The University of Chester has been shortlisted for its environmental initiatives in three separate categories in the higher education sector’s Green Gown Awards.The Awards celebrate pioneers and recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sectors across the UK and Ireland.
The education sector is a critical player in ensuring the next generation is equipped with the skills and experience required to provide a sustainable future, and the University of Chester is working hard to put the sustainability at the core of its business.
The institution is a finalist for three out of 17 award categories: Food and Drink; Research and Development Student; and Sustainability Champion.
Student Karen Elliott, who is graduating this year with a BSc in Geography, has been shortlisted in the Sustainability Champion category. Karen (above photo on the right receiving her award at the Green Tie awards from Anneessa Mahmood, NUS Sustainability Projects Officer.) has spent her time at Chester dedicated to helping others learn about sustainable matters, and encouraging colleagues to think and act more sustainably in everyday life. She has been a key volunteer for Green Chester (a University-wide environmental initiative), gaining over 150 volunteering hours in the process.
She has volunteered within the Geography and International Development Department, helping out at open days, and participating in the Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral project. Karen, from Bembridge, Isle of Wight, has been a President of the People and Planet Society at the University (which included running the University’s allotment), as well as a Green Impact auditor for the last three years. Through her sustainability efforts, Karen was also awarded the NUS’s Green Impact Special Award for Student Leadership during the University’s Sustainability Unit’s Green Tie Awards in June 2016 for her dedication to sustainable affairs.
In the Research and Development Student category, Alex Lerczak is a finalist for his MSc project, Staff and Student Perceptions of Sustainability and its Integration into University curricula. He investigated the perceptions of staff and students within six departments, and achieved a distinction for his work.
In his research, Alex, from Winsford, interviewed staff about their attitudes to sustainability, student projects and the establishment of a teaching and research sustainability focused network. Presenting his findings to the institution’s Curriculum Innovation Lab was the springboard for a wider review of sustainability across the University covering all eight faculties and surveying 700 students about their attitudes towards sustainability in the curriculum.
The University’s Hospitality and Residential Services team has been shortlisted in the Food and Drink category for its wide range of environmental and sustainability initiatives. These have been undertaken through the key areas of food procurement and waste, packaging, and catering equipment.
In particular, Hospitality Services, the department responsible for feeding the entire University, plays a crucial role in contributing to the institution’s sustainable future and seeks to lead by example.
Among the initiatives its team has introduced are:
- The ‘zero food waste to landfill’ scheme, which spans the institution’s Chester and Warrington campuses, diverting tonnes of food and plate waste from landfill to be processed using anaerobic digestion, which uses bacteria to break down biodegradable substances.
- Using home grown produce from the University’s gardens and properties, including fruit and vegetables.
- The ‘Incredible Edibles’ campaign, in which herbs and chillies gathered from the University’s gardens, are put on tables in catering outlets, where guests can help themselves to them.
- Sending packaged and prepared food waste to local homeless shelters, and food banks.
- Choosing local suppliers and creating seasonal menus through all catering sites wherever possible.
- Recycling coffee grounds as compost for University gardens.
The team has replaced disposable polystyrene takeout boxes with a recyclable ‘eco takeout box’. Old, inefficient fridges and chest freezers have been exchanged for brand new walk-in fridges and freezers; this ensures new and efficient running units which reduce energy costs and environmental impact. All catering equipment is A rated for energy efficiency, and electrical vans are used, which reduces the dependency on fossil fuels and our emissions from fuel. Eco-friendly chemical free cleaning products are used across all sites for Hospitality and Domestic Services staff. One of the catering outlets, in the University’s Westminster Building, is fully solar-powered, which is also reducing energy costs. Ian White (the University’s Domestic Bursar and Director of Hospitality and Residential Services) received the NUS’s Green Impact Special Award of ‘Environmental Hero’ in 2015.
Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, said: “The University is proud and pleased to be recognised in three categories in the Green Gown Awards. At the University of Chester, sustainability is embedded into all aspects of our activities, and our initiatives receive broad support across all our campuses. For our students and our staff to be shortlisted highlights the hard work and dedication to this cause, and it demonstrates the impact that their work has had on this institution.”
The winners will be announced on November 10 at the prestigious Green Gown Awards Ceremony, held at The Athena, situated in the Cultural Quarter, Leicester.
More information about the Awards can be found at http://www.greengownawards.org/2016-finalists