Q1 highlights for 2019/20

Quarter 1 of 2019-20 lasted from August to October 2019, and was one of our busiest quarters since the department first formed in 2014.

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Climate Strategy: Zero by 2040

One of the most notable events that happened in this quarter was the announcement of the University's response to the climate crisis. We ran six events across our campuses on Friday 20th September 2019 - the biggest #GlobalStrikeforClimate day to date - to inform staff and students what climate change is, how climate change is being tackled on a global scale, and what the University is doing to play its part.

We also took part in numerous Welcome Week activities to inform new students how they can get involved in sustainability at the University of Edinburgh.

Energy saving

  • 85 projects in total have now been approved to receive funding from the Sustainable Campus Fund, estimated to bring annual savings of over £557,000 and 1,700 tCO2e.
  • We prepared engaging communication materials for our annual Winter Shutdown campaign, which encourages all University staff and students to switch off lights and equipment in order to save energy over the winter break.

Sustainable Travel

  • 87 institutions from 20 countries have now joined our Roundtable of Sustainable Academic Travel in order to work together to tackle rising emissions from business travel in the Higher Education sector.
  • We have completed initial research looking at how the University of Edinburgh can reduce its carbon emissions from business travel and also encourage climate-conscious travel, and look forward to presenting these in due course.

Resource Efficiency and a Circular Economy

  • We continue to promote the reuse of items via the waste and reuse portal (Warp It), which saved almost £28k in this quarter, resulting in 887kg of items being reused instead of disposed of.
  • 402 PCs were refurbished and reused through our IT Reuse Project, with 58% being distributed to the local community through our reuse partner, and 42% being reused internally within the University.
  • Our #ZeroWasteUoE campaign continues to inspire staff and students across the University to reduce their waste and has been enthusiastically championed by Sports And Exercise.
  • At the beginning of the semester, disposable cup use crept up again due to the influx of new students and visitors. We continue to work closely with UoE Cafés to encourage customers to buy and use a reusable cup in order to avoid our latte levy, now raised to 30p.

#SRS Changemakers

  • The Sustainability Awards have drawn new interest from around the University by offices and labs that are looking for tools and approaches to implement actions in their areas. 45 staff teams are currently working towards a mix of Bronze, Siler and Gold Awards, and 24 student residences are doing the same. 35% of University staff are now reached by the Sustainability Awards.
  • We launched a new Sustainability Champions network to capitalise on growing interest in sustainability from staff and students. 219 staff and 155 students signed up in the first few weeks, and at our launch event, there wasn’t a spare seat in the house. This new network replaces the Energy Coordinator and Waste Coordinator networks and will give the University community lots of practical advice on how to be more sustainable both here and at home.
  • 129 staff and 167 students have taken our online ‘Be Sustainable’ induction course in this quarter, pledging 1799 individual actions between them.
  • 35 staff undertook our Be Sustainable Advanced course to gain a more in-depth understanding of how to affect change at work and at home. We’ll run this course again in January 2020.
  • 90% of departments now include some element of sustainability in staff inductions.
  • 116 staff have completed our Modern Slavery training to date.
  • We continue to work to increase sustainability in the curriculum: 59 students are currently taking one of our three Student Pathways on climate change, circular economy or the SDGs. We’re also assisting with 4 student dissertations. A PhD intern is undertaking a mapping exercise to look at the SDGs in the curriculum.

Positive social impact, near and far

Fairness in Trade and Sustainable Procurement

  • In this quarter, we refreshed our Good Food Policy (forthcoming) and continued with the Make ICT Fair project. Our work to improve the sustainability of our supply chains continues to be of interest to students and the media.

Community Engagement

  • The Community Engagement Programme (Edinburgh Local) opened another round of Community Grant applications and we look forwarding to reading the submissions. So far, the Grants have supported 47 projects around Edinburgh with £185,000.
  • 26 students are taking part in the Digital Ambassadors project.
  • We continued to explore new ways to make social investments, particularly with social enterprises.

Sustainability at the Festival

  • We evaluated the success of our Festival Sustainability Hub and continue to collaborate with Edinburgh Fringe, Fringe Venues and local community organisations on how to make the 2020 Fringe even more sustainable.

Get involved

The efforts and hard work of staff and students around the University make change happen. Get in touch. Get involved. We look forward to working with you in the months and year ahead.

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General enquiries

  • Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Contact details



Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability
The Boilerhouse
High School Yards

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