Education

How Durham University turned itself green

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Just two years ago, Durham was ranked 96 in People and Planet’s university league. So bad was its score that it was rated “third class”. Since then, the Russell Group university has managed to improve its sustainability credentials dramatically, jumping to No 30 in this year’s rankings of 154 institutions.

Simon Park, Durham’s senior manager for energy and sustainability, attributed its success to initiatives such as the introduction of a formal environmental management system, ethical investment and sustainable food policies. The university also created a “greenspace movement” – including an app where users gain points for logging positive activities which go towards vouchers and charity donations, and a festival – to encourage staff and students to contribute to sustainability.

The university has also implemented a “green move out” scheme, encouraging students to donate unwanted items to charity at the end of the academic year.

Students had responded positively to the changes, Park said, and a team of student environmental champions and leaders had played a central role in the university’s approach.

He said Durham was not complacent, however, and had appointed the Carbon Trust to calculate a target based on 1.5C warming above pre-industrial levels. The university planned to create a carbon management plan to ensure it was met, he said. Durham was also working with the Carbon Trust to calculate its full carbon footprint and to identify problem areas to focus on.

Park said Durham was developing a biodiversity strategy and last summer employed three student interns to assess energy use in its highest consuming buildings.

Through Institute of Environment Management and Assessment membership the university planned to provide online training for staff and “environmental champions”, he said.

Park said: “As a responsible university we’re working hard to minimise our environmental impact, while also undertaking research that supports the wider agenda. Students are key to achieving change, and we have a team of environmental champions and student leaders involved across the university. They’ve been really positive about the changes we’ve introduced, and we’re looking forward to sharing the good news about our latest People and Planet university guide ranking with them.”

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