University of Warwick increases hospitality for sustainability

The University of Warwick declared a climate emergency and new net zero carbon targets at the start of its first term 2019/20. Here are some key actions that are happening at the university

We are aware that all areas of the university must do their bit to tackle this challenge, not least the 6,700+ rooms of student accommodation we have on campus.

Over the past decade or so, we have been part of the NUS Student Switch Off and, in the last two years, moved to an in-house energy and water competition and waste campaign called Cut the Flow.

The university has also been engaging for a number of years now with British Heart Foundation and hosts a number of donation banks on campus, which are increased at the end of each year for students moving out.

During move-out periods, we also have RAWKUS, a student and staff-led volunteer group, who visit kitchens across halls to save and donate surplus food and other items left by students. At the beginning of this year, the equipment (pots, pans, plates, etc) have been provided to students coming onto campus at a ‘Pay as you Feel’ event during arrivals weekend. This has raised over £3,500 for a local environmental charity.

Inter-university competition

The university is also taking part in this year’s NUS pilot project – RecycleLeague. A number of events will take place at the friendly inter-university competition during term one to help educate and inform on recycling, so as to improve recycling rates for the chance of a golden bin or a grand prize.

The university has a view to use the campus as a Living Laboratory, trailing and testing ideas on real-world examples. To this end, much research has been done around behaviour within halls. This has included stickers and labels to nudge change in energy-use behaviour, fake bills to inform and educate, and kitchen rotas to encourage students to take their bins out.

The change has not only been seen from students but also from our staff and processes. Many hundreds of duvets have been saved from waste by sending them to charities for reuse. New procurement tenders also include sustainability in them, looking at the lifecycle of an item including its carbon footprint and reuse/recyclability.

We have also built a number of new halls in recent years to BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and EPC A standards. These are fitted with LED lighting, low-flow showers and dual-flush toilets. The buildings are also connected to a combined heat and power-fuelled District Heating System and have solar panels fitted.

An increased metering within the block allows for detection of too much water being used due to leaks or an over-usage of electricity, and this metering is used for the inter-block competition previously mentioned. A building management system also makes use of building data, so that buildings can be heated to an appropriate level for the time of year.

There are still a lot of behaviour and social norms to change in the journey towards a sustainable future, but we are creating global citizens who are ready for the task.

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