Although perhaps not the top of everyone's list when choosing a university, many students find it a source of pride when their university plays an active part in protecting the planet. In most universities, you'll find a society committed to raising awareness about environmental issues, campaigning for the university, and indeed the rest of the country, to commit to making sustainable changes.
Here's our list of the top five greenest universities, who are succeeding in making long-term changes for the environment.
1. University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is the greenest university in the world, the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking has found, making leaps and bounds in campus sustainability. It uses green gardening initiatives to maintain its campus, and has managed to reduce its carbon footprint by 1,100 tonnes since last year – an incredible achievement. There is also a sustainable transport scheme in place, offering a new cycle hire scheme, car-parking charges, and an inter-campus bus service. It opened a number of new buildings in 2011, all of which passed the highest environmentally-friendly checks, ensuring that Nottingham Uni is in a position to continue reducing its carbon footprint long into the future. Students also play their part, by getting involved in the Go Greener Halls Competition, which awards prizes for halls of residence who use less electricity and recycle more than their counterparts from the year before.
2. Manchester Metropolitan University
The Guardian named Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) as the greenest university in the UK in 2013. It scored 59.5 out of 70 on the People and Planet League Table, the highest ever achieved. They reduced their carbon emissions to below 20,000 tonnes (an impressive drop of 20% since 2005/6), and invested thousands of pounds in solar energy and green roofs. Student-led campaigns, such as “Student Switch Off" and “Zero Waste - Give it don’t bin it" ensure that food and energy waste from the students is kept to a minimum.
3. University of Bradford
University of Bradford came fourth in the GreenMetric rankings, due to initiatives such as installing a range of renewable technologies, reducing their carbon footprint by over 30%, reusing rainwater in many new developments to flush toilets; and 75% of waste recycled or reused and landfill waste reduced by 80% – an enormous proportion. Furthermore increased number of campus users commute sustainably, and green 'oases' on university sites (small habitats that increase biodiversity) mean that Bradford are ensuring that their direct environment is a positive one. All course modules include an element on sustainable behaviour, encouraging students to have a greater awareness of their natural surroundings.
4. University of Plymouth
As well as being a 'fair trade university', the University of Plymouth also has a comprehensive Green Travel Plan. This includes encouraging staff and students to use public transport whenever possible (and give staff unlimited bus travel with the Plymouth Green Travel Pass), providing excellent cycle facilities, encouraging car sharing and Park and Ride schemes, and charging cars to park on university property. They also have strong community engagement, one of these being the Plymouth Woodland Project, which gathers students, schools and the local community together to study woodland ecology and biodiversity – so people across Plymouth are able to participate in green-friendly activities.
5. University College Cork
University College Cork, in Ireland, came second in the recent GreenMetric ranking, only losing out to Nottingham. They've seen a number of successes, including an increase in the campus recycling rate between 2007 and 2013 by 54% - they now recycle 75% of the campus waste, an amazing amount. Since 2007, they've also seen a double in the number of staff who cycle to work (due to its provision of a fleet of bikes, great changing facilities and more secure cycle parks) and a 9% decrease in the energy used across the campus, showing staff and students working together to reduce their impact on the planet. Impressive.
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