Exploring sustainability at University Centre Wakefield

Sustainability, carbon footprints, and Green Skills are terms we have become familiar with over the last decade or so. This year we are embedding ‘Green Skills’ into our Uni Connect activity with a particular focus within Collaborative Taster Days. I began to wonder what my institution, University Centre Wakefield at the Heart of Yorkshire Education Group, was doing to address this issue. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much was taking place both strategically and at student and staff level.

I was aware that we provided water stations throughout our various sites and that recently we had given out reusable water bottles to students at induction. Additionally, recent graduates were gifted commemorative water bottles to discourage the use of single-use plastic. We are participating in National Green Careers Week and encouraging a sustainable culture wherever possible. However, I discovered that this was just the tip of the iceberg!

2010 was the start of our carbon journey. Working with the Carbon Trust to create our first Carbon Management Plan, roles within the institution were redefined to include sustainability responsibilities and this continues with more roles now focussing on this vital journey.

Thanks to a grant funding secured in 2013 we were able to make substantial modifications such as installing LED lighting, hyper insulation and local water heaters, and removing centrally generated hot water systems. In 2015 modifications on one of our sites, combined with the acquisition of more environmentally friendly college pool cars, led to 34% reduction in carbon footprint (due to changes to the estate footprint this equated to a mean reduction of 29%).

From 2015 more buildings were acquired or built that increased the need to address our carbon footprint. One of the buildings was our very own University Centre, which was constructed in 2017. As a new build it had all the consideration necessary to provide an environmentally efficient addition to the city campus. The Seacole building, as it is known, achieved Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) excellence. Sustainable choices for heating included Air Source Heat Pumps and Photovoltaic Panels (PV) rather than fossil fuels.

However, our Beaumont building was not as simple. This acquisition was the former West Riding Registry of Deeds and, in 2019, the refurbishment of this 1920s property included double glazing, BMS controls, efficient radiant heating, and significant insulation.

There is so much more happening that I do not have the space to report! But two important things to mention are that our students are at the heart of everything we do and are included in all decision making, not least issues pertaining to Sustainability. Additionally, we recognise that although so much is constantly being addressed and implemented (e.g. Cycle to work Scheme, introduction of electric charging points, embedding Green Skills in the curriculum) we are not great at shouting about our achievements.

Hopefully, the introduction of the Sustainability Forum and Sustainability Champions will go along way to address this and further promote the Green Skills agenda throughout the Heart of Yorkshire Education Group.

Jayne Kaye, Senior Outreach Officer, Uni Connect/University Centre Wakefield, Heart of Yorkshire Education Group