Tag Archives: Get Involved

Engaging with impactful change at your University in 2024

Student action is important! 

2023 was once again a year of extreme weather conditions and events around the world, underscoring the importance of sustainability in major institutions such as our university. As the majority portion of our university community, students are a vital part of achieving crucial environmental targets such as net zero by 2030. So, if you’re looking for an impactful way to create positive change in your community, read on for some ideas on how you can get involved with sustainability and environmental justice at Newcastle University. 

Image: the clocktower of the Students’ Union Building. Credit: John Donoghue.

1. Join the Student Environment and Sustainability Committee  

The Student Environment and Sustainability Committee (SESC) is a student-led and student-focused committee looking at sustainability at Newcastle University. The committee is chaired by the Ethics and Environment Representative who, this year, is Ayoub Ouakkaha! 

The SESC gives feedback to the Environment and Sustainability Committee (ESC), of which most members are colleagues, but it also has Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers and the Ethics and Environment Rep (Ayoub) as members. 

SESC membership is made up of Environment and Sustainability Reps from academic schools. If you are not currently an Environment and Sustainability Rep for your school, but would like to get involved with the SESC, send Ayoub an email!

2. Stay informed with the Sustainability Network! 

Join our Sustainability Network to receive information to expand your knowledge across various themes relating to sustainability, be updated on climate action progress at the University, and be provided with upcoming sustainability event notifications.  

As our Climate Action Plan progresses, the Sustainability Network will connect you to our work, progress reports, and new targets by directing them straight into your email inbox. You will also be notified on actions contributing to our goal of being net-zero on scopes one and two carbon emissions by 2030!

3. Explore our EAUC membership  

Newcastle University is a member of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), an organisation that supports sustainability within the UK tertiary education sector and offers benefits for members that include: 

  • Access to a sustainability resource exchange, 
  • Opportunities to learn from blog posts, news articles and publications, 
  • Information about UK sustainability training and events, 
  • Job listings, 
  • Conferencing opportunities. 

All Newcastle University colleagues and students can register for free EAUC membership

4. Write for our blog 

Are you passionate about a particular area of sustainability?  

You can share your knowledge with colleagues and students at the University by writing a post for our blog! Sustainability looks at all areas relating to sustainability and environmental justice, from lifestyle tips and tricks through to discussions on green careers and how solar energy is used at Newcastle University! 

If you are interested in writing a blog post for Sustainability, please send an email to sustainable-campus@ncl.ac.uk and outline what you would like to write about.  

Image: Students walk through the Old Quad. Credit: Dan Bolam.

5. Volunteer!

Grow Volunteer

Grow Volunteer is Newcastle University Students’ Union’s on campus urban growing project. As part of the team, you’ll help to grow and source local produce including a range of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and trees right here on campus! Meetings take place regularly and are flexible to attend.  

If you would like to learn more about this opportunity or register your interest, you can do so on Grow Volunteer’s sign up form

A Second Life 

A Second Life is a creative up-cycling project provided by Go Volunteer which aims to use old materials or products and give them a new lease of life. This is a great volunteering opportunity for individuals who are keen to get creative and explore reuse and recycling! 

If you would like to learn more about this opportunity or register your interest, you can do so on A Second Life’s sign up form

To learn about additional Go Volunteering opportunities that are themed around the environment and conservation, such as caring for green spaces, read more on the Student Union website. 

Become a volunteer auditor

Every year there is an opportunity to become a volunteer student auditor for the Fairtrade University and College award on behalf of Students Organising for Sustainability. 

Volunteer auditors work in a team to review the University’s efforts to embed Fairtrade and wider ethical consumption.  

Full training for this role is provided and a role description is available if you are interested.

6. Use active or public transport

Travelling to university can be a major source of emissions, but luckily there are lots of options to ensure that both your commute and any longer distance travel are sustainable. 

Firstly, for regular commuting onto campus, active travel, such as cycling and walking, is a healthy option both for you and the planet.  

