London Student Sustainability Conference 2024

London, a city bustling with energy and innovation, is once again at the forefront of a movement towards a more sustainable future. As the global climate crisis looms ever larger, the need for action has never been more urgent. In the heart of this vibrant metropolis, students from universities across the capital gather for the London Student Sustainability Conference 2024, a beacon of hope and catalyst for change. 

This year we had many University of Greenwich members participate in the conference in the form of presenting, steering, volunteering and attending. Look forward to a few blogs to give you the inside scoop of what the conference was like! 

Sustainable Tourism: Unveiling Challenges and Opportunities in The Gambia 

By Ousman Jawneh Jawara


My name is Ousman Jawneh Jawara, a third-year student pursuing a BA in Tourism Management. I was thrilled to be selected to present my project, “Tourism in Gambia: Challenges and Opportunities,” at the London Student Sustainability Conference hosted at Imperial College in London. This research topic has been a source of inspiration for me for over six years, shaping not only my academic journey but also my commitment to contributing to sustainable tourism development in my home country. 


The Gambia, nestled in the heart of Africa, boasts a rich tourism history, abundant natural resources, UNESCO heritage sites, stunning beaches, and a delightful climate. Despite its small size, tourism plays a significant role, contributing 20% to the national GDP and fostering overall develop

ment. However, this growth is not without challenges, including climate change, environmental degradation, economic leakage, and a lack of comprehensive tourism policies. 

Research Rationale: 

My project aims to delve into the reasons behind the frustration in tourism development in The Gambia despite its vast natural resources. Key questions include understanding the draw factors for tourists, the impact of tourism on households, and its contribution to the national economy. Additionally, the lack of academic research in this area motivates this study, aiming to bridge the existing gap in knowledge. 

Passion for Sustainable Tourism: 

What compelled me to present at LSSC24 is the deep-seated passion, love, and dedication I have for my country. I am committed to achieving sustainable tourism development through research and promoting responsible tourism that not only benefits the economy but also safeguards our planet and involves local communities. Representing my university at this level is an added honor and responsibility. 

Interest in Sustainability: 

My interest in sustainability is rooted in its role as a solution to preserve our planet and its biodiversity. With a professional focus on tourism management, I comprehend the negative impacts associated with tourism and value the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social, and environmental. Embracing sustainability aligns with the UN’s 2030 agenda of meeting present needs without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own. 

Collective Effort for a Sustainable Future: 

The mantra, “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” underscores the importance of collective efforts. I advocate for increased awareness through educational campaigns and the integration of sustainability in development policies, ensuring equal opportunities for future generations. 


I extend my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Fatemeh Mohamadi, my project supervisor, for her unwavering support throughout the presentation process. Special thanks to Andres Coca Stefaniak for inspiring me with his knowledge on sustainability, Samantha Chaperon, Lauren Siegel, Isabella Ye, and to all the dedicated lecturers from the Department of Tourism and Events. 

In sharing my research, I aspire to contribute to the discourse on sustainable tourism, fostering positive change in The Gambia and beyond. 

Embracing Sustainability and Student Leadership: My Journey as a Volunteer at LSSC24 

By Ishan Thakkar

Hello, I’m Ishan Thakkar, a dedicated student pursuing International Business at the University of Greenwich. With a fervent interest in sustainability and a deep appreciation for nature, I am always on the lookout for opportunities that allow me to make a positive impact. My journey as a volunteer at the London Student Sustainability Conference 2024 (LSSC24), hosted at Imperial College London, was a testament to my proactive approach and commitment to environmental stewardship. 

As I sit down to pen my thoughts on my recent volunteering experience at the LSSC24, I am filled with a sense of pride and fulfilment. This marks my second year of volunteering at this prestigious event, and with each passing year, my passion for sustainability and student leadership grows stronger. 

The decision to volunteer at LSSC24 was driven by a deep-seated belief in the importance of sustainability and a desire to actively contribute to its advancement. Having volunteered at last year’s conference, I was inspired by the impactful discussions, innovative ideas, and unwavering dedication of both presenters and participants towards creating a more sustainable future. It was this inspiring environment that motivated me to return for another year of volunteering. 

