Sustainability Self-Help for Universities: the campus as a test bed for research
By Alex Green, on 20 March 2015
Institutions like UCL face some big environmental challenges; whether it’s our energy consumption (and accompanied eye-wateringly large bills), carbon emissions, purchasing or difficult to maintain heritage buildings. But we’re also producing world-leading sustainability research. Our academic community is at the forefront of efforts to tackle many of these same challenges.
We believe that unlocking this expertise can form a vital tool to tackle our own sustainability challenges. So how we can use the huge amount of knowledge and expertise within UCL’s academic community to help improve impact of the institution as a whole?
In the spirit of this approach, last year we worked with academics from the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change on a study to evaluate the effect of interventions to increase recycling rates on our campus. Representing collaboration between a diverse range of groups including the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change, Sustainability team, Estates and recycling firm Bywaters, researchers analysed the effect of introducing a new recycling system, better signage and the removal of under-desk bins. Two papers reporting the study’s findings have been submitted to high-profile environment and sustainability journals and its next phase will see its results built upon to devise improved recycling interventions on UCL’s campus.
This is just one example of this approach, but we hope it demonstrates the potential to create a win-win situation which improves the impact of university operations, while providing high quality academic insights. Developing this approach, UCL Sustainability Team will soon also be launching a new platform to allow everyone access to the live and historical data of our university buildings. We hope that this will provide an easy tool to enable researchers to dig into how we use energy, and explore how it can be reduced.
Whether it’s with a focus on energy, water, construction or biodiversity, an increasing number of academics across the UCL are using the campus as a test bed for research and study. The university campus really is a resource: use it!