Wolfson’s May Ball ranked as one of the most sustainable in Cambridge

May Ball Carriage (Tristan Selden)

The Wolfson May Ball team placed third among all Cambridge colleges in the latest Cambridge Sustain-a-Ball ranking – thanks to a host of new sustainability innovations at its fairytale-themed 2022 event.

May Ball Carriage (Tristan Selden)

Often likened to miniature festivals, the Cambridge May Ball tradition sees Colleges throw annual parties for students to celebrate the completion of term. Each event carries a distinctive theme, with campuses transformed into fairytale forests or glitzy galas.

The Sustain-a-Ball Project assesses each college May Ball across eight categories, from carbon reduction to social accessibility; allocating awards for the most sustainable events in the year.  As in previous years, the 2022 Wolfson May Ball organising committee included a sustainability officer, responsible for managing the environmental impact of the event. And as a result of several sustainability innovations the team implemented last year, the College earned a platinum award, as well as third place overall in the ranking.

“Sustainability was considered from the very beginning, and across all areas, including decorations, food and drinks, marketing and social engagement, logistics, energy, waste, transport and innovation,” says Sustainability Officer Iria Heitel.

 “The focus was on understanding where the carbon emissions hotspots were and identifying opportunities to reduce them. Overall, there was a particular emphasis in reducing materials, such as reusing/recycling materials for decorations, and creating our own decorations when possible.”

One of the areas that helped Wolfson stand out against other May Balls was the use of reusable cups across the site, which were then incorporated into the College Bar’s usual service after the event, minimising plastic waste from the occasion.

“With such a small budget we had to be really savvy and smart about how we achieved all the things we wanted to,” added May Ball President An Tran.

“We were fortunate that we could build on the amazing work of the Wolfson Sustainability & Conservation Hub, and every team in the College, from Maintenance to Food Services and the Gardening Team, were very supportive in helping us achieve these goals."

Initiatives included locally sourced food and drink options, as well as a programme of activities that included mainly local artists and businesses. There was also an effort to do more with less, especially in terms of being energy efficient and reducing energy, waste, and transport where possible.

“We're extremely proud to have produced an event of this quality at the ticket price that we did,” said An. "I think this shows that putting sustainabilty first doesn't need to break the bank or lead to a reduction in quality".

The theme for the 2022 May Ball was "Once Upon A Time". The 2023 theme will be revealed at the May Ball launch party on Saturday 28 January. Follow the Wolfson May Ball on Instagram for details.

Image credits: Tristan Selden. Video by Jedrek Koh.