Nottingham Trent said the construction of its eco-friendly pavilion helped it be named the UK's most sustainable university ©Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham Trent said the construction of its eco-friendly pavilion helped it be named the UK's most sustainable university ©Nottingham Trent University

More green energy in UK universities

24 November 2016

The number of UK universities buying most of their energy on green tariffs has increased by almost half, a report has found.

People and Planet, a student lead campaign group, has said 31 out of 150 universities surveyed now buy 95% or more of their energy from renewables tariffs, up from 21 last year.

Green tariffs do not necessarily mean the power is generated from renewable energy, yet suppliers of green tariffs either offset some of the energy sold with renewable energy generation or contribute financially to the development of renewables.

The statistic was published as part of People and Planet's annual University League, which ranks universities on their sustainability, based on a collection of indicators including carbon reduction, environmental auditing, waste reduction, and staff and student awareness. 

Nine new universities have become affiliates of monitoring organisation, Electronics Watch, which helps public sector buyers safeguard workers rights in electronics supply chains, said the report. This is an increase of 40% and brings the total of public bodies affiliated with the organisation to 21. 

Electronics Watch is also indirectly affiliated to 38 universities through two separate purchasing consortiums.

The report also noted a downward trend in carbon emission reductions over the last four years, and said that less than a quarter of universities were on track to meet a sector wide target of 43% carbon reduction by 2020. 

The institutions with a public commitment to source fair-trade cotton for staff uniforms also fell from 16 in 2015 to 15 in 2016.

“Since 2014 [the Higher Education Funding Council for England] has stopped requiring sustainability in order to access grants, so the key government driver has gone,” said Chris Jarvis, campaigns and movement building coordinator at People and Planet.

Now the key drivers for change and sustainability are media image and the student body, Jarvis said.

The report's ranking was compiled using data collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, as well as through analysis of information and policies made publicly available by universities themselves.

Nottingham Trent ranked the highest out of the 150 universities rated, followed by Brighton, Manchester Metropolitan and Cardiff. Edinburgh Napier, at number 22, was the highest scoring Scottish university.

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