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Planning sustainably at Newcastle University

Credit: John Donoghue.

The University’s lovely Planning Team are responsible for designing and delivering our campus’s impressive variety of beautiful and cutting-edge spaces, both indoor and outdoor. This work has a major role to play in the environmental commitments of our institution and so we decided to have a chat with our friends in Planning to see how they’re incorporating sustainability into their practice. Here’s what we learnt.  

How Planning works

One of the main functions of the Planning Team is to receive and solve Space and Project Requests (SPRs) which are sent to them by colleagues all across the University. These requests might involve the creation of a new teaching space for a growing department, for instance, or perhaps the conversion of a room to provide specialist resources. For each request, the Planning Team devises solutions to provide for the requester’s varied needs and maximise the potential of the spaces involved. As part of this process, our planners pay close attention to the sustainability of each project throughout its conception and delivery in a number of impactful ways. 

Credit: John Donoghue.

Sustainable practice

Importantly, following the Carbon Literacy Training that some members of the team undertook, the Planning Team have developed a “carbon conscious methodology” for their work which incorporates a range of sustainable approaches and complements the environmental guidance written into the University’s procurement framework. These methods range from limiting hard landscaping and protecting green areas where possible, to considering how spaces can be designed in a versatile manner to accommodate several uses at different times. Additionally, when delivering on SPRs, the team considers sustainability from the very outset by conducting their own research to ensure the necessity of each request. This evaluation is then followed by a consideration of how existing spaces and features can be reused to lengthen their life – similar to repairing clothes instead of buying new! 

Where items are no longer needed or replaced, however, the team puts the responsibility for dealing with the unwanted furnishings on the requester, to ensure that simply throwing items away is never the easiest option. Thanks to this, these items are then either reused somewhere else in the University (via our furniture reuse list, for example!) or are disposed of responsibly by contractors such as the wonderful people at RightGreen. As if this wasn’t enough already, the team are also full of ideas for how their planning can become even more sustainable in future! 

Credit: Charlotte Robson.

Sustainable futures

Core to these aspirations is a holistic view of the planning process. This involves taking moments to pause and consider the sustainability of each aspect of a project, for instance, and considering the full lifecycle of each space including how it can be reused and/or returned to nature at the end of its lifespan. One of their ideas for putting this into practice is adapting University College London’s Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), which Newcastle University uses, to allow those submitting SPRs for a variety of spaces to gain accreditation for environmentally friendly reuse and refurbishment. These ideas build on the amazing suite of sustainable policies our planning team already utilises to offer an exciting vision of what the future of Planning could look like at Newcastle University. 

So, next time you’re on our brilliant campus, whether you’re enjoying our labs, lecture theatres, historic buildings, or green spaces, take a moment to appreciate the hard work our amazing planners do to bring these high-quality spaces to us in as sustainable a manner as possible. Finally, if you want to learn more, please do check out the information on their blog also! 

Water management methods at Newcastle University

Water conservation is an important element of the work that we do at the University to be a sustainable campus. In November 2022, the world’s population reached 8 billion people and this number is continually increasing, therefore the demand for water is also rising beyond the current levels.  

Water conservation is important because “Clean fresh water is necessary for drinking and sanitation, providing for our crops, livestock and industry, and creating and sustaining the ecosystems on which all life depends”

United Nations Environment Programme 

Would you like to learn more about the University’s objectives and targets in relation to water conservation? Check out our EMS and EnMS Action Plan!  

Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

What actions is the University taking to conserve water? 

  1. We are installing Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) software across the University.  

This system is capable of logging water consumption data every 15 minutes. This means we can assess and monitor the University’s water usage data accurately.  

  1. Identifying any issues with fixtures and fittings in our buildings 

We ask staff and students to report problems such as broken taps and toilets when they find them so they can be fixed quickly. We also use the AMR data to help us with this as the frequent data logging enable us to identify trends and identify anomalies where problems may be occurring.  

  1. We are installing push taps across University buildings to reduce our water consumption,  
  1. As part of our Environmental Management System we have Operational Control Procedures in place that control significant environmental aspects such as water reduction and trade effluence. These are audited internally and externally annually. 

