Determining the environmental impact of your degree course can be tough – between greenwashing, behind-the-scenes investments and dodgy supply chains, it can be really hard to know how Green your University really is. That’s why I find the People & Planet University League Table so informative – they ask the big questions, and crunch the big data, then rank Universities accordingly on several different criteria including Environmental Policy, Waste & Recycling, Education and Ethical investment. Not all of the criteria are environmental, however, as a strong focus is also placed on justice, and for this reason Workers Rights are also considered as a separate criteria.
So, then, after today’s publication of the 2017 People & Planet University League Table, in which my University (the University of Wales Trinity St David) came 12th (woohoo!), I’m sure you’re all curious to know what it’s like to study at such a Green University! Well, here’s what to expect:
First off, UWTSD ranks at 100% on the Education criteria. This is because we embed sustainability in every single course which is taught here, all the way from Automotive Engineering and Business Management to Drama and Childhood Studies. Sustainability is also embedded in the teaching experience as well as the student experience – all staff are prompted to think about sustainability on a regular basis too! So, if you choose to study with us then you know sustainability will come up somewhere!
UWTSD also ranks 100% for its Sustainability Staff, in part due to our Sustainability Delivery Team, which is made up of four fantastic, dedicated, enthused and just generally wonderful staff members (no, really, they’re great!) who’s jobs range from energy usage and carbon foot printing to promoting environmental sustainability. In addition to this, we also have twelve INSPIRE (Institution of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness, for those of you who don’t know) Interns, who are students studying within the University who, not only qualify for a financial bursary, also get to run projects such as increasing recycling rates, raising awareness of Fairtrade and sustainable food, and hosting sustainability events on campus – all with the support of our Sustainability Delivery Team staff. Having people in the University whose job it is to monitor and promote sustainability is such a crucial step towards ensuring all-round sustainability at every level of an Educational Institution such as UWTSD.
One area in which the University has really improved it’s rating over the past year is Carbon Management, which now stands at 85% as opposed to 5% last academic year. This is really exciting news and the University has identified that a further 250 tonnes of CO₂ could be saved if lighting and control technology are installed throughout the University. Energy Sources have also rocketed from 0% last academic year to 17.5% this year. Keep up the good work!
Ethical Investment has increased by 20% since last year, and a further 10% could be achieved by the University publishing a press-piece about their ethical investment policy, which would bring us up to the full 100%. In terms of the direct effect on students, however, the Universities Green status can really be felt all over campus – barely a week goes by without staff, the Students Union or the Environment Society organising some environmental event or another. Everything from beach cleans and tree planting to workshops and eco-crafts, whatever your interest or ability there are environment-themed events to suit you.
There is still a long way to go, however, and just as we as individuals can always be doing more to improve our environmental footprint, it is no different for institutions. The Workers Rights ranking, for example, has remained static at 15% since last academic year – this could be significantly improved by the University affiliating to Electronics Watch, an initiative which audits the supply chains of University electronics and fights to secure fair working conditions, fair pay, and an end to environmental exploitation within these supply chains. The Environment Society at UWTSD recently launched a campaign to lobby the University to affiliate to Electronics Watch, and we hope that this will be successful within the next few years.
Waste & Recycling is also an area of concern as the ranking for this has reduced by 13% since last academic year. Engaging students with recycling is a national issue and more research is needed to establish the causes and solutions of this.
Hopefully this piece has given you a small insight into what it’s like to study at a Top 20 UK University. We, as students, are committed to bettering the environmental credentials of our University and to holding our University to account for climate change mitigation, which will affect our futures and the futures of young people globally. We are immensely proud to be attending a University which not only talks the talk on environmental issues, but also acts in line with its values by ensuring sustainability across the board. This level of interest and care provides exciting opportunities for new projects and we can’t wait to see what our University does next.