  • Most student accommodation as well as major student housing areas such as Jesmond and Heaton are within walking distance of the university and resources for route planning can be found on our website.  
  • Cycling is also a good option, with cycle parking available across campus and a variety of helpful services provided throughout Newcastle. Additionally, you can join our Bicycle Users Group to get involved with an active and helpful community of cyclists and receive all the latest updates on events such as our free Dr Bike repair sessions!  

Active travel isn’t accessible for all, however, and isn’t practical for long-distance trips, so a good replacement option here is public transport. Nexus and Traveline provide information on public transport in the North East and trains are a brilliant sustainable option for travel throughout the UK and into Europe! 

Bees on Campus

Bees provide a range of important services that help maintain the health and vibrancy of our natural environment in both rural and urban settings. In our beautiful city-centre campus, for instance, urban bees assist our Grounds Team in caring for greenery from the wildflower meadows in Claremont Court to the tulip beds outside King’s Gate. To learn more about these fascinating creatures and their role in creating our sustainable campus, I had a chat with the lovely people at Newcastle University’s Bee Society.

Image: Members of the University community walk through the greenery of the Old Quad. Credit: Chris Bishop
How many beehives does the Society have and how long has the University had bees?

“At present there are 2 beehives, although the number fluctuates between 2-4 depending on how the years go – our hives are called Mary and Delilah! We’ve had bees since the mid-2010s.” 

I see! Do you know if there are any other urban beehives in or around the University?  

“While I haven’t interacted with them, I’m aware that other university staff have beehives for the sake of research. Newcastle is also home to a chapter of the BBKA (British Beekeeping Association) so it’s safe to assume that there are a few beekeepers knocking around locally.” 

So, what sort of thing does the society do to care for the bees?  

“The nature of beekeeping changes depending on the season – understanding the calendar and how to respond to it is vital to successful care. In the summer we check on the hives once a week (weather permitting), as the time between April-July is prime for swarms. In early spring and the autumn, we check on them far less frequently, once a fortnight or so. In the winter we don’t go in the hives at all. 

How long our checks take is also dependent on the time of year. In the summer it often runs up into the 2-hour mark! We use an acronym to remember what needs to be looked for: D.E.F.R.A, which stands for Disease, Eggs, Food, Room, and Anything Else. The presence of food and eggs are often my main concern, and after a certain point the observations become second nature. 

We always wear suits and gloves for the sake of our members. Stings do occur from time to time, but to a significant extent the victims are members of committee who have to engage with the bees when they are at their most defensive. While this is scary at first it is something you get used to over time; I have been known to scold the hives when they’re acting up!” 

And do the honey and wax get used for anything?  

“When there is surplus honey, we collect it. Last year we involved our members in the processing of the comb and this went down very well, but it isn’t a priority for us. Excess wax has been used by a few of the University’s fine art undergraduates in the production of candles.” 

That’s super interesting! How can people get involved?  

“The primary way that people can get involved is to join the society! While the hives are now being left alone for the winter, we have talks running throughout the colder months and are always happy to share our knowledge and experience.” 

Image: a bed of tulips on campus. Credit: John Donoghue
How do the bees help with local biodiversity?  

“Bees are vital to the healthy functioning of plant life and our bees can often be seen collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers on campus. They roam quite widely – up to a distance of around 5 miles – but with so many options on show in our green spaces I imagine that they don’t have to go far for food. Most of the time they’ll travel less than a mile – pollinating a variety of species in and around campus.” 

What sort of role can urban bee keeping play in a sustainable future?  

“Urban beekeeping has a place alongside the protection of other bee species, but I believe that the awareness it brings is one of the most valuable things it has to offer. The honeybee is not in any danger at the moment, but our native bee populations of bumblebees and solitary bees are in serious decline, and no one pollinator can fill the role of all these individual species. By encouraging informed beekeeping practices and the support of wildflowers/bee-friendly spaces, urban beekeepers can provide both the efficient pollination efforts of their bees and the knowledge and care that we desperately need to protect our pollinators on a wider scale.” 

So, there you have it! A huge thank you to our wonderful Bee Society, please go check out the amazing work that they do and next time you’re enjoying our beautiful urban green spaces – spare a thought for the hardworking creatures who keep them looking lush!