At LSSC24, I served as a volunteer, assisting presenters and organizers in ensuring the smooth execution of the event. From setting up venues to guiding attendees, every task was undertaken with enthusiasm and dedication. One of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering was the opportunity to engage with presenters and learn about their sustainability initiatives firsthand. Their passion and commitment to driving positive change left a lasting impression on me and reinforced my belief in the power of collective action. 

As the day progressed, I found myself immersed in thought-provoking discussions and insightful conversations during the networking event. Interacting with fellow participants from diverse backgrounds provided a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas, perspectives, and experiences related to sustainability. From discussing innovative solutions to pressing environmental challenges to forging new connections and collaborations, the networking event epitomized the spirit of collaboration and collective effort that defines the sustainability movement. 

Proudly student-led and organized by ten universities, LSSC24 showcased the collective efforts of students in addressing sustainability challenges. The commitment of the Student Delivery Group was evident in every aspect of the conference, infusing it with a student perspective and ensuring its success. 

Looking ahead, I am very much inspired by my experience at LSSC24. It has reaffirmed my commitment to sustainability and ignited a newfound determination to make a meaningful impact. Therefore, I am excited to announce that I will be working on my own sustainability initiative over the coming year. My goal is to develop a comprehensive project that addresses a pressing sustainability issue and showcase it at the upcoming LSSC25. I eagerly anticipate becoming one of the presenters as well. I am eager to contribute to the ongoing dialogue on sustainability and to inspire others to join me in taking action towards a more sustainable future. 

In conclusion, my experience as a volunteer at LSSC24 has been transformative. It has not only deepened my understanding of sustainability but has also empowered me to become a proactive agent of change. I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be part of such a meaningful event and am excited about the journey that lies ahead. With determination and passion, I am confident that together, we can create a more sustainable world for future generations. 

My experience in the Student Delivery Group at LSSC24 

By Michelle Kossowski

My name is Michelle Kossowski and I am a first-year international law student from Canada. I joined the university’s Sustainability team as a volunteer in September 2023. Ever since then, I have supported Clothes Swap events and was a member of the Student Delivery Group for the London Student Sustainability Conference 2024! I am drawn to the sector of sustainability because improving the environment has a direct effect on people’s quality of life. I believe sustainability is not just about improving the current quality of life, but ensuring it keeps to a high standard in the future. The issue of fast fashion interests me because I often see my peers making unsustainable fashion choices due to the rapidly changing trend cycle. I hope to educate others on the social and environmental impacts of unsustainable fashion. I am also intrigued in the intersection between sustainability and law because the law can be a mechanism to prevent environmental misconduct. I heard about the opportunity of joining the Student Delivery Group from the sustainability team at Greenwich. It was immediately a group I wanted to be a part of because I wanted to connect and network with like-minded individuals. I also was interested in this event because it highlighted the ambitious ideas of young people who truly believe teamwork will lead to a greener planet. My first meeting with the Student Delivery Group was electric, as we all had ideas about the event. It was a diverse and welcoming space to give and receive feedback. I settled as the conference’s Social Media Manager and my responsibilities were to create promotional content and content on the day. The opening ceremony of the conference was already filled with excitement and hope.

A highlight of the ceremony was a speech given by Dr. Omnia El Omrani, who is a Climate Change and Health Junior Policy Fellow at Imperial College London. She talked about her work in promoting a health-focused approach to sustainability across the world and how she presented youth efforts on climate and health at COP28 UAE. This set an inspirational tone for the day! Although I was running around the building with the student photographer getting the perfect shots for social media, I found the time to sit down for a presentation. I listened to Niso Khamraeva’s presentation, “Saving the Aral Sea,” which focused on a region of the world that was completely new to me, Karakalpakstan. She discussed the gender and climate impacts of the community’s diminishing water source and finished the speech with the insightful question: “If every specialist brought with them a bucket of water, would the sea be filled again?” After the presentation, I went to conduct short interviews with the workshop leaders. It was a comfortable atmosphere and the lecturers I spoke with were open about their experiences and motivations surrounding the LSSC24. Attending the LSSC24 was an enriching experience to learn more about sustainability from a student perspective and I intend to foster all the connections I made 

LSSC24: Creating opportunities for students to shine 

By Fariha ‘Faz’ Ahmed

Hi, I’m Faz Ahmed, Sustainability Projects Assistant at The University of Greenwich. I became a part of the UoG fabric around 5 months ago and one of the first tasks I got given was to be involved in the London Student Sustainability Conference 2024. Now, in all honesty I had never heard of this conference (which is shameful considering I just recently graduated in sustainability from a London university), so I turned up to the meetings with very little clue and first-day jitters. 

