The University of Gloucestershire is celebrating after being named as the most sustainable university in the UK, coming top in the People and Planet League. It is the only comprehensive and independent league table of UK universities ranked by environmental and ethical performance, published today in The Guardian. The league covers high level policy, curriculum innovation and student development, as well as practical impacts such as carbon reduction, waste and food.
The University of Gloucestershire has a long-standing commitment to sustainability and track record for its performance and innovation in this area. This includes good practice in all areas of environmental management to improve the institution’s footprint. In 2018 the university announced total fossil fuel divestment with immediate effect and pushed forward on the removal of disposable cups from all its refectories and coffee counters. The university has now achieved zero waste to landfill and 46% carbon emissions reduction, despite having expanded its estate.
One of the biggest step changes, scored by People and Planet, is from the commitment to integrating education for sustainable development into courses, to change the ‘brainprint’ of university graduates. This focus recognises how critical sustainability is as an educational priority, inspiring change not just through individuals but in professions and organisations. This happens through student work placements and wider partnerships across the university, including collaborations with global brands like known sustainability pioneers Interface.
Students across the university are increasingly driving the change, supported through Live Smart, a student led initiative to help people live in ways that benefit their wellbeing, finances, local community and the wider planet. Blending tips, rewards, events and competitions, in its first year it reached 2000 students with blogs and student created films on social media linked to the student portal.
The University of Gloucestershire was scored 80.6% overall and maintains the First Class status it has achieved in every People and Planet League.
Dr Alex Ryan, Director of Sustainability, said:
“This is a really special achievement for us on this critically important agenda, especially as the changes have been led by students and staff across our university community. Higher education agencies incentivised universities to act on sustainability, but the serious long term commitment and smart moves for change often emerge from the student community. One of the most dynamic challenges to universities over the past decade came from the inspiration of People and Planet in creating the league table to show who really walks their talk on sustainability.”
University of Gloucestershire Students Union president Imaani Mitchell, said:
“Our students care deeply about sustainability and environmental issues. The SU are proud that our institution is leading the way in supporting students’ development and understanding of sustainability, empowering them to develop solutions both in and out of their curriculum. We believe being top of the People and Planet league is testament to this partnership and the hard work of our amazing university sustainability team.”
Vice Chancellor, Stephen Marston, said:
“The University’s strategic commitment to sustainability as an institutional priority goes back more than 10 years. Throughout that time we have seen it as an integral part of our mission, to prepare our students well for the world they will inherit. Over the years, we have sought to integrate sustainability across all of our activities - our teaching and research programmes, our student work placements, reducing carbon use across our estate, and the partnerships we create across Gloucestershire and beyond. The fact that it is now our students and young people across the country who see the urgency of this agenda, and who are leading campaigning for radical change, only serves to reinforce our commitment.”