Ways you can help the University to conserve water:  

Across the whole of campus: 

  1. You can report any water defect, whether it’s a dripping tap, overfilling toilet, leaking pipe or water which is too hot, by getting in touch with the Estates and Facilities Helpdesk  
  1. Make sure taps, hoses or cooling systems are turned off after use. 
  1. Use water sensibly, think ‘avoid wastage’ when using water. 

In labs on campus: 

  1. Use recirculating cooling systems. This helps to reduce the amount of water going down drains that have had energy used to cool the water to the required temperature for the experiment. The principle of re-use where possible applies to water too!  
  1. Avoid using water vacuum pumps where possible as they use large quantities of water. 
  1. Don’t use distilled water when it is not necessary. This can be communicated to all users of your lab by specifying what levels of water purity are necessary for various applications. This helps to avoid the use of pure water for simple applications. 
  1. Reduce the water supply to water-cooled equipment to the minimum required to achieve adequate cooling. 
  1. Running washers only when they are full, and ensuring the lab has correctly sized equipment for its common usage as this can prevent water wastage by reducing unnecessarily large runs of a half empty washer.  

Do you work in a lab at Newcastle University? You should join the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF)!  

The framework will provide you with many actions that your lab can take to become more sustainable along with guidance, you can also receive a bronze, silver and gold award.  

Join LEAF!  

You can learn more about LEAF over on our website Sustainable Campus

Get in touch: 
 If you have any ideas about how the University can conserve water, please email us at 

Plastic Free July 2023

The need to transition away from the world’s reliance on plastic relates to the global environmental problem of plastic pollution. Plastic is a highly durable material, therefore it rarely completely disappears once out in the environment, it will instead take many years to break down into smaller pieces or microplastic. 

“Approximately 7 billion of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced from 1950-2017 became plastic waste, ending up in landfills or dumped”

United Nations Environment Program

Plastic pollution is causing harm to marine life, the climate and humans across the world, which we have discussed in our World Environment Day 2023 post.   

Plastic Free July is a challenge created by the Plastic Free Foundation that aims to help people begin or continue their journey to reduce their use of single use plastic. The beginning of the journey to reduce single use plastic as an individual or family can be daunting, so here are some tips on where you can begin:

Tips on how to reduce single use plastic in your everyday life:  

  • Travel cup: By carrying a travel cup with you every day, you can remove the need for single use coffee cups when you buy coffee out and about. Some coffee cups are now designed to be collapsible, so they take up less room in your bag. 
  • Water bottle: Instead of buying water in a single use plastic bottle, you can carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up from a tap when you are on the go, at school or at work. 
  • A great way to reduce plastic packaging is by buying dry food products such as rice, pasta, and spices from refill shops, simply save some containers or take some Tupperware to the shop to bring your purchases home in.  
  • Invest in a re-useable cutlery set to carry for your meals on the go, some even come with a reusable straw, you could even just bring your home cutlery in your bag if you don’t want to buy a travel set! 
  • Reuse what you already own as much as you can, for example do you have plastic takeaway containers that can be used as a lunch box instead of buying a new plastic lunchbox? 
  • Do some research into what food products that you consume may contain traces of plastic, such as tea bags and chewing gum and look for alternatives such as loose tea.  

If you would like some more specific ideas for swaps, we have posts on Sustainability that outline small sustainable swaps for your bathroom and kitchen that aim to reduce single use plastic. 

Resources to help you with your journey to plastic free: 

What are environmental and energy management systems?

An Environmental Management System (EMS) assists businesses and organisations in improving their environmental performance and their operations that have an environmental impact.

It is worth noting that an EMS can be implemented within any business or organisation, it is not dependant on the size or activity of the organisation/ business.

An implemented EMS would be applicable to a wide variety of areas within an organisation such as a university or hospital, this is due to the extensive range of daily activities that are conducted at these institutions, most of which are likely to have an environmental impact in one way or another.

An example of some prominent areas that are assessed through an EMS include:

  • Carbon usage
  • Water usage
  • Biodiversity gains and loses
  • Waste generation and disposal.

