The University of Kent has been awarded a gold award at the Wilder Kent Awards 2023

The Wilder Kent Awards is a scheme set up by Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT) to recognise and reward the work schools, Universities, businesses, and community groups are doing in helping to create a Wilder Kent. By taking positive actions to restore nature, collectively, we are helping to create a more climate-resilient county and provide a home for wildlife.

Emily Mason, Sustainability Coordinator, receiving the Gold Award on behalf of the University. Alongside former student Bella Sabin-Dawson who now works for KWT; and Lewis Smith, President of the Conservation Society who received a commendation.

This award reflects the cumulative work of the Landscape and Grounds Team, Commercial Services & Estates Department, Sustainability Team, Conservation Society, Kent Community Oasis Garden and BioBlitz Committee to deliver work across our campuses to deliver sustainability improvements, support and enhance our natural spaces for wildlife and to engage our staff, students and the local community in our actions to address the climate and nature crises.

Kent Wildlife Trust commented that, “The University of Kent have developed a robust landscape and biodiversity strategy which ensures the entire campus supports a range of wildlife as well as hosting a biodiversity forum which allows students and staff to directly engage in decision making and project creation. With 300 acres of woodland, grassland, and seven ponds across their sites, there is plenty of space for wildlife to thrive at the University of Kent.” 

The award is split into three categories: Protecting Wildlife; Sustainability and Carbon Reduction; and Engage with Nature. Here are some of the activities and projects we have been working on to support wildlife and reduce our impact in 2023.

There have been some large and small scale landscape projects over the last year including the planting of 300 fruiting trees to create an orchard on our Southern Slopes. This project is creating a habitat and landscape feature that we do not already have on our campus, and because orchards are a mosaic of trees, grasses, and wildflowers, they support a wide range of wildlife. As fruit trees age quickly, they create the perfect habitats for invertebrates and birds, such as the lesser spotted woodpecker and the rare noble chafer beetle.

Andrew Bailey from the Landscape and Grounds team, supporting student Jessica Collins in planting trees at the orchard.

We also introduced No Mow May to our central campus for the first time, with students from the Conservation Society surveying for species changes across the month. The project received 98% positive feedback from students, staff and community members walking by. Signage for the project was designed by students from our School of Architecture and Planning as part of their graphic design module.

These projects are underpinned by the ongoing management of our landscape by the Landscape and Grounds Team, including the rotational coppicing of our woodlands and extensive grassland management for meadow retention. The Landscape and Grounds Team have been instrumental in supporting the changes across campus and adapting their management techniques to support nature. This and more is outlined in our Landscape and Biodiversity Strategy which targets us to make year on year improvements.

The University’s Sustainability Strategy for Climate Action and the SDGs underpins much of this work setting out our key strategic objectives to reach Net Zero by 2040; regenerate the ecology of our campuses; and to ensure our students have access to learning, teaching and research that enhances their understanding of sustainability.

Our carbon management work saw emissions reduce by 14% from our baseline keeping us on track to achieve our net zero target and we are currently finalising a strategic partnership with Siemens to develop this further and to develop the culture of a whole-university approach to net zero.

A key part of our activities is engaging people with nature and making them feel connected to their local environment. Within the University we host a Biodiversity Forum which is made up of students and staff with an interest in biodiversity, as well as key operational and academic staff that can support action and research opportunities. The forum is an important way of making the work we do on campus more collaborative and informed by a broader audience.

The student led Conservation Society are also instrumental in engaging their fellow students in conservation action across campus and the local area, supporting local conservation organisations, the Kent Community Oasis Garden and the campus with their volunteering and expertise.

Beyond our own campus we engage with the community through our annual BioBlitz. Organised predominantly by students from the School of Anthropology and Conservation, the bioblitz hosts an engaging 24 hours of surveys, activities, and is a celebration of nature. The blitz is open to everyone and designed to be family friendly, with students engaging the local community if their passion for wildlife.

MSc Conservation Biology graduate Kieran Richardson leading an invertebrate survey during the BioBlitz.

We are also members of the Canterbury District Biodiversity Network, representing Kent on the coordination committee and supporting the network to bring interested parties together and raise awareness of the incredible wildlife and work being done in our district. As part of this network we are the proud home of a Bison Mural to raise awareness of the local wilding project happening on our doorstep in Canterbury.

For those that are working to support wildlife across our campuses this award is a wonderful recognition of all our efforts. It is particularly special to receive this acknowledgement from Kent Wildlife Trust who are doing incredible work across the county and local to us in Blean. This award spurs us on to continue with our biodiversity work and continue to build partnerships with those working to create a wilder Kent.

You can listen to more about our work and the award in episode 6 of KWT’s Talk on the Wild Side Podcast.


Welcoming Jess to the team!

