Campus sustainability
From reducing consumption of paper and plastic through to better reuse and recycling initiatives, it’s clear the younger generation is taking sustainability seriously. Source: Shutterstock

In recent times, university campuses and student groups have turned their attention to becoming more environmentally-friendly. From reducing consumption of paper and plastic through to better reuse and recycling initiatives, it’s clear the younger generation is taking sustainability seriously.

If you want to become more eco-minded in your university, there are a few simple steps to doing so. In the following article, Waterlogic presents five ways you can be kinder to your campus environment. For a final boost, why not consider using a water dispenser to refill a reusable water bottle and significantly reduce your carbon footprint?

Global warming, climate change and plastic pollution are issues few of us notice in our day-to-day routines. Yet, a glance at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Global Warming of 1.5 ºC report shows the impact of our habits is becoming self-evident. Glacial melt is causing sea levels to rise to unprecedented levels, putting coastal regions at risk of flooding. Freshwater supplies are running low, leaving cities across the world on the verge of running dry, while carbon dioxide levels are higher than they’ve been at any time in the last 800,000 years.

With over 1.3 million students in higher education across Australia alone, the next generation can play a leading role in driving an upheaval. Changing habits at an early age can ease the strain on the natural world. A proactive mindset can create a healthier society that both consumes less plastic and produces less waste. As the sustainable movement takes hold, the following article reveals the crucial role students have in this environmental crusade.

How can we measure campus sustainability?

There’s more than one method to measure campus sustainability. The UI Green Metric Ranking is an internationally recognised sustainability index developed by the University of Indonesia. It calculates a university’s green credentials based on performance in six categories, spanning setting and infrastructure; energy and climate change; waste; water use; transportation; and education. The calculations use self-reported data backed up by photographs, documents and web pages — and several Australian universities participate in the system to benchmark their performance.

Times Higher Education runs a separate University Impact Rankings system that rates universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The ratings use calibrated indicators to offer an independent comparison across three broad areas — including research, outreach, and stewardship — for a different perspective on sustainability that accounts for aspects such as gender equality and inclusiveness.

campus sustainability

The UI Green Metric ranking calculates a university’s green credentials based on performance in six categories. Source: Shutterstock

Which campuses are the most sustainable?

The University of New South Wales was the most sustainable campus in Australia in 2018, according the Green Metric rankings. The university performed well in terms of energy conservation and climate change as well as waste management. However, Western Sydney University was the best performer in the Times University Impact Rankings for 2019, largely thanks to its focus on gender equality and sustainable development.

Elsewhere, La Trobe University in Bundoora has received plaudits for the green design of its Institute for Molecular Science. The building is characterised by a distinct honeycomb façade and uses extensive natural light to balance the internal climate. The structure received a 5-star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia — Australia’s primary authority on the sustainability of buildings and communities — showcasing how design can be a key factor in a university’s environmental performance.

Further afield, Keele University in the UK is highly-regarded among international standards: the university enjoys a 600-acre campus with woodland, lakes and diverse natural habitats, helping it rank third in the world for its green setting under the UI Green Metric World University system. It also achieved 17th place for campus sustainability and 5th for its performance in ‘Energy and Climate Change.’

Colorado State University in the United States has long been heralded one of the greenest universities around. In 2015, it was the first US campus to achieve the top platinum status under America’s own sustainable measurement framework. The university conducts sustainability research in more than 90 percent of its academic departments, as well as offering eco-oriented extracurricular activities. The campus also claims to use less water than other institutions, while it manages to divert 93 percent of all waste produced by on-campus dining facilities to be recycled or composted.

5 ways you can be eco-friendly at university

Campus-wide initiatives are a key part of making universities more sustainable. However, individuals can make a difference too, provided they know what to do — here are five ways to make your campus more eco-friendly:

1.      Reduce printing by reading on-screen

Australians get through roughly 1.72 million tonnes of printing and writing paper each year: that’s the equivalent of chopping down 40 million trees. With nearly every resource just a screen-tap away — and device-based note-taking simpler than ever — try reading things on your personal devices rather than printing them off.

2.      Stop buying bottled water

The global population buys one million single-use plastic bottles a minute. If you choose a reusable bottle, you can fill up using a watercooler and alleviate the eight million tonnes of plastic waste that enters our oceans every year.

3.      Refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle

The Plastic Pollution Coalition champions the ‘4Rs Pledge’: say no to disposable plastic when possible, cut down on buying products with excessive packaging, opt for reusable containers over single-use plastic — and wherever you can’t abide by the above three, recycle what you use rather than adding to the 91 percent of unrecycled plastics worldwide.

4.      Be smarter with your water usage

A water efficient shower head could save more than 9,000 litres of water per person in your household every year. If you switch the tap off when you brush your teeth, you’ll save 10 litres per minute as well. Simple choices lead to significant change, so act smart with water.

5.      Help promote ground-breaking initiatives

Green Impact is a change and engagement programme developed in the UK and now implemented in universities across Australia. The programme boosts awareness of sustainability by giving students a focused approach to tackling environmental issues —so be sure to call on your campus to take part!

Everyone can become an environmental change-maker

The truth is, environmental change-makers can come from anywhere. Take the students at Western Sydney University, who used a desert car race from Darwin to Adelaide as an excuse to build a vehicle that can run on less electricity than your typical household kettle. While campus side projects like this can seem like a novelty at the time, they can also lead to much bigger things: one student who took part in the same challenge in 2013 landed a job with US-based electric car company Tesla, leading him to a much more prominent battleground that champions sustainable technology.

The outcome goes to show that while an idea may seem far-fetched, it could lead onto exciting opportunities. But if you prefer to alter just a few simple habits, adopt the five suggested in this article and you’ll still have a significant impact on the world.

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