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Education: 10 Ways to Improve Sustainability

18 December 2023

10 ways to lower emissions

Nurturing sustainability in education

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, it’s now the norm to address environmental concerns and champion sustainable practices. Lowering emissions not only contributes to a healthier planet and saves money, but it also sets a powerful example for future generations. We explore ten practical ways educational institutions can actively reduce their carbon footprint.

Sustainable Transportation:

Encouraging students and staff to opt for sustainable commuting options significantly reduces emissions associated with daily travel. This can be done through simpler measures like educational initiatives and incentivising sustainable travel, or through more complex methods such as installing EV chargers or cycle pathway infrastructure.

This was a key tenet of the 2022 paper released by the UK government, Sustainability and climate change: a strategy for the education and children’s services systems. We covered how best to explore this in our building the tertiary education sector’s path to net zero article

Energy-Efficient Buildings:

Implementing green building practices involves optimising energy consumption within educational facilities. From energy-efficient lighting to insulation upgrades, these initiatives not only reduce emissions but also contribute to creating a healthier and more comfortable learning environment.

Waste Reduction and Recycling:

Establish comprehensive waste reduction and recycling programs within educational institutions. Initiatives such as promoting paperless classrooms, composting, and recycling stations can significantly decrease the overall carbon impact associated with waste disposal.

Renewable Energy Education:

Irrespective of the age group or demographic of your students, delivering effective education will improves the chance of positive outcomes in the short term. It’ll also equip your students with the knowledge to continue to make a difference beyond their studies. Integrate renewable energy education into the curriculum to inform students about clean energy sources. This not only raises awareness but also inspires the adoption of sustainable practices, potentially fostering future leaders in the renewable energy sector.

Sustainable Campus Practices:

Extend sustainability efforts to daily campus operations, encompassing practices like water conservation, eco-friendly landscaping, and energy-efficient appliances. These initiatives collectively contribute to lowering emissions and creating a greener campus.

Environmental Curriculum Integration:

Integrating environmental education into various subjects ensures that students receive a holistic understanding of sustainability. From science to literature, incorporating eco-conscious content enriches the academic experience while instilling a sense of responsibility towards the environment.

Carbon Footprint Awareness:

Educating students and staff about their individual and institutional carbon footprints creates awareness and prompts a collective effort towards emissions reduction. While understanding the full extent of your centre’s complete carbon footprint can be daunting, there is support available.

We deliver carbon literacy workshops which will help expand your staff’s knowledge of scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Doing so empowers your team to build the foundation for developing an effective carbon reduction strategy.

Green Initiatives and Policies:

Advocating for and implementing green policies within educational institutions sets the foundation for a sustainable and environmentally conscious community.  

There are a significant number of initiatives and policies that educational institutions have already implemented. One example, is The University of Birmingham have water-saving measures on their campus, utilising a rainwater harvesting system and water-efficient landscaping to reduce overall water consumption.  

Whereas The University of Cambridge promotes sustainable transport via the Green Travel Plan, encouraging staff and students to either walk, cycle or make use of public transport. 

Environmental certifications and awards are also becoming more common across the education sector. Colchester Institute, recently received the Environmental Awareness Award at the Essex Countywide Business Awards 2023, being recognised for all the work being done towards Net Zero. 

Community Engagement:

Engaging with your immediate peers is another way to accelerate your progress. By collaborating with local businesses, residents, and organizations to create a united front in emissions reduction efforts. By extending sustainability initiatives beyond the campus borders, educational institutions can foster a broader sense of community responsibility towards the environment.

Student-Led Initiatives:

Empower students to take the lead in emissions reduction projects. Establishing student-led initiatives not only provides practical learning experiences but also taps into the creativity and enthusiasm of young minds, creating a ripple effect of eco-conscious behaviour within the student body.

In the UK, universities like the University of Glasgow have student-led sustainability societies that organize events, campaigns, and initiatives to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote sustainable practices on campus.  

The University of Exeter's Green Consultants program involves students in conducting environmental audits and proposing sustainability measures for different departments, fostering a sense of responsibility and environmental stewardship among the student community. 

By actively incorporating these ten strategies, educational institutions can play a pivotal role in mitigating climate change and nurturing environmentally conscious individuals. Doing so helps deliver a future where education enlightens minds and cultivates a deep respect for our planet.

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