But what I found was an inspiring group of higher education professionals gung-ho in creating the best and most impactful experience for students interested in a topic near and dear; sustainability.  

Steering group leader, Arthur Shearlaw, spear-headed the event to what it is, ensuring everyone was on the same page, and doing a lot of the less than exciting work; the dreaded admin. I was lucky to have UoG Sustainability Manager, David Jackson to hold my hand through the process and make me aware of the ins and outs. Apart from these shout-outs it was just wonderful to meet such an eclectic group of varied people ranging from lecturers, sustainability professionals and people new to higher education, just like me, who were truly enthused to share their knowledge and experiences in sustainability. 

Now, when it comes the actual event, I made the rather rash decision to manage the student volunteers who so kindly gave up their time to make the event what it was. If I’m being honest, the role did make me want to scream at times, especially when I was running around like a headless chicken on the day. However, the screams quickly turned into smiles once I met such a broad range of young, passionate students with real interest in contributing to how our world is shaped.  

The experience was incredible, and I’ll leave it at that. 

Welcoming our new Sustainability Projects Assistant…

Hi, I’m Alex and I’m excited to be joining the sustainability team for a year as the new Sustainability Projects Assistant!

Alex enjoying the views of the fjords in Norway

Alex enjoying the views of the fjords in Norway

I’ve got a background in Physical Geography, so I am a geek in anything from climate change to natural hazards to glaciers. For the past year I’ve been doing an MA with Forum for the Future in ‘Leadership for Sustainable Development’.

forum for the future

My masters course has allowed me to sample sustainability in a range of organisations, from a charity to a local authority, from Bank of America to a multi-national company. It also allowed me to look at the idea of ‘systems change’, for example, how can we cause change for sustainability in the complex food system, or the energy system? I’m looking forward to putting my learning into practice at Greenwich.

I’ll be looking after the Sustainability Management System and helping Emily out with other sustainability projects. These projects include Green Impact and the Carbon Management Plan, and I’ll also be helping with sustainability events such as the Green Week. Green Impact is a behaviour change project where teams are rewarded for their efforts, so get in contact with the sustainability team if you would like to know more! I’m especially looking forward to getting to know the sustainability champions and spotting new opportunities for sustainability at Greenwich.

Greenwich is a leader in Sustainability within Higher Education, coming 6th this year in the People & Planet’s ‘Green League’, and this is what made me so attracted to working here. So far everyone has been friendly and welcoming and I’m very impressed with the garden!

As I settle in, you may see me wandering round the campuses so I hope to meet as many staff and students as possible on my travels. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at, or if you have any questions about Sustainability at the University of Greenwich then email

John's Farewell…..

Today I will be leaving the University of Greenwich and heading to the University of London to become the Environmental Manager there. It has been nearly three years now since I joined the brand new Sustainability Team and so much has happened in that relatively short period of time. It has been quite a time and there have been so many lessons learnt along the way!

University of London

Senate House at the University of London - How does it measure up to the Royal Naval College?

When I started here three years ago the University was just at the start of its sustainability journey, with a new Sustainability Policy and only the first rumblings of any major action taking place as so far as implementation. As I quickly discovered sustainability at a university is like being thrown in the deep-end, realsising that there is in fact only a deep end and then a wave machine! Thankfully though we learnt to swim, then surf and then enjoy the ride as well.

Now we have groups overseeing a whole host of different sustainability projects and initiatives including carbon management, sustainable food and Fairtrade, biodiversity and food growing on campus. On top of this we have a fantastic group of staff sustainability champions that have made the job of communicating and engaging the university with sustainability so much easier and a fantastic team who have taken on implementing the carbon management plan and achieving real savings.

As I leave Greenwich I am sure that I am leaving a university that has sustainability at the heart and will continue to push forward in the sector. It has been a joy to work with the staff and students here and great to see how far we’ve come and how enthusiastic so many have been in taking elements of sustainability into their work and studies. I shall be keeping a keen eye on Greenwich’s progress over the years and will certainly be back at some point to reap the harvest from the community garden and orchard we have planted!

