News from the UC Sustainability Office

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Cycle Stand Update

people-vector-designed-by-stephanie2212-freepik-com: People vector designed by Stephanie2212 - Freepik.comGood news for Engineering students (and others)! It looks like the existing secure cycle stand on Creyke Road will be retained now, which means another 100 secure bike parks will be able to come back on line soon.

We received some very interesting feedback in this year’s UC Travel Survey, indicating that around 40% of cyclists prefer secure cycle stands above other kinds of bike parks. The challenge we have now is to think through the various ways that we can ensure our bike parks really are secure. For instance: Is card access the best method?

We saw a campus bike park system at the University of the Sunshine Coast recently where your student card gave you access to the secure bike parking, but ONLY if you were on a register of users. What do you think about this? We’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions. You can comment on this post, or email us on

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A plant-based diet for the environment?

VCUC is the University of Canterbury’s vege club. VCUC is a student club for people interested in animal rights, environmentalism, and plant-based diets. They discuss the importance of adopting a less meat- and dairy-based diet – and how to make that shift! By VCUC. 

CO2 output of animal agriculture is massive

After reading an article by The Guardian shared by the UC Sustainability Community, about reducing the consumption of animal products to help save the world from climate change, we got quite excited because VCUC is all about eating more plant-based.

wpid-wp-1442886628858There is some debate about the exact numbers of greenhouse gases produced by the animal agriculture industry. However, animal agriculture is still a bigger contributor than any other human related activity, including all forms of transport (planes, container ships etc.). We also cannot forget it is the biggest use of fresh water and land, creates the most waste, deforestation and extinction than any other human activity.

Small steps, big effects

How can you help? Often environmental problems are posed to us as something too big or complex for you to make a change. But there are many small choices made every day that can make a difference. VCUC has some helpful tips.

Many members of VCUC live and thrive off a plant-based diet. Many plant-based diets consist of staples such as fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes. Many find the thought to change to a plant-based diet overwhelming to do overnight and that is normal. A long term method is to slowly reduce your consumption of animal products while simultaneously increasing the number of plant-based foods. For example, swapping meat for beans, in say nachos is an easy option. (Check out this great wee video for a quick nutritional comparison of meat vs. beans!) Other people adopt a plant-based day once a week or incorporate one plant-based meal a day. Try what works for you and remember every plant-based meal is a great achievement and it is never too late to start.

Cheap and easy

A lot of plant-based foods are the cheapest a student can buy in New Zealand. Buying grains (e.g. oats, rice), long shelve life starches (e.g. potatoes, kumara etc.) and legumes can be very cheap. You can buy them bulk and in their dried form (for legumes) for a much cheaper deal. We all know that fruits and vegetables are the healthiest food for us to consume and there are a number of ways to get them cheap:

  • 13329562_887494601360677_6317918836857392459_oBuy seasonal and ask the shops if they do deals on bulk buys
  • Do not forget the frozen section for bags of fruit and vegetables
  • Explore the weekend markets (Riccarton, Opawa, Lyttelton, ect.)
  • Check out vege box schemes in Christchurch (just google it for options). Sharing it with your flatmates makes this a cheap option
  • Many fruits and vegetables can be frozen if you have surplus and can’t eat them all before they go off
  • Fruit can be foraged for free, keep your eyes out for trees around the city to pick from. (Make sure you are allowed to do so.)
  • Community gardens are a great place for cheap vegetables. If you volunteer at UC’s community gardens you can take some vegetables home for free!
  • There are also co-ops where you pay a set price for a box of fruit and vegetables, that often gets delivered. Check out vege box schemes in Christchurch (just google it for options). Sharing it with your flatmates makes this a cheap option. Salt and Light is the University one.

And finally, the least environmentally detrimental way is to grow your own. You will be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space, plus you could sell or trade the excess! Get in contact with UC Kakariki for some tips.

