One year on: Is St Andrews any greener?


Green Week continued on Tuesday 28 March as Transition St Andrews met in an informal forum to discuss the results of the last year’s efforts. Last June, the Transition St Andrews initiative was launched when the Scottish Government awarded the University of St Andrews £90,000 in recognition of their innovative ideas to tackle climate change at a local level. At the start of the project the aims were to ‘save over 400 tonnes of carbon emissions over a twelve month period’. Eight months on, and mindful of the fact that the funds are about to run out, around thirty Transition staff and volunteers met to discuss the success of the project and with an eye to the future, to consider its legacy.

Transition claims that ‘through working on practical projects with different community groups, the initiative helps communities minimise their impact on the planet and become more self-sustaining, while it also strengthens community ties’. Jamie Peters, the project coordinator for Transition, kicked off the forum by reflecting on the success of the initiatives. He praised the efforts of both students and staff for their involvement in Carbon Conversations which aims to involve ‘group activities, knowledge-building, idea-sharing and reflections, where participants will have the opportunity to explore climate change both practically and emotionally’. The past eight months have seen around seventy Carbon Conservationists sign up with hopes of recruiting around thirty more before the year has elapsed.

Peters, who was awarded Best Green Campaigner at The Scottish Green Awards last October, went on to discuss the achievements of the Inter-hall energy competition, an initiative aimed at drawing on the competitive spirit of St Andrews students. In the past, halls have reduced their energy by up to 33% by adopting energy efficient behaviours and Peters commended students’ efforts which have reduced carbon emissions by eight tonnes. He went on to honour the work of his colleague, Rebecca Petford, for her festive project, Scottish Christmas Experience. The initiative’s objective was to entice overseas students – with a selection of Scottish themed festive event – to stay in St Andrews over the Christmas period to decrease their carbon impact. Peters went on to mention St Andre-use, an initiative which involves exchanging functional items no longer needed: the project has helped save money as well reducing waste from landfill.

Peters also lauded Part-time carnivore, another scheme initiated by the Transition team. The project encourages ‘vegetarian days’ which help prevent the destruction of large areas of the South American rainforest which would be used as monoculture soy farms for animals to graze. Peters ended by honouring the committed work of the Transition volunteers, especially evident in the success of the St Andrews Community Gardens, the Waste Programme and the growing popularity of goCarShare.

The baton was passed to the Principal, Louise Richardson, who reiterated Peters’ praise for the committed volunteers. She suggested that the altered semester dates for the academic year beginning in 2012 should help reduce the university’s carbon footprint. By bringing to an end the inter-semester break and introducing an extended Christmas vacation, overseas students will be unable to fly home twice. She went on to express her expectations that St Andrews is a carbon neutral university by the year 2016, as well as lauding the changes already made to the university, including the new lighting and heating system in the physics building which will reduce CO2 by 8000 tonnes.

Rebecca Petford continued the forum by encouraging those present to consider schemes for the future. Mindful that the original sum of money is all but used up and the Transition team are yet to discover whether they will receive more funding, she encouraged cost-efficient methods of creating a green and environmentally friendly St Andrews, including the expansion of Community Gardens.

Patrick O’Hare provided the perspective of the Students’ Association. He described how ‘grassroots societies, like OneWorld had made a big difference’, adding, ‘there’s an unquantifiable value to what’s been done here. It will sink into a lot of people’s minds and will shape their future behaviour’. He concluded his speech with a note of caution about Donald Trump’s attempts to thwart the Kenly Wind Farm, affirming, ‘This planet has enemies’. He encouraged the volunteers to attend Thursday’s debate at the Town Hall, ‘Is wind the answer?’, which will seek to discuss the issue.

Despite O’Hare’s praise for Transition’s efforts, the success of the last eight months is open to debate. According to Jamie Peters, not even half of the original aim of a reduction of 400 tonnes of carbon emissions has been achieved and he was not hopeful that Transition would see a ‘drastic improvement’ before the end of the year. However, Rebecca Petford argued that ‘With an application bid you’re not quite sure what will happen in reality. If we had just cut a lot of carbon immediately, that wouldn’t necessarily be behavioural change that lasted’. Joshua Msika, a Transition volunteer, joined Petford in her praise for the project’s work. ‘It started from nothing. Transition’s pulled together a lot of projects and a lot of people all working for the same aims’.


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