A huge thank you to everyone I have worked with in my time here!

Community Garden Harvest

I'll be back around harvest time!

P.S. for anyone coming into this or a similar role who needs a head start in how to win the hearts and minds of their organisation, have a look at Sell the Sizzle by Futerra. I read it very soon after starting at Greenwich and it has remained relevant, useful and inspirational for the entire time I have spent here.

Forest Garden Plans

As the cold weather persists across London we are waiting for the sun and warmth before we get planting in the community garden again. Volunteers, members of the Sustainability Team and James Hallybone from Roundfield have been discussing what to do for when the springtime arrives.

With the addition of a polytunnel to the site late last year the growing season has been significantly extended for us, on top of this we can look forward to starting to plant some varieties that we would have previously been unable to in the local climate and get much better yield from plant like tomatoes and cucumbers that appreciate a little bit of extra warmth.

As we look to the start of 2013 though the first major project we will undertake is the planting of a ‘forest garden.’ Forest gardening is a method adapted from tropical regions in the 1960s for temperate climates whereby the garden is planted to mimic the ecosystem of a forest. The idea is that it creates a low-maintenance garden with yields of fruit, herbs, vegetables and nuts that can be harvested throughout the year.

Here we have the first designs created by Roundfield for the forest garden:

Forest garden Plans

The Forest Garden Plans at Avery Hill

Forest Garden Key

Forest Garden Key

Sustainability at Greenwich in 2012

As work gets under way in 2013 we take a moment to look back on 2012 and see what the University of Greenwich has achieved in the last 12 months by looking back at some of the highlights of the year. So in chronological order:

Green Week & Fairtrade Fortnight

Avery Hill Green Week fayre

The Dome at Avery Hill plays host to Green Week

February and March was action packed with Green Week and Fairtrade Fortnight giving everyone at the university a chance to find out more about sustainability and how they can get more involved at home and at the university.

ISO14001 Accreditation

In March our sustainability management system was accredited with the ISO14001 international standard. This was a huge achievement for a lot of staff working in the Facilities Management department and recognition for work that had been ongoing for a couple of years.

Community Garden


Harvest from the Community Garden

In April we started work on the community garden at the Avery Hill Campus. It has been a tremendous first year and the garden is now well and truly starting to take shape with a polytunnel, shed, rainwater harvesting and a harvest of fruit and veg with the biggest parsnips and pumpkins I have ever seen. A huge amount of help has come from the volunteers and with a forest garden planting session planned for early this year it is going to continue to grow and flourish.

Emily Joins the Sustainability Team

In April last year we were blessed with a new team member as Emily Crockford (now Mason) joined us from the University of Kent. Emily has been a great asset to the team working really hard to get the Carbon Culture tool up and running and has been instrumental in the development of the community garden.

1st in the People & Planet Green League

The 28th May was a proud day for the University of Greenwich as we topped the People and Planet Green League for 2012. This was a reflection on the hard work that has been taking place across the university for a number of years and continued progress on sustainability projects across campus. We were absolutely delighted with the result especially considering that we were positioned 103rd in the same league table just three years ago!

Sustainability Awards

We celebrated the end of the academic year with our annual sustainability awards. A brilliant year for sustainability at the university capped with an enormous effort from our sustainability champions who tripled the number of Green Impact tasks completed to over 1500 and 8 departments ended up receiving the Gold Award whereas only one managed this the previous year.

The Meridian Envirobin

Meridian Envirobin

Meridian Envirobin

A partnership between the University of Greenwich and Leafield Environmental resulted in the Meridian Envirobin. A brand new concept for recycling by designing a bin to encourage the end users to recycle more and throw less into the not-recyclable waste stream. The bin has now been installed at the Avery Hill and Medway Campuses and although we are still waiting for the official figures from our waste contractor we are noticing a rise in the recycling rates on those two campuses.

Carbon Savings

A lot of work going on across the university is starting to pay off as the University’s carbon emissions have begun to fall. The introduction of the Carbon Culture Tool is a particularly exciting development and one that will hopefully lead to further savings in 2013 but the stars of the show our the photovoltaic solar panels on the Avery Hill Campus which exceeded expectations and generated 46,796 kWh in their first 12 months bringing the payback period under 10 years.