A plant-based recipe: Easy bean fajitas


  • 1 can No Fat Refried Beans
  • 1 can Low Sodium Pinto Beans
  • ¼ cup Salsa
  • 1 Onion, sliced into strips
  • 1 Bell Pepper, sliced into strips or other vegetables of your choice
  • 2 teaspoons Fajita Spice Mix (below)
  • Tortillas

Fajita Spice Mix

  • 1 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Drain and rinse the pinto beans.
  2. Add salsa and refried beans and simmer until warm.
  3. Whisk all Spice Mix ingredients in a small bowl.
  4. Stir-fry onion, pepper (vegetables), and 2 tsp of Spice Mix in water
  5. Continue stir-frying until liquid evaporates and veggies begin to brown
  6. Assemble fajitas by placing beans in center of tortilla.
  7. Add stir-fry veggies and toppings of your choice.
  8. Roll and enjoy!

We understand that there are still many things left untouched in this blog and you are more than welcome to contact us at or our Facebook pages for any questions you have or for more information.

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Jane’s Garden Update: Cool Seasons, Strong Communities

img_1748 img_1749 img_1893With such a mild winter and typically stable weather patterns we were lucky enough to have sunny Friday afternoons for most of winter. We have been enjoying beautiful produce, including mesclun salad, rocket, coriander, spring onion, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, silverbeet, leeks, yams, artichokes, asparagus and miners lettuce.  Before the year is out we will harvest broad beans, rainbow chard, kohlrabi, lettuce, radish, new potatoes, cherries and raspberries.  All fuel for a very busy period ahead in the garden!

Much sowing and planting is taking place for crops that will feed us next year. From fruits, leaves, roots and beans to herbs and flowers. All manner of annuals are germinating and reaching their leaves to the sun and their roots into to the soil. Hands on gardening aside, there has been some interesting happenings over the last few months.

img_0160In July we had a farewell pizza party for two of our volunteers, Timm and Lou. Timm, from Germany, had been gardening with us since 2013 whilst undertaking his thesis, and was the Digtator for Digsoc gardening club. Lou, from France, had a short internship at UC to prepare a case for moving a log cabin into the community gardens. While the project is on hold for now, Lou was a great consultant and Super Gardener!

In August we hosted ‘WEB’, a sculpture exhibition by UC art students. Six works were installed around the Okeover Garden for one week.  As a public space exhibition the students had to respond to the space. They consulted with the community about the history and f14054250_10153858425032336_6616223816447536865_nunction of the garden, and how to integrate that into a working environment.  This was a fantastic example of how the garden can be a learning environment in many ways and we look forward to hosting the next one!

The Edible Campus Tour was held during Eco Week in September.  Around 30 people joined us at café 1894 to begin an hour long jaunt from tree to tree with our freshly updated edible campus map. While most of the edibles are established stand-alone trees dotted around the campus, there is also a cluster of fruit trees which was planted 5 years ago around the 1894 café courtyard. In both cases we hear that the plants are so well foraged that only the earliest of birds share in the harvest. This seems to support the findings of research conducted in 2014 by Kate Walsh. The report, titled “Understanding Students’ Accessibility and Barriers to Nourishing Food”, shows that growing more fruit and nut trees on campus was one of the most popular options for improving student access to healthy food.

14462972_10153956995402336_3546704790700847864_nDuring the tour we also looked at one of the proposed orchard sites by Te Ao Marama and talked about how edibles in the Okeover Stream were of bio-remediation value rather than as a food source. We learned about the interesting uses of walnuts (ink, dye, medicine, food) and gingko (food, tea, medicine) and received some feedback about how to engage foragers in the care-taking of edible plantings as a form of reciprocity.  We ended the tour at the beautiful Okeover Community Garden where the apricot and cherry blossoms delighted us.

It was a timely excursion as community feedback on the landscape master plan was being collected throughout that week. Apparently there was a good level of support for a more edible landscapes.

Another highlight of Eco Week was seeing a Community Gardener win a Sustainability Award. Tracey Tarrant received a Long Service Volunteering award for her 6 years contributing at Okeover Garden. Congratulations Tracey!!

img_1024It should also be mentioned that we are hosting students from the Organic Training College (BHU) in Lincoln. Donna and Julie, who have a wealth of gardening knowledge, are helping out most Fridays in the garden. Gardening with folk like these ensures that Okeover Community Garden is a place of learning, socialising and sharing quality nourishing food.

