Cardiff Metropolitan University becomes the first Welsh university to reach first place since the league’s inception, climbing an astonishing 67 places since 2019.
Now entering its 15th year, the People & Planet University League continues to rank UK universities against sustainability and ethics criteria. However, it has been revealed that 59% of contenders have failed to reach their sector-wide carbon reduction targets of 43% between 2005/6 and 2020/21, targets set by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
Nevertheless, the league’s main triumph remains the same; to share the best practice initiatives and influence staff and students to become agents of change.
Shared Goals, Best in Class Initiatives
Although ranked independently in the league, collectively universities and colleges are leading the way through sustainable procurement, water and carbon management, improved recycling rates and waste reduction programmes.
Where some sectors are finding the implications of their sustainability activities challenging to measure, higher education establishments have been assessing and evaluating the impacts of their programmes for over a decade with some of the most diverse types of hazardous and non-hazardous waste to manage.
With the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) providing a renewed united focus and vision for the future of our planet, the time to emulate best in class initiatives is now.
To help share the best practice in action right now, we’ve compiled a selection of the sustainability programmes that have been placing universities at the top of the Green League.
Cardiff's Critical Carbon Reduction
One of the most influential sections of grading criteria is institutions’ carbon management plans. Using the publicly available Estates Management Record (EMR) by HESA, the league aims to track performance in the reduction of critical carbon emissions.
As in previous years, each institution is scored on how closely their actual carbon reductions are to the linear trajectory that is needed to reduce carbon emissions by 43% by 2020/21 from the initial 2005/6 baseline.
The winner of the league, Cardiff Metropolitan University, has been recognised for its outstanding performance in carbon reduction and is one of the key motives behind its rising success, achieving full marks with a 65% decrease in emissions since 2005/6.
Overall, the university scored 82.3%, most notably through its achievements in several key areas, such as Sustainable Food, Education for Sustainable Development, and Environmental Auditing & Management.
The Waste Hierarchy
The campuses ranking First Class have all implemented an evident ‘waste hierarchy’ programme to encourage students and staff to reduce, re-use and recycle waste in all areas across campus.
Rising from 28th to 10th position this year, Bangor University. Another Welsh contender that's breached the top 10 to demonstrate the country’s commitments to sustainability.
The waste hierarchy ranks waste management options according to what is best for the environment. It gives priority to the prevention of waste, with landfill and incineration placed at the bottom and to be avoided at all costs.
In 2021/22, Bangor University embedded the hierarchy into all its functions and daily operations; managing to divert 100% of its waste from landfill. From that, 57.69% was recycled and 42.31% was recovered.*
The Path to Becoming a Zero-Carbon University
Whilst falling from 1st position to 3rd, Manchester Metropolitan University has placed top 3 in the league table since 2013 – a remarkable feat they aim to build on through their path towards Zero Carbon.
Reaching a score of 79.9%, the institution achieved 100% in the field of Policy and Strategy, which is most evident through their ambitious targets to become an example of sustainability for other universities around the world.
An example of their strategy is their pledge to reach net zero by 2038, taking steps to significantly reduce their energy use and carbon footprint. They plan to do this through multiple initiatives and on-site energy generation improvements, like their roof-top solar photovoltaics and on-campus energy centres.*
All are striving to achieve ambitious recycling targets.
The University of Reading achieved a 4th position in this year’s rankings, moving up from 15th with a 75% grade in Waste & Recycling. In their Waste and Resource Use Strategy 2021-30, they aim to increase their annual recycling rate to a minimum of 60% by weight and continue to maintain the level for the duration of the Strategy. Through this, they also hope to achieve less than 1% by weight of waste to landfill.*
Their campus recycling stations consist of mixed recycling, general waste and food waste with additional School Recycling Bins located around the sites for the separate collection of Paper, Plastic Cups, Glass, Batteries and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).*
While back in Manchester, bins are banned in staff offices.
Staff are encouraged to dispose of their waste at the internal or external recycling hubs provided throughout the campus.
The Recycling Hubs at Manchester Metropolitan University which feature the Glasdon Nexus® 100 Recycling Bins and Nexus Shuttle Food Waste Bin
Each recycling hub follows the same colour coded scheme to ensure consistency and reduce cross contamination with black for general, non-recyclable waste, green for comingled waste e.g. plastic bottles and cans, blue for paper and cardboard waste, brown for food waste and with purple/white bags for glass.
The University of Bedfordshire, which reached an exceptional 2nd place this year, scored 100% for its use of water per head and for the use of grey water, yet again.
These include the integration of rain water harvesting and / or grey water usage into all new buildings and major refurbishments, the implementation of water saving measures throughout, 72 hour target on the repair of water leaks and raising awareness among staff and students of the requirement to use water sparingly.
Alternative initiatives which have been implemented by other top performers include the installation of leak detection loggers on high water usage buildings to improve the ability to monitor and respond quickly to future leaks.
Although not specified as one of the criteria in the league, many of the Universities featured are developing and refurbishing buildings to achieve BREEAM standards.
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the longest established method of assessing, rating and certifying a buildings sustainability.
BREEAM certified universities aim to provide high-quality learning environments with low operational costs and are great exemplars of sustainability for the wider community, while earning the building extra points of recognition.
The sustainability factors assessed through BREEAM include energy and water saving, eco-friendly materials, health and wellbeing, biodiversity and transport.
The University of Bristol, currently ranked 22nd in the Green League, have 12 BREEAM projects certified as excellent and 10 certified as ‘very good’.
Bristol are aiming to become a net carbon-neutral campus by 2030. Although an ambitious goal they are focused on achieving this using a number of measures which include:
- reducing the emissions from boilers using Autoflame Controls,
- installing photovoltaic solar (PV) panels to provide energy and air-source heat pumps to produce hot water in electrically-heated halls of residence, and;
- adding voltage optimisation units to newer transformers and replacing old transformers with ultra low loss units set to lower voltage. This voltage optimisation programme saves 1,500 tons of C02 a year and generates a saving of £280,000 in energy bills.
Best Practice in Action
If you would like to improve waste reduction and recycling rates across all of your facilities or identify the campus friendly solutions that can support your University's sustainability programmes, we can help.
Talk to our team of specialist advisors today on 01253 600400 or LiveChat with us on this website.
We also offer no obligation advice and assistance with your Waste Management Audit, whereby a member of our team is also available to visit you on site to assess your requirements.
Request a free waste management audit here.
Find out more about the People and Planet University League here.
Originally Posted: 10.01.18