All entries for October 2015

October 25, 2015

UniGreenScheme needs your help!

Third year MIBTP student’s business UniGreenScheme has reached the final of the Shell Smarter Future competition and needs your help to win £5k cash! The winner is now decided on number of votes so please go to [2] on the pineapple picture on this link and vote for UniGreenScheme… Voting closes 31st October. See below to hear a little more about UniGreenScheme.

UniGreenScheme is a service built to solve a problem that troubles universities across the UK: The accumulation of unwanted equipment in laboratories.

The Problem:

Universities are always buying new equipment but don’t have an effective system for selling the enormous supply of unwanted equipment they accumulate. As such, functional and valuable equipment can be found unused but taking up valuable space, depreciating in value until ultimately being disposed of.

“Academic and infrastructure staff across the UK tell me the same thing: They have no storage space. Yet walk into any laboratory and you will find unwanted equipment on windowsills, shelving and benchtops as well as filling up corridors and store rooms. At some point, this becomes such a problem, it all has to go.” – Michael McLeod, Founder.

The UniGreenScheme Solution:

UniGreenScheme, is the easy way for universities to generate revenue and prevent waste. They collect, store and sell unwanted equipment from universities to their network of specialist business customers. They then share profits with the university.

“The best bit about our service is that we work directly with the PIs as well as technical and facilities managers – and share profits with them. Our approach gets unused laboratory equipment off the workbench and back into re-use because staff get something back for using us rather than just green points - making the use of their valuable time worthwhile.“ – Michael McLeod.

How this helps the environment:

Every item they get and item out of storage into re-use it displaces the carbon-cost of manufacturing a new product. This is particularly important with scientific equipment often manufactured using rare and hazardous materials. “I believe our service will make the entire scientific industry more sustainable through better use and re-use of its available resources” – Michael McLeod.

Their 3-year goals are to prevent 200,000kg of useable equipment going to waste. This will save 758,000kg of CO2e: That’s equivalent to a days carbon emissions of the entire district of West Somerset, or 37,000 people.

Some recent examples:

In 2003 an engineering school spent £16,000 on 30 boxes of Anechoic Foam. Only two boxes were used before the PI left the institution. The remainder were in their original boxes, sealed, and were moved from corridor to corridor until in 2015 a refurbishment meant they had to be spent for disposal. UniGreenScheme removed these boxes and are anticipating a return for the University of £7,000.


A uchairsniversity wide refurbishment required the removal of 300 high-value Italian designer chairs. The university was quoted £5,090 + VAT for disposal. UniGreenScheme collected all chairs in one day and are anticipating a sales return of over £3,000 for the University. They prevented four tonnes of plastic waste and 13 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

A commercial pass-through dishwasher that was sat in a corridor for several years unused was removed by UniGreencheme and they anticipate a return of £1,000 for the University.

“The best thing about running this business, is hearing where the items will go. Last week I was sent a picture of a workshop that was built using our second-hand Trespa that was otherwise being thrown into a skip. This week I heard some of our 1950’s classroom stools were being used in a social enterprise for children in Reading. This stuff that would be waste is being used for good and helping people and organisations save money. – Michael McLeod

Recent achievements:

UniGreenScheme only formed 10 months ago but has gone from strength to strength. They now have a 900 sq ft warehouse, and over 500 unwanted items in stock.

  • 16 Universities now interested in their service with several in Wales, England and Scotland.
  • Awarded £250 cash prize and were the business selected to Represent UoB at the national level in the Santander Entrepreneurship Competition.
  • They recently won competitive EU LIFE+ funded support in a competitive five-year project with just 30 other companies. Other companies include Sky, Panasonic, Samsung, DHL, Argos and many more.

The next 12 months will be very exciting for UniGreenScheme as they go from pilot phase into scale-up across the UK.

If your interested in hearing more about UniGreenScheme or want to use UniGreenScheme in your laboratory, just contact Michael on Follow them on @unigreenscheme.

October 12, 2015

Volunteering, community outreach and teaching in Tanzania with Raleigh ICS

Volunteering, community outreach and teaching in Tanzania with Raleigh ICS

As far as the limits for planning your PIPs are concerned, I would say anything is possible. I spent three months in Magaga; a small village in Tanzania, which had a total population of just 2,000 people. I found out about the programme through International Citizen Service (ICS), a government-run organisation by the department for international development (DFID) that enables young people from the UK to travel to developing countries and make a real difference in the fight against poverty. One of the key aspects of ICS is that the UK volunteers were able to work side-by-side with local volunteers, providing a unique and educational once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Raleigh International

Raleigh International is a sustainable development charity that focuses on implementing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practice in developing countries. In Tanzania alone, over 10,000 children under the age of 5 are killed every year as a result of diarrhoea; a disease that is preventable, treatable, and even trivial in our country. The repercussions of poor sanitation and unclean water in Tanzania on education are frightening; with a huge impact on children, especially girls, whose dropout rates coincide with entering puberty. In a country where achieving gender equality is of paramount importance, these setbacks to education not only affect individuals, but the progression of the entire country as a whole.

