The University of Chester has been recognised in three separate categories for its environmental initiatives, in the higher education sector’s Green Gown Awards.
The University was shortlisted three times – and, in each of its shortlisted categories: Carbon Reduction; Food and Drink; and Sustainability Champion; it was Highly Commended.
In the Carbon Reduction category, the University’s Sustainability Unit was Highly Commended for its Energy and Carbon Lab. Created two years ago, the Lab has seen the University’s understanding and control of utility consumption, energy management and implementation of successful energy and carbon reduction measures grow. Focussing on collaboration rather than imposition, the Sustainability team has developed a clearer picture of the University’s energy consumption than ever before, and invited key colleagues working ‘on-the-ground’ to come together to create energy solutions. This has resulted in implementing a roll-out of LED lighting replacements which, combined with the installation of solar panels, has resulted in 20% average savings in electricity used in those buildings. Through a variety of technical projects and behavioural campaigns the University has achieved savings of 3,361 tonnes of CO2 and avoided £848,909 in utility costs.
In their feedback, the judges said they were impressed with the ‘out-duction’ to prepare students for independent living and the University’s engagement with the local community with energy efficient advice.
The University was also Highly Commended in the Food and Drink category for its workputting sustainability at the heart (and stomach) of everything it does. It had been shortlisted in particular for its holistic approach to encouraging and advocating the environmental and health benefits of vegetarian and veganism. Hospitality and Residential Services commitment to reduce meat consumption through the opening of the vegetarian bar in Whites as well as expanding the provision of vegan and vegetarian options on all menus, is an integral part of the institution’s sustainability efforts to reduce Scope 3 emissions. The team also worked with final year Geography students, who acted as consultants to review and analyse the reduction of consumption of animal products across Campus. As part of the University’s Green Impact programme, the Chester Library team also conceived ‘VeggieFest’, which provided a unique occasion for staff and students, local social enterprises and other local businesses to share their passion and enthusiasm for locally sourced, vegetarian and vegan food.
The judges’ feedback was: “A great holistic approach and model for a sustainable project. It was good to see a focus on meat reduction and behaviour change. We liked the consideration for the local economy too.”
Highly Commended in the Sustainability Champion category, was Shaunagh Smith. Shaunagh, who is an Administrative Assistant in the Estates and Facilities Department at the University, continuously demonstrates commitment and leadership to sustainability within the University and the wider community, Shaunagh embodies all the qualities of a Sustainability Champion, and supports the Unit wherever possible.
Beyond the University, Shaunagh is a mentor, supporting local community groups to implement biodiversity projects. Shaunagh truly demonstrates how one person can make a difference by enthusing and motivating those around her.
The judges said: “Involved in a fantastic range of initiatives and projects; dedicated to the sustainability agenda in all she does, Shaunagh goes beyond that expected of her role and indeed the University.”
Commenting on all three Commendations, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, Professor Tim Wheeler said: “To be shortlisted in three categories, and then highly commended in all, is a fantastic achievement. It inspires the University to continue to seek innovative solutions to our energy and carbon challenges. We are proud to demonstrate that energy savings can be achieved, despite substantial growth. I commend the innovative approaches taken by the Hospitality and Residential Services team to promote meat-free options throughout their outlets. The success of ‘VeggieFest’ is testament to the collaborative cross-institutional approach taken by the teams, and partnering with students to evaluate the success further enhances the student learning experience.
“Additionally, Shaunagh’s commitment to embedding sustainability within her role, engaging colleagues and students to have a positive impact is excellent. Her willingness to promote sustainability, not only within the University but in the wider community, is truly commendable and is a reflection of the high calibre of staff at the University.”