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News & current projects

04/10/2016: Recycling Quiz Winners

The results of the Energy & Environment section's Spotlight on Recycling Month Quiz have been released. They can be found here. Of the eight groups from Plant Sciences that took part, the clear winners were 'Team Cauliflower', consisting of Alfonso Timoneda-Monfort, Rachel Newhouse, Alice Fairnie and Jonathan Pattrick. 7/8 ain't bad! Congratulations!

19/08/2016: Spotlight on Waste at PlantSci

As part of the University's Spotlight on Waste month of August, Plant Sciences held an event with updated information and signage for staff and engagement activities, including a Recycling Quiz and waste sorting challenge. See the photos below!

Spotlight on Waste Montage

26/07/2016: University's new waste contract - FAQs answered

The university's waste collection contract changed from Cambridge City Council's Commercial branch to Mick George Ltd on 1st July 2016. There have, of course, been a few changes to what is collected, how it is collected and what happens to it once it has left site. We have been liaising with the Energy & Environment section of Estate Management and we have some answers to our questions!

 1)      Does the waste go to anywhere different than before?

The waste now goes to Mick George’s Materials Recovery Facility instead of Amey Cespa's facility in Waterbeach. It’s a brand new facility which sorts the waste – this is very similar in operation to the Amey Cespa plant though.
The new food waste stream goes to an Anaerobic Digestion facility, this isn’t owned by Mick George but is local to Cambridge. There’s some more info on where our waste goes to here

2)      What is meant by ‘Zero to Landfill’ exactly? On Mick George’s website it states:

“General Waste: We collect any waste you are unable to recycle. Like the mixed recycling, we sort and segregate it to recover as much as possible for recycling and any residual waste is processed through energy recovery to generate heat and power.”

This suggests that general waste is sorted but residual waste is then taken somewhere else and incinerated. If this is the case, where is it incinerated?

You are correct with the above. I’m not sure where the incineration plant is but I believe that is reasonably local too. The process is seen as ‘zero waste to landfill’ because the ash remaining from the incineration is diverted from landfill (I believe it is used in road construction).

I have come across widespread confusion and dismissal of the ‘Zero to Landfill’ message, as people jump to the assumption that this means that in time there will be no waste that the department produces that cannot go in the Mixed Recycling. We produce a lot of unrecyclable autoclave waste for example.

Very good point! I hadn’t thought about the confusion this might cause – I’ll try to make sure our comms. are clearer on this issue in future.

3)      Why are there separate bins for glass, when there weren’t before? Resources suggest that broken glass can’t be recycled. What about pyrex/treated glass? Does colour matter?

Apparently glass needs to be kept separate as it can’t be picked out in Mick George’s MRF. I’ve asked them the exact same questions as you raise around what types of glass this includes/excludes but haven’t heard back yet – I’ve asked them to produce a separate poster for the glass bins which will hopefully make all this clear though.

12/07/2016: University's Living Lab promo video features Plant Sciences project!

Would you like to watch a video? It's 3.5 minutes of positivity...

It highlights some of the cool stuff that the Living Laboratory for Sustainability of the Energy & Environment section at Estate Management has been orchestrating this year. Our thermal imaging project gets some air time! View it here.

04/07/2016: Energy Co-ordinator shortlisted for Green Gown Awards 2016

The Green Gown Awards, run by the Environmental Association for Universities & Colleges (EAUC) has announced its finalists for 2016. Following on from the department's LED & Plant Growth project being Highly Commended at last year's awards ceremony, this year, Energy Co-ordinator Martin Howes is a finalist in the Sustainability Professional category! Outside the department, Cambridge projects have been announced as finalists in four other categories. The list of 2016's finalists can be found here. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Leicester in November! 


09/06/2016: Living Lab Celebration Event

Trinity Hall played host to a celebration of the brilliant and diverse work achieved by the University's Living Lab initiative over the past year. There were drinks and nibbles and glorious sunshine!

