Charlotte Gowers

Charlotte Gowers

The University of Sheffield's first clean drinking water bore-well has been completed, providing 1070 people in Andhra Pradesh, India with immediate access to safe, clean drinking water.


Life Water, sold in all the University of Sheffield’s café and restaurant outlets across campus and the residences, is a life changing charity, providing clean drinking water to communities that desperately need it. For every bottle of water sold, funds are raised towards the construction of new fresh water wells in India.


The construction of the new well was completed in August 2016 and provides 1070 people with a safe, sustainable and long lasting source of clean drinking water.


Mr. Ramasubbaiah, a community member explains the life changing benefits, “Now the water is good. It is more than enough, even in summer. We need not suffer for the water going dry. As there is a continuous power cut, the tap water supply was scare. Now that is not a problem. I appreciate those who helped our community.”


The University of Sheffield have worked with Life Water to sell their bottled water for 6 years which led to the University being assigned its very own Life Water drop4drop clean drinking water project. Peter Anstess, TUCO North East Regional Chair and Retail Manager for Accommodation and Commercial Services (ACS) at the University explains, “It is absolutely our intention to maintain the progress of opening wells and developing fresh water projects. The sales of Life Water are as strong as ever and the great news that has come from the purchases only confirms that this is a fantastic way to provide a product that the customer desires whilst providing benefit to others.”


More than 1 billion people around the world are unable to access safe, clean drinking water, and over 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation.

Swansea University has been interested in sustainable catering for several years, and has featured on sustainability issues in the TUCO magazines and articles. Until recently, their work had focused entirely on how to reduce their food surplus and waste through improving and refining our food management systems and procurement.

Following some recent collaborative work between Swansea University and WRAP Cymru, Swansea has widened its focus to include reusing food surplus and how this can benefit both students and local communities.

How others do it

Swansea University’s work with WRAP looked initially at how student volunteers could help redistribute surplus food from supermarkets to charities. As part of this work they researched how others approach food surplus around the world. In the US a scheme called the Campus Kitchens Project was particularly interesting. 53 universities and colleges across the country allow their kitchens to be used in the late afternoons and early evening by student volunteers. The volunteers cook surplus food left over from the day’s trading at the university, and then distribute it to vulnerable local groups.

Swansea’s Approach

Swansea looked at their own services. They found their catering is well thought of, popular and profitable - but most of their business is over by 14:00 or 15:00. Wednesdays is the quietest afternoon and evening, as many of our students leave campus to compete in sport and recreational activities. With two main kitchens (one on each campus), both well-equipped, they felt there must be an opportunity to replicate aspects of the Campus Kitchens Project.

Swansea University discussed the issues with their student volunteering group, Discovery, Swansea Council and local secondary school, Bishop Gore. Discovery were keen to get further involved in food surplus, the Council needed to provide social opportunities for some of their vulnerable groups. Their local school also needed to provide community work opportunities for 16 and 17-year-old students taking the Welsh Baccalaureate. A great combination of similar and coinciding interests.

Wednesday Evening Meals

Every Wednesday evening during the new academic year will now be Swansea University’s Food Surplus evening. Weekly evening meals will be provided in one of their cafes for their students arriving back from sports - providing useful sustenance for those looking forward to a Wednesday night out. Two food courses for £2 – as simple as that. Interspersed with this they will provide regular meals for local community groups, all free. Volunteer students, from Discovery and Bishop Gore school, will work alongside the university’s chefs to prepare and serve the meals.

The food the university uses is all surplus - all of it. Some of it comes from local supermarkets, which will be collected by volunteers during the week. Some comes from their own supermarket they run with the Student Union. Some food comes from their campus cafés and restaurants which haven’t sold and can’t be resold. In time Swansea University want to work with our suppliers, particularly local ones, and help reuse their food surplus. They record the number of meals they produce, so they can monitor how much surplus food is being reused.

The events the University have done so far have been very successful – coverage on TV and in local media. They’ve provided high quality meals - as Chefs and Catering Managers know, just because food is past its sell by date doesn’t mean it can’t be great quality. All the chefs have loved taking part, they get a chance to think up new and invariably clever menus, using whatever surplus food has come in, train the volunteers, and know they are working for a good cause.

Paul Robinson, Associate Director of Estates and Facilities at Swansea University says “We were all particularly taken with our Coffee Grounds Cookies (with a surprisingly un-coffee taste!) and we are now planning to bake and sell them on a regular basis in all of our non-chain coffee shops, to increase the profile of our work. Going forward, Discovery also plan to use their student volunteers to help deliver other supermarket surplus food to charities.”


