The Sustainability Unit at the University of Chester sits within the Estates & Facilities department and aims to ensure that the University leads by example, putting sustainability at the heart of decision making and service delivery. Our goal is to embed sustainability throughout our campuses, curriculum, culture, and community.
When it comes to sustainability on campus, there are key areas such as energy reduction, waste and recycling, water, transport, and biodiversity. We have a target to reach Net Zero for scope one and two emissions by 2030 (emissions from our electricity, gas and fuel consumption). Whilst on campus, you will see some of the physical changes and technologies needed to achieve this, from solar panels and LED lights to light sensors and improved heating systems. We’re currently looking at our estate to see what actions we can take to improve our spaces and reduce our carbon emissions.
The University also has a recycling target. In addition to aiming to reduce the amount of waste produced in the first place, we aim to increase recycling rates to 65% by 2025 and 75% by 2030. There are many recycling bins around campus, if you’re unsure of what can and cannot be recycled, have a look at this handy A-Z guide!
There are many ways in which waste is being reduced. The University has recently signed up to Warp It, to redistribute unwanted items. Food waste can be a big contributor to carbon emissions, and the catering department work hard to minimise the amount of food waste created by regularly reviewing menus. During term time, the community fridge in the Sustainability Shop on Exton Park is stocked with meals left at the end of service and sold at a reduced price.
The department also work closely with Grounds & Gardens on their ‘Garden 2 Table’ initiative, growing vegetables in their greenhouses, which is then used by chefs to create seasonal meals with very low food milage! We don’t use disposable cups or takeout boxes in our catering outlets. If you want to grab a coffee to take to a lecture, bring along a reusable cup or opt into our Drop n’ Swap scheme; paying a £2 deposit, you can drop off your used cup at any catering outlet rather than having to remember to bring one!
Students graduating from the University will be at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis across a variety of organisations and sectors which is why embedding sustainability in the taught and informal curriculum is important. We are committed to ensuring our students leave with the knowledge and skills needed to become engaged citizens, able to lead change in their professional and personal lives.
In June 2020, the University was awarded Responsible Futures Working Towards Award, after demonstrating commitment and action to embed sustainability in the curriculum. There are case studies from departments across the University that highlight this such as, Chester Business School integrating environmental audits in the final year Tourism Futures module.
In August 2021, we began delivering Carbon Literacy Training to staff and students. The training covers the science behind climate change and provides attendees the practical knowledge to make a positive difference. As we enter the new academic year, we aim to deliver the training to more students and staff, who can go onto to become Carbon Literacy Trainers.
We aim to provide regular opportunities for students and staff to get involved with sustainability at the University, whether that’s volunteering at the allotment or joining our Digital Climate Cafes. We are implementing an Environmental Management System (an Environmental Management System is a way for an organisation to manage its impact on the environment in a structured approach, helping to manage environmental performance and identify any risks and impacts). As part of this, we will be working to create a clear reporting system for students and staff to contribute valuable ideas into key areas such as transport, waste, education etc. Alongside volunteering opportunities, we also have a programme called Climate Action. This is designed for staff to improve the sustainability performance of their department. The programme is currently under review as we make changes to ensure that it is achievable for all departments to take part in.
The University can have a positive impact on our local area, whether it’s through events and volunteering or research and teaching. We aim to support and engage with groups within our local communities through our activities. For example, we work closely with Bren Bikes, donating abandoned bikes to them, who then refurbish and sell them on at an affordable price. For many years, we have taken part in British Heart Foundations’ end of term ‘Pack for Good’ campaign, encouraging students to donate unwanted items such as clothes and books. Earlier this summer, a second BHF donation bank was added to Exton Park due to the increase in donations!
The University was a key partner in delivering the Youth Conference at the first Green Expo in Chester earlier in June. The Chester Youth Climate Action Network (Chester Youth CAN) comprised of current students, recent graduates and apprentices from Chester Zoo, who designed and delivered a programme of activities to inspire future generations to consider careers in the sustainability/green sectors. We work with our community partners to share the positive action happening locally and there are often numerous volunteering or work placements available.
Stay in touch
We’re looking forward to the year ahead and are busy planning our Sustainability Festival for early November. For the latest information on events and opportunities to get involved follow us @GreenChester on Facebook and Twitter or @Greenuochester on Instagram!