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Sustainable Living at Hughes Hall

Hughes Hall has made a commitment to a sustainable future.

We hope all College members will share that commitment – here are some ways you can help.


  • Local, seasonal, organic food is more sustainable than food which is imported or intensively grown.  There are often big differences in price as well. Some vegetables are reliably local and cheap all year round – broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, etc., and some vegetables, such as asparagus, have a brief season when they are easily and cheaply available.  Canned and frozen food can also be a cheap way to buy vegetables.
  • Check the labels when buying groceries to see where they are coming from – you might be surprised. Salads are often imported from Spain or Morocco, where they are grown in greenhouses using “fossil water” from aquifers.  Try and choose options with fewer air miles.  Loads of websites have seasonal recipes if you need inspiration.
  • Eat fewer animal products. Intensive animal agriculture is widely regarded to be detrimental to the environment. Why not try the vegan or vegetarian options available every day in Hall?  Our menus now flag up vegetarian, vegan, and low carbon food choices.
  • If you have (still edible) food that you know you’re just not going to use, as long as it is unopened, non-perishable and in-date, you can donate it at various donation points around Cambridge, including in Sainsbury’s.
  • Buying from local shops uses less energy than paying for delivery.  Mill Road is the local centre for ethnic greengrocers, restaurants, and take-aways.
  • Use a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water; tap water in Cambridge is totally drinkable, and there are drinking fountains available outside Hall, in the gym, and in the Atrium.  Or buy a reusable Hughes Hall travel mug.


  • Most of the carbon emissions associated with consumer goods are in the form of embodied emissions: the carbon used in creating objects and transporting them to their place of use.  Continuing to use things which are already in circulation is much more ecologically friendly than buying new.
  • Mill Road and Burleigh Street have a range of charity shops, including Amnesty (books) and British Heart Foundation (furniture and reconditioned electricals).  All accept donations of clean items of saleable quality.
  • Clothes can be mended or altered – there are some great tailors, seamstresses, and cobblers in Cambridge – you’re supporting a local business, saving money and saving things from landfill.  And what about repairing other items?  Cambridge Carbon Footprint runs repair cafés in Cambridge.  Find out more about fixing things yourself and repair shops.
  • Bicycles and kitchen equipment can be collected in college when you leave and offered to next year’s students.  Look out for alerts at the end of the year!

Our ongoing environmental initiatives include wildlife tunnels through boundary fences, composting, nesting boxes and student veggie patches.

Waste and recycling

  • Recycling is really good in Cambridge; most things can be recycled, including paper, cans, glass, and all plastics. The key exceptions are crisp packets, paper towels/tissue paper and polystyrene (these need to go in the general waste bin).  Recycling should be reasonably clean and dry (so give jars, bottles etc. a quick rinse before you put them in). Do not recycle greasy paper/ cardboard. The grease messes with the recycling process so, if contaminated, the whole batch may go to landfill.  Do not recycle Pringles tubes or coffee cups – they are made of mixed materials and so are nonrecyclable.
  • There are three main bins: Mixed Recycling, General Waste and Compost bins. You’ll find them in your kitchens and around college. Consult the instructions in your kitchen, because it may be slightly different off-site compared to on-site.  The main thing is keeping food waste away from recycling. The contaminant can cause the whole batch of recyclable materials to be treated as general waste.  Organic waste goes in the compost bins provided in every kitchen on on-site accommodation and will be composted.  The college is charged a lower price for recyclable waste disposal compared to general waste.
  • You’ll find a separate battery recycling bin in the Library, along with collection points for your pens and printer cartridges.
  • The plastic take-away containers from Hall are reusable!  Take them back to the kitchen so they can be cleaned.  Do not recycle these.

We have installed solar panels on the roofs of Gresham Court and Fenner’s buildings which run on a feed-in tariff, so that the power goes into the national grid if unused


  • Wholesale electricity prices quadrupled in 2022, and it has become economically urgent as well as ecologically urgent to use less power.  Hughes Hall uses 100% renewable electricity and the main site uses solar power from Cambridgeshire solar farms as well as our own solar panels, but it is still important to use less: there are carbon emissions associated with the grid transport of electricity, and there is not enough renewable energy to supply all users.
  • Switch off electrical devices when they are not in use, including toasters, kettles, microwaves, televisions, monitors, and hair straighteners.
  • Mobile phone chargers, laptop docking stations, and some desktop printers use energy regardless of whether they are charging or not because the voltage transformers on the plug consume energy. Save energy by switching these devices off and unplugging them when they are not in use.  Use a saucepan lid for quicker and more efficient boiling/cooking.
  • Wash laundry on the cold cycle or at a maximum of 30°C. Washing at 30 °C can reduce your energy consumption by 57% per cycle.  Tumble-drying a load can use ten times as much electricity as washing it: dry your clothes on racks in the summer.
  • Check that your fridge is set to the correct temperature; it should be 5 °C.