Food Regulations

So what about food hygiene and health and safety? Swansea University looked at a similar scheme a few years ago whether they could donate their surplus food to a homeless charity. At the time they simply couldn’t go through with it. This has all changed now. All supermarket chains now donate their surplus food to charity and some restaurant chains. Simple template forms are now available, with easy guides on what foods can and can’t be used. Having volunteers working in their kitchens was straightforward, with just a little thought put into their brief induction.

Food Surplus Cafés and the Future

Paul Robinson also shares his views on food surplus cafés and the future “Finally – one part of our collaboration with WRAP looked at how the hospitality industry in Wales could better reuse surplus food. The recommendation from our research was clear – the development of more surplus food cafes. The concept is still in its infancy;  there are currently only three in the whole of Wales, out of some 5000+ cafes and restaurants, and probably no more than 50 across the whole of the UK.



A Surplus Food Café or Restaurant - professionally set up, professionally run, heavy on sustainable values, very affordable, with a great USP of a menu which really does change daily depending on what food comes in – surely it would work well? And better still for any catering business….no food costs!”

Working in Partnership

Swansea University are keen to take these concepts forward but, like the Campus Kitchens Project in the US, it makes sense to look at this with other interested HE partners. If you are interested get in touch with Paul Robinson This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. perhaps you could set up a conference, a SharePoint site for ideas or just pop along for a two-course meal for £2 in one of the Universities cafés.

Universities and colleges from across the UK and Ireland have shown how they are leading the path to efficiency, employability and creating a better future of life for us all. Education is proving how sustainability is just good business sense. From the efficient buildings they create and the effective way they use energy, to how they create students fit for the future, their research in finding better ways to adapt to a changing climate and the communities they impact, universities and colleges are at the forefront of radically creating a better future.

This was evident at the 12th Green Gown Awards 2016, held at the Athena in Leicester, in partnership with De Montfort University (DMU) and University of Leicester. It was a celebration of remarkable sustainability initiatives, starring 21 Winners and 26 Highly Commended entries from 115 finalists representing 1.5 million students and 240,000 staff. With an audience of 390 sustainability leaders applauding sustainability excellence within tertiary education, the Green Gown Awards celebrated those that are making the radical change that is needed to make all our lives better.


The evening was hosted by Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business, Marks & Spencer. Amongst others, Mike is a Visiting Fellow at the Smith Centre for Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, a Senior Associate at the Cambridge Programme for Sustainable Leadership and a chemistry graduate from Sheffield University. Mike said, "We stand on the cusp of great change in the economy and society. It is no longer enough to be a ‘less bad organisation’ focused on preventing the worst environmental and social excesses. Every higher and further education establishment, business and government department needs to be thinking about how we change radically our approach to education, commerce and politics to create a future that is low carbon, equal, circular, fair, restorative and committed to the wellbeing of all. The Green Gown Awards help identify these sustainability best practices and encourage the wider higher and further education system to scale up their use."


Each year the Awards bring together the most inspirational projects from across the sector and this year was no exception. Scooping an amazing haul of four Awards was University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) (Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change; Learning and Skills); and in partnership with the University of Bristol (Student Engagement), culminating with Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Environment and Sustainability being awarded the coveted Leadership Award – which is exclusive to senior strategic leadership, at executive or governance level, at a tertiary education institution. Of Jim’s win, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor, says “UWE is committed to embedding sustainability in everything we do particularly within the curricula. The award of a Leadership Green Gown will be welcome external recognition of our efforts and, in particular, the excellent leadership role that Jim has played in our journey towards becoming a sustainable university.”


Royal Agricultural University won an impressive two awards (Best Newcomer and Enterprise and Employability) where they nurture students to embrace sustainability, both social and environmental, offering them opportunities to put such theories as corporate sustainability and ethical leadership into practice. Professor Chris Gaskell MBE, Vice-Chancellor, says “It is a fantastic achievement for us at the Royal Agricultural University to be recognised for our enterprise activities, and we are very proud. We aim to foster and support an enterprising spirit within our student and alumni populations, and also to involve the local community; we all need a sustainable future, and entrepreneurial approaches will be a key component.”


Scotland stole the show for the Built Environment category with wins for South Lanarkshire College and the University of Aberdeen. With University of Aberdeen actively reducing energy use by going ‘passive’” which sees the first fully certified Passive House Nursery in Scotland and the first at a Scottish University.


Organised and delivered by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), Chief Executive, Iain Patton, describes the importance of the Green Gown Awards, “Every year the excellence recognised by the Green Gown Awards shows the business alignment and value of sustainability. Sustainability makes business sense and this year’s inspiring initiatives prove that sustainability benefits staff, students, the wider community and of course the bottom line. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists for their hard work. It was wonderful to celebrate their successes in Leicester.”


