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The world seems a dark place a lot of time. Crime on TV, water levels rising, companies becoming more corrupt (is that possible?) and politicians becoming stupider (now is that even possible?). However, I thought this week we could do with some cheer – especially with Week 5 blues in full swing – and what better way to bring around that feel-good buzz than celebrating some of the wonderful environmental and ethical policies implemented by our JCRs?

The past few weeks I have been in touch with many college JCRs and despite some still not having a sole green officer (the environment is important kids!), there are some amazing policies in place that I am blown away by, so here they are!

(NB: some colleges did not respond to my emails and so of course could not have been included)

Pembroke

Wow. This college may as well be made from plants. Or green smarties. You know. Anything green really, because wow.

From an ethical eating perspective Pembroke have it nailed: Meat-Free Mondays and ruminant meat served only twice a week. Not only this, but their cafeteria maintains a no-plastic policy: drinks are sold only in cans, cups are hard plastic so they can be washed and reused, and any takeaway containers are Vegware for which students are charged extra as a deterrent against their use. Discounts are even given on hot drinks if students bring reusable cups.

But there’s even more. The catering department reuse cooking oil, source only British meat, and collate data on their food wastage to reduce future wastage. This just goes to show that environmental policies are not ‘hippy-dippy let’s all become minimalist vegans’, but proactive steps that involve incentives, logical analysis and evaluation and even money-saving ideas.

Pembroke additionally has its own college-run green society (POGs) who held their own college Green Week this term which included formals, screenings, plant potting, speakers, and workshops, as well as displays throughout the college highlighting the issues of fast fashion, plastic in our oceans and more.

Even the porters are on board! Pembroke’s porters are recording deliveries to identify those who may need some gentle encouragement to think about how much they’re buying online. I know that sales in Urban are tempting, but do you really need another pair of jazzy trousers? They also provide a service for students to recycle their pens and batteries, with maintenance chipping in on top with a revamped more energy-efficient heating system and solar panels on the roof of the most modern building in the college.

I have saved the best till last – oh yes siree – the role of sustainability officer has been made a permanent position on Pembroke’s May Ball committee, whose sole purpose is to make sure the event can be as eco-friendly as possible.

It is so refreshing to see a college so committed to being green and making such significant progress with it. The collation of data by porters and the catering department is such a simple yet effective idea which I would love to see more colleges adopt!

Fitzwilliam

Fitz are joining Pembroke in their progress on implementing innovative and much-needed environmental policies in and around college.

Fitz are winning in terms of waste disposal. This year they have begun a composting trial within college to dispose of waste in a more productive and eco-friendly way – I hope it’s going well Fitz! Additionally, they have more than your bog-standard recycling bins: separate bins for batteries, crisp packets, and biscuit wrappers (with future plans for the addition of bins for toothbrushes and toothpaste) are provided, taking recycling to the next level. Another great scheme is what I am calling the “scavenging scheme” (you can have that Fitz, if you like) where any items (such as pans, plates, etc.) that are left behind in gyps are collected and given to freshers. Reducing waste and letting freshers have that extra bit of cash to fritter away in Cindies. It’s a win-win.

Food-wise I am happy to hear that their café has reusable cups on sale, as well as reducing prices of drinks if you bring a reusable cup. Vegware is, as with Pembroke, their take-away container. Amazing!

The aid of money incentives has also been adopted with their annual “Fitz-Off” competition, where the accommodation block that can reduce their energy consumption the most receives £300. If saving the planet wasn’t rewarding enough, I think 300 quid would cut it. You sure know your market, Fitz, and we are loving it. Fitz has also started holding environmental workshops and are in the process of getting washing-up bowls to put in sinks in gyps to reduce water waste. Additionally, they are hoping to expand their programme of promoting menstrual cups instead of pads and tampons, of which they give out limited numbers for free every year. Fitz are certainly pulling their weight and it is great to see such refreshing schemes – other JCRs, take note.

