Lancaster University leads the HE sector in respect of its integrated, cutting edge sustainable food projects such as ‘Edible Campus’. Together, Lancaster University and Lancaster University Students Union (LUSU) have developed and implemented a range of complementary sustainable food projects and strategies designed to encourage healthy eating, facilitate and teach growing and cooking skills and encourage student and staff participation/learning.
The project is also focused on driving behaviour change from a sustainable food perspective across the campus and in the local community through embedding and ‘normalising’ such activities. An integrated attitude to sustainable food has been established.
In conjunction with the Soil Association, Lancaster University has mapped and developed a framework for a ‘whole campus’ approach to sustainable food in the HE sector, using the multiple examples of good practice at Lancaster to link into an overarching framework.
1 Food based projects present a great opportunity for mass interest and involvement and with ‘Grow it, Live it, Eat it’ we have been able to maximise practical participation in food growing, preparation and eating for students and staff. Food is always interesting and you don’t need any special skills to start getting involved. Students have really enjoyed getting involved in the project and have fed back through focus groups that it helped them to feel more relaxed and de-stressed. Several explicitly said they thought going to the Eco-hub for a while helped to clear their mind, allowing them to then return to their studies with a better focus. They also generally thought they’d carry on growing food after they’ve left, providing them with a cheap hobby that will always give them wellbeing benefits.
2 We found the project was an excellent tool for helping establish and improve partnerships and working between internal departments and with external organisations.
3 The ‘whole campus’ approach to the project has made us think much more broadly about sustainable food and identified whole areas or topics which could benefit from the integrated thinking of the project. To secure changes in behavior amongst staff and students we have found that it is most valuable to change the environment – convenience was clearly the biggest factor in people behavior towards sustainable food, we therefore need to make the sustainable choice the most convenient, not necessarily the cheapest or most attractive, simply the easiest. Many participants fed back that learning about sustainability through practical and real situations such as Edible Campus made it easier to grasp the concept of sustainability than learning it through lectures. A number of volunteers have explicitly commented on the way it has changed their food habits. We also saw a significant increase of 10% to more positive opinions of the sustainability of the university, and even more significantly a similar rise when asked how much this mattered to respondents between our baseline and follow up survey.