Green Impact Launch 2012-13

This week saw the launch of the Green Impact project for the third consecutive year. Staff Sustainability Champions and interested students gathered at the Greenwich Campus to hear from the Vice Chancellor David Maguire and his vision for sustainability at the University and to learn more about what is in store for sustainability at the University over the coming months. Over the last two years the sustainability champions have produced some brilliant results using Green Impact as tool for embedding sustainability at a departmental level. In the first year the project ran the champions managed to undertake 561 positive sustainability actions, last year it was over 1500, it will be quite a challenge to continue that momentum but the enthusiasm in the room was palpable as we relaunched the project for this academic year!

Green Impact

Green Impact

The champions were introduced to the new Green Impact workbook, received an update from the Sustainability Team and collaborated to create behaviour change programmes using a specific planning model created by Action for Sustainability. With several new staff members joining the staff sustainability champions network this year John ran an induction session to kick off the days events before being joined by the returning champions and Sophia Perkins from the NUS for a general update on Sustainability.

At lunch everyone had the chance to quiz our new caterers Baxter Storey on their sustainability credentials and find out about how the food served at the University is sourced by their suppliers. M&J Seafood brought along a selection of fish that would be finding their way on to the University menu the following day including salmon, gurnard and sole. They gave us tips on how to tell how fresh a fish was, and told us about their sourcing, fishing and farming methods designed to ensure the long term sustainability, not only of the fish they sell but of their business as well. We were joined by Chegworth Valley, who had a wide range of different juices for us to try including, apple & beetroot, apple & elder flower and pear. The high quality of the juice was evident from the tasting session and the representative from Chegworth Valley explained to the group about the different varieties of apples they grow and the process that converts their fruit to the juice that ends up in the glasses of University of Greenwich staff and students.

Baxter Storey's Offering

Baxter Storey's tasty offering for Monday's event

Professor David Maguire, the University of Greenwich Vice Chancellor joined the staff champions after lunch to reiterate the university’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, sustainability in general and offer his support to the champions in the work that they are undertaking. Following David’s visit we got stuck into the workshops. The sustainability champions mentioned positive changes that they would like to see made across their department so the first workshop tasked the champions with developing behaviour change campaign plans for implementing the positive changes. The results were quite impressive and showed a pragmatic path for engaging staff, students, improving heating, encouraging staff and students to switch off and for making the transformation to paperless offices.

Play Your Carbon Cards Right

The Sustainability Champions were delighted by the nation's favourite game show host!

Following the behaviour change workshop the sustainability champions were treated to Bruce Forsyth’s latest game show, ‘Play Your Carbon Cards Right’ where they guessed which university buildings were producing the highest carbon output compared over the first two weeks of October this year. The game show was designed to get everyone in the mood for testing the new Carbon Culture software that the University has invested in. The software allows anyone to monitor the carbon emissions, energy use and financial costs associated with powering the University’s buildings. The champions will be using the software this year to demonstrate carbon savings to their colleagues and students within their department and will be setting themselves some targets for carbon reduction as the year progresses.

Carbon Culture

University of Greenwich Bees

This week we are given an update from the various bee hives we have across the  University of Greenwich. Since getting hives at Southwood House on the Avery Hill Campus (looked after by John & Christine Hird) a couple of years ago we have added further hives at Avery Hill, managed by local beekeeper Colin Edwards, hives at Greenwich looked after by Camilla Goddard of Capital Bee and now the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) have installed some hives at Medway too. We here how some of our bees have been getting on this year, starting with the ones at Medway where Jeremy Cooper explains how their first season has gone:

‘After arriving as flat packs, the three bee hives were assembled and installed on the Medway Campus in June, which was later than ideal, but season started slowly and the colonies of bees arrived later than expected. The bees have been busy since then, operating from their hives situated between Hawke and Grenville buildings.

This month saw our first harvest of 37 jars of lovely clear honey, which were distributed to members of the beekeeping group and some NRI managers.

