By Lina Skarabis (UCC Green Campus Secretary 18/19, UCCSU Environmental Officer 19/20)
In 2010, UCC was proud to have been the first University in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from An Taisce on behalf The Foundation for Environmental Education. The Green Campus Programme focuses on environmental education and sustainable development on campus, and beyond, and encourages participating institutions to make sustainability considerations a priority in their daily operations and in educating the leaders for the future. The aim of the program is a long-term commitment for environmental awareness and environmentally friendly practices, which should lead to a continual reduction in the institution’s environmental impact. Therefore, the Green Flag status is reassessed every three years to make sure that the institution still adheres to the program and is continuing to make progress. After the successful reassessments in 2013 and 2016, another reassessment was due this spring.
The reassessment entails an extensive report which gives feedback on the 10 themes of the program. These are Litter and Waste, Energy, Water Conservation and Protection, Transport and Travel, Biodiversity, Green ICT, Procurement, Air Quality, Climate Change and Climate Justice. The report comments on the institution’s development in sustainability within those themes. The Green Campus programme is a seven step framework that each institution aiming to receive the flag has to follow. Those steps need to be adopted by the institution and should become an intrinsic part of life and practice on campus.
The first step is the formation of the Green Campus committee which is responsible for making sure that the university adheres to the principles of the Green Campus programme and is therefore able to maintain its Green Flag status. The second step is an environmental review which assesses the university’s performance under the 10 themes of the programme. Such a review needs to be conducted for each reassessment. The environmental review is arguably the most important part of each (re-)assessment and can be seen as the heart of it. In the reassessment report for 2019 the review takes up 24 pages out of 37. It aims at identifying targets for improvement and to highlight areas in which the institution could do better. To compile the review, a diverse group of people needs to be consulted and information from different responsible parties within the institution need to be gathered.
Within UCC, Pat Mehigan is responsible for the area of energy and water conversation and has data for all buildings under the UCC’s control. The Commuter Plan Officer Stephan Koch has information on the theme of Transport and Travel. The annual travel survey he conducts gives detailed information on travel and commuting habits of students and staffs and their implications for sustainability. Barrie Curley is the Estates Manager and therefore responsible for waste management as well as landscape and biodiversity. Further, Ann Byrne who is the Liaison Librarian for Academic & Student Engagement has very important input on the workings of the “Saver Saves” Scheme and the impressive progress the library has made in the area of energy conservation and waste reduction. The ‘Love our Library’ Campaign can be seen as a role model for all other buildings on campus. Maria Kirrane, UCC’s Sustainability Officer, has an overview of UCC’s performance in the ten themes and what has been in the focus of those involved in recent years.
Step 3 is the development of an Action Plan building on the findings of the environmental review. UCC is especially progressive in areas of energy conservation, sustainable procurement and the management of litter and waste. In other areas like the sustainable use of water and environmentally friendly transport, room for improvement has been observed. Those themes will be targeted over the next number of years to improve UCC’s performance and will be central to the new action plan. In the years between reassessments and new action plans, step 4, Monitoring and Evaluation, is vital to track progress made and to ensure that the institution adheres to its goals and becomes proactive in achieving targets. Step 5 focuses on connecting the Green Campus programme to learning on campus. It should be ensured that sustainability plays a role in the core curriculum of each subject. For UCC, an important element in linking sustainability with learning is the University Wide module in Sustainability, which runs each year since 2016 and is coordinated by Ger Mullally (Sociology). The sixth step focuses on engaging the community on campus and beyond through outreach and the supporting of environmental awareness. The final step is the writing of a Green Charter, a guideline on how to manage environmental issues on campus and what sustainability means in practice. The reassessment report looks at all seven steps and gives a short overview of recent developments within those, illustrates new developments and initiatives and highlights major achievements.
Click above to read the 2019 report
Another important part of the reassessment is the presentation of the report to the reassessment board which includes short talks by those within the campus community involved with the Green Campus committee and sustainability issues in general. This year, the meeting was opened with a short address by John O’Halloran and Mark Poland. Ann Byrne and Michael Gleeson from KSG presented on the activities under the library campaign and catering on campus. The reassessment report was discussed by the Sustainability Officer, Maria Kirrane. Kelly Coyle and Lina Skarabis gave an insight into sustainability on campus from a student’s perspective. The panel were also shown around campus to get a better impression of UCC’s sustainability efforts.
Pic: Kelly Coyle presents to the panel on student activities.
This year’s reassessment report was sent to the responsible committee on the 25th of April and the meeting with the board was held on the 2nd of May. On May 22, the official confirmation of the Green Flag renewal was received. In the next months the Green Campus committee will use the board’s feedback and constructive criticism to guide the committee’s actions for the academic year 2019/20.