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]

BBC Sounds podcasts

Green Originals Reflections on the pioneering scientists, campaigners and communicators of the last 60 years who’ve swum against the tide to influence our opinion and behaviour on the environment. Includes Rachel Carson, Margaret Thatcher, Wangari Maathai, and Wole Soyinka, to name a few.

At the University’s Alumni Festival, which this year is online, the Vice-Chancellor will discuss with Emily Shuckburgh of Cambridge Zero choices we need to make if we are to tackle climate change, https://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/festival/events/vice-chancellor-professor-stephen-j-toope-in-conversation-with-dr-emily-shuckburgh

It is open to all and booking begins on 13 August.

There is also https://www.alumni.cam.ac.uk/festival/events/kings-college-wild-flower-meadow

Second Hand September is Back:

  • together, the carbon footprint reduction from everyone who took part was 1,500 tonnes – the same emissions equivalent to driving a car around the world 200 times
  • When 13 million items of clothing end up in UK landfill every week – we need your help to influence more people to shop sustainably. Pledge to shop only second hand for 30 days or more.


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

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

Festival organised by Cambridge University.

Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival. November 6-13. Follow the link below to see what’s on each day, and to register.


Upcoming events organised by Cambridge Carbon Footprint

More information and to book please go to the Cambridge Carbon Footprint website. https://cambridgecarbonfootprint.org/

Virtual Repair Cafe: Use zoom to get your broken item seen by an experienced Repair Cafe repairer. Book online: circularcambridge.org, or phone 01223 301842

Thermal imaging vividly reveals where a building is leaking heat. In this online training you’ll learn how to use our cameras and interpret their images. Afterwards you’ll be able to borrow one of our cameras to conduct your own surveys.

What’s happening locally

Here is your chance to contribute to the “Friends of Logan’s Meadow Consultation”.


It is open till 20 November.

Aims include combating the climate emergency, increasing biodiversity, public amenity and floodplain management.

The meadow/reserve is on the Chesterton part of the river.