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The Growth Of Eco-Friendly Educational Buildings

With Leeds pledging to stop using single use plastic by 2023 and Cardiff banning balloons from all university events, we take a look at the growing number of institutions raising their ecological game and the measures they’re taking to prevent such a climate catastrophe.


Whether you echo the rallying calls of Greta Thunberg’s inspiring words or not, climate change is happening, and it’s happening fast. Different measures are being taken worldwide to ensure the damage we have done can be reversed or at least rectified.

Across the UK, universities are attempting to go green and improve their overall sustainability and what better way to deliver these practises than in an educational, learning environment? With Leeds pledging to stop using single use plastic by 2023 and Cardiff banning balloons from all university events, we take a look at the growing number of institutions raising their ecological game and the measures they’re taking to prevent such a climate catastrophe.

Green lifestyles

The University of East Anglia has a green flat initiative that allows students who embrace environmental issues to live together. Previous residents of these green flats have set up upcycling initiatives such as turning their unwanted clothes into new items, run events to raise awareness and are encouraged to save water and energy as well as develop environmentally friendly habits throughout their time.

To go alongside the green living, the university also has a variety of environmental clubs and societies, such as Green Growers, Carbon Crew, People & Planet, and the VegBox Society. Residents of the Green Flats were instrumental in setting up and contributing to these societies according to the university’s website.

Although the hardest as it directly affects a person’s lifestyle, introducing an environmentally friendly kitchen menu in the university canteen will encourage students to make small adjustments to their own diets as well as being environmentally aware. York St. John University recently trialled plant-based alternatives in their meals, with their official caterer teaming up with WWF to increase the student’s uptake of plant based diets. Some of the meals from the event have now been introduced into the main menu, showing that students are willing to immediately introduce new alternatives to their daily diets as a means to sustain the environment in which they operate. Paul Revell, Head of Procurement at York St John University, said: “Working in partnership with our catering team, we’ve been able to show that we can create exciting and appetising meals that are made entirely of sustainably sourced ingredients.

Schools and colleges are also starting to get involved with green initiatives, teaching and encouraging ethical practises to those of a younger age. Newcastle College was awarded a Silver EcoCampus award which recognises their efforts to reduce carbon emissions across the campus. Their work has involved having a Tidy Heroes initiative, encouraging their students to keep the campus clean and pick litter on a weekly basis. All lights in the building work on a sensor basis, ensuring they’re always off when not needed. To further increase their efforts, all of their fast food and drink packaging is Vegware, which means it is fully recyclable and they encourage recycling at every bin collection point on campus.

Small things to consider

Form energy efficiency to recycling, there are a number of ways to contribute towards a green campus. Encouraging pupils and students to walk is a simple and cost-effective way of lowering your carbon footprint. If there are multiple students per household, carshare. A dedicated campus bus that offers free lifts for all University students from campus to various neighbourhoods around the city could be another option. Or even offering a cycle to uni scheme which encourages fitness as well as environmental wellbeing.

The aforementioned People & Planet society is one of the largest UK networks and provides the only independent league table which contains the best and worst ranked ecological universities across the UK. Amongst the best ethically rated were Manchester Metropolitan, Nottingham Trent and Northumbria University. The worst ranked were Imperial College London, Goldsmiths and Liverpool. The universities were ranked on carbon reduction, education, environmental audits and systems amongst other things.

Overseas establishments

Wagenngen University in the Netherlands reached climate neutrality in 2015 when the amount of CO2 it omitted was lower than the amount it compensated. At the heart of the campus lies a Green Office, making it an inspiringly sustainable place to work and study.

Aarhus University in Denmark is another educational building where students can see sustainability in action and can take part as a result. The student’s meals are served by Studenterhusfonden, a student organisation and providers of organic lunches across 12 different canteens around the university, sourced locally and of Nordic origin to ensure emissions were kept to a minimum in the collation of produce.

Even just typing the name of the university into Google will lead you to a plethora of ivy-clad, architectural buildings nestled amongst fields of green, a calming and fresh environment to thrive academically no doubt.

Slightly more technical, the École hôtelière de Lausanne, a hospitality management school in Switzerland, are going a few steps further to ensure low emissions by delivering ‘Campus 2021’. Currently under construction, the campus will be designated with geothermal probes to harvest heat for the buildings, photovoltaic solar panels covering a surface area equivalent to three Olympic swimming pools, and a novel wastewater heat recovery system, which together will provide 90% of the school’s heating needs. If that wasn’t already impressive, they currently

Using European examples when it comes to the growth of educational buildings puts the UK into perspective that we as a nation could of course be doing more. As a hugely developed country part of the G7, it is currently sitting 12th in the world of the most environmentally focused countries, which sounds ultimately positive but with is still some way off compared to the Nordic countries which dominate the top 5 countries listed.


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