Thanks to all the gardeners and the extended UC community for all the support and interest you have in growing food on campus.

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50K Coffee Cups Composted – What’s next?

We have been operating our coffee cups collection trial for two years now, after starting the initial trial back in 2014. Now the trial is at an end and we can report that we have diverted around 50,000 coffee cups from landfill, and sent them to be composted. This is great – but we still have a long way to go.

We will now be continuing with our coffee cup collection system, and hopefully expanding it so that there are more collection points around campus. We are also looking to shift from the current type of coffee cups to a version that is certified compostable, and we should see some advances in this area over the next 12-18 months.

The OSCAWe were very excited to see the on-site composting of food waste and coffee cups at the University of the Sunshine Coast in their OSCA – On-Site Composting Apparatus. This simple system makes it possible to produce a high-grade compost on site (imagine how this could aid the creation of an Edible Campus, for example!) and eliminate some of the forms of waste we currently struggle with at UC (especially food grade plastic packaging). Check out the OSCA here for some inspiration!

We do ask yoIMG_0734au to follow the instructions on the blue and other recycling bins on campus. We are noticing a lot of contamination in the bins (items in the wrong bins), and this means (for instance) that recycling is incorrectly and unnecessarily sent to landfill. We really need your help to reduce waste on campus!

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UC alumni Kyle on how his tiny house contributes to a more sustainable world

As part of Eco Week 2016,  we toured tiny houses built by UC alumni.

One of these tiny homes was built by Kyle Sutherland, who graduated from UC in 2011 with a Bachelor of Commerce. He lives in his tiny house with his girlfriend Hazel. We spoke to him about his experience of building and living in a tiny house.

What made you decide to build your own Tiny Home? 

I’ve always thought that working thirty years to pay an enormous amount of interest to the bank just to have a roof over my head was a crazy idea. When my good friend Bryce told me about the tiny house he was building and what they can enable, I was sold. From the lower carbon footprint of the build to the ability to generate and store all of my electricity completely off grid through solar panels, tiny houses give a whole lot more than just financial freedom.

What have you enjoyed the most during your Tiny House build?

My brother is a qualified builder currently living in Australia and was an absolute legend giving up three months of work to come help me build it. I enjoyed learning a new set of skills which I previously didn’t have and now have awesome memories working on it with my friends and family.

Plenty of storage in the kitchen.

Plenty of storage in the kitchen.

Plenty of smart solutions were found around and in the house ... these are some portable planting bags!

Plenty of smart solutions were found around and in the house … these are some portable planting bags!

Kyle and Hazel did a great job explaining what's involved in building a tiny house.

Kyle and Hazel did a great job explaining what’s involved in building a tiny house.

This tiny log burner easily heats the whole house.

This tiny log burner easily heats the whole house.







What advice would you give to somebody who wants to give it a go?

It’s a big commitment for those who aren’t as lucky to have family and friends who specialise in the necessary trades, but it is more than achievable with the amount of self-help information out on the Internet. My key piece of advice would be to do lots of research and ask lots of questions. The design of the house is one of the most crucial steps to successfully building a tiny home.

How do Tiny Houses contribute to a sustainable world?

Living in around 23m2 of space has a much smaller footprint than Ray of Light SMLthe average New Zealand home of 209m2. For example fewer resources are required to build a tiny house, and there is a much smaller area to heat in winter. Combine this with off-grid solar, thermally broken windows built with a north facing aspect, a composting toilet and rain collection, tiny houses are part of the housing solution to a more sustainable world.

To learn more about tiny houses, check out Living Big in a Tiny House.

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Winners of the UC Sustainability Awards 2016

awards logoIt’s really important to recognise and reward the efforts of students and staff in our UC community who are going above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to sustainability. The annual UC Sustainability Awards are a chance to celebrate the great work being undertaken. The Fourth Annual Awards were presented at the conclusion of UC Eco Week by UCSA President James Addington and the UCSA Exec representative for sustainability Johnny Duncan.

