Author Archives: Charlotte

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

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 Microsoft Teams group, 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, including showers, available on campus for those who use forms of active travel such as cycling to commute to the University.

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 and information on these can be found here. 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.

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!

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.  

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. 

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 

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!

Event recap: Climate Action at Newcastle University

On the 10th November, 2022, we invited colleagues and students to join us at a conference-style, collaborative event on climate action.

First, we would like to thank everyone who attended our event, Climate Action at Newcastle University. We had a wonderful day and are so grateful that we got to meet you all and discuss climate action and sustainability.

Our aim for the event was to discuss future climate action plans, and to incorporate the outcomes into Phase 2 of our Climate Action Plan.

Please have a read of this blog if you would like to learn more about the climate conversations which happened at our event.

A Net Zero Campus of the Future: what did we learn?

Our first session of the event was a panel discussion on ‘A Net Zero Campus of the Future’.

Campus of the Future is a project that has been running for a number of months, involving a variety of stakeholders and changemakers at the University. The project looked at connectivity, and that a campus of the future should be physically, digitally and culturally connected.

During the panel discussion, we learnt that people will be held at the heart of the campus of the future, and that increasing cultural connectivity, enables physical and digital connectivity to be all the more effective.

The panel members communicated that better connecting different people across our campus, making our physical spaces (buildings and the outdoors) into shared spaces between groups and communities, and increasing our digital connectivity, our net zero and other sustainability targets will be supported.

What is the appetite for radical or revolutionary solutions?

Audience member question on the Campus of the Future plans

The Campus of the Future conversations will now continue beyond the initial project, and work has already begun to put changes in place.

The panel members were:

  • Matt Dunlop: Head of Sustainability, Newcastle University
  • Lisette Nicholson: Director of People Engagement and Culture, Newcastle University
  • Iain Garfield: Director of Estates and Facilities, Newcastle University
  • Daniel Birkinshaw: Sustainability Manager, Bowmer + Kirkland
  • Alan Cecchini: Enterprise Architect, Newcastle University
The panel members. From left to right: Alan Cecchini, Daniel Birkinshaw, Iain Garfield, Lisette Nicholson, Katy Smith (Admin support), Matt Dunlop.

Travel Better: what did we learn?

This interactive session explored the contribution that business travel makes to the University’s carbon emissions. Business travel is the third highest emitter of scope 3 (indirect) carbon dioxide emissions at the University. Within our business travel emissions, airplane travel is our highest emitter.

As part of the cultural aspect of the campus, what can we do about reducing air travel of staff?

Audience member question on the Campus of the Future plans

Attendees were invited to assess the impact travel has on their personal and professional lives and look at innovative travel initiatives within their specific areas of work. It was very interesting to hear, from a wide range of perspectives, what travel enables at the University, and what we could on a personal level to decrease our air travel.

Post-discussion, the attendees were introduced to the Travel Better Package, which is an initiative created by the EAUC to support the reduction of air travel, mostly targeted at academics and researchers. The package allows individuals to assess whether attending a conference in-person, for example, will give them benefits that will outweigh other forms of engagement that don’t require travel, particularly air travel. Attendees were very interested to learn how they could revaluate their travel plans and use the framework within their own departments.

Travel Better session

Net Zero Research: what did we learn?

We held a net zero research session to understand how the Sustainability Team and researchers can work in a collaborative way to achieve our net zero target. We learnt more about the processes and systems that researchers and their various internal and external teams struggle with when combining research expertise with professional services.

Discussions also included assessing the various environmental assets which are present at Newcastle University, which could provide foundations for future research projects. We established that assets such as Cockle Park Farm, the multiple solar PV arrays and an energy district heating system would be key assets when researching environmental problems and their solutions.

Net Zero Research session

To conclude

This event will help shape the next phase of the Climate Action Plan. Relationships between collaborators were strengthened as the day went on, and the Sustainability Team will be continuing the conversations that were started, and turning these into action.

Upcoming events

Managing your energy bills workshop by the Green Doctor on the 30th of November, 2022.

We are hosting an energy bills workshop which will focus on budgeting and managing bills with the Green Doctor (North East). If you are a student who is 25 or under and curious or worried about energy bills you can join us to learn some tips and tools to help you and your household.

Sign up:

Small sustainable swaps for your bathroom

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 have currently have if it is in a good condition or you have plenty of it. However, should you run out of some bathroom essentials then you should check out the post below for some eco-conscious swaps if you would like to try something new.

Hair care 

  • Why not try out solid shampoo and conditioning bars instead of instead of liquid in a plastic bottle? We recommend Ethique, Lush or Gruum. You could also try out products from the Body Shop, who offer a refill service where you buy a metal bottle and pump and take it into their shops with a refill station when you need products such as shampoo or conditioner. Our Body Shop in Eldon Square is one of these!
  • An additional swap would involve swapping single-use plastic razors for a razor that you can change the head or blades on instead of buying a new handle. You could also get a recycle bag from Gillette to post all your old blades and heads in for them to be recycled.   


You could swap out your single-use deodorant for a case and refill deodorant system, such as the one provided by Wild. We have been using Wild for two years and really love the product. You can order the refills online and change scents every time (look out for their incredible seasonal limited editions) and they arrive through the post-box in recyclable and biodegradable packing.  Or, you can head to Boots in Eldon Square and pick up the product in-store, the only disadvantage here is that they have less scents to choose from!

