of active travel which include:  

Benefits of active travel

  • Environmental: Utilising active travel contributes towards the reduction of air pollution, as many forms of motorised transport contribute to air pollution. If we collectively avoid the use of private motorised transport when we can, we are able to reduce air pollution globally. This also helps to reverse the biodiversity loss that stems from increased global temperature.
  • Mental wellbeing benefits: It has been noted by Sustrans that “an increase in physical activity has been proven to be associated with benefits to mental health”. Therefore, if your form of regular commuting includes physical activity, this could potentially help to improve your mental health.

Walking, wheeling, scooting and running to campus

Walking, wheeling, or running to campus are excellent methods of commuting as they all include the benefits listed. When travelling by these methods to campus, it is worth noting that there are facilities available on campus such as showers and changing facilities which are available for staff and students to use.
Locations of these facilities can be found in Newcastle University’s Travel Plan.

Cycling to campus

If the previous methods of active travel are not suitable for you, cycling is an alternative option. This can be an excellent option if you have a longer commute and the University has some initiatives and groups that may help you with the transition.

  • The University has multiple storage facilities available across campus where you can leave your bike for the day. By providing storage facilities and compounds we hope to remove the worry about where to keep your bike while you are at work or studying. Information regarding where the storage facilities are and how you can get access to secure compounds can be found here.
  • The University also has a Bicycle Users Group (BUG) that University staff and students can join on Microsoft Teams. The group communicates information to each other such as safety tips, useful commuting routes and other travel news that relates to all cycling matters.

To be added to the BUG mailing list, please contact with the subject “Join BUG”.

  • The University provides a cycle-to-work-scheme benefit that helps staff members spread the cost using salary sacrifice when they are looking to purchase a new bicycle. The scheme is provided and managed by People Services.
  • There are facilities available on campus for those who use forms of active travel such as cycling to commute to the University. You can shower and change in the facilities provided, the locations of this facilities are listed under showers/changing facilities available on campus.

Other forms of travel

There are plenty of other ways to travel to work when active transport alone is not feasible. These include:

  • Bus – Many bus routes are currently only £2 for a single and £4 for a day ticket. There are also other discounts available for frequent bus users.
  • Metro- A quick and easy way to get to the city centre. The Metro has many discounted travel schemes including a Student Metro Pass, a 19-21 Pop Card and many more. Use the General Ticket Finder to find the best ticket for your journey.
  • Rail- For longer journeys, rail can be a great way to commute. There are lots of options available to save on your journey including numerous types of railcard and season/flexi tickets.

Events coming up:

Sustainability Week: We are hosting a Sustainability-themed week in March. It will include a variety of in-person and virtual events and will conclude with an in-person Sustainability Festival on Friday 10th March. Please join us to learn more about sustainability and climate action at Newcastle University.

Fake bills February: Are you a first-year student who is worried about paying energy bills next year after living in halls? We are collaborating with ResLife who work within Newcastle University’s Accommodation Service to break down the confusion surrounding energy bills. With the cost-of-living crisis being a prominent element in everyday life for many students, we are aiming to help you feel more confident in understanding what you will be paying for. 

If you are a student who lives in one of Newcastle University’s student villages, you can enter a competition that will provide you with a mock energy bill so you can work out some missing figures that are missing by using the equations and information provided. Enter the competition here.

What is the Energy Price Cap and what does it mean for you?

The terms ‘Energy Price Cap’ and ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ appear almost daily on the news and social media. They seem very important but, unfortunately, these phrases are not well explained, and many people don’t understand what they are and what this means for them. This blog will help clarify these terms, allowing you to better understand the current situation and manage your bills better. 

What is the Energy Price Cap (EPC)? 

The EPC was introduced by Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) in January 2019. Its aim was to prevent households on variable tariffs being overcharged by limiting what you pay for each unit of gas and electricity. It also sets a maximum daily standing charge (the fare you pay to be connected to the grid). 

The EPC is largely calculated off wholesale prices (those that suppliers pay), network costs (building and maintaining the network) and supplier operating costs. It applies to households on standard and default tariffs which the majority of people are now on. If you are unsure what sort of tariff you are on, consult your energy provider. 

Myth: The Energy Price Cap is the maximum you can pay per year. 

Fact: There is no maximum charge for an energy bill, just a maximum daily standing charge & cost per energy unit. The price given by EPG and EPC is the average amount a household will spend per year. 

What is the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG)? 

As a result of very high energy prices, the EPG was created by the government in October 2022. This provides a discount on the EPC as the government is subsidising the cost of energy. For example, between 1st January and 31st March the energy price cap is £4,279/year however with EPG discount, this is reduced to £2,500/yr.  

The EPC changes every 3 months, and each time it changes, the government provides a discount to keep typical household bills lower. If the energy price cap falls below the EPG in the future, the EPC will be reinstated, and you’ll pay this instead. 

What does this mean for my household? 

As of January 2023, a household with a ‘normal’ amount of energy use would pay the EPG of £2,500/year. This is set to rise in April to £3,000 a year and will remain at this level until the end of March 2024. This is much lower than what the costs should have been for this winter but higher than previous years. 