Martin Howes, Energy Co-ordinator was invited to speak about the successful thermal imaging survey project that was run along with Living Lab and Cambridge University Environmental Consulting Society (CUECS). See further down this page.

The department was also represented by Dr. Ed Tanner who ran a project with students auditing the waste produced by departments and discarded into council collected bins!

07/06/2016: Plant Sciences Present at S-Lab Rothamsted

The Lab-X conference run by S-Lab was held at Rothamsted Research this year. The department was invited to present a session titled  'LEDs and Plant Growth - Science, Energy & Cost Benefits'. Senior Research Associate Dr. Matthew Davey delivered a run-down of the plant trials and experimental results of work so far. LED projects manager Martin Howes discussed the energy savings and financial cases surrounding the department's two largest LED projects, both concerning controlled environments. Please see the LEDs and Plant Sciences page for more info.

02/06/2016: Plant Sciences Green Team collect two Green Impact Awards!

Martin Howes and Simon West were on hand to collect the two Green Impact awards slates that the Plant Sciences Green Team earned this year. The Gold and Silver-Labs awards add nicely to the Silver award received last year and the Bronze award, received in 2013. See the Plant Sciences Green Team page for more info.

27/04/2016: After-hours departmental energy audit

Between 9pm and 11pm on Tuesday 26th April, Energy Co-ordinator Martin Howes conducted a walk-around energy audit of the Plant Sciences department building. Some areas may be unfrequented for upto ten hours every day and the building has a significant electrical baseload. With only a few crazy/nocturnal researchers still at work, this audit was a good opportunity to get a feel for how responsible building users are for the energy usage of their lab and office spaces.

On the whole observations were encouraging. A lot of equipment must be on permanently, such as fridges and freezers and lots more equipment such as incubators and culture rooms run on twenty-four hour cycles. Generally if the equipment is noisy, hot or bright when on, users were good at switching it off. Switch-off of other benchtop equipment was more mixed. Take a look at the one page report summary here

30/03/2016: Thermal imaging survey completed 

On the evening of Wednesday 9th March volunteers with CU Environmental Consulting Society (CUECS) conducted a thermal imaging survey of our main department building. Using a camera that picks up infra-red light we were able to see all the parts of the building that lose heat. Unsurprisingly, old windows with warped frames and single glazing showed a lot of waste. So did extract fans and external doors. We can now use this to target improvements to the building's efficiency. Read the report here

03/03/2016: Annual eWaste recycling event success

Thanks to all who parted with their electrical waste for the University’s annual eWaste recycling event. Simon and Tony of facilities took three van-loads to the collection point at the Sidgwick site. Good work! 

03/03/2016: Spotlight on Energy month quiz results are in!

February was Spotlight on Energy month at University of Cambridge. A quiz was produced by Environment and Energy and the answers have now been released, so the Plant Sciences winners can be announced! They all win exciting prizes for their efforts.

Eager to know the correct answers so you can impress all your friends? Well find them here!

Plant Sciences winners:

1)      Roberta & Bernardo (Haseloff group) – 79%

2)      Greg R. & co – 76%

3)      Sally & the Gilligan lab – 76%

4)      Jamie O. Males et. al (2016) – 67%

Well done all!

26/02/2016: Green Labs initiative launched at Plant Sciences

On Thursday 25th February, Plant Sciences hosted the first event of the Environment & Energy's Green Labs initiative. This programme is tackling the environmental impact of notoriously energy-intensive scientific research labs and practices. All without compromising the research.

Attendees came from a variety of university department's to find out how the university's Energy and Carbon Reduction Project (ECRP) can help them to finance innovative technologies that reduce their energy and carbon consumption.

Q & A with the department's Energy Co-ordinator Martin Howes, Principal Technician Colin Denston and the Environment & Energy section's Environmental Co-ordinator Peter Lumb was followed by a tour of some of the department's ECRP funded projects, including drying cabinets, microscope LED light engines and LED lighting refits of algal incubator shakers.