The full list of winners can be found at

Vegware launched the Green Tree collection in April 2016 in celebration of their Queen’s Award win. Like all of Vegware’s products, the grab & go collection is completely compostable and low carbon. Featuring a word-cloud motif celebrating sustainability, the collection is proving to be perfect for university caterers who want to shout about their eco credentials to students.


The University of Surrey chose it for its compostability and clear green message. Director of Hospitality Simon Booth explains: "Historically, cost was the most important factor for caterers, but the University of Surrey looks at the whole picture. Landfill costs are only going up, and a solution that removes this factor completely really helps us from a business perspective.


The University of Surrey is very environmentally conscious. When we realised that over 80% of the landfill waste produced was coming from retail areas, our caterers and estates got together to address the issue. The most positive step forward was to switch to a compostable range of foodservice products. Vegware was the perfect partner as they had the vision to help create the Green Tree collection, which meets all our needs. This year, we’re using the collection for our conferences and location business.”


Vegware is in use at over 50% of the UK’s universities. You can read more about Vegware’s Green Tree collection here.

Coffee cup recycling hit the headlines recently when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste exposed that 399 out of 400 disposable cups go to landfill or incineration. But the same challenge is true for all used foodservice packaging, which is rarely recycled due to the combination of card, plastic and food contamination.

The University of Cambridge has found an innovative solution to recycle waste from its Catering Service’s 7 catering operations, busy with 6,500 sales transactions a day and 1,500 departmental events a year. Last November, its Catering Services switched to compostable takeaway packaging made by Vegware. All compostable takeaway cups, containers and cutlery are plastic-free, and go in the food waste bin. 1.5 tonnes of used compostable packaging goes to a local composting facility every month, is combined with food and garden waste and creates soil improver in a matter of weeks.

Unusually for a packaging firm, Vegware offers expert recycling support – winning the 2016 Queen’s Award for this zero waste approach. At the University of Cambridge, Vegware’s environmental team helped identify the right collector and processing facility for used compostable packaging and food waste, created bespoke bin signage, and ran Green Days to teach students to choose the correct bins.

This compostable packaging is made of renewable plant materials with a lower environmental impact. Vegware calculates that The University of Cambridge’s monthly usage saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon, and contains 710 kilos of recycled content. 


Case study film can be found here.

The University of Exeter has been bestowed with a celebrated national award to mark its commitment to sustainable dining for campus users in Exeter.

The University has been awarded a Two Star Food Made Good rating, granted by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), in recognition of its sustainable dining experience, from food sourcing through to the management of food waste.

The SRA commended the University for having all the ingredients in place to demonstrate an excellent level of sustainability, including quality sourced goods and excellent social and environmental credentials.

Julie Tong, Head of Catering and Foodservice, said: “We are committed to sourcing the best possible products and serving a range of healthy and nutritious meals to our students every single day.  We are proud to have received a two star rating and to have scored in the top 85% of SRA members in the South West.  We are reviewing where we can make further improvements to ensure our customers continue to receive the very best.”

Julie and her team were commended for the work they have done across all three pillars of the accreditation, sourcing, society and the environment.  In particular the University was applauded for offering a high proportion of vegetarian dishes, prioritising British produce, sourcing a range of Fairtrade products, monitoring waste and recycling, using solely environmentally friendly cleaning products and engaging with the community through donations to Exeter Food Bank each year.

The team at Exeter are aware of the importance of food for students, their wellbeing and the impact on their studies.  Work is ongoing to develop nutritional information on all menus so that customers can make an informed choice and the team are also working towards their food for the brain accreditation.

Chief Executive Andrew Stephen of the SRA, said: “With more than two million customers, and that’s just the students, UK universities have a giant slice of the UK eating out market. That brings enormous power, and with that comes a large degree of responsibility. The University of Exeter has demonstrated its commitment to serving up genuinely ‘good’ food, and its customers can turn their passion for good food into action and be reassured that they are making positive choices.”

The University of Exeter is one of more than 30 universities to have joined the SRA and become part of the Food Made Programme. Diners can choose from 6,000 such places to eat out in, across the UK, from Michelin starred – like the SRA President Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, or high street groups including Carluccio’s and Wahaca.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 08:30

Waste less at your university with Vegware

Over 50% of UK universities use Vegware’s eco packaging. With the support of Vegware, you can up your recycling rates, lower your carbon footprint and communicate your sustainability to students.

As one of the world’s leading universities, the University of Cambridge aims for excellence in everything it does. In November 2015, the University’s catering services switched to Vegware’s compostable foodservice packaging in order to go zero waste.

