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University Counselling Service

Student Counselling

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Green Impact News

last modified Nov 08, 2017 02:28 PM

This ‘corner’ of the website includes details of the Green Impact events and endeavours that the Service takes part in each term. We hope it will raise awareness and have an impact on green issues both within the Service and beyond.

Easter Term 2017

Great News!  The Counselling Service won a Green Impact EXCELLENCE AWARD this year for their outstanding pen recycling initiative project involving the sustainable collection and recycling of spent writing implements across departments and Colleges in the University, putting Cambridge on the map as a ‘Terracycle’ public recycling collection point.

Our initial aim was to collect over 1500 pens for recycling and we went about this by raising awareness of the recyclability of writing instruments among various networks in the community, including friends and family, who in turn reached out to their workplaces and schools to collect more items.

Encouraged by this initial success we decided to apply for an NUS micro-grant of £250 (which was offered from their own UNESCO award prize for setting up the Green Impact initiative) and with this money decided  to provide colourful collection boxes to as many Colleges and Departments who would like to join us in the project. To date twenty eight different departments have joined, sending us their pen collections via the University internal mail system, allowing us to turn the project into something much more sustainable for the future.

We also took advantage of support from a ‘Green Impact Project Assistant’ and were matched with Bianca Voicu, who worked tirelessly on our behalf to mail all departments and Colleges and who organised our efforts by setting up a spreadsheet.  Bianca’s enthusiasm and support, together with the micro-grant, were invaluable in turning the undertaking into a sustainable project and we hope that still other departments may decide to become involved in the future (please contact  to register if you are interested).

We also worked in collaboration with the Sociology Department’s Green Impact team, and in particular with Siobhan Hoffmann Heap, to set up a visible community-wide recycling point within the their Department, which is easily accessible for the Cambridge community and is now advertised on Terracycle’s website. We hope that widening the pen recycling initiative in this way will ensure its sustainability.

The project has also helped to publicise our chosen charity recipient - Centre 33 - and the important work they do within the local community.

At the same time we felt pleased when other members of staff stepped in to take care of the previous Green Impact project, the Mindfulness Garden, and we have encouraged them to write about their experience of this:

Mindfulness Garden

Since the spring of this year we have been working towards building on the vision of Elizabeth English and her team to create an intimate outside space which can be used by UCS staff as a place of contemplation, as a breathing space during a difficult day or as somewhere to have lunch when the sun is out.

We have tried to choose plants which are productive (strawberries, beans, chillies, courgettes and tomatoes) which bring some colour and scent into what can be a rather damp and gloomy courtyard (the Trinity geraniums are doing excellently) and which are attractive to wildlife - buddleia for butterflies, lavender for bees, sunflower seeds for birds (and also possibly squirrels and dormice)

We have also found that tending the garden has been therapeutic in its-self: when the focus of so much of our work can be on holding or containing the powerful and often overwhelming feelings, fantasies and trauma of our clients, the act of watering, nurturing and tending to the plants can feel both grounding and rewarding. This is also true for those clients who, during counselling sessions, are able to sit by windows which open on the garden – the visual aesthetics of the garden contribute to a sense of peace and calm which in turn facilitate reflection and contemplation. There is a long tradition of gardening and horticulture having been used to calm and restore people in distress: from the Ancient Egyptian physicians who prescribed walks around the garden to alleviate psychological and emotional suffering via the monastery gardens of the Middle Ages designed to ease melancholy to the ‘moral treatment’ of the York retreat which, in 1796 encouraged walks in the countryside and gardening as part of the therapeutic treatment of the insane.

One of the most satisfying aspects of working on the Mindfulness Garden has been the collaborative effort of planting together and of knowing that the garden can be used by all of us: it is a daily reminder of the importance of community and joint efforts and of how valuable and sustaining ordinary human contact can be.

We also want to thank Amy Beddows, who has been a mainstay of the pen recycling initiative, who has now decided that due to personal commitments (a PhD project) she will be helping the Green Impact team ‘on request’  now, rather than as an active member. Thanks Amy for all your input and best wishes with your new project!


Lent 2017

Pen Recycling Project

This term, the UCS Green Impact Team has decided to take on an ‘Excellence Project’, which involves focusing on a single area of environmental interest throughout the year. We have chosen pen recycling as our topic, as the Counselling Service uses a lot of pens but there isn’t a recycling stream through which we can currently dispose of used writing instruments. In collaboration with TerraCycle, we have set ourselves quite a challenge – to collect 1500 broken, used or unwanted writing instruments by June 2017. In addition to this, we are looking at the viability of setting up a drop-off point at the University where staff, students and other people in the community can deposit their writing instruments for recycling.


You can read more about TerraCycle’s writing instruments initiative here:

We have already collected 750 pens, which is a great start! If we manage to reach our target, TerraCycle will make a donation to a charity of our choice and we have chosen Centre 33.

You can help us reach this goal - any staff or students visiting the University Counselling Service can bring used pens and hand them into staff or there is a green collection box in the student waiting room. Alternatively, you can post pens to the Green Impact Team at UCS via the University Mail Service.

Thank you for your pens!

Macmillan coffee morning and Foodbank Collection

In addition to the Excellence Project, we held a cake and coffee morning to raise money for Macmillan and thanks to the wonderful bakers at UCS, we raised £75.65 (and consumed a fabulous amount of cake).

The Service now has a permanent collection for the Cambridge City Foodbank to gather items that are most needed in the local community.

Xmas Box