Life in Magaga

riverMy team and I were placed in a village that had no plumbing system, where residents would collect unclean water from a water pump that was shared with neighbouring villages. The alternative was a microbe-infested river that often ran dry, even in rainy season. For ten weeks, I lived in a homestay with one of the primary school teachers, who welcomed my roommate and I into her home and told us about the challenges that the village faced. There was a 60% known prevalence of HIV within the community, largely propagated through alcoholism and idleness as a result of a lack of farming work due to failing crops. Furthermore, when we arrived, the primary school, which was our main focus of development work, had incredibly poor sanitation facilities, consisting of only three latrines to be shared by the entire school of approximately 400 children.


Our role was to work alongside the community, including the church, women’s groups and primary and secondary schools, in order to encourage the treatment of water and good sanitation practise. Following some research, which involved going door-to-door in the community and completing questionnaires for the school children, we found that the majority of households did not treat water at all, and used dirty water from the pump or river for washing themselves and preparing food. Also, many people did not wash their hands at key times or know about the consequences this could have on the health of their families. We ran WASH workshops with a number of groups within the village to create awareness of techniques such as boiling water and ‘three bowls’ to wash plates and cutlery using soap and bleach, and to stress the importance of sanitation and the effect upon health and disease. I believe we made a significant impact on the practises of the village and by the time we left, many more people had taken our advice and were passing the knowledge on to others.

3Alongside our community outreach, we also worked with SEMA, a local charity based in Singida, Tanzania, to build three new sanitation blocks at the primary school. We assisted with building the blocks themselves, as well as promoting their use through painting murals on the side to encourage hand washing. The infrastructure was an invaluable addition to the village and I hope it will improve the attendance and quality of learning at the primary school in the future.

International Women’s Day

One of my main highlights was holding a WASH event for international women’s day. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that form the basis of outreach programmes like Raleigh were created in 2000 with an aim to reduce poverty by 2015. While considerable progress has been made, not all of the MDGs have been achieved and promoting gender equality and empowering women remains a struggle: to close the gap in the numbers of girls in primary, secondary and university education compared to boys. Worldwide, the disparity is 5greatest in sub-Saharan Africa, and was painfully evident in our village of Magaga, where girls were given the option of marriage or to work as house-girls from as young as 7 years old, while boys aimed for scholarships to study in Dodoma, the closest town, which was three hours away.

Therefore, in order to encourage women and girls in the village, we held an event at the primary school with music, performances and speeches from the school children and significant members of the community. We expected a modest turn out, as our only form of advertising was word of mouth and DIY leaflets created by the volunteers. However, it seemed that most of the village was in attendance and it was a huge success! There were even plans to make it an annual event after we left.

WASH lessons and teaching

For me, the most enjoyable part of the placement and what I though was most effective was teaching primary and secondary school children. While adults might be set in their ways and less pliable to change, it’s children who decide the behaviour of future generations and are instrumental in creating a positive difference. We taught general WASH lessons two or three times a week about water treatment, times of hand washing and the importance of soap, with varying levels of complexity depending on the age group. This was particularly useful to me, as it allowed me to learn how to communicate with people of different ages, once the language barrier was overcome! Also, I was able to teach my own biology lesson to students aged 16-18 about preventable disease and the spread of bacteria through dirty water. While it was a nerve-wracking experience, being my first teaching experience ever, let alone in a foreign, non-English speaking country, it was incredibly rewarding, with many of the students (and volunteers!) telling me how much they learned and that they enjoyed the lesson.

Challenges faced and skills learned

teamThe biggest challenge was the immediate culture shock and being thrown out of my comfort zone from the moment I arrived in Tanzania. After getting accustomed to that, it took time to overcome language barriers and cultural differences in order to work within a team of UK and Tz volunteers. When we first arrived, there was a general feeling of ‘how much of a difference can we really make?’ I struggled to see what personal aid I could provide towards an issue so large. However, over time, we realised that the fight against poverty is slow, but progressive. Although we didn’t see the immediate effects of our being in the village, I knew that we had contributed to positive change.

Personally, I gained so much from the experience. I realised I could be a leader within my peers as well as being able to deal with conflict and stressful situations. Although it was tough, I would recommend ICS as a PIP to anyone who wants to use this time to discover how much you are capable of, while experiencing international development at its forefront.

Priya Joshi, MIBTP 2014

October 2015

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