NRI Beekepers group inspecting their hives

NRI Beekepers group inspecting their hives

Since June, we have been learning as we go about bee husbandry. By a happy coincidence, a local bee expert was on the campus when we were making one of our first hive inspections and he (known locally as John the bee man) has been very helpful in training and advising the group of volunteers. All 20 group members have now had the chance to handle frames which are full of bees, and to learn how to tell the queen from workers and drones.

Several people in the group took photographs of bees on flowers, and some have been used on labels for our first harvest. This picture, taken by Mark Parnell’s wife Sue, is one of eight that featured on the labels this first season.

NRI honey bee

NRI honey bee

For the rest of the year there are several jobs to be done, including treating the hives against the deadly mite Varroa, that has been one of the factors to have reduced bee populations in recent years. Other factors as less straightforward, and if we can get the support, members of NRI may do some research in future years to find out more about how to safeguard these important pollinators. In the meantime we are marveling at the way the bees operate (and enjoying the honey!)’

John & Christine let us know how our original hives at Southwood House have fared this year, ‘We extracted [honey] at the end of July, it wasn’t a brilliant yield but better that 2011. As you may have read in the press the weather hasn’t been very kind to bees this year. After extraction it was time for putting the varroa treatment into practice, which takes four weeks.  Varroa is a parasite we cant eradicate but hopefully can keep under control.

After the treatment was complete we then start to feed, we feed the bees as we need to make sure they have enough stores to overwinter.  We feed a solution of white cane sugar mixed with warm water so it dissolves and the bees can then store it.

So now we are up to date, we have been down to see the bees and have hefted (lifted to feel the weight) the hives which seem fine for stores. Within the next few weeks we will put the mouse guards on the entrance and a protective cover round each hive to prevent woodpecker damage.’ In total we have received 60 jars of honey from the bees at Southwood house and still have a few leftover – get in contact with if you fancying buying a jar.

John & Christine looking for the Queen earlier this year

John & Christine looking for the Queen bee earlier this year

Colin Edwards, another local beekeeper also keeps hives at the Avery Hill Campus, ‘The Avery hill bees, having had a rough start this season due to weather conditions, the spring crop of honey was zero.  However, after introducing a few new queens Italian and Buckfast, and a few of my own,  all the colonies have built up well, but the second crop was very low due to lack of nectar flow. All the bees are now feeding well and looking promising for the winter season spent on the meadow,  so we are hopefully looking forward to a better honey crop next year!

Lastly I would just like to thank the staff of the Avery hill campus  for all the help and support throughout the year.’

Avery Hill Meadow Beehive

Avery Hill meadow beehive with woodpecker protection

Camilla Goddard’s bees at the Greenwich Campus were removed on the request of LOCOG and they spent a few months on holiday in London Fields in Hackney and Covent Garden in central London. They are being moved back into the hives as we speak and will be looking forward to being back in Greenwich!

Organic Cocoa Farming in Bahia

As regular readers will know,  Serena who is one of our students who helps lead the community garden project made the most of her summer learning more about permaculture and sustainable agriculture and writes about the second part of her summer experience before returning to study for the 2nd year of her part time MSc in Sustainable Environmental Management with the Natural Resources Institute here at the university.  Over to you Serena… 

During the month of September I have been travelling through the region of Bahia in Brazil and worked as a wwoofer in the organic farm Fazienda Santa Tereza, located in the Mata Atlantica jungle, between Itacaré and Serra Grande, southern Bahian coast. This region is widely known for the production of cacao – which is specifically the reason why I chose to wwoof  here! 

Fazienda Santa Tereza

Cocoa beans are considered “super food” because they contain many beneficial nutrients known for promoting healthy mood and positive mental state such as serotonin, dopamine and phenylethylamine; they are also one of the richest natural sources of antioxidants. Ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations highly valued cocoa beans as a source of energy and used them as money. 

