Ten years on from the launch of the Green League Table, the numbers of universities ranking First Class for environmental and ethical performance has increased by 100%.
The early league tables, compiled independently by student campaigning network People & Planet, raised questions and created conversations.
Today, one of the league’s main triumphs is that it serves to share the best practice initiatives of all and importantly those which are influencing 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.
The Waste Hierarchy
The campuses ranking First Class have all implemented a highly visible ‘waste hierarchy’ programme to encourage students and staff to reduce, re-use and recycle waste in all areas across campus.
At the top of the league and notably the only university to remain within the top three positions for five consecutive years is Manchester Metropolitan University.
The Waste Management Group here have worked to embed the principles of the waste hierarchy to become an intrinsic part of everyday life on campus.
They are achieving this through internal communications and campaigns which detail the what, why, where and the how to of waste disposal and recycling.
Student and staff resources such as posters for kitchens (opposite) also include the University’s 2020 reduce and reuse target to build the sense of purpose and emphasising the shared goal.
Reducing the Weight of Waste
In fourth position, the University of Worcester has set some interesting targets and planned initiatives to reduce the weight of the waste collected.
Up to 2020 they are aiming to reduce the weight of waste by 3% per annum through a number of initiatives such as promoting the local Repair Café and implementing a pilot Green Impact Excellence project with office cleaning staff; to increase office recycling rates among staff and increase education and understanding among cleaners.
Another target will see the weight of charitable donations increase by 5%.
All are striving to achieve ambitious recycling targets.
Nottingham Trent University are striving for 50% of waste to be segregated on site with over 95% of waste to be recycled.
Their campus recycling stations consist of mixed recycling, general waste and food waste with additional school recycling bins located around the sites for Glass, Batteries, WEEE, Textiles supporting British Heart Foundation.
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 bag for glass.
Sustainable Food Packaging
Beach litter surveys have shown us that most of the plastic waste threatening our natural world is entirely made up of single-use** ‘throwaway items’ such as plastic bottles, straws, cotton buds and food packaging.
The University of Gloucestershire and Nottingham Trent University have both switched to sustainable food packaging to help tackle the blight of single-use plastic head on and ensure all disposables used on campus are recyclable and bio-degradable.
The University of Bedfordshire, which also received the Silver EcoCampus Award in August 2017, scored 100% for its use of water per head and for use of grey water. Their target to reduce use of water by 15% up to 2020 is supported by their commitment to incorporate a number of water reduction and re-use programmes***.
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 27 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.