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The University of London has a sustainable spring in its step

Here at the University of London, change is afoot. We are putting sustainability at the heart of university life and seeing results.

The introduction of honeybee colonies on the roof of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies has proved a success and continue to pollinate the local area.

We now all know that we need to start living more sustainably to reduce harmful impact on the environment and preserve our planet. Change can only be achieved when we create a balance between the three dimensions of sustainability – the economic, social and environmental.

There has been huge positive change in the way we operate on a sustainable level. Ambitious goals have been exceeded and a new culture of working is being seen across our estate. We are very proud to announce that through thoughtful planning, education and campaigning, the University is now saving over £1,000,000 in energy bills every year.

Our seven sustainable steps

The sector-level target, set by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to reduce carbon emissions is 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (against a 1990 baseline).

Our sustainable journey, since the HEFCE targets were set, has included a number of creative ways to save money on energy, whilst making a positive contribution to the environment by reducing our carbon footprint:

  • Switch lights off when you leave a room
  • Turn off your computer screens
  • Ensure your appliances are unplugged
  • Turn heaters off
  • Recycle your waste
  • Use reusable packing
  • Try your hand at bee keeping!

A commitment to reduce emissions relating to travel, procurement, waste and water has also been established. Though driven by government policy, we recognise that we have a responsibility as pioneers in higher education to meet or exceed HEFCE’s targets.

Our progress

  • The introduction of staff champions to promote and encourage positive environmental behaviour has resulted in a steady year-on-year reduction in emissions.
  • By making technical improvements across the estate, we have maintained our ISO14001:2004 accreditation (the international standard for environmental management systems).
  • All of our energy is now procured from renewable sources. We use 100% smart meter coverage allowing us to identify energy wastage and make more savings across the estate.
  • All of our major building projects follow a sustainable building specification developed in line with a BREEAM outstanding accreditation.
  • We have received a ‘Team Green’ award from the Camden Climate Change Alliance in recognition of our sustainability champions’ innovative work.
  • Staff were responsible for saving 190 tonnes of CO2 over six months
  • Recycling rates have increased from 55% to 72%
  • By breaking with the dominant culture and building sustainability at the heart of university life, our interim milestone to cut CO2 emissions by 20% by 2015 was exceeded by 12%. 

The master plan

Our 20-year vision for University and member institute development in Bloomsbury incorporates low carbon technologies, an extended Bloomsbury Heat and Power network, more green spaces, increased biodiversity and better routes for pedestrians and cyclists.

Though the majority of our estate is in an urban environment, there are green spaces where a more diverse natural habitat can be supported. The introduction of honeybee colonies on the roof of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies has proved a success and continue to pollinate the local area.

We continue to focus on reducing student energy use. The halls of residence campaign to ‘Reduce the Juice’ has engaged students to live more sustainably.

Our Sustainable Food and Fair Trade Policy ensures that sustainability is embedded into our catering services and that it contributes to the global community by trading fairly.

Our next phase will be to cut CO2 emissions by 43% by 2020, updating our accreditation to ISO 14001:2015 and continuing all the good work through the network of staff and student champions.