Students Staff
University of Essex

August 8, 2019

Investing in our environmental responsibilities alongside continued growth

In the face of global environmental challenges, we recognise that as an institution we have a responsibility to adapt our approaches to resource-use to minimise our environmental impact in the face of climate change. Our Head of Sustainability, Rob Davey, tells us about the work going on across our University to ensure we meet our own targets as well as helping create a sustainable planet. 

Rob Davey, Head of Sustainability.

A number of large-scale projects have helped us get close to our target to reduce our carbon emissions by 43% by 2020-21, against a 2005 baseline – we’ve already achieved a 33% reduction, but we know we will have to go further once we have reached our target. With close to £2.5 million committed to sustainability-focused capital projects for the strategic period 2019-25, we will be able to continue to build resilience as we seek more substantial carbon savings.

Recent projects include:

  • Replacement of ageing ultra-low freezers in Biological Sciences, for new, energy efficient equipment. It’s projected that they will reduce energy demand by 70%, cutting 63 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
  • Installation of six new electric vehicle charging points on the North side of the Colchester campus, doubling our provision.
  • Roll out of a new centrally-managed print service which will see a switch from over 1,200 desktop printers to 177 multifunction devices (MFDs). The new MFDs are more energy efficient and by default print in mono and double-sided.
  • Solar panels are installed on all new buildings – you’ll find them on the STEM, Innovation Centre, Sports Arena and more, and we are investing to install more to achieve 5.5% on-site generation of electricity.

We have installed a total of 12 electric vehicle charging points at Colchester Campus.

In the coming years we will need to take bigger and bolder steps in order to further reduce emissions and embed sustainability more widely across the University. Our Sustainability Sub-Strategy will be reviewed and relaunched for 2020-25, and we will explore opportunities to make our campuses net-zero carbon. Reducing waste overall, and improving recycling will continue to be a priority; over the last 9 years waste has declined overall by 39%, but we will need to go further and be more radical in our approaches.

Following considerable work to identify ways to improve and demonstrate our work to date, we are now ranked 44th in the People & Planet University League, a huge jump from our previous position of 124th. This creates real positivity for the coming year, and what we can achieve next. We have also won the Green Flag Award for the third year running, and Wivenhoe Park was the only University to be in the top 10 of the 2018 People’s Choice for the UK’s favourite parks.

Our biggest challenge is to think differently – something we are all responsible for. Every department within the University has the potential to embed sustainability into their work, making it business as usual. Engaging with colleagues cross the University is on-going to understand changes that can be made. Procurement includes sustainability criteria in all large tenders, while Essex Food has developed their Ethics Food programme to focus on healthy and sustainable choices across their outlets.

Multi function printers are more energy efficient and print in mono and double sided.

If you have an idea or suggestion for ways to adapt your working processes that you would like to discuss, contact the Sustainability team: sustainability@essex.ac.uk

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