This weekend marks the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day.

The annual environmental event is celebrated by an estimated one billion people, across more than 190 countries, highlighting the importance of dedicating time, resources, and energy to solving the climate crisis.

Each year students and staff at Canterbury Christ Church University join in partnership with local businesses to prioritise sustainability in industry and support the region’s efforts to achieve Net Zero.

For Earth Day 2023, we are being asked to Invest In Our Planet. Below are a couple of research projects by our staff and students that show their commitment to designing new ways that will help Kent and Medway’s businesses make changes and chose more sustainable actions.

Solar panels in a field

Using second-life batteries and solar power to help farms become energy efficient.

Mohammed Al-Alwai, PhD student in the School of Engineering, Technology and Design.

At Canterbury Christ Church University, we're committed to finding sustainable solutions to real-world problems. Recently, we conducted an economic study to help local farms become more energy efficient.

The study focused on evaluating the cost-effectiveness of installing second-life batteries (used electric vehicle batteries) on a local farm, coupled with already-installed solar systems. By analysing the farm's energy consumption and PV generation (solar energy). The outcomes of the study allowed the farm to acknowledge the financial benefits associated with the proposed solution, particularly for their applications.

The economic study conducted showed that using second-life batteries in conjunction with already-installed solar systems can result in significant financial benefits for farm owners. By storing excess energy generated during the day within the second-life batteries, farms can reduce their dependence on the grid and lower their energy bills. The study found that this approach can have a high cost-to-benefit ratio, making it a financially feasible option for farms looking to adopt sustainable energy solutions. Moreover, the reduced investment payback period associated with this approach means that farms can recoup their investment in a shorter time frame.

The study also found that second-life energy storage systems (ESS) are not only a cost-effective solution for farms but is environmentally friendly too. The ESS we recommended in our study is made up of retired electric vehicle batteries that have reached the end of their first life. By repurposing these batteries for a renewable energy storage system contributes to the reduction of electronic waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

By adopting the approach of using second-life batteries in energy storage systems, the study found that it can have a significant impact on reducing the carbon footprint of farms. By storing excess energy generated by their solar systems during the day, farms can reduce their reliance on power plants that burn fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Instead, farms can increase their use of renewable energy in-house, contributing to a more sustainable future.

These positive economic factors, along with the environmental benefits of reducing electronic waste and lowering carbon emissions, make the proposed solution an attractive option for farms looking to become more energy efficient

We're proud to be able to work with local farms to help them become more energy-efficient and reduce their carbon footprint.

Growing a sustainable future in mushroom farming

Dr Asma Ahmed, Reader in Industrial Biotechnology, School of Psychology and Life Sciences.

Mushroom farming is a fast-growing sector in the UK. The recent plant-based revolution in food production due to more people turning to veganism, and the many health benefits of mushrooms, including high fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, puts them in high demand.

Enjoying mushrooms as food can, however, have a downside. Like humans, fungi take in oxygen and ‘exhale’ carbon dioxide, unlike green plants which during their lives generally capture more carbon dioxide than they produce and why trees are so lauded as a means of carbon capture.


As a growing sector in the UK, mushroom production produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide, which if allowed to build up in a mushroom farm will have negative effects on both product quality and yield. Under current practice, carbon dioxide is usually vented into the atmosphere, increasing carbon emissions.

‘Autotrophic organisms’ such as microalgae (living things that make their own food from simple chemical substances such as carbon dioxide and the sun’s energy) offer an opportunity to mitigate this environmental issue by capturing the carbon dioxide produced during mushroom cultivation.

Through unique collaborations between the University and local businesses, such as AlgaeCytes Ltd and Margate Mushrooms, we aim to develop sustainable mushroom farming with reduced carbon emissions. Mitigating environmental issues by capturing the carbon dioxide produced during cultivation using microalgae.

The University’s life science academics are helping to identify suitable types of microalgae to utilise the carbon dioxide released by mushrooms, instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

The algae biomass grown on waste carbon dioxide will then be used as a feedstock for the production of high-value products across a range of sectors, including personal care, healthcare, and nutraceutical markets. In addition, the spent algae post-processing can provide a recycled source of nutrients for mushroom cultivation. A virtuous circle!