This year has been another fantastic year for Green Impact.

We’ve put together some of the highlights from this year’s array of Green Impact projects, delving into what some of our teams did to achieve their goals and how the projects touch upon different areas of sustainability through the use of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Oncology and Metabolism looked to tackle plastic use in labs.

It is well known in the research community that University labs use a lot of single-use plastics. The Oncology and Metabolism Green Impact team decided to focus one of their projects on tackling lab waste after staff had enquired about the potential for improvements in this area.

The team decided to focus their efforts on one piece of equipment that they use frequently and in high quantities – pipettes. Each year, the department spends around £18,000 on single-use, sterile pipettes. The team then considered the different areas of research in their department – for example within tissue culture research, all equipment must be sterile, therefore reused items are not suitable. However for other areas of research, this strictness for sterility is not an issue, therefore the team came to the realisation that they were purchasing brand new, sterile, single-use pipettes for non-sterile work. 

This resulted in a 6-week trial of pipette washing in one of the tissue culture labs, whereby used pipettes were sterilised and collected at the end of the day to be cleaned, before distributing them to other labs who could use these reused pipettes. Despite the trial being cut short, the department is of the opinion that this new system will lead to reduced equipment purchases, and therefore considerable reductions in cost, and also reduced waste to landfill.

The team will continue to explore the different recycling options available to them and other sustainable swaps and initiatives they can get involved with, including their recent implementation of a new waste stream where a high proportion of lab waste does not go to landfill but is incinerated for heat recovery (a step-up in the waste hierarchy). The team also plans to share best practice with other departments, to highlight the potential for savings and reduce the environmental impacts of the University’s labs.

Corporate Comms held a festive fayre in support of the Desert Garden appeal

The Corporate Communications Green Impact team teamed up with DARE (Development, Alumni Relations and Events) on organising a Sustainable Festive Fayre which would take place in the SU. This collaborative event, which welcomed local craft makers and included a festive jumper swap shop, bake sale and a tombola with local and sustainably-sourced prizes, was promoted to the University community to offer options for a sustainable festive period.

The proceeds amounting to £669.50 were donated to the Desert Garden Appeal, a project developed at the University which supports refugees living in Zaatari, the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp, to grow fresh food in the desert using discarded mattresses. An information stall at the fayre allowed visitors to learn more about the project and also try out the method of growing plants in mattress foam for themselves by taking a sample away with them for a donation.

This was a really successful event which had great reach across the University. The team hopes this will be an annual event which offers sustainable options for people during a very consumer-heavy time.

Smart Move Sheffield created a sustainable living guide

Smart Move Sheffield, the University’s private sector housing team, wanted to educate students on how they could live in a more environmentally-friendly way, both in their rented houses and in the community. The team decided to produce an online guide to distribute to students and landlords, which would encourage sustainable behaviours and practices. The guide includes chapters on Waste and Recycling, Energy, Water, Lifestyle, Transport and Gardens, offering a range of tips, lifestyle swaps and information on why it’s important for individuals to make these changes. It promotes the culture that we are all responsible for creating a better, green future and we can all make a difference with our actions.

124 landlords were sent a copy of the guide and were asked to forward this on to their tenants occupying a combined 454 properties. The guide is published on Smart Move Sheffield’s website and is available to download here.

ACS opened a community fridge in Ranmoor student village

With the success of The Edge’s community fridge in Endcliffe, a Green Impact project from a few years ago, the Accommodation and Commercial Services (ACS) team decided to invest in a second community fridge to be placed in The Ridge at Ranmoor. A business case was created to justify the costs and resulting benefits of the project, with support from Fairshare, EFM and the Sustainability team. The fridge takes donations from local supermarkets which would otherwise go to waste, and the fridge is open to students and the local community to use, and who are also encouraged to donate items to the fridge if they would like to.

A launch event was held in February which invited staff and students, Fairshare and the local community to attend. Since the relaunch event, the new community fridge has diverted 3.5 tonnes of decent food from landfill, and has been visited by over 200 people. The team also produced a digital recipe book centred around the most commonly donated ingredients, to help inspire people on meals they can create with the food they receive. 

With the current pandemic and reduced student numbers at the Residences, the food that would usually stock the community fridge has either been distributed to current students on campus or passed on to the S6 foodbank or FoodWorks Sheffield.

MEE ran a student biodigester competition

A seriously awesome project has come from the Multidisciplinary Engineering Education (MEE) team this year – a student-created biodigester competition!

The team arranged an event for undergraduate engineering students to take part in a design event in the Diamond designing a biodigester. Nearly 100 students took part, spending Friday night, Saturday and Sunday learning about anaerobic digestion as a form of turning food waste into energy. They were joined by VIP experts in anaerobic digestion from both academia and industry, and also had the help of several PhD students who are themselves studying anaerobic digestion, which gave a fantastic opportunity for the students to learn about the nuances of biodigester design.

Winning student biodigester team.

Liaising with the iForge, the students then went on to build prototype models of their final designs and presented them to the judges and a final winning team was chosen with the opportunity to create their biodigester for real. The team are working on turning the winning design into a working biodigester for the Diamond, however this has been put on hold for the meantime. We look forward to seeing this up and running in the near future!

You can read a published article about the project here.

As a way of cutting carbon emissions fast, reducing flights is near the top of the list of actions that we can take to make an individual difference. But flying is deeply embedded throughout academia. The Geography and Urban Studies + Planning team set out to find ways to tackle this challenge.

Georgraphy and USP sought to tackle departmental flying

Academic staff from across career stages, and professional services, were involved in processes supporting the research and writing of a discussion document setting out arguments and options for a departmental strategy. This was submitted to and discussed by the department’s Exec Committee which supported the development of a strategy, and the document was circulated to all staff and some students to inform the first meeting of a new task and finish group commissioned to develop the strategy. This task and finish group has representation from the department’s Exec, staff across career stages and students.

The department now formally considers carbon emissions along with other considerations (learning outcomes, costs, feasibility, etc) as part of strategic decisions on field classes. The team also organised a pilot tree planting day with Eastern Moors Partnership, initially for Masters students, as a partial offsetting activity for international field class flights. Funding was also sought and awarded from the faculty to pay for:

  • Staff time for analysis of diverse expenses records from the last financial year to establish reasonably robust baseline and informed understanding of departmental flight.
  • Acquisition of high quality virtual communications and collaborations technology for group and multi-party video calls, and appropriate training of support staff, to enable technology to replace physical travel where appropriate.

Other Green Impact teams, including ScHARR and Landscape + Architecture, completed projects around academic flying and fed their insights and findings back to the Geography and USP team, leading to a discussion document which acts to further inform discussion by the Exec Committee of Management.

This is a challenging agenda that will continue and should deliver more fully in the near-future, with the ongoing development of a departmental travel strategy.

Want to find out more about the Green Impact programme or how to get involved? Email our Sustainability Projects Assistant, Alice Potter at greenimpact@sheffield.ac.uk.

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