Once an EMS has been successfully implemented within an organisation, that organisation can become certified. Newcastle University’s EMS is certified to ISO 14001.

We have recently had an external audit on our environmental and energy management systems in June 2023 and we are pleased to say that we have been recommended to be re-certified for both our systems.

How is the environmental management system different to the energy management system?

An Energy Management System (EnMS) is similar in nature to an Environmental Management System however, it has a primary focus on helping the organisation improve energy performance and identify energy inefficiencies.

An implemented EnMS will assess an organisation or businesses daily activity, of which areas that impact environmental performance will be identified and addressed within the system.   

In addition to an Environmental Management System, Newcastle University has also implemented an Energy Management System (certified to ISO 50001) and the two have become an integrated system.

Some questions answered by our EnMS manager, Luke Whittaker

Do you have a favourite procedure/ element of the EnMS?

“For a data nerd like me, the Energy review and baseline is my favourite element. It is where we consolidate the entire University’s energy consumption into a single document. This means that we can rank buildings based on their size and type. We can also compare usage year on year, which is really useful for identifying where energy saving projects have been effective (or where there is some abnormal high usage).”

What areas of the University do the EMS and EnMS apply to? 

“It would easier to say where it doesn’t apply! Officially it applies to “provision of education and research, and the management of buildings, laboratories and land at the University’s UK sites”, so essentially the EMS and EnMS covers the entirety of the University. This includes our functional farms, marine sites and sports ground. Everyone has a part to play in making sure our EMS and EnMS work as best as they can”.

What is my part to play with the management systems?

Staff and Students: Our Environmental and sustainability policy and Energy policy that are in place at the university apply to the whole university, this includes both staff and students.

Students: The Student Environment and Sustainability Committee (SESC) is a student-led and focused committee who look at areas relating to sustainability at the University. For more information, please look at the student action part of our Sustainable Campus website.

Staff who work in laboratories: Labs are areas where there is a higher environmental impact, LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework) aims to improve the sustainability of labs. The online platform has actions for lab users to complete that relate to areas such as waste, travel, energy and water. If you work in a lab at the university and would like to join LEAF, please register.

If you have any questions about the environmental and energy management systems in place at the University, please send us an email at:

Tips for a ‘Planetarily 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:

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 

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!

Introduction to Sustainability at Newcastle University

Newcastle University aims to be net zero by 2030. Wondering how? Meet the team behind the plan…  

Ten years ago, Newcastle University’s Sustainability Team was created with just two employees looking after the University’s entire energy system. Today, we are a team of nine, responsible for environmental and energy management and driving improvement. 

Net zero by 2030 

The focus of most of our activity, at the moment, is net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. This target, among others, is in the University’s Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan was created to address the climate crisis and our impact on it. The plan summarises the work carried out before publication, in 2021, and the targets we set out in a 10-point plan. We have been working on the 10-point plan (see below image) and are coming to the end of Phase 1. 

Importance of sustainability at Newcastle University 

 “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan OBE

Sustainability is the ability to ‘meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.1 In other words, it is the prominent need to cut resource exploitation to ensure there are sufficient supplies for generations to come. 

Sustainability must be a holistic approach, taking into account environmental, social and economic aspects.

Adopting a more sustainable way of life is not only essential to the protection of our ecosystems but also to economic growth and social wellbeing. Environmental issues such as climate change, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss have global effects, and most often affect people who are the most vulnerable, the most seriously. 

We know that we have to play our part in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Our Climate Action Plan outlines the action we want to take to reduce our negative impacts and increase our positive impacts locally and internationally. 

Upcoming event 

Interested in learning more about the Climate Action Plan? Why not attend our upcoming event? 

As we work on creating Phase 2 of the plan, we aim to look back on the previous phase and share our progress with the wider university community. Furthermore, we want to use the University community’s input to shape upcoming targets and goals. It is not something to be missed! 

Register now. 

And watch this space for next week’s blog post! 


  1. United Nations Brundtland Commission (1987). Available at: Sustainability – United Nations. (Accessed: 26th October 2022).