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.

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