Eat the talk

Composite image of the sustainable lunch at Lancaster Environment Centre's Winter Conference. Fresh green salads (left), bean mixed filled wraps (right) and staff and students dig in to the buffet (centre).

A delicious low-carbon, low-waste lunch was on offer at the launch of the Lancaster Environment Centre’s Sustainability Commitments.

The Sustainability Commitments cover all the department’s activities from how courses are taught to how academics participate in international conferences and what food is served at departmental events. They also aim to reduce energy and water use and to change procurement processes.

They were developed by the department’s Sustainability Group after consultation with staff and students and were launched at the Environment Centre’s Winter Conference last week.

Dr Jessica Davies, Sustainability Group lead, told the conference that: “Our aspiration is to change our ways of working. This is just the beginning, a statement of ambition, which will take a lot of hard work to deliver.”

The Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) is one of the largest departments at Lancaster University, and is leading the way on developing an environmental action plan, Jess said. She welcomed the decision by Lancaster University management to consult staff on what actions it should be taking to deal with the climate and ecological threats facing the world.

She asked the staff and students present to think about what each of them could do to help make the Commitments a reality, and to make a pledge over lunch of their individual actions.

Dr Ali Birkett, organiser of the conference, set a series of challenges to Lancaster University’s catering team to provide a varied and sustainable buffet in line with the Commitments.

The University’s head chef, Stuart Kennedy, told the audience that his team were already working on many of these areas.

“We are being asked to do a lot more vegetarian and vegan food, so we’ve developed our menus. We are moving away from all single use plastics and using more jugs of water and recyclable cups. Suppliers are getting on board and are looking at their packaging. We’re also looking at the way we process our waste, at more clear recycling and more composting.”

Cllr Kevin Frea, deputy leader of Lancaster City Council, who attended the conference, welcomed the Sustainability Commitments and, as a vegan, particularly appreciated the lunch, which included some locally sourced ingredients. “It was such a delight that delicious vegan food was provided without having to order it specially. Food production accounts for about 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions, so having a more sustainable diet without meat or too much dairy can make a real difference.”

The buffet proved very popular with other delegates too. “It all got eaten in record time,” said Ali. “Last year there was quite a lot left over, which was all meat or fish based, so we take that as consumer research. It shows that you can be sustainable and enjoy yourselves at the same time!”

Pledges made by staff and students over lunch ranged from reassessing how to embed sustainability into their teaching and taking fewer flights, to supporting the Students Union to promote sustainability and having a recycling bin in the office. 

You can see the full LEC Sustainability Commitments here.

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