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

Cambridge Festival 2021 Programme Available Online


Booking is now open for the inaugural Cambridge Festival –  an extensive series of free, online events between 26 March – 4 April this year.

The new festival brings together the hugely popular Cambridge Science Festival and the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, aiming to tackle and offer solutions for humanity’s most pressing issues, from pandemics, climate change and global economics, to human rights and the future of democracy.


South Cambridgeshire District Council’s “Climate and Environment Fortnight 2021 events” commence on 22 February.


Natural Cambridgeshire Partnership Forum:

The next meeting of the Forum in the morning of Tuesday 16 March will include a report on one of our priority areas, the Nene Valley, a description of the work in the county of the Wildlife Trust, brief statements by the candidates for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough of their thinking on the natural environment, and a discussion of the environmental aspects of the next Greater Cambridge local plan. Sign-up information will be given in due course.

The report on the economics of biodiversity by Sir Partha Dasgupta is at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/final-report-the-economics-of-biodiversity-the-dasgupta-review  The full report is 606 pages, but there is an “abridged version” of only 103 pages.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has issued a report on achieving government’s longterm environmental goals, https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4513/documents/45674/default/

A new report by the Royal Forestry Society highlights the damage caused by grey squirrels, https://www.rfs.org.uk/about/publications/rfs-reports/  (I confess I enjoy watching them in the trees.)

Transition Cambridge has organised two talks in March related to the environment: Safeguarding our local water resources by Stephen Tomkins of the Cam Valley Forum, and Nature Recovery by chair of Natural England Tony Juniper, https://www.transitioncambridge.org/wiki/TTEvents/TranEv

The RHS has advice on how to design a front garden that minimises paving and maximises planting and permeable surfaces, https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=738

The Transition Talks series of environmental issues called “Transition to a better Future”  can be seen on this webpage with info about all the talks:


They start on Tuesday 19th January.

’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

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

  • Cambourne Repair Cafe
    11:00 am – 2:00 pm, 5/12/2020 Thermal Imaging Training: October 2020 – Feb. 2021

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.

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