  • 7 catering services
  • 6,500 sales transactions a day
  • 1,500 departmental events a year

Compostable packaging: the key to zero waste in catering

Before changing to Vegware, the University of Cambridge experienced high levels of contamination in their recycling streams. Recycling conventional food packaging is challenging due to the mix of different materials and food. Most food packaging inevitably destined for landfill or incineration.

All of Vegware’s packaging is made from plants, not plastic, and designed to be recycled with food waste. This eliminates the issues typical of conventional packaging recycling – all the packaging goes into the food waste bin, and there’s no need to separate, sort or clean.

Vegware’s environmental team helped the University of Cambridge identify the right collector and processing facility for their used compostable packaging and food waste. The University staff had demanded food waste collections for years, but it hadn’t proved viable due to the relatively low volumes produced. Introducing Vegware raised the volumes of compostable waste and allowed collections to begin at a number of sites.


Communication is the key to ensuring an organisation as big as the University of Cambridge goes zero waste. Vegware ran a number of Green Day communication events, engaging staff and students with posters and a ‘waste sorting challenge’. We also created bespoke bin signage to show exactly what goes in each bin – ensuring low levels of contamination at the composting facility.

Engagement was then rolled out more widely by the University’s Environment and Energy Section, who ran a ‘spotlight on waste’ month, visiting a number of departments to talk about the issue of waste and about the new Vegware initiative. Vegware and related waste issues were also featured in monthly newsletters and in communications with the Environment and energy coordinators network.


The University of Cambridge is the first in the UK to implement this zero waste approach to foodservice. The Vegware scheme has provided a platform to promote the University’s sustainability aspirations. The University has found it’s the perfect conversation starter to engage staff on environmental sustainability and to act as a talking point around the issue of waste and recycling. The work has also received recognition by being shortlisted for a 2016 Green Gown Award.

Vegware are continuing their work with the University’s Environment and Energy Section to ensure the scheme continues to be a success. Happily, other departments and colleges within the university are following suit!

Vegware Co2 Eco Audits

By switching to Vegware’s compostable packaging, every month the University Catering service:

  • Saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon
  • Saves 710 kilos of virgin materials
  • Composts 1.5 tonnes of used packaging

“The University Catering Service’s commitment to sustainability contributes to enhancing the staff and student experience, and Vegware is a key part of this. The consideration of greater sustainability throughout the food chain

inside the University helps encourage positive lifestyle changes outside of it for both students and staff.”

- University Catering Manager

Love Food Hate Waste have come up with a lot of useful information for students. Feel free to share the below, it might even be useful to you if your younglings have just left for university.

Shared Fridges

When you move into a new kitchen, check that the fridge temperature is below 5 degrees. This can extend the life of many foods such as chicken, fish and salad by an extra three days. Raw food needs to be stored in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf to prevent contamination. In fact, most food will stay fresher for longer if it is kept in its original packaging or in a loosely tied bag. Leftovers need to be covered and then eaten within two days – cling film or reusing takeaway containers with their close fitting lids are perfect for this. The exception is cooked rice which should be eaten within 24 hours. Fridge food that is coming up to its use by date needs to be eaten or frozen. If you find food date labels confusing, why not print off the LFHW date label infographic and stick it on the fridge?

Old Mother Hubbard

Just imagine you have moved from a home that has a good stock of all sorts of food in the cupboard, including those spices, sauces and condiments that you don’t use often. If find yourself in a new place where the cupboard is bare, where to you start? Love Food Hate Waste has compiled suggested storecupboard essentials on the LFHW website. These are really useful items to have in stock as they can be used to create a meal, a snack or be combined with leftovers – especially if the shops are shut, or when the budget is tight. These items are likely to have a ‘best before date’ on them which means that they should be safe to eat after that date, they just might not be at their best. This means that many can be safely left in the cupboard or taken home with you at the end of term, they don’t need to be binned automatically. Keep them well sealed, cool and away from direct sunlight.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016 08:30

Love Food, Hate Waste - Timetable Alterations

Whether you are on an academic timetable, or are adjusting to a new work routine, one of the key ways to help you save money is to plan meals and menus.

It’s not as onerous as its sounds, there is even an online ready madetwo-week meal plannerfor both meat eaters and veggies to help get you started. You might like to cook together with new housemates as buying food for four can not only be cheaper, but it can be fun, build friendships and also introduce you to a new recipe repertoire. Getting together to discuss a meal plan for a week will help work out who is cooking, what they will cook but will also work out when meals will not be needed. For example will Friday night have a late night takeaway tradition, or will housemates be missing at the weekends? Use the plan to make ashopping listbut always check the fridge and cupboard before shopping – as you might already have the ingredients in stock.

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