Environment Group

Coordinator: Elizabeth May
Contact: environmentu3ac@gmail.com

In 2012, U3AC made a formal commitment to manage its environmental impacts, and in 2013 it formed an Environment Group to help with this. The Environment Group reports to the main Council and is responsible for promoting environmental awareness practice throughout the organisation.

The Group holds meetings and seminars throughout the year.

If you would like to know more, or join the Group, contact Elizabeth May on environmentu3ac@gmail.com, or the Office.

Reports of previous workshops and seminars

Repair Cafés

Repair Cafés are community events that match people who need stuff fixed with people who like fixing things. They are completely non-commercial. There are no promises and no guarantees, but if something can be saved the repairers will give it their best efforts, and show you how to do the repair.

There is no charge but donations are gratefully received and help pay for costs such as room rental. You’ll find a friendly café at each event, serving hot drinks and delicious homemade cakes.

Your nearest Repair Café is listed on the Circular Cambridge website, where you can also book an appointment.


Useful resources


Greta Thunberg: No one is too small to make a difference. Penguin 2019.
Extinction Rebellion: This is not a drill. A climate and Ecological Emergency Handbook. Penguin 2019.
Edward Platt: The Great Flood: Travels Through a Sodden Landscape. Picador 2019.
Tom Almeroth-Williams: Building a flood resilient Future (article on Cambridge University website).
Edward Barsley: Retrofitting for Flood Resilience: A guide to Building a community Design. RIBA (2020).
Free download book on energy and food etc.

Carolyn Steel: Sitopia: How food can save the world. Penguin Books, 2020.

​”Whether it’s the daily decision of what to eat, or the monopoly of industrial food production, food touches every part of our world. But by forgetting its value, we have drifted into a way of life that threatens our planet and ourselves.”


Dark Waters (2019), an American legal thriller directed by Todd Haynes and written by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan. A corporate defence attorney takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.

‘Dupont’s stock dropped when this film was released. I never knew about this deception until I saw this biopic …’ [IMDb]

U3AC takes no responsibility for the content of any external sources cited.

Book Reviews

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by Bill Gates.

Reviewed by U3AC Sustainable Books Group.


Bill Gates How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (Allen Lane, 2021)

ISBN-10: 0241448301; ISBN-13: 978-0241448304

Written by the well-known technologist, business leader and billionaire philanthropist , this is a very readable book covering the major questions of how best to reduce CO2 emissions from the current 51 billion tonnes per annum to net zero. Gates suggests a range of technological innovations while not neglecting actions which individuals can do in their daily lives to reduce the problem. The chapters are illustrated with statistical examples from the USA but the issues are as relevant to the UK as elsewhere.

(SP April 2021)

Potato starch wrappers

Following the Plastics seminar organised by the Environment Group in April 2019 we have been researching the use of potato starch wrappers.

Increasingly we all receive printed materials in wrappers derived from potato starch; this reduces reliance on plastic. But there’s often confusion about how to dispose of them. We have consulted widely, including the local authorities in Cambridge and surrounding districts, and Dr Claire Barlow, Deputy Head of Cambridge University Engineering Department.

Our advice is:


  • Put them in the recycling bin (they’re not plastic and can ‘contaminate’ recycled plastic)
  • Put them in the garden waste or food bin (they don’t compost quickly enough for the ‘fast’ composting process used by local authorities and can impair the quality of their compost which is often used for agriculture).


  • Put them in a well maintained home compost heap (but be aware that complete breakdown can take months)
  • Put them in the household waste bin (but only as a last resort).

Upcoming events

What a Waste: Circular Food Systems and Sustainable Diets

Thurs 29 April 2021, 6 – 7pm
A free on-line event all about food waste, the threat it poses to the environment and what we can do about it. The expert panel will offer insights and advice on how to reduce food waste in the home, as well as how the food industry and governments can tackle this problem. Speakers include: Dr Yasemin Kor (Judge Business School, University of Cambridge); Dr Christian Reynolds (City University, London); Dr Karen Luyckx (Feedback Global); Dr Phil Bayne (Baynes Nutrition); Chaired by Professor James Wood (University of Cambridge). Book now.


Jesus College intellectual forum

Ecosystem Edge: From Mediaeval Commons to the Organisation of Modern Business organized by Jesus College intellectual forum

Tuesday 11 May, 2021. 7.30pm BST
Businesses are increasingly being challenged to solve problems and come up with new offerings that are way beyond the capabilities any company has in-house.
Join us to hear from Professor Peter Williamson, co-author of Ecosystem Edge: Sustaining competitiveness in the face of disruption, on why it’s now time to re-discover the benefits of business ecosystems and how this will challenge managers to think, and lead, very differently.

GREAT BIG GREEN WEEK in September 2021 organised by The Climate Coalition

The Great Big Green Week will take place from the 18th to 26th September, and we’re inviting communities like yours to host thousands of events and activities across the UK.

Whether it’s a concert or a community group stall, a park clean-up or a group of you getting planting in your local area – these activities will celebrate what you are doing to make your neighbourhood a cleaner, greener place to live. This will be an opportunity to raise the profile of climate change and how it is impacting the people and places we love right here in the UK and across the world.

Register online: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/from-the-ground-up-ii-taking-action-registration-144664839429

IMPACT Community Carbon Calculator

Recently launched by Centre for Sustainable Energy, this online online community carbon calculator gives you a visual representation of your community’s carbon footprint, helping you spot the areas where your community climate change activities can make the biggest difference. Take a look at your local village or government area and see how your emissions stack up. https://impact-tool.org.uk/

Greta Thunberg, A Year to Change the World

Mondays on BBC1 and on BBC Iplayer [April 2021].

Seapiracy on Netflix [April 2021]

Green Architecture: Bosca Verticali Milan https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/499407046162019272/

Climate Change: Ade on the frontline. 

Sunday nights on BBC2 and available on BBC Iplayer.

’39 Ways to Save the Planet’. Is a podcast hosted by Tom Heap and can be heard on Radio4 and BBC Sounds:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds

Natural Cambridgeshire

aims to deliver this vision, [of doubling nature] through the creation of extensive and accessible nature recovery areas across Cambridgeshire, designed, led and supported by residents, landowners, farmers, businesses and parish councils. These nature recovery areas will be supported by Natural England and other statutory agencies and incorporated into local policy documents including Local Plans. To support the ‘doubling nature’ ambition, we have produced this local nature recovery toolkit.

Please click HERE for Local Recovery Tool Kit organised by Natural Cambridgeshire