Hi everyone! My name is Jess, I’m a student here at Kent studying Environmental Social Science, and I have just begun my work placement year with the University Sustainability Team, as Sustainability Projects Officer. I have always loved nature, and been passionate about conservation and sustainability, so I knew this role was a perfect opportunity for me. I admire the team’s hard work and all they have achieved and can’t wait to get involved and contribute my ideas. Through my placement I hope to gain valuable experience of environmental sector work, and the challenges and rewards this can present. I’m excited to practice skills I have learnt throughout my degree so far, and to be able to develop my abilities in other areas, for example biodiversity monitoring and surveying wildlife on campus.  

Reflecting on my first week in the role, I honestly feel so welcomed, and already feel that I am helping to make a difference by engaging other students with the various environmental initiatives and projects currently taking place at Kent, such as the creation of a Diamond Jubilee Orchard- where 300 fruit trees will be planted to celebrate 60 years of the university and the class of 2025. After a couple of days of training and settling in, I attended the Welcome Fair with the team, where we had stalls promoting the orchard and introducing new students to the Kent Community Oasis Garden (KentCOG)- explaining the work we do, opportunities for volunteering, and helping them plant herb seeds to take home, encouraging a passion for gardening and homegrown produce. We also had a guess the weight of the pumpkin competition– harder than it looks! 

Going forward this term, I expect to be spending lots of time at KentCOG volunteering and coordinating other volunteers, as well as organising events and helping to run social media accounts and campaigns for the team- something I really enjoy. I’m so passionate about raising awareness of issues such as the climate crisis and biodiversity loss and the actions that need to be taken, but I am also very mindful of the negative effects of eco-anxiety. I feel that projects like KentCOG can be so beneficial in helping to alleviate that stress, by allowing people to regain a sense of connection with nature and work together as a community to make a positive impact. 

As well as helping with events, social media and KentCOG, I hope to use my year to liaise with various student societies within the sustainability network, with the hopes of helping each other with shared goals and working together to make the biggest impact that we can. I aim to work with the SAC Sustainability Working Group to support their initiatives for wellbeing, greenspaces, food and curriculum, and also engage with and recruit more staff sustainability champions, as they are vital in implementing any organisation-wide change.  

So, I have lots of goals for this year! But a little bit about me- I absolutely love animals of every kind, being outside in nature, spending time with friends and family, travelling, cooking veggie and vegan food, and art. I also love chatting to people, and especially about anything environment or sustainability related, so please reach out if you want to talk about anything or suggest any ideas that I could help to implement this year! Email me at 

Celebrating the people who make Sustainability happen – a year of FutureProof

On June 1st we held a celebration BBQ at the Kent Community Oasis Garden in celebration of our staff Sustainability Champions Network and sustainability volunteers that are making sustainability happen across the University as part of the FutureProof project.

The June 1st Celebration

The BBQ was an opportunity to say thank you to everyone for their continued engagement in sustainability projects in what has been a year of having to adapt to a new normal. FutureProof relies on the continued commitment of our staff volunteers who are delivering sustainability projects within their teams and departments.

We had some continuing projects from previous years including the annual lecture on Computing and Climate Change; KBS’ Stage 2 Market Research Project; Anthropology and Conservation’s Sustainability Working Groups including the annual BioBlitz; embedding sustainability into the Global Officers Programme; and the Medway Green Spaces Project which saw new accessible pathways, beds and green gym equipment installed.

New features at the Medway campus.

We held three formal online workshops for champions this academic year. In autumn term we marked COP26 with a special addition to our SDG and a Cup of Tea series: The Road to Net Zero: The Role of Staff. In Spring Term we welcomed our new champions into FutureProof with a two part guide to the project and a focus on the six Sustainable Development Goals that feature in our new Sustainability Strategy.

Workshops of 2021/2022.

We also had new projects and some exciting collaborations:

  • Our first external champion, Debi Adams, who runs the Kent Community Oasis Garden (a partnership project between the University and East Kent Mind) is collaborating with Silvio Caputo, our KSAP champion on a Horizon Research Proposal looking at the delivery of ecotherapy in our garden
  • New champion Lori Fisher from Biosciences will be collaborating with champions from across catering on delivering Love Food Hate Waste engagement materials
  • New champion Margarita Prieto-Acosta has been on a mission to reduce waste and ensure the proper segregation of waste at Kent Law School during office moves
  • Champions from the Division of Human and Social Sciences Operations; Knowledge Exchange and Innovation; and Internationalisation have been collaborating on a Sustainable Events guide to support staff in making easy sustainable decisions when planning and delivering events across campus. The website for this will be launching soon
  • Champions from College and Community Life have been collaborating with the Kent Community Oasis Garden and Landscape and Grounds Champions Chris Wright to deliver Plant a Seed sessions, mindfulness session and bushcraft workshops
CCL activities.