The government has also given all households a £400 energy bills discount in October 2022. This should have been paid to you in 6 instalments taking £66 off your energy bills each month. If you use a bills package like UniHomes or Fused you should receive the discount from them as a reduction in your bills. If you pay your bills to your landlord, they are legally required to make sure you benefit from the rebate

There is also further aid for households on certain means, pensioners and those with disability benefits.  

What should I do if I’m struggling to pay my bills? 

If you are worried you may not be able to pay your energy bill, make sure to seek help. There are resources to help you and make sure you are not left cut off. These articles from The Money Saving Expert and Citizen’s Advice have some useful advice about the support available and how to access it. 

What if I still have questions? 

For further information about how the energy price cap affects you, see these pages from NUSU and The Money Saving Expert

An introduction to biodiversity

What is biodiversity? 

Biodiversity is a term you may hear a lot, but what does it actually mean? A simple way to define it is that it describes the variety of plant and animal life in a given area. The more biodiverse an area is, the more ecosystem services it provides. When trying to imagine the complexity and intricacy of biodiversity, next time you are outside in nature, think about all the living animals, plants, and micro-organisms around you and how they interact with each other and form an ecosystem. 

Thriving biodiversity supports life as we know it, however, when biodiversity is diminished, many ecosystems crumble which affects the availability of “food, clean water, medicine, and shelter” (WWF). When ecosystems are out of balance, the species within that ecosystem suffer due to lack of adequate food or a stable environment which enables species extinction to occur at a rapid rate. 

On a human level, conserving biodiversity is not just important to enable future generations to enjoy nature – it is essential to continue the survival of our species. 

What happens without thriving biodiversity? 

When ecosystems are under threat, change to the environment and species chain will be altered, sometimes to the point of no repair. To prevent this from occurring, we must do all we can to protect our ecosystems and repair any damage that we may cause. It is vital that we work together internationally to ensure the wide variety of ecosystems worldwide are protected from human impact. To read more about recent global action agreed at COP15, the UN Biodiversity Conference, read our round-up blog post

What do I need to know about the biodiversity crisis? 

Unfortunately, humans have damaged many ecosystems globally and without rapid reversal, some of these ecosystems will no longer function effectively. Biodiversity is under a major threat, and this is clear due to the very rapid level of species decline. WWF’s 2022 Living Planet Report found an “average 69% decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians since 1970”. If this level of species decline continues, the world will face an extremely high number of animals becoming endangered and potentially extinct, which will induce irreversible damage to ecosystems.  

Like climate change, we can prevent these catastrophic events from occurring if we change our behaviours and work as an international community to reduce and reverse negative ecological impacts. 

What factors are contributing to the biodiversity crisis? 

  • Climate change 
  • Habitat loss or degradation such as land clearing, deforestation, and coral reef bleaching 
  • Wildlife poaching or hunting and overfishing 
  • The spread of invasive species  

Can the biodiversity crisis be reversed? 

The good news is that the biodiversity crisis is potentially reversible, however, according to the Living Planet Report (WWF, 2022), “we have a last chance to act. This goes beyond conservation. A nature-positive future needs transformative – game changing – shifts in how we produce, how we consume, how we govern, and what we finance”. While it is good news that we are still able to reverse some of the negative impacts of the biodiversity crisis, it has been outlined that this will require immediate and extensive international action. 

One step in the right direction is the recent introduction of the Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in December 2022. This framework has set four global goals and 23 targets which are essential to restoring our ecosystems through implementing strategies, resource protection, monitoring and global review.  

Biodiversity at Newcastle University 

Newcastle University has an ambitious Climate Action Plan which outlines our targets and actions to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. 

We acknowledge that the climate and ecological emergencies are deeply intertwined, and to work towards better addressing the ecological emergency, we became a founding member of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance in December 2022. The initiative was launched at COP15 and is a joint project created by the University of Oxford and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and requires universities to calculate a baseline of their effects on biodiversity, set targets to minimise their impacts, take action to address the identified impacts, and report annually and transparently on progress. 

We are in the early stages of our nature positive journey, so watch this space for updates! 

What the University has done for biodiversity on campus so far:  

  • We are a Silver Accredited Hedgehog Friendly Campus 
  • The Grounds Team planted >1200m2 of wildflower areas across campus in 2022, with plans to expand these areas in 2023. Keep an eye out for the campus blooming in the warmer months, and share photos with us on Twitter @NCLSusCampus
  • We also have bat boxes and barns on campus.  

How to get involved with biodiversity on campus: 

  • Newcastle University is currently a Hedgehog Friendly Campus silver award winner, and we will be aiming for gold this year! You could get involved by signing up to become a Hedgehog Champion through Hedgehog Street. If just 25 colleagues or students register as a Hedgehog Champion, this counts towards Gold! If you sign up, please forward your confirmation email onto  
  • If you are an academic colleague and would like to consider hedgehog decline and solutions to it within your curriculum (this could be part of any degree), please contact  
  • You could also download an app called Seek by iNaturalist, where you can scan plants, mushrooms, insects and more to identify them. We would love if you would share your findings with us by sending some pictures over to us on Twitter by tagging us @NCLSusCampus

Thanks for reading and watch this space for next week’s blog post!