Wide Range of Nominations

At the Sustainability Office, we were amazed by the fantastic nominations we received for students, staff and the wider community. Ranging from programmes to make better use of office resources, bringing students together around green actions, to sustainable building construction, and stepping out on the international stage with sustainability policy and research. The nominations tell a powerful collective story about how much we, as a university community, care about people and planet.

After grappling with the wide diversity of nominations, which included everything from participating in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to community gardening, the judges came up with their decisions.


The Supreme Award Winner, winning a package trip to Kaikoura among other goodies, was a team from Chemical and Process Engineering and Chemistry who have developed a synthetic leaf that could be a real game-changer in the race to find technical fixes to the global climate change problem. Alex Yip, Iman Hashemizadeh and Vladimir Golovko blew the judges away with their audacious project, which has also been garnering international attention.

supreme winners1 compressedOther winners include UC Procurement for their work in developing the Fairtrade Accreditation business case, which has meant UC is now firmly on the path to becoming a Fairtrade Accredited campus – a project that has been in the pipeline for around five years if not longer. Professors Eric Pawson and Simon Kingham won the Gold staff award for their trailblazing community service paper GEOG309, and George Moon won the Gold student asimon with george moon compressedward for his efforts in creating the Eco Club Network.

A full list of the winners, and more information about their projects, can be found here. Congratulations to all the winners, and to all of the nominees who are doing such great work.

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UC is Becoming a Fair Trade University!

Fairtrade-label photo credit Fairtrade InternationalAfter many years of campaigning and raising awareness about Fair Trade on campus by the Sustainability Office, UC Procurement, and UC students and staff, UC Council has given the green light for UC to become a Fair Trade University!

Fair Trade is a movement that aims to end the injustice in the current global trade system in developing nations. It helps to create a better life for growers, pickers, artisans, cooperatives, and their families. Whole communities benefit from Fair Trade through community development projects (e.g. housing, health services) that are supported by the World Fair Trade Organisation and Fairtrade International.

UC is committed to the principles and practices of being a socially responsible institution. Supporting Fair Trade growers and producers is an important way to demonstrate this. Becoming a Fair Trade University also encourages students and staff to become aware of key global social and environmental issues.

Fair trade products at UCimg_31501

A key requirement to become a Fair Trade University is to supply Fair Trade coffee and tea in staff kitchens. This has been an important focus of the UC Fair Trade Accreditation Steering Group, and will be rolled out in late 2016 with the view to UC becoming accredited in early 2017.

Fair Trade products have been widely available through campus for a long time, primarily through campus cafes (e.g. coffee, chocolate, drinking chocolate …..  All UCSA cafes sell Jail Breaker coffee (Fair Trade and organic). Café 101 and Reboot sell a blend of Fair Trade Vivace coffee on request for an extra 20c. Both Jail Breaker and Vivace buy their coffee from a local enterprise called Trade Aid, which is in turn certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation. Trade Aid is also the only Fair Trade organisation to manufacture delicious fair trade organic chocolate, right here in Christchurch!

Another requirement to become a Fair Trade University is to run events which promote Fair Trade. Here at UC, these typically take place during Orientation Day, Eco Week and Fair Trade fortnight.

Get involved

To support Fair Trade and/or get involved:

  • Choose Fair Trade products. At UC cafes you can buy Fair Trade coffee, drinking chocolate and chocolate bars.
  • Take part in Fairtrade Fortnight, held every year. Contact if you have any ideas about hosting an event, or want to take part in one.
  • Volunteer at Orientation Day, Eco Week or Fair Trade Fortnight. Contact if you are interested.
  • If you are a student, you can also get involved by establishing a student Fair Trade club. Talk to the Sustainability Office and UCSA about how to do this.

More information about Fair Trade, the process of UC becoming a Fair Trade campus, and the UC Fair Trade Accreditation Steering Group can be found here.

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