Although Covid-19 may have brought many things at the College to an abrupt halt, our sustainability initiatives have been continuing with a renewed focus.
We work hard to make environmental sustainability a part of all of our thinking and long-term investment in the College, whether this involves increasing our holdings of dedicated Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) related funds (we already hold no direct investments in any business with weak ESG practices. This includes those whose businesses have negative social or environmental impact, such as the tobacco and fossil fuel industries) or infrastructure improvements to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and support new, green technologies across our estate.
We are very fortunate to have a large and very green campus, but the grounds and gardens team have been working hard to increase biodiversity even further. They have set a target of meadowing an additional five acres and reaching one thousand trees on campus and have started this year with the planting of sixty additional trees on site. They plan to increase our campus meadowing by five acres, utilising spaces along the new footpath running around the edge of the grounds and they use no herbicide on campus, instead using a high temperature low water volume steam system to control weeds and other unwanted biological growth.
At the recent West Court external repair project we increased insulation extensively and in doing so halved the U-value (the measure of insulative properties of a material and indicate heat loss) and significantly reduced usage of natural gas within the building. Similarly, in our recent refurbishment of Whittinghame Lodge our retrofitting of insulation and installation of secondary glazing is projected to save 11kW a day. For all new major projects, we are now adopting ambitious carbon budgets.
We are developing plans for two new solar power installations on campus with storage for the generated power. The larger installation proposed will be an efficient, conventional array of photovoltaic panels to help us significantly reduce our reliance on natural gas as we continue to work toward its elimination on site. The second installation will be for new and experimental solar power generation and storage technology working with a range of studies and start-ups.
We are also developing proposals for significantly increasing the number of electric vehicle charging points on site, with the creation of a new charging hub at the top of site. We are developing options for these charging stations to be run from photovoltaic panels (pending listed building consent and other statutory approvals).
In addition to the work being done by our Grounds and Gardens teams, the focus for the Master’s Essay Prize this year is “Covid-19 has been both good and bad for society and the environment. What changes do we need to adopt for a future that is healthier and more sustainable?”. More than 25 of our students have indicated they will submit an essay of ca 3000 words by mid-August, and we’re excited to see their entries. A high level final judging panel is currently being put together, including two Baronesses with relevant experience!
Finally, the College received a Platinum Award for the third year running at the University’s Green Impact awards. We also received one of three Excellence Awards for a special project, Plastic Reductions, led by Fellow Dr Alison Ming. Thank you to all of our staff who worked so hard to help us reach this goal. You can read the full story about the awards here.