Fazenda Santa Tereza is a 34 hectare property where agroforestry and permaculture principles are practiced; alongside cocoa, many other products are successfully grown: such as acai, citrus, mango, bananas, pineapple, coconut, vanilla, cupuaçu (a fruit related to cacao) and also seringueira (the tree rubber comes from) together with other local fruits such as jenipapo. The owner of the farm, Mathieu, is also allowing some parts of the property to return to native Mata Atlantica. 

pineapple plant

ripening mango

The cocoa tree is not an easy plant to grow, indeed it requires precise climatic conditions and it will grow only in a very warm, moist, shady environment, being also very susceptible to pests and disease; in addition, a tree must be five or six years old before it will bear fruit. 

ripening cocoa fruit - not ready!

cocoa tree bearing fruit

Cocoa beans are the seeds of a yellow, rugby ball-shaped fruit that sprouts directly from the trunk of the cacao tree. Pods don’t all ripen at the same time and must be removed individually by hand, using machetes or large knives, taking care not to hurt nearby buds. 

harvesting cocoa pods

opening the fruit

Once opened, the pod contains about 40 cocoa beans covered in a sticky, white, delicious sweet lemony flavour pulp – while the actual bean is bitter and hard to eat. Beans are scooped out to be fermented and dried, this process takes from two to eight days. 

cocoa beans inside the pod

cocoa beans left to dry

Fazienda Santa Tereza produces delicious handmade dark chocolate and one day I happily volunteered to make some: first we warmed up the cocoa beans on the stove to remove the skin 

removing the skin - great smell!

We left the beans to warm up in the sun and reach a proper temperature and become soft: 

cocoa beans, warming up!

Cocoa beans were then ground to achieve a nice powdery consistence 

grinding cocoa beans!

…a little bit of sugar and honey are added and mixed using this very sophisticated piece of modern technology (heavy work!!!), banging for about 45 minutes: 

working the chocolate

until a very fine and smooth – almost liquid! – texture was achieved and the (very!) dark chocolate was ready … shiny and delicious! 

job done! yummy!

One of the main tasks at the Fazienda was the creation a suitable micro-environment around the trunks of the one-year-old cocoa trees which Mathieu had transplanted about a month ago. First we got rid of the weeds around the trunk using a hoe (also to break up soil compaction) whilst being careful not to damage the roots. 

clearing the weeds (hard work!!)

The soil here has a high content of clay and is therefore very hard to work with, which is the reason why it is important to add large quantities of organic matter– in this case pot ash and leaf mold. 

After weeding, we placed some old logs around the base of the tree: in fact there is plenty of spare old wood whitin the Fazienda’s forest! Wood will slowly rot down with the help of beneficial fungus, bacteria and micro organisms, which will break down and release the nutrients into the soil – carbon in particular – also offering ground cover, preventing nutrients from being washed away, and shelter to beneficial animals. 

frog - perfectly camouflaged

some useful wildlife, having a feast!

a millepede - loving rotten wood

Around and in between the logs we sowed few leguminose beans seeds: they will fix nitrogen with the action of the bacteria living in their roots and function as green manure/living mulch. On top of the logs, we placed large amounts of hay, which will help retain both moisture and temperature while also suppressing weeds and protecting the soil structure. 

placing the logs around cocoa trees

job done: final touch of mulch - hay

..some other common wildlife hanging around in the jungle..

With the help of a GPS, one day we carried out a survey to establish the presence of native vanilla within the property of the Fazienda – this census will eventually lead to the creation of a database of organic vanilla plants in this area of Bahia; each species of vanilla was identified and measured. 

vanilla census!

The vanilla plant is a tropical vine, which can reach over one hundred feet; it belongs to the orchid family but it is the only one that produces an agriculturally valuable crop. 

the vanilla vine

Unfortunately almost 90% of the vanilla flavour we find in our food today has been created by the addition of ingredients containing synthetic vanillin. 

dried vanilla pods

During my experience as a wwoofer I also had the chance to visit Comunitade Campina, an ecovillage located in the beautiful settings of Vale do Capao, Chapada Diamantina. Since 1998 the people from the community successfully practice principles of permaculture and forest gardening. 

the mandala garden

Cassava is a major staple food

the wormery - nice home for the earthworms!

the seed bank - to exchange seeds!

and a very sustainable juice maker!

Freshers Fairs at the University of Greenwich

Last week saw the University of Greenwich welcome thousands of new students to the university, and of course the Sustainability Team was on hand to say hello. At the Avery Hill and Greenwich campuses freshers were treated to a festival atmosphere, with music, food and stands from various different university partners, student services, charities and university departments. The Sustainability Team were there with a wide range of opportunities for new students to get involved with and a lot of information for the students that were interested in how their university had tackled the issues of sustainability.

