Earth Day 2022 – Sustainability in the department

Earth Day 2022 – Sustainability in the department

For this years Earth Day on the 22nd April 2022 we asked our Earth Sciences Department community for their thoughts and ideas for sustainability in the department, via an online notice board, physical board in the atrium and via social media.

For many years we have taken pride in our efforts to build and manage a sustainable building with a strong environmental strategy that included amongst other things a ground source heat pump; and the building remains an important milestone in the journey towards low carbon laboratory buildings in Oxford. However, improvements can always be made and the department at 12 years old is no longer ‘new’. Going forwards, we look forward to reforming the departments GREEN TEAM and re-engaging with the University of Oxfords Green Impact Awards – an engagement scheme in which teams of staff and students work together to make their buildings more sustainable, especially now that the building is back in full time use after the pandemic.

Of the thoughts on sustainability put forward by you we have picked out two winning ideas that we will be taking forward from now on.

  • Paperless lectures – starting from the next academic year all of our lectures will have electronic lecture notes. Students will be able to opt in to get printer credit, for example if printed copies are needed for accessibility reasons. Suggested by Lewis Croager, Max Wylder, Sanaa Mughal.
  • IT equipment review – as part of the H&S office inspections, Ashleigh and Cornelius will note down the IT equipment in offices and inform IT. That way we have a census of what we have available and can reuse rather than buy new, where possible. Suggested by Johannes Buchen, Rebecca Colquhoun.

Congratulations to you all for your winning ideas – We have prizes for you.

In addition there are a number of things that we are already working towards

  • There have been recent discussions with the Environmental Sustainability team who are going to send out a consultant to review the building and make recommendations to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the building. This will include consideration of our ground source heat pump, solar panels and electric hand dryers.
  • LED lights are already on the Department’s agenda and in the budget for the next 5 years, so all lights will be LED by the end of 2027. The majority of our lights already have motion sensors, where this is possible!
  • The Concur e-expenses system allows for electronic uploading of receipts. We encourage users to ask for an electronic receipt, where possible, and attach this to their expense claim rather than taking scans of paper receipts.
  • The University’s new travel policy encourages staff and students to consider their travel options (avoid and reduce) and travelling without flying. This includes a CO2 levy for all flights, which will go to the University’s sustainability fund. The new travel policy will be published in the next few weeks.
  • There are already some Departmental bikes which can be used short-term by staff and students to travel around Oxford. Please contact reception if you would like to borrow a Departmental bike. The University is also part of the GCI cycle to work scheme, and more details can be found here and you can submit an application here.
  • We are in discussions with the vending machine company to provide vegan and more sustainable options. We are limited by the options they can offer, but will continue to discuss this with them.
  • All of our catering for meetings is vegetarian unless requested otherwise, and we offer plant based milks in the fridge in the RCR.
  • An assessment of the Department’s Carbon Footprint has been approved by Departmental Committee and is being undertaken by Martin Millwood-Hargrave. The aim is to assess, reduce our carbon footprint, and then consider the options for carbon offsetting (in line with the University’s plan for carbon reduction and then carbon offsetting).
  • We are already in discussions with the Environmental Sustainability team about participating in the LEAF accreditation for our labs. More information can found here:
  • The Green Team will be restarting again in the next academic year, and hope to include LEAF as part of this.
  • We would also like to highlight and make people aware of the Ecosia search engine, which uses advertising revenue to support climate action, so individuals can chose to change the search engine that they use.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above please contact our building manager Ashleigh Hewson.