Environmental and Sustainability
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Darwin College is working toward putting environmental issues at the heart of its strategic and operational decisions, and is already recognised as being one of the most green Cambridge Colleges.

An ambitious new piece of work has recently been adopted which will provide the framework for the coming years. Consultation is currently underway to plan the de-gasification of our estate, exploring different technological solutions to heating our properties and making them more energy-efficient. 

2021 saw the Master lead the inaugral Green Week with his presentation on Biodiversity run at the beginning of the Easter Term, uniting students and Fellows in discussions, presentations and inititaives across a range of subjects. 

The College Environmental and Sustainability statement reads:

“Darwin College takes responsibility for the environmental impact of its activities, and, to reflect our concern for sustainability and our relationship with the environment, has set out a number of principles which will guide our strategy and decision-making”:

  1. “To protect and enhance the natural environment by reducing our direct environmental impact”
  2. “To create a culture of awareness, and support the sharing of information to improve the personal and collective practises amongst Fellows, students and staff”
  3. “To operate a College which supports Green initiatives from its members”
  4. “To align ourselves with, or exceed where possible, recommended University best practises and comply fully with all environmental legislation.”

The College strives to encourage/facilitate the progress of environmental awareness amongst the student body and the current projects are currently running:

  • Student gardens: the area behind one of the student houses on the main college site is used for a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Bees: two beehives are located on one of the college islands and are managed by a team of student beekeepers under the watchful eye of a professional.
  • Recycling: numerous bins are located throughout the college in offices, student rooms and common rooms, including bins for hard to recycle items such as toothpaste and crisp packets
  • Composting of kitchen waste: composting caddies are placed in all student kitchens, and the College kitchens compost as much as possible.
  • Sustainable packaging / reducing plastics: all packaging used by the College catering services is eco friendly and recyclable; there are no single use plastic bottles with keep cups and RE.USE containers used as standard.
  • The catering department has removed ruminant meats from their servery menus and provide plant-based options at all occasions.

In the most recent ‘Green Impact’ awards Darwin was one of 7 Cambridge Colleges to achieve a Gold level for our efforts. The University’s environmental coordinator wrote: “It was great to meet some members of the team at Darwin College and see their enthusiasm for the work they have been doing. I was particularly impressed by some of the progress made in the catering department towards plant-based food and sustainably sourced local ingredients, as well as to read about the student garden. The steps taken towards increasing student engagement and awareness were also great to see - they demonstrated a great online network of information sharing with regular and effective communications as well as a board with some great information displayed. I look forward to seeing the progress that the college will continue to make and I hope that they are encouraged to see their hard work paying off”. A couple of things they highlighted as being particularly impressed by were our efforts on moving towards plant-based food and reducing unnecessary plastic packaging.

With its unique location on the river with two islands accessible by footbridge from the main garden, each Garden section has it own horticultural identity: for instance, we have the main lawn behind the main entrance and Dining Hall, two distinct islands, a rose garden, a woodland garden, a vicarage cottage garden, an orchard and a 'Jurassic park’. Planting reflects these topics and we strive to achieve a very high extent of biodiversity with a varied and prominent display of colours and shapes throughout the entire horticultural year.

Darwin benefits on a continuing basis from the expertise of its Master, the Fellowship and the wider Darwin community, such as from our Fellow Dr Emily Shuckburgh (Director of the University of Cambridge Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative and Reader in Environmental Data Science at the Department of Computer Science and Technology) and alumnus Prof. Ian Leslie (Director of University Information Services and Chair of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy Committee) who can help advise and guide our strategy and areas of impact.

Professor Sir David MacKay (Chief Scientist at the Department of Energy and Climate Change 2009-14, Regius Professor of Engineering; long-term Darwin Fellow) authored ‘Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air’ https://www.withouthotair.com/download.html  

We should lead this College community and follow in his footsteps.

Green Week
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Green Week 2021 was put together as a collaboration between Darwin Kitchens and the DCSA Green Society.

Both Ivan Higney (Darwin Catering Manager) and Meg Groom (DCSA Environmental and Ethical Affairs Officer) have worked on this initiative as part of the Green Impact awards run by the University Environment Team and the NUS. The aim was to raise awareness within the Darwin College Community of the great practises already in place, bring new and exciting projects to life, and engage in educational and interesting sustainable practices.

Highlights of the week included:

  • Launching the first ever RE.USE reusable takeaway box scheme at Darwin Kitchens
  • Curating the week's menu around produce local to the East of England
  • Talks on a range topics, including biodiversity and the challenges of electrifying the aviation industry, by students, staff and the college Master
  • Donating the week's profits from the Darwin student bar to the refugee charity, SolidariTee.

All of the online talks were recorded, including the college Master's talk on biodiversity which you can watch below.

The college has now committed to an annual Green Week and collaboration with the Student Association. We hope that Green Week was, and will continue to be, a spring board for Darwinians to help form and maintain our Green policies!"


Catering Sustainability
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Darwin College recognises its responsibility to provide healthy and sustainable food to our staff, students, and visitors. This statement sets out the College’s intentions to minimise the impact of its catering operations on the environment, and its approach to promote sustainable and ethical practices and consumption. Our latest Sustainable and ethical statement   was agreed in 2020 and sets out the following:

Summary of Aims 

  • Reduce ruminant meat  

  • Reduce the consumption of dairy products.   

  • Promote the consumption of more plant-based foods.   

  • Reduce food wastage.   

  • Source food and other products locally where possible.   

  • Ensure that products are traded fairly throughout the supply chain.  

  • Ensure that we provide fish from sustainable sources, limiting the impact on threatened stocks and through the environmental impacts of aquaculture.   

  • Reduce single use plastic and reduce the use of all plastic packaging.   

  • Continue to implement forward thinking sustainability best practice.   


  • Raise awareness of the benefits to the environment and individuals of the sustainable and ethical statement through communications, training and accreditation applications.   

  • Monitor performance against the statement aims, including setting sustainable food targets, and reporting regularly on performance against these.  

Engage for change
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Darwin College actively supports this engagement initiative run by students with support from the University (https://www.cambridgehub.org/activities/engage-for-change)

Recent campaigns involving Darwin students include RE.USE, a project to remove single-use food containers from the College, and Project Second Life, a scheme for departing students to gift practical belongings for incoming Freshers.

Journey to zero carbon
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In 2019, Darwin began to compile and analyse the data of its Scope 1 and Scope 2 ** carbon emissions.

In February 2020 the College Council created an Environmental Infrastructure Working Group to continue this work, and to report back to the College with a comprehensive analysis of the whole estate.

This report breaks down to a building-by-building level, the different challenges of removing carbon emissions generated by the use of gas to heat and provide hot water.

As we look to setting a target for zero carbon emissions on Scope 1 & 2, the College is working with other parts to the Collegiate University to innovate and collaborate on solutions that will form part of a schedule of works over the coming years


** The GHG Protocol categorizes direct and indirect emissions : Scope 1: All direct GHG emissions. Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from consumption of purchased electricity, heat or steam.

Green Impact Awards
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Darwin College has been participating in this annual scheme for a number of years and has received a Gold Award in 2020 and 2021.

Individual projects have been singled out for special recognition by the University - more can be found out here