Lancaster’s green fingers get the thumbs up

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GreengownscropThe Green environment initiative at Lancaster University celebrates a double success at the “It’s Your Neighbourhood” ceremony held by the Royal Horticultural Society in week 5. The Lancaster University grounds entry, which is in its third year, achieved the second highest Level “Thriving”. The second entry, The ‘Campus Eco-Hub’, developed for growing food sustainably, was acknowledged as “Establishing”.

SCAN asked Landscape Manager Ian Sturzaker what he thought of awards, who replied that “it is good for my staff to have recognition and accreditation for what we do and that we work to a national standard.”

“For the students who went to the award it is definitely good to be publically rewarded by the RHS. It is an ideal experience to put on your CV if you are interested in horticulture and the environment” added the Green Lancaster coordinator, Darren Axe.

The success resulted from cooperative work done by LUSU staff with volunteering students, Landscape and Grounds Maintenance, and local horticultural organization LESS (Local and Effective Sustainable Solutions). The judge’s highlights were the wildflower bank, welcoming arrivals at the western approach to the underpass, and the ornamental beds in front of the University House.

 

Sturzaker believed that the grounds were especially important to students, commenting that “it is important to make the students aware of the campus and the facilities it has got, but also about giving them a sense of ownership. If they are residents on campus, this is their home, they should get the chance to take care of it.”

The Eco-Hub has been a project that has come about following student demand and volunteer commitment. The judges were impressed by the 2 hectare site on campus being devoted to environmental education activities. Axe described the establishment as a “good combination of students’ desire and the NUS fund being placed”. A team represented by volunteer executives from 2011-12 developed the idea for a space on campus used for the Organic Garden and Chicken project. The voluntary team presented the case along with LUSU staff to Facilities Management in 2012. The project was agreed in early autumn 2012 and Green Lancaster commenced work on the new site at Brandrigg Barn soon after. This summer, the Eco-Hub gave the first successful crop of vegetables.

“Food and environment sustainability is definitely an issue that needs to be exposed” said Axe. “There is an argument that once you are at university, you are trying to save money. One of the goals of Eco Hub is to bring to at least some of the students affordable, yet healthy food instead of ready meals embodying carbons.”

Sturzaker went on to mention the commercial potential the Eco Hub has by provide fruit, vegetables and herbs for the catering facilities on campus. However, as a much more important aspect of the Eco Hub, he pointed out the “education of life skills” and that “the campaign is not just to get the students out to dig in the ground, but it is mainly to make them aware of the food and environment sustainability. Some people may not have been exposed to it, and they may not even know where their food comes from.”

The Eco-Hub was brought to reality by a larger food and sustainability project “Student Eats”, funded by NUS Student Green Fund. Over a hundred students have signed up already to participate in the weekly Wednesday sessions. LUSU was selected as one of around 25 Students’ Unions nationally to receive funding for food growing on their university’s campuses. The two-year funding covers the 2012-2014 academic period.

Further plans for the future include additional fruit orchards on the campus; installing college-based growing facilities and growing tubes outside catering venues. LUSU will also be running a series of exciting food themed events during the funded period, the first of which was the ‘Green Lancaster Goes Pumpkin Crazy’ event on 29th October 2013. These events will focus on local and seasonal food and will encourage students to ‘cut their food carbon’ through buying local and developing a passion for cooking with raw ingredients rather than ready meals.

“There will be an opportunity for the students to take part in wider-scale horticultural and food growing projects,” said Axe, adding that the experience is important for students as it an opportunity to “learn new skills and boost their job prospects.”

If students wish to get involved in the Green Lancaster initiative they can do that by signing to the LUSU volunteering online database at volunteering.lusu.co.uk/signup. If there are any problems with the online site, students are advised to simply call to the LUSU and ask for someone from Green Lancaster.

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