From grassroots actions to global leadership, Darwin aims to enable, educate and celebrate outstanding people and ideas. This year the achievements and efforts of College members in seeking sustainability solutions have been widely recognised.

In 2023, Darwin College’s May Ball achieved its highest ever Sustain-a-Ball accreditation, with the top Platinum award across all the University May balls. 

Our students’ efforts to support sustainable initiatives have been recognised through the Vice Chancellor’s Social Impact Awards.

Green Impact

Green Impact is the University’s environmental accreditation scheme. In recent years, Darwin has received the following awards:

  • Platinum
  • Sustainability Hero – Darwin Catering Manager
  • Community Action – Project Second Life and the Community Fridge
  • Student Leadership, National (SOS-UK)



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Student initiatives

The College aims to foster individual and collective action for the benefit of the planet, much of which is driven by students. As a postgraduate community, many members arrive at Darwin with outstanding ideas and leadership capabilities from their own careers, subjects and backgrounds. Over the years, students have tackled issues related to food waste, energy and biodiversity, often with significant success.

Sustainable May Balls

The Darwin May Ball was accredited as the most sustainable University of Cambridge May Ball of 2023. As well as being the first 100% plant-based Cambridge May ball, the student committee prioritised energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and responsible waste management.

Engage for Change

Engage for Change is an initiative run by Cambridge Hub, to support students to enhance their skills, confidence and awareness of environmental sustainability and change-making. Past projects by Darwin students include:

  • investigating automation of wildlife camera footage analysis
  • analysing the Cambridge Colleges Environmental Sustainability Report (2023) and providing recommendations.

Project Second Life

Project Second Life (PSL) is an award winning, student-led reuse scheme, collecting belongings of departing Darwinians and offering them to new members.

In its third full cycle, PSL extended to bike resale and a linen and bedding welcome stall. Fourteen bikes from the annual bike cull were professionally repaired and offered to students on a pay-what-you-feel basis. In 2023, new students were greeted with a choice of good quality duvets, towels, pillows and linens upon arrival.

PSL is driven by students, with the support of College staff. Nineteen student volunteers promoted, collected, sorted, packed, weighed and displayed all 850kg of donated goods. Their efforts culminated in raising £1,100 and recirculating 430kg within the Darwin community, including 14 repaired bikes. Leftover items, which are in good condition, have been donated to local charities like It Takes A City.


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Communicating with the College membership is a crucial aspect of maintaining strong relationships, inviting participation and keeping the community informed. The College continues to celebrate the achievements of its membership through news pieces, social media, and its alumni magazine, The Darwinian.

Seasonally Darwinian

In May 2023, a new monthly feature called Seasonally Darwinian was launched. Curated by Communications Manager Laura Kenworthy it features regular updates from College gardener Derrienne Bell, and seasonal recipes from Catering Manager Ivan Higney. The feature informs members of the seasonal changes happening in College, from plants to menus, while promoting best practices for members to carry out in their own gardens and cooking.

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Responsible waste management

The College has a responsibility for the waste it produces, but also for the behaviour of its members. We aim to promote best practices, such as waste reduction and responsible waste disposal. The College Catering Department has been a leader within the College, having segregated food, recyclable and non-recyclable waste for several years, well as taking the decision to remove single-use takeaway cups and containers and promote the use of reusable ones. Efforts have also been concentrated on behaviours within College accommodation, which members can continue to practise as they move beyond Cambridge.

Student accommodation

The Housekeeping Team ensure student kitchens have up-to-date and clear guidance on best practice when living within College, this includes:

  • kitchen recycling bins
  • opt-in kitchen food waste
  • bespoke bedroom recycling bags.



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In February 2023, Darwin launched a sustainable travel grant for students. The grant funds the difference between a short-haul flight for academic purposes and a more sustainable travel option. 

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