Going Green

Far from being stuck in the past, HE institutions are making serious changes to do their bit for the environment - and attract students

Last year, student campaign group People & Planet published its controversial Green League purporting to show the environmental performance of Britain’s universities. As reported in The Independent, many institutions – particularly those in the must-try-harder category – dismissed the table’s methodology as “sloppy” and “dire”.

One thing is clear though: everyone is keen to be green and be seen to be green. Durham University, which scored a 2:2 in the People & Planet League (which the university says drew on out-of-date information), is taking the matter seriously, recruiting Antje Danielson as deputy director of sustainability.

Danielson oversaw Harvard’s Green Campus Initiative, which saved the American institution £100,000 in the first year. “The numbers at Harvard are staggering now, with the initiative annually saving $7m – the cost is $2m so that’s a net benefit of $5m,” says Danielson.

Durham is the only university of the 20 supplied by N-Power to use 100 per cent green energy, saving 32,000 tons of carbon emissions over the life of the 24-month contract. Its procurement service focuses on fair trade and sustainable practices, and uses the university’s buying power to influence supplier behaviour.

The students are also active, running an Allotment Society to grow their own produce and introducing a “Green Move Out Scheme”, encouraging the recycling of clothes at the end of term. The difference has been noticed by students. “When I arrived I didn’t think they [the university administrators] were that responsive to these kinds of issues, but now I can see they are really trying and some of the changes have been amazing,” says Anthony Crowther, 20, a second-year geographer and the Student Union’s environment officer.

Bureaucratic inertia, EU law and a legacy of old, energy-hungry buildings can make it difficult to effect change. New-build programmes offer a chance to green the campus: new-build work at Greenwich University’s Avery Hill campus, for example, will include timber from sustainable sources, solar water heating and a green roof – topped with perennial plants – offering a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife.

De Montfort University is planning to introduce biomass boilers – which run on renewable fuels – in its new buildings, and is using new types of glass and solar control film to make its buildings more energy-efficient. This September, Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University will move to a new £70m state-of-the-art green building. The new-look business school has been built using 95 per cent recycled materials from an old cinema. It has a floor-to-ceiling central light well that allows natural light to penetrate the middle of the building (reducing the need for artificial light, which will be supplied via an intelligent lighting system that shuts down when not required), and rainwater is collected in underground tanks to flush toilets.

Green travel plans are also much in favour across the HE sector. Northumbria University, for example, is implementing the provision of 160 secure bike places, with showers on site for perspiring pedallers. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has had a green travel plan in place for a few years, working alongside its Oxford Road Corridor partners – the University of Manchester and the Royal Northern College of Music – on initiatives such as car sharing, bus-route planning and cycle facilities. Now MMU is planning to go further, as it invests £250m on its estate over the next five years and consolidates from seven to three campuses.

This consolidation will impact surrounding communities and, says director of services Mary Heaney, the university is keen to make sure that impact is as positive and green as possible. The university is mapping the location of all its staff and providing them with travel alternatives, incentivising the greenest options; those who car share, for example, will be more likely to be allocated a parking space.

“We’re also looking at flexible working arrangements to avoid congestion and we’re going to introduce video-conferencing so that we can reduce intra-site travel,” says Heaney.

Universities have one advantage over other organisations: they can draw on in-house research and expertise to optimise their green policies. London South Bank University’s (LSBU) Borough Road building can boast Sunmount, a solar-panel energy system aerodynamically designed to withstand winds up to 112mph and developed by an LSBU spin-out company called Solion.

Academics also help shape government policy and develop green technologies, reducing the need to convince university staff. Our universities may be a long way from being carbon neutral, but they’re going about it the right way.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary TA - West London - Autumn

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

AER Teachers: Graduate Secondary TA - West London

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering