Monthly Archives: March 2023

International Day of Zero Waste

The International Day of Zero Waste aims to promote zero-waste initiatives and approaches that will contribute toward the progression of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. A move toward a zero-waste society is a necessary process due to overconsumption and excessive production across a large portion of the world. To reduce the amount of waste that is being produced globally, new waste management initiatives are required to influence change at every level across society.

The United Nations Environment Program organised #ZeroWasteDay to raise global awareness to facts that demonstrate the environmental impact of waste.

“Every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean”

“Resource extraction is responsible for half of the world’s carbon emissions”

The United Nations Environment Programme

What is ‘zero waste’?

The zero-waste approach refers to a move away from mass consumption and waste disposal towards a reduction in waste with the development of a circular economy. The concept of a circular economy aims to redesign products so they are durable, repairable and recyclable to ensure less materials and resources require extraction and energy to produce new products.

@UNEP / Duncan Moore

How is Newcastle University addressing waste?

Circular Economy

A movement towards a circular economy would go a very long way when attempting to tackle waste pollution. The concept of a circular economy uses the core principles of the Waste Hierarchy such as reducing production and re-using our existing materials, which the University is attempting to embed within our waste management processes. Embedding a circular economy approach will contribute to reducing the scope 3 carbon emissions from treatment of waste in addition to emissions related to purchased goods and services at the University. To learn more about this you can read the Circular economy section in our Climate Action Plan.

A diagram of the waste hierarchy of most to least preferred waste
management actions from our Climate Action Plan.

Introducing labs at the University to the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework

LEAF was made and is managed by University College London (UCL), and is a framework designed to improve the efficiency and sustainability of laboratories. LEAF provides a standard for labs to work on decreasing their carbon emissions and environmental impacts. Newcastle University has been using the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) for the last year, and there are labs making huge strides to improve their sustainability.

The online platform has actions for lab users to complete relating to waste, travel, energy, water and more. Lab users create Lab Groups and work through Bronze, Silver and Gold criteria.

We currently have 20 labs on the LEAF platform, and 14 awards have been given for labs completing the criteria!

If you work in a laboratory at the University, register with LEAF to reduce the carbon impact of your laboratory work.

Furniture Reuse

There is a dedicated mailing list for furniture reuse available to all Newcastle University colleagues, which currently has over 600 members! Small amounts of furniture that needs a new home can be listed for another member to claim to reduce the need for purchasing new furniture or equipment, and to prevent it going to waste.

By sharing equipment and furniture that is no longer required saves money, resources and energy, and contributes towards embedding the circular economy principles into university practice.

If you would like to join the mailing list, just send an email to with the subject ‘Join Furniture Reuse’.

We share ideas and resources related to waste management across multiple channels

This blog

Our blog, Sustainability includes posts that introduce subjects that are related to sustainability and social & environmental justice in an approachable and digestible way.  Our blog is a great resource if you would like to explore topics such as reducing waste in everyday life through small sustainable swaps for your bathroom and kitchen alongside an introduction to the problem of food waste.


Over on Twitter, we share our own information and resources amongst outlining our progress in achieving targets. You will also find that we retweet resources shared by other universities, environmental charities and organisations such as the United Nations that introduce new ideas, tips and tricks for individuals and other organisation to use to begin their journey to zero waste.

Sustainability Network

Our Sustainability Network is a newsletter to keep you updated on all things sustainability at Newcastle University. We also share relevant opportunities and events that are happening on campus and in the city that colleagues and students alike can get involved with.

If you would like to join the Sustainability Network, you can sign up here.

What is solar energy?

There are many ways that energy is created across the world, and these are grouped into renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Non-renewable energy refers to natural sources that take thousands of years to form and produce harmful greenhouse gases when they are burned for energy. The most used non-renewable energy sources are coal, oil, and gas, also known as fossil fuels.