  • The old incandescent lightbulbs used a lot of electricity and generated a lot of waste heat.  The college is switching to LED lightbulbs which are much more efficient.
  • Please remember to switch off lights when they are not in use or when leaving the room.


  • Previous generations of Cambridge students tell of washbasins freezing, wartime coal rationing, and ice on the insides of windows.  Since central heating became ubiquitous it has been easy to take warmth for granted, but with increasing concern about carbon emissions and the spiralling cost of power it is worth adopting some habits from the past.
  • Traditional winter clothing was optimized for warmth.  Wool holds heat better than synthetic materials, and the remote fishing communities around the British Isles developed unique and distinctive knitting traditions including Jerseys, Ganseys (from Guernsey), Arans, and Shetland or Fair Isle jumpers.
  • Layering a coat over a jumper and a T-shirt and a vest makes it easy to adjust between indoor and outdoor temperatures.  Hats, gloves, and socks protect extremities, which lose heat fastest.  The Cambridge college woollen scarf tradition originated in necessity!
  • Heating should not be abandoned, though.  Cold dark damp buildings are not only physically uncomfortable but can also grow dangerous black mould, and modern building design assumes central heating.  Even unoccupied buildings should not go below 5 °C to protect from burst pipes, unless the plumbing has been disconnected. For safety, thermostats should not be turned below 15 °C (and for economy they should not go above 18 °C).  Close windows and doors while the heating is on and close curtains at dusk to keep heat in, especially in old buildings where windows can be draughty and where listed building regulations can stop the college from improving them.  Keep radiators unblocked to heat the room rather than the back of the furniture.


  • There are months in Cambridge where it is difficult to believe that water is limited because the rain seems never-ending.  Nevertheless the city has expanded beyond the capacity of its aquifer, and water now has to be pumped in from Royston to keep the chalk streams flowing.
  • Hot and cold running water, free at the point of use, is a luxury that is so common that it has become invisible.  It gives an opportunity, many times a day, to cultivate gratitude for abundance, historical progress, and urban infrastructure.
  • Be conscious of water use.  Don’t overfill kettles and saucepans, and use lids when boiling; don’t run the tap while you are brushing your teeth; don’t leave taps dripping.  Tell Maintenance if you can’t turn a tap off fully.  Wash a full load when you use the laundry.  Showers use less water than baths, and the college has fitted aerated shower heads which increase the feeling of water pressure.

We run bicycle repair days for our students to encourage ‘greener travel’.

Getting around

  • Cycling is the best way to get around Cambridge. You can always park your bike at Hughes Hall (make sure you register with the porters), and most departments will have a shower and cycle parking available.  Cycle pumps and cycle repair tools are available in the side entrance of the Margaret Wileman building.  Mill Road has several convenient cycle repair and accessory shops.
  • Why not walk, when you have time? Cambridge is extremely walkable and beautiful by foot.
  • The Universal bus service is a University-subsidised bus (£1 per journey), offering a sustainable way of getting between University sites.
  • E-bikes and e-scooters are available throughout the city, including many that are specifically located at Park and Ride sites and train stations. These can be located by downloading the Voi app from www.voi.com and are available to unlock for £1; they cost £0.20 per minute between 6am and 8pm.
  • Zipcar and Enterprise run competing community car clubs in Cambridge: an annual membership fee lets you book cars by the half-hour.
  • You can sign up to the LiftShare network to find a car-sharing partner or team. Save money on petrol and meet new people! Find drivers, passengers and cyclists online instantly for free.

If something isn’t working properly…

  • If something isn’t working properly in your room (e.g., dripping taps, lights not working, or the room is too hot), please report it.  Maintenance and Housekeeping teams can be contacted by e-mail.

 Environmental initiatives in College

 Key contacts