Project in Spotlight: Cavendish Living Lab

A study of food waste on campus was awarded funding in 2021-22, and the seed funding and support this project received from the Sustainability Fund led to the lead academic colleague on the project to establish the Cavendish Living Lab.

The Lab continues to study food waste but has expanded their reach to developing circular systems which tackle food waste, plastic pollution, urban food growing, and water waste. They collect food waste from campus and turn it into a resource, using it to grow mushrooms, which feed a hydroponic planting system. This is a very efficient system, reducing the need for excessive watering and producing abundant produce for the Lab students to take home and even donate to community centres. It also uses the bacteria offcuts from the project to explore bioplastics. The Lab is vertically and horizontally integrated, meaning students from different levels of study and different disciplines come together to solve the same problems. The Lab has been recognised nationally as it was shortlisted for the Green Gown Awards in the ‘Tomorrow’s Employees’ category.

The Cavendish Living Lab will be expanded further in the 2024-25 academic year to become incorporated into the curriculum as a module, proving the concept that small projects from the Sustainability Fund could influence our curriculum planning to better prepare students for their role in working towards a more sustainable future. If we are able to continue running the Sustainability Fund through your financial support, we will synergise the Fund with curriculum development processes to pull out projects which we could incorporate into the curriculum.

Other projects supported include:

Sustainable fashion hub

Creating a dynamic focal point at Harrow Campus for ‘Fashionas Change’, a project exploring sustainability, collaboration, community, entrepreneurship, education and inspiration in fashion. The sustainable fashion hub project in 2022-23 also made the jump from a stand-alone project to the curriculum as it will now be called the Conscious Fashion Hub and used as a workshop and storefront for the Fashion School. With the Sustainability Fund seed funding, they were able to make the case to the University’s Estate Department to revitalise the previously unused space, and it will now be financed through the University.

Robotic Recycler

Designing a robust, remote-controlled arm to sort waste which will eliminate the need for direct contact with waste processing for recycling. The Robotic Recycler project from the 2022-23 Sustainability Fund is in fact a continuation of a project in the 2021-22 academic year, and the team plans to expand their project even further inside and outside of the University.

Planet-friendly denim

Experimenting with the use of bacteria for the manufacture of environmentally sustainable indigo dyes for staining blue jeans.

Furniture design collaboration with Brazilian social enterprise Pedra Furada Transformation Workshop

Student designs are shared with the Pedra Furada workshop, a social enterprise making furniture from recycled plastic, who will realise the designs to sell at Global North price points.

Green approach to microbial identification

Implementing a new technology and technique in WestminsterLabs which will reduce the need for single-use plastic during the microbial identification process.