Archive for July, 2014

UCL’s Positive Impacts

By Alex Green, on 17 July 2014

We know that UCL has a lot of impacts; carbon emissions, energy use, the effect of our purchasing and the way we deal with waste.

But we also know that through research, volunteering, participation and public lectures, UCL creates a huge positive impact.

We’ve created this infographic to celebrate the effect that we all have on the local community, on London, and on the wider world.

Click on the infographic to see it full-size.


My work experience on the Sustainability Team: Tabitha’s report

By Alex Green, on 10 July 2014


travel infographicTabitha is studying for her GCSEs at a school in Westminster. She recently spent some of her week’s work experience with UCL’s Sustainability Team, finding out what they’re doing to improve the environmental impact of the university.


Photo caption: Tabitha (middle) with Sustainability Manager Stephanie Chesters and Director of Sustainability Richard Jackson.

As a student in my first year of GCSEs, I have becoming increasingly interested in Geography and Maths and the world around us. I chose to spend my Work Experience working with the UCL Sustainability Team to discover more about what being sustainable means to me and everyone else, including UCL.

During my time here I have discovered UCL to be a huge university, made up of people from across the world with very different experiences and backgrounds. As UCL is so large, the need for it to become more sustainable is ever increasing and is required in every aspect of the university.

“Through working together to make these small changes, we can help make the world more sustainable”

The size of UCL is constantly increasing, which despite its benefits comes with its challenges. UCL currently uses the equivalent energy of 11,000 homes and energy bills have reached an astronomical cost of £14million per year. This not only has an impact on the environment, but also on the university’s finances. Moreover, a huge amount of carbon is produced during the academic travel, which generates 160,000 tonnes of carbon per year. This is a big part of UCL’s contribution to global warming and rapid climate change.

Fortunately, the Sustainability Team are working to find and develop solutions to the problems that UCL face. Of the 3,672 tonnes of waste produced by UCL from 2012-2013, 69% of it was recycled and that number is continuing to rise through the new installation of recycling bins across campus (coming soon!). The team is also encouraging more students to take cycle safety training to advertise a more sustainable commute, which is why more bike racks more showers and safe cycle routes will be installed. The use of renewable energy has also increased and they’re exploring the possibilities of installing an energy efficient cooling loop around the university campus.

Energy infographics

From my time working with the Sustainability Team, I have learnt how we can do small things every day to help the environment and make it more sustainable. Simply by using recycling bins properly we can help reduce our carbon footprint and turning the plug off when our mobile phones have finished charging. Pestering our parents to mend a leaky tap could save money and thousands of litres of water a year. Through working together to make these small changes, we can help make the world more sustainable.

Greening Education Conference 2014: report by Anne Spira

By Alex Green, on 7 July 2014

greening education conference 2014

Anne Spira is studying for an MSc in Sustainable Urbanism at The Bartlett School of Planning. She recently attended the Greening Education Conference and wrote this summary of the event.

The Greening Education Conference brought together academics and researchers, scientists and policy-makers, technology companies and education providers working to find solutions for a greener future.

According to Tom Reynolds, coordinator of the Greening Education 2014 conference, there is no better instrument through which to lead by example than the part of the establishment young people have most contact with: education. Through their educational ethos, universities are able to nudge successive cohorts of students into being more sustainability conscious. Additionally, universities themselves have the great opportunity to green their business approach and buildings.

Overall, the conference sought to tackle a variety of questions to the issues of more sustainability-conscious behaviour and institutional change: how can discussion about greening universities be framed to trigger more interest among students and university staff? How can those active in the university’s greening initiatives be made to feel their voices count? How can universities develop effective carbon investment strategies that cover projects, from building retrofit to decentralised energy?

In line with these questions, two of the take-home messages of the conference with regard to behavioural and institutional change include:

greening education conference 2014 V2

  1. Taking a more inclusive approach to sustainability: to trigger sustainability-conscious behaviour change and to motivate students and staff to become part of this change, Louise Hazan from People & Planet suggests reframing of the discussion around sustainability. Currently, the logic of becoming a greener institution does not cut across the entire spectrum, but rather focuses on a very small area: the university’s operations. According to Hazan, more power needs to be given to the individual in coming up with ideas on how to tackle issues like climate change and environmental degradation in the individual’s every-day life.
  2. Taking advantage of new technologies and modeling software: for new buildings, 3D building information modeling (BIM) schemes like COBie, which provide all project and asset information, documentation and data electronically, will become mandatory in the UK by 2016. 3D BIM makes it possible to document knowledge about a facility’s spatial and physical aspects, as well as the costs across the building’s entire life cycle. Overall, this technology allows for more informed decisions regarding. For instance, the materials used and their embodied carbon, as well as the installment of more energy-efficient technology and better insulation to reduce the building’s long-term resource consumption and costs. For existing and old buildings, SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com presented some products, such as tap aerators or light controls. Tap aerators or light controls allow to cut energy and water consumption, and costs.  At low instalment costs and short payback times, because of increasingly reduced resource consumption, these appliances are probably the most effective, cheapest and easiest solution for universities without lowering the comfort.

Overall, the conference offered some good solutions to institutions of higher education to lower their environmental and social impacts and again highlighted the imperative of education providers to tackle issues around climate change and environmental degradation. Amongst the attendees was a variety of academics, university building managers and consultants. I hope they took similar messages home from the conference!