When fossil fuels are burned, they produce greenhouse gas emissions which trap in the world’s heat and raise the global temperature. The world is currently experiencing a climate crisis due to increased global temperature. There are numerous negative impacts that are being felt internationally due to the climate crisis, such as increased natural disasters and accelerated loss of species.

Renewable energy refers to various natural sources that replenish themselves rapidly, unlike non-renewable energy sources. Sources of renewable energy include solar, wind, wave, geothermal, tidal, and hydro-electric.

Within this post we will be outlining what solar energy is, how solar energy works, and we will explore solar energy’s presence on Newcastle University’s estate.

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is initially generated by the sun in a constant and renewable process of nuclear fusion. This energy is what lights and warms our planet during the day.

How is solar energy turned into usable power?

Solar energy can be harnessed using multiple methods, the most common method uses photovoltaic systems. Photovoltaics are used in solar cells and panels which form what is known as arrays when they are placed together in groups. Photovoltaics use semiconductors such as silicone to absorb sunlight and generate electricity in the form of a direct current. When the energy has been generated, it is then converted into an alternating current so that it can power objects within a building, which is completed by an inverter.

Why is Newcastle University investing in solar energy?

Newcastle University has invested in solar energy for a plethora of reasons. The installation of solar panels on our current infrastructure such as roof tops is relatively simple, whereas the installation of small-scale wind energy infrastructure is difficult on our campus due to the vast amount of space required. Solar energy is also scalable, the number of panels required depends on the amount of energy required by the University, as this ensures that we can generate this energy on campus instead of buying it. Solar energy is also incredibly efficient and has a medium cost level to high efficiency and production ratio, meaning it is a desirable form of energy to produce for Newcastle University’s needs.

Close up of a solar panel

Current use of solar energy on Newcastle University’s estate

Newcastle University currently has 13 solar arrays in a variety of sizes. The energy created by these solar arrays contributes towards the energy usage of the University. Some of the arrays on campus are made up of a few panels on smaller buildings, but we also have a number of larger arrays on buildings like King’s Gate, Henry Daysh, and the Frederick Douglass Centre.

We use a software called Solar Edge to monitor the amount of electricity being created across the arrays. The system also recognises if one of the panels becomes damaged and informs us.

Thank you for reading this post, if you have any questions please email us at

Summary of Sustainability Week

First, we would like to say thank you to everyone who joined us at our events over the week and to those who hosted us for talks and tours. Our aim for Sustainability Week was to engage and inspire our university community about the various elements of sustainability and climate action that Newcastle University takes. Our sustainability week also coincided with multiple other themed weeks such as Food Waste Action Week, Fairtrade Fortnight and Sustainable Development Goal Week so you can find some excellent resources relating to these themes over on our Twitter

Meet the Sustainability team in Phillip Robinson Library 

We had a stand in the library on Monday to answer any questions that staff and students had about sustainability and to discuss what climate action Newcastle University is taking. We asked the question “what year is our target to be Net-Zero on carbon emissions by?” to staff and students that walked in through the entrance and most responses were correct in selecting 2030. If you attend any staff or student welcome events in the future you will find some members of the sustainability team at our stall there so you can pop by and ask us some more questions, or you can email us at

Tour of the National Green Infrastructure Facility  

We had a great time meeting Dr Ross Stirling at the National Green Infrastructure Facility over at the Urban Science Building on the helix site for a tour. Those who joined us had a guided tour of the experiments being conducted outside in the living laboratory and were taught about Sustainable Drainage Systems and various elements of green infrastructure. The swale outside is around 130m long and enables research and demonstrations of leaky barriers, there is also a small wetland for additional research purposes.  

An image of one of the SuDS outside the Urban Sciences Building 

Climate Connections – A Climate Anxiety Workshop 

This was a great workshop by Venture Zero where we learnt about managing climate anxiety. First, we discussed what mental health and anxiety are and how it is normal to feel worried about an uncertain future. Following this, we spoke about the climate crisis and how this will impact out future. We then were told that taking action is the best way to combat these feelings of anxiety and created a ‘ta da’ list of all the positive actions we are taking to be more sustainable. This workshop was very interesting and left all its participants feeling much more hopeful! 

