A strategic commitment to protecting our environmentMonday, 09 March 2020
The University of Reading has a proven track record on environmental action. A new Environment Committee under the leadership of Pro-Vice-Chancellor Mark Fellowes will help us take this work to the next level.
The University’s new strategy, which goes to Council on Monday 16 March for final approval, puts the environment at the heart of the University’s strategic vision. It sets out our long-term ambition to be the greenest university in the UK, and in doing so commits to genuine carbon neutrality by 2030.
This is the natural culmination of a long-standing academic and institutional commitment to environmental sustainability. Reading is globally recognised for our climate and environment research, highlighted by our recent #VotePlanet campaign. Whether examining the impact of global temperature increases or the likelihood of worsening flooding in the UK, our academics are shaping policy and strengthening society’s climate resilience. We the most represented institution globally in Working Group I of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the most represented UK institution across all three working groups.
Professor Fellowes is clear that, in keeping with our world-leading research status, our carbon neutrality goal holds the University to a high standard. He said: “As an ecologist, I’m extremely proud of our institutional commitment to genuine environmental action. While some organisations have set shorter timeframes for carbon neutrality, we will not leave out critical but challenging components such as travel or accommodation so that we can reach a hollow target more quickly. Helping protect our planet is the single most important thing we can do for future generations and it is why I am so keen to lead this work for the University.“
Members of the Committee are drawn from across the University, with academic, professional services and RUSU representation. It will focus on five main areas:
- Energy and sustainability towards zero carbon (including travel)
- Biodiversity and green infrastructure
- Civic and University community engagement
- Catering, Commerce and farms
The University’s position was confirmed in July 2019 when we retained our 'First Class' rating in the People & Planet University League for our environmental and ethical performance, ranking 29 out of 154 institutions. We also recently reached a landmark 40% reduction in our carbon footprint, through using a green energy tariff and installation of solar panels. In 2018/19 over 500 panels were installed across our campuses, bringing the total to 1,390. We achieve yet another milestone in 2020, as we complete the process of selling our remaining investments in fossil fuels and putting our money into green investments. And our recent partnership with Electronics Watch cements our commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing of electronics products.
Critical to our environmental achievements is individual action by thousands of colleagues and students. As just one example, under the Sustain It scheme use of refillable cups for both hot and cold drinks continues to grow. Between August 2018 and July 2019 alone, over 46% of hot drinks sold on our campuses were served in reusable cups, saving more than 174,000 single-use cups from the bin. And used paper cups are now recycled through CupCycling, an innovative British business. These, along with other schemes, have led to a 15% reduction in waste per person across our campuses.