Additionally, resources and links were shared relating to making lab activities less energy intensive and some case studies of where Plant Sciences have found savings were examined. The cake was good too.

22/02/2015: Plant Sciences hosts thermal imaging surveying training

On Tuesday 16th February, students visited the department for an evening getting to grips with using thermal imaging cameras. The event is a tie up between the department, the LivingLabs initiative of the university's Environment & Energy section, Cambridge Carbon Footprint and the Cambridge University Environmental Consulting Society.

In the coming weeks these students will return and complete a survey of our old leaky department building, to literally see where we are losing heat to the outside. 

Take a look at the article written about it by the Environment and Energy section: Hot under the 'colour'!

08/02/2016: Spotlight on Energy event, with beer!

On Friday 5th February, one of the department's legendary beer hours took on a green theme! Staff and students enjoyed good beer, good snacks and good company in aid of the Environment & Energy section's Spotlight on Energy month. Display boards and energy quizzes caused much discussion on the department's energy use.

Plastic glasses were charged at 50p for the first time too. Pint glasses and tankards were emptied of soil and ink and used for what they were originally intended! 

30/11/2015: Plant Sciences' LED project Highly Commended at national awards

On Thursday 26th November, Energy Co-ordinator Martin Howes picked up a Highly Commended award in the Research & Development category of the EAUC's Green Gown Awards 2015. It acknowledges our work on developing LED lighting solutions for growing research-grade plants at dramatically reduced energy costs. Click the banner below for more information!

11/11/2016: Spotlight on Recycling Day

As part of the Environment & Energy section's Spotlight on Waste month, Plant Sciences spent a day considering its waste habits. A tea room takeover with display boards, videos and even a hat made out of recyclable waste all helped the outreach. It was an opportunity not missed by many to ask their questions on what can and can't be recycled (and why), where our waste goes and how university waste collection differs from domestic waste. 

Many good points were raised and the following day the tea room's recycling bin had to be emptied three times instead of once! 

22/10/2015: Annual Cambridge Travel Survey

The annual Travel to Work survey launches this week, helping the University and local businesses to identify transport habits across the county.

Please take a few moments to complete the form which is used to benchmark our travel patterns against those of other large employers in Cambridge. The survey has been done for the last ten years so we can compare annual trends to determine any key changes.

Complete the survey here:

The survey focuses on how you travelled to work last week (Saturday, 10 October – Friday, 16 October) and closes at 5pm on Friday, 30 October. All staff who complete the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win £150.

The results of the survey will be published on the Environment and Energy website, where you can currently download last year’s results. For news and updates on University travel, sign up to the Greenlines newsletter by emailing

21/08/2015: Cycle to Work Day is coming!!!

Thursday 3rd September is Cycle to Work Day. Dust off your bike, don your helmet and schedule some ride-time in your diary!

If you want to contribute your miles to the national campaign and be in with a chance of winning 1 of 3 brand new Claud Butler bikes, pledge your miles here (

If your bike is in reasonable nick but needs some a little love, book it in for a Free Bike Health Check here ( 

If you need a bike before you'll be ready to roll, check out Cyclescheme. You'll be able to save at least 25% on a bike and any gear you need by clicking here (

If your cycling slang is as rusty as your bike. Oil your vocabulary

Happy cycling!

21/08/2015: New Summer Edition of Greenlines

The newest edition of the University's sustainability newsletter is here. Plant Sciences makes an appearance on Page 3. When you're shortlisted for national awards, the media come a-knocking!

10/07/2015: LED project announced as finalist in national Green Gown Awards 2015

The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC) is a UK charity supporting sustainability in the tertiary education sector. Their well-established Green Gown Awards recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives undertaken by universities and colleges across the country.

With our two ECRP backed LED projects within Plant Sciences maturing, we applied for the 2015 awards and have been selected as finalists in the ‘Research and Development’ category!

