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Cambridge Global Challenges


This University competition is seeking your ideas for how to encourage alternatives to flying. Aviation accounts for one of the most challenging yet significant aspects of the University’s GHG emissions. The Carbon Challenge is open to all staff and students at the University of Cambridge.

The Cambridge Carbon Challenge 2018 invites staff and students to submit their innovative ideas for reducing air miles and finding alternatives to flying, in order to decrease carbon emissions across the University.

Why participate?

  • Contribute to University efforts to reduce carbon emissions in one of the most challenging yet significant aspects of the University’s carbon footprint.
  • Join and inform the debate about how we reduce emissions from air travel within the University.
  • The winning individual/team will receive a hamper of goodies and £100 of train vouchers and be invited to the University’s annual Green Impact Award Ceremony as the Carbon Challenge 2018 winner(s).

How to participate?

  1. Read through the background information and T&Cs here.
  2. Start brainstorming (this can be individually or as a team). Your considerations should focus on how you and your colleagues and peers might reduce your reliance on air travel without compromising your teaching, learning or research. For example, how might you build research networks other than through international conference attendance? How might you carry out research and disseminate your findings without flying? How can you fulfil your learning or teaching requirements whilst reducing your need to fly? How could the University incentivise you to use alternative modes of transport, or utilise video conferencing as an alternative to flying? You are welcome to reference, as examples of best practice, any steps that you already take to reduce the air miles associated with your research, teaching or learning.
  3. Discuss your thoughts and idea(s) with the competition coordinators – please email to set up a meeting. This stage is not a requirement but is strongly encouraged.
  4. Research best practice elsewhere, consult others, explore potential barriers and find ways to overcome them – whatever is needed to build your evidence base and show the potential for your ideas to be put into practice at the University of Cambridge.
  5. Fill in this online form by 31 March to submit your idea.

You will receive notification of the judges’ decision by the end of April.

Criteria for success

Submissions will be judged based on:

  1. The use of initiative and innovation in reducing the air miles associated with your research, teaching and learning. In particular, the judges will favour submissions that show and, where possible, exemplify the will to ‘do things differently’ as a means to reducing the need to fly.
  2. The potential for a similar approach to be adopted or implemented by other members of the University community.  The judges will favour submissions that are backed up by examples or evidence of how the suggested approach is already being used by members of the academic community (either at Cambridge or elsewhere).
  3. The relative ease of implementation of the suggested approach, against its effectiveness in reducing the need to travel by air.  The judges will favour ideas and approaches that can be adopted relatively easily by others, without compromising their academic endeavours.

Proposals put forwards with evidence of thorough research and consultation will have a higher chance of success. This may or may not include the following: surveys, evidence of success in other similar contexts, trials, consultation with relevant staff/students within and outside of the University.

Background to the competition

The University has a target to reduce its per capita carbon emissions from business flights by 25% by 2020/21 (Environmental Sustainability Vision, Policy and Strategy 2015).

In 2016/17, emissions from flights for business purposes (circa 15,000 tCO2e) made up at least 15% of the University’s total carbon emissions (including emissions from the University’s built estate).  This percentage is based on the limited data that we currently hold on business travel that is undertaken by University staff and students. We know that, in practice, emissions from business flights are likely to be  considerably higher than this. In addition, the total distance and number of flights taken by University staff and students are on an upward trend.

The competition is a joint initiative by the Living Laboratory for Sustainability and the Energy and Carbon Reduction Project (ECRP). It aims to harness academic expertise and operational experience from across the University that will help us to improve our environmental performance and increase our capacity to reduce carbon.  The judges of the Carbon Challenge 2018 will be: Ian Leslie, Senior Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor on Environmental Sustainability; Helen Wain, Head of Procurement; and Kevin Couling, Interim Head of Environment and Energy.


Please find out more and to submit your idea here.


Saturday, 31 March, 2018 - 09:00 to 17:00
Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Funding Opportunities

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