Avery Hill Fresher's Fair

The Sustainability Stand at the Avery Hill Fresher's Fair

One of the biggest draws to our stand was the display of fruit and vegetables that had been harvested from our community garden that morning – particular the enormous pumpkins that shadowed the pile of lollipops on the next door stand! Students signed up to the sustainability team mailing list to find out news and information from the team, opportunities for getting involved with the garden, volunteering and work placements where they can skill themselves up for life after university.


Our pumpkins!

There was a particularly large focus of interest from the students on a few new opportunities we have available this year. There is the ‘Halls Champions’ project where students will be able to sign up their flat to compete in a green league table and try to be the ‘greenest’ by completing tasks to reduce their negative environmental impact and encourage positive behavior. The project is based on the same model as the Green Impact project whereby staff encourage and promote sustainability at a local level and work through tasks in a workbook. Similarly students will go through the workbook and implement positive environmental change in their flats, this is aimed to increase energy efficiency, recycling rates and engage the residents with sustainability in a fun and exciting way! The rewards will be plenty, not only will the students be able to save money on their energy bills but they will also get the chance to win prizes and get to attend events and workshops with their peers.

Emily Promoting the Virtues of the Sustainability Team at Greenwich

Emily promoting the virtues of the Sustainability Team at Greenwich

There were plenty more placements on offer as well – students can apply for internships such as the ‘Fairtrade Intern’, ‘Crowd Sourcing Intern’ or ‘Green Impact Project Assistant.’ The full list of opportunities is available at this link:

All the students that signed up at the Freshers Fairs will have their names entered into a hat, the first names to be drawn will win a jar of campus honey and a bottle of fine sparkling English wine. A prize certainly not to be sniffed at and will provide the winner with a little taste of some fine local produce!

Carbon Saving at the NRI Glasshouse and Insectary

Today Charles Whitfield from the Natural Resources Institute tells us about how they are contributing to carbon saving at the University of Greenwich through upgrading and updating the glasshouses and insectary:

Progress on the Glasshouses

Progress on the Glasshouses

Over the last few months the NRI and Facilities Management in conjunction with the University of Greenwich Sustainability Team have made some huge improvements towards reducing energy consumption in our glasshouses and insectaries. The glasshouses were installed over 20 years ago. Although they were built to a very high specification and have lasted well, they have been due for an upgrade for quite some time. The recent refurbishment project has involved:

  • Replacing the old 3mm glass panes with tri-walled, high insulating, polycarbonate sheets (24 – 40 % reduction in heating cost). (For the heating geeks, 3mm glass has a U-value of 5.9 and the new polycarb had a value of 3).
  • Installing new doors with better insulation and seals.
  • Adding light sensors to the hi-lux sodium lamps so that can come on automatically if natural light is too low.
  • Removing the FCU heaters from the ceiling which will vastly reduce heat wastage via open ceiling vents as well as allow more natural light into the compartments.
  • Upgrading the control systems to link the heating and cooling systems so that they work together (rather than individually as before).
  • And finally, preventing the disruption of research and saving precious time and energy, we have replaced all the insect screens to reduce incidences of pest outbreaks in the compartments.
  • Improving online BMS access for the glasshouses so they can be monitored and controlled remotely by NRI technicians

At the same time we have also installed new hoses and water guns to reduce water wastage, and work will soon start on repairing and repainting the floors. In addition, the cleaners spent several sweltering days scrubbing 20 years of limescale from the internal glass partitions.

Cleaners working hard at making the glass see through!

Cleaners working hard at making the glass see through

Energy consumption in the insectaries has been reduced by a number of upgrades to the control systems and ceiling lights. We now have the ability to ‘shut down’ rooms that are not in use. Energy efficient fluorescent lighting has been installed in rooms that originally only had high energy lighting. This allows us to switch over to the energy efficient lighting if the room is not currently being used to grow plants. Not only does this reduce energy consumption by the lights but also reduces the amount of cooling required in the roof space (the high energy lights produce a huge amount of heat). Manual light switches have been added to all the CT rooms in the insectary as well as the EAG room, and post room (so the lights no longer need to be left on all the time).

The finished glasshouses

The finished glasshouses

Overall, these improvements should provide a substantial reduction in energy consumption by the NRI facilities and give users more control of their workspace.