We’re up against four other universities and their projects:

-          Lancaster University - Centre for Global Eco-Innovation develops eco-innovative products, processes and services

-          The University of Nottingham - Creative Energy Homes: Low-Energy and Zero-Carbon Housing – a living test-site for energy efficient technologies

-          University of Salford - Clever Classrooms in Sustainable Schools

-          University of the Arts London - Grow a Garment

The ceremony is in November, before which a case study will be written and a short video filmed and submitted. Any budding film directors in the department, contact Martin!


18/06/2015 - PGF LED Trials Opportunity

Room 7 has been refitted to run LED growth lighting. Over the next six months it is available for experiments to be run to assess how your research may be affected by a switch to LED lighting. This is your opportunity to gather the information you need before this room goes into regular operation. Importantly, it will contribute to discussion about how to proceed with the PGF-LED lighting project. Please fill in and return this form and return to Martin as instructed. The deadline is 09:00, Mon 29th June.

15/06/2015 - PlantSci present at S-Lab Conference

On Monday 8th June, the department's Energy Co-ordinator Martin Howes presented at the regional S-Lab conference held at Cambridge's University Centre. The presentation 'LED in Labs - Plant Growth' provided delegates with an insight into the work being undertaken at the department to develop LED lighting to replace inefficient fluorescent lighting in growth rooms at the Plant Growth Facility and in algal incubator shakers at the Downing site. Slides can be found here.

 24/04/2015 - Summer Commuting Options

Now that the days are getting longer and warmer, why not have a look through the info below for maybe altering how you travel to work? The University runs various schemes and offers many incentives to make it as easy as possible to choose healthier, low carbon options.

The University has a travel plan which aims to keep the number of single-occupancy car journeys to below 25%, despite the growth of the West Cambridge sites. Last year's survey revealed a 'Driving Alone' figure of 24.29%.

So, what can you do? The Environment and Energy team at Estate Management have pulled together lots of useful resources. Here are some highlights, but much more can be found in their Commuting to Work section.


Travel for Cambridgeshire is a not-for-profit partnership that helps Cambs employers deliver and promote sustainable and healthy travel to work. The University is signed up. For us this means excellent discounts on rail tickets, cycling training and running and cycling equipment.


40% of us cycle to work. Are you going by the quickest, quietest, safest, least polluted route? Explore this interactive cycle map CycleStreets|Cambridge. As well as the obvious map, distance and time functions, it also allows you to see pictures of the trickier junctions, tells you if and where you may need to dismount and even the CO2 emissions you are avoiding by pedalling!

Need a bike to get started? The Cycle to Work scheme allows staff to purchase bicycles and associated safety equipment on a tax-free basis through a salary sacrifice scheme. It's a national scheme that the University is a full member of. 

Did You Know that there is a Park & Cycle scheme at the West Cambridge site? It is free for all city-centre based staff who apply.

Car Share/Hire

Forced to drive to work because you live out in the sticks with poor public transport provision? There may be someone living just up the road with the same problem as you! Check out CamShare. Sign up, set your requirements and find your matches.

The University has tied up with ZipCar, so good short term hire deals are available for your business or personal needs.

Rail & Bus

Travel for Cambridgeshire discounts can be had on Great Northern and Abellio Greater Anglia rail services. 

Interest-free loans are also available on rail and bus season tickets through the University's Travel to Work loan scheme.

There are five main Park & Ride locations around Cambridge: Milton (north), Newmarket Road (East), Babraham (SE), Trumpington (SW) and Madingley Road (West).

The Guided Busway runs quick services from Huntingdon, St. Ives and Longstanton into the city and out to Addenbrookes hospital.

A good starting point for information on Park & Ride, the Guided Busway and city bus services is the County Council website.


Get investigating. There's plenty of options to choose from! If you find anything you feel should be publicised, let me know.

Martin ()