And finally, our monthly newsletter was relaunched featuring campus sustainability updates; positive national and international news; Champion book reviews and blogs; and the much loved sustainability wordsearch.

It has been a difficult year as we navigate living with covid; adapt to hybrid working; and seek to build back the sustainability momentum we had pre-pandemic. However, it has been wonderful to get FutureProof going again and see staff reengage and build upon their projects or start new ventures despite a challenging backdrop.

A massive thank you to everyone that has been involved from the Sustainability Team. We could not do it without you!

The women who inspire me…

“With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo#TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.” International Women’s Day 2018


What better day than the 8th March to talk about the women who have inspired me, and continue to inspire me in the work of equality and environmental activism.

Caroline Lucas (1960 – )

Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and the Green Party’s only MP changed the way I viewed politics. I was always of the belief that if you wanted to get elected as an MP you needed to throw out your morals and convictions and make yourself super vanilla. Caroline is not vanilla. Her work with CND has always inspired me, and her recent vocal support for women fighting against harassment in the workplace has been loud. She is a Matron of the Women’s Environment Network, an exceptional charity that I used to work for that supports women in marginalised communities to grow their own food, and advocates for more women’s voices in decision making around climate change.

Caroline Lucas was quoted as saying, ” I’m just going to dedicate the rest of my life to this party” after reading Jonathon Porritt’s Seeing Green, and she has done this with charisma and  conviction. There are not many MPs that can increase their majority at each election whist also getting arrested for protesting against fracking operations and donning a ‘No more Page 3’ t shirt during a commons debate.

“I’ve always been a bit ambitious, but I do think the Green Party is the real opposition.” Caroline Lucas

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)

Rachel Carson, ecologist, marine biologist and writer, is best know for her book Silent Spring, in which she challenged the practices of agricultural scientists and the government on the widespread use of synthetic chemical pesticides. Originally a marine biologist and writing many books and papers on her specialism, it was with reluctance that she turned to writing about chemical usage, driven by what she saw as a disturbing practice and one that would have long term impacts on human health and the health of our environment.

Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and some in government as an alarmist, but courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment.

Silent Spring is considered by many to have been the catalyst for a wide spread environmentalism movement in the western world. 

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Rachel Carson.

The Trimates (Biruté Galdikas 1946 -, Dian Fossey 1932 – 1985, Jane Goodall 1934 – )

Growing up I had all the usual pictures on my wall, Leonardo Di Caprio, Orlando Bloom, Blink 182 and of course the Trimates. Okay, maybe the Trimates were not so usual for a 14 year old girl to have on her wall, but to me these women were rock stars.

Dian Fossey, Jane Goodhall and Biruté Galdikas were all selected by Louis Leakey, a Kenyan paleoanthropologist and archaeologist who wanted to promote the field research of primates in their own habitats. The three women went onto become household names for their important scholarly work in the field of primatology as well as their work in the conservation of these species.

For over four decades Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas has studied and worked closely with the orangutans of Indonesian Borneo in their natural habitat, and is today the world’s foremost authority on the orangutan. At the age of 71 she is still hugely active and you can follow her work on twitter @DrBirute 

Dian Fossey did not plan to be a primatologists but her love of African nature and a chance meeting with Louis Leakey led to her setting up a small research outpost in Rwanda: the Karisoke Research Center. Fellow gorilla conservationist Ian Redmond , said of Fossey, that it was her shy inhibited nature that led to the habituation of the gorillas that they were studying. He called her method of habituation a gift to the world and it is still used today in gorilla observations. However, Dian was also combative and her conflict with the government, poachers and other conservationists grew to the point of isolation. In 1985 she was murdered, and her murder is still unsolved to this day. Her career is controversial but she was always a fierce advocate for the gorillas.

Jane Goodhall was the first of the Trimates and in 1960, she travelled from England to Tanzania and entered the little known world of wild chimpanzees. She won the trust of these initially shy creatures and opened a window into their sometimes strange and often familiar seeming lives. Jane is still working today, mobilising action on behalf of the endangered chimpanzees and all wildlife species. The Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, but recognizes this can’t be accomplished without a holistic approach that addresses the real needs of local people. Their conservation efforts include sustainable development programmes that engage communities as true partners.

“The environment, after all, is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest.  It is one thing that all of us share.  It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.” Jane Goodall

Wangari Maathai  (1940 – 2011)

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and author of Unbowed, Wangari Maathai was the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, and became chair of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy and an associate professor in 1976 and 1977 respectively, being the first woman to attain those positions in the region.

I first became aware of Wangari when a friend lent me Unbowed, telling me ‘you have to read this.’ It took me a while to get around to reading it, but when I did, it stuck with me for a long time. Unbowed is a memoir of Wangari’s life and tells of her passion and integrity, and the journey she went on to see planting trees as a way to empower local communities. She founded the The Green Belt Movement in Kenya and wrote with key insight on how to galvanize grass root movements into positive, holistic and sustainable action.

Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. The Norwegian Nobel Committee noted Professor Maathai’s contribution to “sustainable development, democracy and peace” and that Professor Maathai “stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally.”

“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.” Wangari Maathai

On this International Women’s Day, spend some time thinking about the women who have inspired you, and those that have forged a way ahead for a more sustainable future for people and planet.


Pokemon Go(als)

My two worlds collided last week when I was alerted to the fact that Pokemon Go creators Niantic were ‘standing with the global goals’ and were offering free global goals t shirts to every Pokemon Go players avatars.

Now if you are not familiar with either Pokemon Go or the Global Goals, this next bit is for you:

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic for iOS and Android devices. The game was the result of a collaboration between Niantic and Nintendo, by way of The Pokémon Company.  Players create and customize their own avatars, which as the player moves within their real world surroundings, their avatars move within the game’s map. The purpose of this is to catch and collect Pokemon which if you were not a 90’s kid probably need their own explanation.

The Global Goals are the 17 aspirational goals established by 193 countries and United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015. The 17 goals cover the world’s greatest challenges and are underpinned by over 100 targets to eradicate poverty, halt climate change and end inequality by 2030.

Now as an avid Pokemon Goer in my spare time, and a sustainable development professional as my day job I did not see this coming! So why have Pokemon Go and The United Nations paired up on this project?

At the last estimate around 65 million people are playing Pokemon Go each month and perhaps unsurprisingly the majority of players are under 30.

The United Nations and World Economic Forum has said before that that young people are crucial in delivering the goals as they are the people that are going to be most challenged by the current status quo, for example unstable work, low wages, education inequality, climate change effects etc…

So what better way to keep the conversation going about the goals amongst young people than by making it a part of well loved and daily signed in game.

Niantic have asked, “We hope everyone will join us in having their avatar wear the Global Goals shirt proudly to show their support and spread awareness for these critically important Goals.”

It may be a little thing but I have to say it has been heartening to see just how many other Pokemon trainers are wearing the Global Goals shirt as I have been out playing the game. Hopefully this is just another little things that pushes the Global Goals into the consciousness of people, and I shall be doing my bit by wearing my shirt proudly!

Mental Health Awareness Week: ‘but you always look so happy!’

My job is sustainability. I talk about it; I encourage it; I care about it; I never stop learning about it; and I am not afraid to try and change how things are done in order to create a more sustainable society.  As many of my fellow sustainability professionals out there will know, this takes an extraordinary amount of energy, resilience and a seemingly endless pot of enthusiasm.

I have had on many occasions people comment on my ‘sunny’ disposition, cheery nature and generally positive attitude, all of which I take as a compliment! However, today I wanted to mention my ‘other side.’

I have suffered with depression and anxiety for ten years. I was diagnosed formally around four years ago and since then I have had to make significant changes to my life in order to manage my condition as much as possible.

To those who I have told, their first reaction has always been, ‘but you always look so happy!’

The reason I am writing about this today is because it is Mental Health Awareness Week and as someone who actively has to look after their mental health daily I am only too aware of some of the misconceptions, fallacies and misinformation that surrounds this topic.

I generally do not talk about my struggles for good mental health beyond my circle of close friends and a couple of extremely good line managers, however, after browsing twitter this morning I saw a few comments and discussions around raising awareness that made me feel able to talk about my condition ‘publically’ for the first time, especially in the context of the job that I do.

I am lucky enough to work in a job where my day to day activities and objectives align quite neatly with my own personal values and therefore my job never feels entirely like ‘work.’ This means the line between the work and the personal can get quite blurry, and even if you are someone with good mental health this can have an effect on you in the long term. Speaking to fellow sustainability professional across different sectors I have heard the same stories of people struggling to leave their work behind when they come home. Even when things are going well I know that my mind cannot quite seem to let go of new possibilities for change despite the barriers of time, resources and energy.

I try and leave work at work now as a habit, although it is easier said than done when it seems that 9 to 5 is not quite enough time to save the world!

And as for ‘you always look so happy!’ Well, hopefully most people are moving towards an understanding that depression is not just about being sad. It can be many different things for many different people. For me it is a lack of confidence; a struggle to find motivation for even the things I like to do; it is energy absorbing and isolating. It is not about feeling sad. I can still crack a joke and to be honest I think my default face is smiling anyway.

On this Mental Health Awareness Week I encourage anyone that reads this to be kind to those around you. The smiley people, the grumpy people, the sad looking ones. With 1 in 4 of us experiencing some type of mental poor health in our lifetimes, it is quite possible that under the surface they are struggling.

And to all my fellow sustainability professionals out there who spend their time fighting for change; take care of yourselves.


Emily Mason