Robinson has ranked quite highly on the College Green League Table in the past and continues to make improvements to reduce its environmental impact. For example, one of the undergraduate houses has recently been refurbished to bring it up to a class C energy rated building. Future refurbishments which include replacing boilers, double glazing, and adding insulation should improve the energy efficiency in all the college buildings. They also have approval to put solar panels on the roof and are monitoring and making efforts to reduce waste, including food waste from the Garden Restaurant. However, the college can only do so much - we need college members to get on board for things to really change.
Here is some information to help you reduce your environmental impact
Try to use less of it. It can be hard to feel motivated to watch your electricity consumption when you never see the bills but you are paying for it by the degradation of the environment that supports you. Switching off lights and turning your computer off at night is great but by far the greatest consumption of energy comes from heating water and space so if you want to make a bigger difference try some of the following:
- Stop using the drier. They use huge amounts of energy and wear out your clothes. Clothes can be dried on a clothes horse in 1-2 days.
- Turn down your radiators (or turn them off) and put on a jumper
- Close the windows in winter
- Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you actually need (this will also make it boil faster)
- Put a lid on your saucepan when boiling water
- Have shorter and/or fewer showers. Also consider turning the heat down a little.
- Use the eco wash cycle on the washing machine. This has the added advantage of taking only half an hour compared with the regular cycles which take up to 2 hours which is not only inconvenient but completely unnecessary. Most of us spend all day sitting in front of the computer, not digging around in mud, so half an hour and slightly lower temperatures is more than enough to clean your clothes.
Waste and Recycling
While the college housekeepers do everything else for us, recycling is our responsibility. We have co-mingled recycling which makes things simple and easy - all recyclable materials go into the kitchen recycling bins which need to be emptied BY YOU into the blue bins or skips outside. From past experience, people don't do this so we have introduced a recycling roster. Please empty the recycling bin on your designated week. This is flexible and each kitchen can negotiate amongst themselves but please make an effort to help to make it fair on the other people you are living with.
You can recycle paper, magazines, cardboard, aerosol cans, glass, cartons, clean foil, cans, tins, and plastic bottles, tubs, pots, and trays.
You can not recycle soft plastic using the blue council bins. This includes plastic film or wrapping, fruit and veg packaging, inner liners of cereal boxes and plastic bags. You can get around this by buying loose fruit and vegetables and using durable shopping bags - these don't dig into your hands or break half way home. For soft plastic you can't avoid, supermarkets such as Sainsbury's now have collection points for your old shopping bags but also other soft plastic.
For detailed council information on recycling different products and materials see this page.
Batteries can be recycled in the MCR. We have a tester which lets you test if there is any usable capacity left. Simply place the battery in the right slot, press the button, and look at the LED display. A score of 4 or less means it's dead - put it in the container for recycling. A score of 5-6 means it can be used for low-demand devices like remote controls so either use them for that or leave them in the other container for the MCR remotes. A score of 7-8 means there is close to full power left and you should be able to use it in pretty much any device.
Compost - composting your kitchen waste is an option if you make sure you maintain it. This means emptying the kitchen caddy at least once a week to stop smells and flies and general grossness. Caddies can be collected for free from the Council office and liners are available in the MCR. Caddies need to be emptied into the green bins outside Sylvester Road 3 and the houses along Adams Road. Note that if there is any regular rubbish in these bins the council will not empty them so this needs to be checked before council collections every second Thursday. Contact the Green officer for more details on starting composting in your college kitchen.
Take unwanted items to charity shops (most are on Burleigh Street by the Grafton Centre) or give them away on websites such as freecycle. You can also use charity shops and freecycle to get things you need at low prices or for free!
Don't waste food - try to just buy what you need and if you're going away, offer food that won't last to your housemates rather than throwing it out. Introduce a free shelf or cupboard for long-life food left behind by ex-housemates.
Eat less meat (and dairy) - this is healthy, cheap, and tasty. If you don't cook, the Garden Restaurant has a wide variety of options every day, including vegetarian and vegan options a few times a week. They will add extra vegan options if you send them an email. The vegan and vegetarian options at Robinson formals are also amazing and serving sizes much bigger than the meat alternatives.
Sign up for a local, organic food box scheme - it gets delivered to your door or the plodge. Try Waterland Organics, COFCO, or Riverford, or join the student group SCOOP and pick up from town. Alternatively, buy your fruit and veg from the market stalls in town - many use local produce and there are 2 organic stalls on Sundays. For other food items, try shopping at independent stores and cooperatives like Arjunas on Mill Road or Daily Bread in Kings Hedges.
Travel less frequently and try to take the train rather than flying.
For local travel around town, walk or cycle. This is the fastest and cheapest way of getting to most parts of Cambridge, but also best for the environment. Just make sure you're safe. If you cycle:
- Follow the road rules like stopping at red lights, giving way, and using front and back lights after dark. Don't go down one-way streets the wrong way and stick to the left hand side of the road!
- Wear a helmet
- Beware of pedestrians, particularly the tourists: there are a lot of them and many don't make an effort to make room for you so try not to get too frustrated or aggressive.
There is a range of local green and community initiatives to get involved in around Cambridge:
- Transition Cambridge - This group has a huge range of events and sub groups to get involved in depending on your interests. The proportion of younger people getting involved is increasing. See their webpage for more details and upcoming event.
- FoodCycle - volunteer cooking and serving surplus food from supermarkets like Sainsbury's for people in hardship then enjoy a 3 course meal as reward for your time. See their webpage for more details and to register as a volunteer.
- CropShare - volunteer on a local farm with a great bunch of people. Farmers Paul and Doreen have the Waterland Organics box scheme, a hen share, and donate some of their produce to charities as a reward for our work. The shared lunch (feasts) are a highlight!
- Cambridge Edible Garden - Robinson won't let the students have a small plot to grow food but Murray Edwards do and have given us quite a large area where we grow a range of vegetables. We have weekly gardening sessions and picnics using our own produce regularly. A website is coming, but for now, information is available on their facebook page.
- Cambridge University Environmental Consulting Society
- Cambridge Zero Carbon Society
- Additional information on local and student groups is available from the Cambridge Hub, an umbrella organisation for all environmental and ethical student societies of the University. See their Ethical Guide to Cambridge for more tips and information on living ethically and sustainably in the area.
- Contact your green officer, Maddy Yates (mry23) for any more details, to get involved, or to express interest in having college-run green events.