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Eat Your Campus! Collaborative sustainability project shortlisted for national award

A pioneering project, involving Loughborough University, the Students’ Union and the local community, has been shortlisted for a Guardian University Award 2014.

Eat Your Campus aims to develop the University’s green spaces as a food resource for staff, students and members of the local community, creating an ‘edible landscape’. It has been shortlisted in the Sustainability Project category, which recognises initiatives that create and champion a more sustainable living and working environment in the university and beyond.

The overall Guardian University Awards celebrate working projects in universities that demonstrate genuine innovation in the sector, collaborative delivery on the ground, meaningful impact both inside the universities and beyond, and have the potential to inspire others.

Established last year, Eat Your Campus is an umbrella project that brings together two key initiatives – the University’s Fruit Routes venture and the work of the Students’ Union’s Landscaping and Gardening Society (LAGS).

“The Fruit Routes project was launched to facilitate the planting of fruit and nut trees and plants along path ways on campus, to provide an enriched habitat for people, insects and animals, as well as a location for cultural activities and outdoor learning,” explains Jo Shields, the University’s Sustainability Manager.

“We soon realised that the new planting would also bring an abundance of fresh fruits and berries that we could harvest, and this led to the establishment of the Eat Your Campus project.”

The initiative is delivered in a number of ways, including tree planting sessions, harvesting events, apple pressings, seed exchanges and skill-sharing workshops. It is supplemented by periodic arts events that reinforce the sustainability and food foraging themes.

Since Eat Your Campus began, 76 trees, 25 fruit bushes and 285 hedgerow whips, all of which have been sourced from local suppliers, have been planted on campus.

“It’s very much a collaborative project and the events attract a real mix of people – local families, students and graduates and University staff,” Jo says.

“The project also has enabled us to develop a particularly strong collaborative partnership with Transition Loughborough, a community group whose aim is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote local infrastructure. Their participation in the venture has helped to extend the reach of the project into the Loughborough community, and open up the University campus to greater numbers of local people.”

The longer term aim is for the expanded planting to save the campus money in terms of its catering, with the University able to source some of its food from its own campus.

The work of all the shortlisted universities in the Guardian University Awards will be showcased on the awards’ online Ideas Bank, which promotes best practice.

The winners of the awards will be announced on 26 February 2014.