Building the foundations for a greener future

This week we discuss green infrastructure and how estates and the management of buildings, both within the university setting and across the globe, has a huge potential to decrease carbon footprints within universities and businesses alike. Over the past year our blogs have been written by our current Sustainability Intern, Lindsey Mackay. We look forward to welcoming our new intern, Mariya Simeonova, who will be taking over from Lindsey and starting her new position with us in the Environment Team at the beginning of August.

Over the past month or so the university campus has been very quiet. With classes over for the summer and students gone on holidays the university may seem like it has slowed down, however behind closed staff continue to work hard as we strive to make the university a better place. The Environment Team have been hard at work compiling data together for our annual end of year reporting. Data analysed will give the university a solid idea of how much energy has been using over the past academic year and the volumes of different types of waste that the university has produced.

One of the main ways in which the university can reduce and lower its carbon footprint is through the design and management of its buildings. Since buildings currently account for 40% of global energy consumption, organisations, businesses and estates have the chance of making real, tangible change for the benefit of our environment. Our vision is to become a carbon neutral campus, not only because we aim to become a leader within environmental sustainability, but because increasing numbers of prospective students across the world are making critical decisions on which universities they are applying to based on what how committed the university is to sustainability and the environment.

Within the university we strive for sustainability by driving down energy demands, production of waste being sent to landfill, with a strong focus on societal impacts and how overall financial savings can benefit the long term future of the university. These are all areas that are currently under consideration as we look towards updating the Carbon Management Plan. Our vision for planning and strategy development is to reflect current conditions and services, facilitate employee engagement in the development of plans, and formulate realistic targets which can be met by placing appropriate facilities and resources that encourage campus wide changes and conscious movements towards sustainability. The journey to carbon neutrality can also include low cost initiatives which use small, every day, behaviour changes which can have significant impact. We encourage our staff and students to get involved in any way they can, whether that be turning down thermostats in halls of residence or turning off electrical appliances before they leave the office at the end of the day.

We were proud earlier in the year to have been awarded Cycle Friendly Campus with Distinction and we believe that this is just one way in which we are showing our commitment to positive change. The award recognises many different factors, however one of the main priorities is the provision of services and facilities, including bike shelters and training, available to staff members and students. This award has also helped to shape and direct the writing and planning of the university’s Travel Strategy which aims to guide future infrastructure and development. By targeting the needs of staff and students, using informed baselines we hope to encourage everyone to consider how they get to work and whether they could make a small change with the vision of large benefits.

If you would like to learn more about the university’s plans for updating our Carbon Management Plan and other related strategies please email environment@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Where are you going this summer?

Although the weather might be variable in Scotland we do often get a short wearing kind of day, and these should be taken advantage of. Whether you are considering what to do this summer holiday, or have already decided to spend some time at home, have a look at our recommendations of things to do in and around St Andrews, and in Scotland. Let us know if you decide to go exploring as we always love hearing from you. If you are considering how you are going to travel think about hiring out an E Car for the day. There are plenty to book out from various stations around St Andrews and are affordable and have low carbon emissions. If you want to know more, follow this link.

Close to home….

St Andrews

First of all we will begin with our own neighbourhood. Although it may be small, St Andrews boasts many interesting corners and lanes ready to be explored, making for a few fun filled days. Here are a few ideas to explore:

  • St Andrews has its own Cathedral and Castle which are well worth a visit and located very near each other. If you are a student and own a gown (and wear it) you will get in for free to the Castle (and feel like you are in Hogwarts!)
  • Craigtoun Country Park, is just 2 miles from St Andrews and is easily accessible by bus, bike or on foot. Activities within Craigtoun Country Park include a playpark, rowing on the lake, crazy golf and trampolines!
  • St Andrews has three beaches which you can enjoy, and on a warm day take a good book to read at. West Sands offers a long afternoon walk, and you can cut back along the Old Course finishing back at the 18th hole! East Sands is shorter but is just as popular. Grab an ice cream, take a walk along the pier and finish by strolling along the sea front. Last but not least is Castle Sands. Although the smallest beach in St Andrews, Castle Sands is perfect to take a picnic down to, and has a pool suitable for paddling in or for practicing your rock skimming skills.
  • Along the coast from St Andrews you can discover quiet little harbour villages with excellent food and drink opportunities waiting to be discovered. These areas are accessible by bus (or be E Car!), or on foot if you fancy taking a long walk along the scenic coastal footpath. Villages including St Monans and Crail are worth visiting, with the Cocoa Tree Café in Pittenweem, and Anstruther’s famous Fish Bar a must!

