This week is Environment Week in Durham and events will be taking place across the university. Students, along with the help of charity Greenspace, will be encouraging students to reduce their carbon foot prints. The initiatives this year focus around food waste as part of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign.
Encouraging students to buy locally produced food is a central theme this year. Several pop-up stalls will be appearing throughout the week. Local sausage or mushroom and egg butties will be on offer on the science site. The eggs are free range from Northumberland and the pork was reared at Houghall College. Locally produced vegetables, sustainably sourced fish and free range meat products will be appear in canteens across the university for the week. As well as a decreased environmental impact, sourcing food locally promotes local business which has a ripple effect across the local economy. The university has made great improvements to the way it sources college food. Durham University reported cutting 75,000 delivery miles from its supply chain last year which is equivalent to 40,000 kilos of CO2. The milk and yoghurt provided in colleges is all sourced from 25 miles away and 50% of vegetables are sourced from the North East. Also, Newcastle University provides Durham with its beef and lamb and some of its pork.
Within colleges there are several initiatives worth drawing attention to, in particular the university wide Beef Free Monday. The consumption of meat is often approached from an ethical perspective but rarely from an environmental one. In the case of beef, however, the environmental impact is clear. Beef requires far more land, water and energy than any other type of common food. Raising cows takes nearly 30 times as much land as pork or chicken and over 10 times the water. Rearing beef creates 5 times more greenhouse gas emissions. If it is compared to wheat, beef production requires over 150 times more land and produces 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions. In a recent popular appeal by comedians turned activists in California (where cattle production is draining their limited water supply), the amount of water used to make beef was compared to the number of showers an individual would need to skip. They calculated that to cancel out the 450 gallons of water used to produce enough beef for a burger, you would have to skip 26 showers. For a 16 oz steak those figures rose to 1800 gallons and 105 showers. There are further more hidden factors in rearing cattle as well. For example, Brazil is a huge exporter of beef and the industry there relies on mass deforestation. This campaign, while minimal, is an unusual but powerful tool to raise awareness of environmental issues.
However, getting involved with Environment is not limited to buying free range egg butties. There are several small ways to live slightly greener this week. Greenspace has been outside the Bill Bryson Library today asking for Environmental pledges and will continue to do so throughout the week. If you are a liver out, this could be having a meat free day once a week. Alternatively, you could reduce your water consumption by only boiling as much water as you need in the kettle or shortening your shower by a minute. Perhaps consider avoiding Tescos for one shop and trying the market instead. If you are catered, help your college win the prize for the least food waste by only taking as many potatoes as you need (then go back for seconds).
There are too many events to name this week on a university level and even more going on within college. For more information about university events, there is a schedule available on the Greenspace page: https://www.dur.ac.uk/greenspace/environmentweek/
Also, ask your college Green Representative about events and how they plan to make your college a little bit greener.