Our ‘Ta Da’ list of actions we are taking to be more sustainable 

Sustainability Festival 

We held a Sustainability Festival on Friday where we invited staff and students to meet some local eco-friendly companies, environmental charities, and the universities waste contractors. The stalls provided engaging information about their work in Newcastle, we also had a presentation to highlight the submissions we received for our photo competition and played the David Attenborough documentary Blue Planet. Some highlights include: 

  • The Natural History Society of Northumbria joined us to discuss their research on bees and orchids in Northumberland. 
  • ResLife (our student accommodation support team) had a stand at the festival to address how we can recycle everyday items effectively but putting them into the correct bin, they made this into a fun game. 
  • NUSU Give It A Go joined us and taught us how to make tealight holders from used jam jars that were clean with their labels removed.   
  • Nil Living are a company local to the University (based in Grainger market) who are a zero waste and refill shop that aim to help people use eco-friendly products in their homes/everyday life and shop mindfully.  

Thank you again to all those who joined us at our events or stopped by for a sustainable themed chat! 

Newcastle University Sustainability Week 6-10th March 

Are you curious about what Newcastle University does to be more sustainable? Join us at our Sustainability Week in March 2023 to learn more about sustainability and climate action! 

This exciting event will include a variety of in-person and virtual events which staff and students can get involved in. It is the perfect opportunity to learn more about how you can get involved in Sustainability initiatives at the University in addition to external local partners. Below are some examples of some of the great events you can get involved with: 

How to Take Climate Action Webinar – Wednesday 8th March 

An exciting webinar hosted by a member of the Sustainability Team. Your everyday actions all have associated environmental implications. However, there are steps you can take to decrease some of these negative impacts. In this session, we’ll explore what we can do at the University and at home to take climate action. We will also highlight differences between the two and discuss what the barriers might be. 

This event is perfect for you if you want to do your bit to address the climate emergency and want to know more about how and why. 

Sustainable Development Goals photo competition – 27th February -9th March 2023 

We are hosting a photo competition for all staff and students at Newcastle University to participate in as part of our Sustainability Week 2023. 

We would like you to submit a photo that you have taken that you feel represents one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We have chosen this theme as the photo competition coincides with Sustainable Development Goals Action and Awareness Week. Please submit your response by 10:00 on the 9th March 2023.  

For more information, please see the terms and conditions. 

Tour of the National Green Infrastructure Facility- Wednesday 8th March 2023 

The National Green Infrastructure Facility is a living laboratory that helps to explore potential Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDs), green infrastructure and more at Newcastle University. This event is a group guided tour around the outdoor facility which is based at the University Helix site. 
To register please sign up.  

Climate Connections – A Climate Anxiety Workshop – Thursday 9th March  

Climate Anxiety is a sense of fear or worry linked to the climate or ecological crisis. Someone experiencing climate anxiety may feel very worried about the consequences of climate change and what the future holds for our planet. Climate anxiety is common, in fact, in 2020, Friends of the Earth estimated that over 2/3 of young people (18-24 year olds) have experienced it. 

The Climate Connections workshop will demonstrate how we can all take small, affordable, everyday steps to reduce our environmental footprint and provide a boost to our mental health and wellbeing. This workshop is held by the University Health and Wellbeing Team and Venture Zero for University Mental Health Day

Sustainability Festival- Friday 10th March 

To conclude our week, the Sustainability Team will be hosting an in-person Sustainability Festival. This event will showcase all the work the University is doing on sustainability as well external partners we work with. There will be a variety of stalls/talks/activities sharing information and advertising opportunities staff/students can get involved in. Green societies will also be there to share their work. 

This is an interactive event which everyone is welcome to. It’s definitely not one to miss!