On the wet afternoon of 7 February, the University’s Sustainability Team held a community Orchard Planting Day. Students and staff were invited to take part in the creation of a new orchard on campus. Attendees from the Sussex community were encouraged to plant a Sussex heritage apple tree in a grassy area nestled between the library and Stammer Park, overlooking campus. I had the task of planting a maiden Egremont Russet apple tree, a distinct variety bred in Sussex. From the trees to the mulch, which had been sourced from waste wood chippings and bark, this project was entirely local.

The team passionately spoke about the significance of planting these particular trees. The choice of this species alongside the number of other Sussex heritage varieties was due to their endangered status. As a result of the increased demand from supermarkets for particular types of the fruit, many of Britain’s over two thousand five hundred apple varieties have been left by the wayside. This causes damage to biodiversity and reduces resilience to diseases in our food system, a worrying fact that the Sustainability Team’s vision is committed to counteract through its projects. 

This particular sustainability project was just one of several voted for by members of the Sussex community. The vote took place in an April 2022 open workshop that kicked off the University of Sussex’s Big Biodiversity Conservation campaign. This campaign, aided by the involvement and consultation of students, staff, researchers, and local stakeholders works to support the University’s wider commitment to increase the percentage of “land set aside for nature on campus” from 38% in 2022 to 42% by December 2027. The team thus launched the ambitious task of becoming “the most biodiverse campus in the UK,” as part of Sussex’s wider pledge to become a nature friendly campus. The other projects chosen in the Big Biodiversity Conversation can be seen dotted around campus. These include the Pollinator project, introducing Bee Hotels on campus, the Love Your Scrub project, setting aside land for scrub regeneration, and the Psychology School Garden. 

After the orchard planting event concluded and all of the trees were successfully rooted in the ground, one was able to consider the legacy of this project. Not only will these trees stand behind the library for the rest of our time at Sussex, but they will be an ever-present feature of the University’s landscape for up to 100 years from now. In the same vein as the others before it, this sustainability project has become the latest landmark in the Sustainability Team’s push for their ambitious goals, taking the next step towards a greener future for Sussex.

Photo: Abbie Brown

Categories: Campus News News

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