Menstrual products  

Many menstrual products such as mainstream pads can contain up to 90% of plastic (Action Aid) so there is a need for moving towards more sustainable alternatives. There are a wide range of sustainable alternatives available, we have listed some below:  

  • Menstrual cups (Mooncup or TOTM
  • Menstrual underwear by brands such as WUKA and Thinx
  • Re-usable pads (Wear ‘Em Out or Bloom and Nora available in Holland and Barrett)  
  • Alternatively, you could try non-reusable products that are made from cotton instead of plastic (TOTM

As most of these products are all reusable you can save money overall as you no longer need to buy the products you need every month. However, they do require a larger cost upfront.  

Makeup removal

People often use makeup wipes to remove their makeup. Whilst these are more commonly biodegradable now, not all are, as they may still contain some plastic and they are also not reusable. We have listed an alternative method below.   

  • Switch to make up remover in a bar form (the Superstar bar by Ethique is recommended) instead of makeup removing wipes.  
  • You can also use washable cotton rounds to cleanse and remove makeup or a flannel, both of which can go in the wash and be used repeatedly.  

Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Finally, when it comes to a toothbrush there are a few options you can choose from.  

  • The first is investing in an electric toothbrush where you swap out the heads instead of the entire toothbrush. 
  • The second option is to buy a bamboo toothbrush, which reduces your use of plastic.
  • Toothpaste tubes are non-recyclable, but there are some other options available. The first is toothpaste tablets that you can chew and come in a glass container. The second is a paste-like product that also comes in a glass jar instead of a plastic tube. Both these products are available at refill shops around Newcastle like Replenish by the Bay.

Sustainable events in November:

  • We are hosting an energy bills workshop which will focus on budgeting and managing bills with The Green Doctor on the 30th of November. If you are a student who is under 25 and curious or worried about energy bills you can join us to learn some tips and tools to help you and your household.

Sign up:

  • There is also a festive pop-up market taking place on the 24th of November in the Boiler House which will feature ethical and sustainable businesses.

Keep an eye out for a follow up blog on alternative swaps for your kitchen!

What does net-zero carbon emissions mean to Newcastle University?


Newcastle University has set a goal to be net-zero on carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Initially this goal was set for 2040, however upon recognising the international urgency of many environmental issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss, Newcastle University took the brave decision to move this goal forward by ten years.  

The term ‘net zero’ can be a complex and multi-faceted term, this blog post aims to outline what the term means to Newcastle University and why it is important when discussing all things climate change and carbon related.  

Definition of net zero 

“Achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gases produced and those taken out of the atmosphere. This should be achieved through a rapid reduction in carbon emissions, but where zero carbon is not possible, offsetting through carbon credits or sequestration through technological or nature-based solutions needs to be utilised” 1.  

With this definition, emphasis is placed on attempts to reduce carbon emissions opposed to focusing on offsetting initiatives. Multiple institutions across Newcastle city centre are working towards net-zero carbon emissions including Newcastle University, so they became a member of Newcastle City’s Net Zero Task Force (NZTF) in 2019.  

If you are wondering what Newcastle University is doing regarding climate change then we would recommend that you check out the Climate Action Plan. Within the Climate Action Plan there are phases outlined which explain how the university aims to address the goal of being net-zero for carbon emissions by 2030. The plan addresses the various ways that carbon emissions are produced across the university which are categorised into scopes, so it is easier to address the forms of direct and indirect emissions.  

What is a scope?  

The term scope in this context originates from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol that was released in 2001. Scopes can be described as categories that institutions, organisations, and corporations can use to examine the variety of their greenhouse gas emissions and set targets for reduction.  

How many scopes are involved in achieving net zero at Newcastle University? 

There are three scopes identified within the University’s Climate Action Plan. Our net zero target applies to Scopes 1 and 2, and we have ambitious targets for reducing Scope 3 emissions.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions from combustion or generation by university-owned or controlled sources. This includes the burning of fuels directly by activities such as using university-owned vehicles and the burning of fuels to heat and refrigerate across campus. Meanwhile, Scope 2 covers indirect sources of consumption and purchase of energy from outside the University which can includes electricity purchased from the grid but is used by the campus.

Scope 3 includes emissions that that the University is indirectly responsible for across their entire value chain, and is often the most difficult scope to monitor and account for. Whilst Scope 3 emissions are not currently covered within our net-zero carbon target, we are implementing a similar, phased carbon budget approach in order to better monitor our progress.

Climate Action Event  

By now you may have heard that an event is taking place during enrichment week on the 10th of November, the event is called Climate Action at Newcastle University.  

During this event, staff and students will be coming together to discuss phase 2 of Newcastle University’s Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action event is being held to assess the progress Newcastle University has made in phase 1 of the plan and to help shape the next steps in phase 2.  

Our travel better session and nature positivity sessions still have places if you would like to join. Below are links to the sign-up form and program for the event if you would like some more information.

Program: Programme Poster2.pdf (

Sign up:

Thanks for reading, keep an eye out for the next blog post next week!