Schoolgirl’s litter letter earns her grand tour of University
Release Date 15 July 2019
A schoolgirl who wrote to the University of Reading to inform them of her passion for the environment has been given a sustainability tour of the campus.
Amiti Fincham-Majumdar, age 9, wrote to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort in May after spotting some litter on the Whiteknights Campus during a weekend visit. In the letter, she explained she had set up a litter-picking club at her school, Alfred Sutton Primary.
As a result, Professor Van de Noort invited Amiti and five other members of the litter-picking club to take a tour of the Whiteknights campus to hear about the various ways the University is reducing its impact on the environment. The visit took place on Friday 12 July.
Guided sustainability tour
The children met the Vice-Chancellor in his office to hear about his ambition to make the University more environmentally sustainable, before embarking on a guided tour of campus, led by Sustainability Officer Paul Taylor, to see examples of the recent progress made to reduce the University’s carbon footprint.
"We are determined to achieve a net zero carbon position at the earliest opportunity and, alongside all the things we have done so far, are developing some innovative ideas to help us get there” - Professor Robert Van de Noort, University of Reading Vice-Chancellor
These include installing solar panels on more buildings, bringing the total on the Whiteknights campus to in excess of a thousand. The students were able to go onto the roof of the Carrington Building, which houses student services, for a rare opportunity to see these up close and view the green campus from above.
They were also shown a new ground source heat pump that removes heat from below the ground to allow the Carrington Building to be heated without using any gas, and were shown some of the areas of meadow that are left unmown to provide habitats for thousands of insects and other animals.
The tour concluded with the chance to question Professor Hannah Cloke, whose research focuses on flood forecasting and hazards that could result from climate change. Among the questions asked were ‘How do you predict the weather?’, ‘What branch of science is our best hope of tackling climate change?’ and ‘How do you travel to work?’.
At the end of the tour, Amiti said: “It was very interesting. My favourite part was going on the roof to see the solar panels. I enjoyed seeing the view.”
'Passion for the environment'
Before they departed, the children were each given a reusable Sustain It bottle, which have removed hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles from campus since they were introduced in 2017, and a badge featuring a climate change graphic designed by Reading scientist Professor Ed Hawkins.
Professor Van De Noort said: “We were pleased to receive Amiti’s letter and even more delighted that she was able to visit the campus with her classmates. We value the input of the community into our plans.
“I and my colleagues enjoyed being able to engage with young people who share a passion for the environment. We are determined to achieve a net zero carbon position at the earliest opportunity and, alongside all the things we have done so far, are developing some innovative ideas to help us get there.”
Robert Howell, headteacher at Alfred Sutton Primary School said: “As a school, we are keenly aware of the need to provide opportunities for our pupils to understand the implications of pollution in all its forms, and to provide a forum for them to ask challenging questions in order to inform their understanding.
“The visit to the University provided a wonderful opportunity for a group of pupils, who have already galvanised themselves to take direct action to tackle litter in the local community, to gain first-hand insight into what the University is doing to tackle key environmental issues.
“We look forward to working in partnership with the university in the future to support the keen interest our pupils have in environmental issues.”
Photography by Emma Thrower