Downing

Downing also join the ranks of Pembroke and Fitz on the catering front, providing plenty of vegan options, using Vegware compostable food and drink containers in the café and having recycling bins in all rooms and kitchens. Innovatively, they are also selling their own Downing-themed KeepCups and reusable water bottles. Who doesn’t love stash?

Additionally, Downing is in the process of implementing a food waste scheme in all student kitchens. But probably the most exciting achievement of their JCR is a commitment to getting their college to divest from fossil fuels, which is massive! Keep it up!

Sidney Sussex

Sidney has adopted schemes of recycling rotas, eliminating the use of plastic cups in Hall, as well as joining Downing on the stash front with Sidney KeepCups and a discount on hot drinks whenever they are used. They also have a food sharing group on Facebook, to stop food fermenting in people’s gyps and happily make its way into someone’s belly instead.

Moreover, they have a great focus on sustainable fashion sales, promoting the swapping of May Ball clothes over the “Sidney May Ball Swap” Facebook page. One’s man’s trash is another man’s treasure – save money and stay sustainable. I love it!

An exciting prospect is that Sidney has been mandated to divest from fossil fuels by its JCR – I hope this works out for you Sidney!

Trinity

Trinity is focusing on the small and manageable changes that students can make themselves on a daily basis, which I commend. Environmental change is about holding oneself accountable, and their schemes are doing just that. Working with NUS Student Switch Off campaign, they are hoping to get students to remember to switch off appliances, devices, lights etc. that aren’t being used; whilst making small and easy green swaps. For example, using pan lids, or wearing jumpers during winter when indoors instead of T-shirts. These tiny things are often seen as ‘pointless’, but if everyone did it, changes could happen.

However, they are also promoting larger green policies. Their Environmental Officer is obliged to organise at least two ‘green formals’ during their tenure (which usually works out as one each term) where only vegan food is served in an effort to raise people’s awareness of impact of diet on the environment. Additionally, they are currently working with the “Green Impact Scheme”; where each department gets a rating of environmental adequacy depending on the criteria they have managed to fulfil.

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They also use Vegware, and have subsidised KeepCups, getting that classic discount when they’re used. Surely all colleges should be doing this by now?

St John’s

St John’s are doing well in reference to maintenance sustainability, possessing an energy management policy to reduce water and energy consumption when buying new equipment. In freshers’ accommodation a key card is required to switch on lights, meaning even if you wanted to, you couldn’t leave your lights on when you’re out. There are also battery and ink recycling bins, and British Heart Foundation bins in locations throughout college, the use of which the JCR is advocating.

John’s joins Sidney in trying to promote the sharing of food and clothes: there are unwanted food collections for Jimmy’s at the end of each term, and second-hand clothes sales. The college also tries to source the food in the buttery locally as much as possible. Additionally they have reduced food waste to below 5%, for which they were awarded a Gold Award for food sustainability from Cambridge Council.

Recently, the John’s JCR have expanded their committee structure to include long-term positions of a Food Sustainability Officer and a Green Officer. Despite being only part of a sub-committee, this is still great progress for colleges holding themselves accountable for their waste and environmental impact. And are positions that other JCRs could think of creating on a role for.

Girton

Girton are also making progress with a committed team of staff and students for Green Impact, and were awarded the Gold Award last year for all their efforts in reducing food wastage!

And finally

Thank you to all lovely members of the JCRs who responded to my queries. Hearing all these fantastic policies that are already in place made my heart go fuzzy, there were so many more than I first expected and you should be celebrated for all your hard work in making Cambridge a greener and brighter place! Although it is sad to see some colleges still not providing the basics of recycling and compost bins, looking at these policies shows how we are most definitely heading in the right direction. I am excited to see how Cambridge becomes a greener uni in the following years, and to all those who have helped and contributed so far, I give my deepest thank you!

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