A little further afield….

Stirling

Stirling is a city rich in history with plenty to do for all ages and interests. Stirling is also surrounded by beautiful countryside, making for the perfect escape if you want some peace and quiet. The iconic Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle are well worth a visit and can be both done easily in a day. To get to Perth you could hire out on of the E Cars, or take a bus to Dundee and hop on a train to Stirling for the quickest route.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is well worth a visit even for a day or two. You won’t be short of things to do from visiting the Castle, to exploring the beauty of the Botanic Gardens. If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the centre of city take a walk down to Stockbridge. There you will find beautiful cobbled streets waiting to be explored with many interesting coffee shops and lunch spots to be tried! We recommend travelling by train to enjoy the most scenic route to Edinburgh from St Andrews and to experience crossing the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. Trains run regularly from Leuchars and will take you straight into the heart of Edinburgh. Alternatively, you can take the X59 bus directly from St Andrews to Edinburgh.

If you fancy a weekend away……

Isle of Skye

Skye is one of the most popular destinations for locals and tourists to visit. If you go you will understand why! The islands boasts stunning scenery and is a popular destination for walkers and climbers of all experiences. The island is also popular with those who love to see wildlife and, in particular, bird watchers. Skye is home to the White Tailed Sea Eagle which attracts many people from far and wide, however you may also be able to spot dolphins, whales and red deer! Other islands are easily accessible from Skye so if you wanted to extend your trip and discover more of Scotland you could do so with ease. Most people opt to rent a car if they are travelling to Skye, however you could also choose to take the train to Glasgow and then onward to Mallaig. From Mallaig a ferry can be taken which will take you to Skye and then the adventure really begins!

Staff on the go in and around St Andrews

Between the months of March and April staff members at the University of St Andrews were invited to take part in the annual Staff Travel Survey. This year we received an outstanding 929 responses (42%), providing an in depth insight into the behaviours and views of academic and support staff from across the university. In this blog we provide a brief insight into the main findings of the survey. If you would like to know more, or if you would like tell us more about your views on travel in St Andrews, please email environment@st-andrews.ac.uk. 

For many of our staff members in the university travel makes up a large part of their day both before and after work, and as the global influence of the university extends to all corners of the globe travel for business is becoming extremely important for both academic research, and maintaining international connections.

This is accounted for in the university’s carbon footprint which provides an accurate account of the amount of carbon we are using and emitting within a variety of areas. One of these areas includes travel, and more specifically, business travel. The results of carbon footprint for the year 2015 – 2016 can be seen below with business travel making 22% of the total carbon footprint.

Every year the university conducts a Staff Travel Survey which is analysed by the Environment Team. This is aimed at helping the university understand the behaviours and attitudes of our staff and the requirements they have at work in order to efficiently plan for the future, in terms of infrastructure and services available. The main results of the 2017 survey are highlighted below.

How do our staff travel to work?

Table 1. Current mode of travel to work, 2006-2017

Since 2016 the number of staff travelling by bike to work has increased by 0.5%, and the number of staff walking to work has increased by 2%. Overall statistics are encouraging as we see staff member choosing sustainable transport options, particularly during working hours. Over 60% of staff take the opportunity to enjoy St Andrews and stretch their legs by walking between meetings within town. We view personal feedback as being integral to how we manage future projects and target resources. From the feedback received in the survey 45.6% of academic staff would consider cycling to work on a frequent basis if the cycle paths in town were improved and if the university provided more showering facilities across campus.

The second part of the survey focused primarily on the effects of the move to Eden Campus for support staff members. Overall figures indicate that commuting distance and time taken to get to work will increase. From the support staff figures 30% stated that their car usage would increase and 11.7% stated that the move would increase their bike usage. Concerns raised include, the facilities provided at Eden Campus including car parking spaces, connections to town to increase ease of business travel and the effect commutes will have on work hours.

Thank you to all who took the time to fill out the survey. We greatly appreciate your time, and your thoughts and insights.

A huge congratulations to our survey winners! Lynsey Smith, Education Liaison Office in Admissions, who won a £50 DP&L Travel Management travel voucher, Andrew Clark, Research Assistant at the School of Biology, who won £100 in Amazon vouchers generously donated and presented by Gary Overstone from Hardies Property & Construction Consultants, and Rachel Nordstrom, Photographic Collections Manager, who won the free membership and one day free booking kindly donated by E-Car Club.

If you would like to see a more in-depth and detailed analysis of the results please email environment@st-andrews.ac.uk.