University wins award for greening campus and city

Projects to increase biodiversity and improve adaptation to climate change resulted in the University winning a "Campus of the Future" Award at the annual Green Gown Awards.

The Green Gown Awards celebrate initiatives in universities and colleges that make them more socially responsible and sustainable.

In March 2021, the University of Edinburgh won the "Campus of the Future Award" in recognition of its innovative work to improve biodiversity and climate adaptation, both on its campuses and in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council.

Two other projects were also shortlisted as finalists for their efforts to embed the SDGs into student's studies and for making operations at Sports and Exercise more sustainable.

The University has won seven Green Gown Awards since 2015 and been recognised as a highly commended institution or finalist 19 times since 2007.

Green Grown Awards 2020 Winner: Campus of the Future (The University of Edinburgh) - hedgehogs and green infrastructure map

Winner: Campus of the future

This category recognises innovation in University campuses to improve the student experience. 

The University of Edinburgh has a diverse adaptation and biodiversity programme of work that includes innovative flagship projects such as green infrastructure mapping of our campuses and city parks using a flexible technology platform and the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Campaign. The programme involves partnerships and engagement within the city to make contributions to climate change adaptation and biodiversity measures beyond our campus borders.  

GI mapping and actions for hedgehogs have only been possible through the enthusiasm of staff, students and local residents who have volunteered to undertake citizen science activities. Participants gain skills and knowledge of technical platforms and of a vulnerable indigenous species.  

These projects are transforming our campuses, so that our university of the future will be defined by high biodiversity value green and blue spaces embedded in the urban context of Edinburgh, essential for adapting to climate change and for providing health and wellbeing benefits. 

Biodiversity on campus

Finalist: Sports & Exercise

Sport & Exercise Sustainability Sigg Bottles

Sports & Exercise was also a finalist in this category due to the impressive range of changes they've made in recent years to improve social responsibility & sustainability, including:

  • saving energy by upgrading lighting throughout all their facilities to LEDs
  • changing from traditional cleaning products to more environmentally friendly alternatives
  • extending their partnership with clothing brand PlayerLayer to purchase more of their "EcoLayer" range of clothing, constructed from recycled plastic water bottles 
  • partnering with Sigg water bottles to remove the use of single-use plastic and encourage people to utilise re-usable bottles
  • removing drinks vending machines and replaced them with a Yanga drinks station, reducing plastic waste
  • encouraging gym users to bring a reusable towel to reduce disposable paper towel use

Sports and Exercise: sustainability

Finalist: Next Generation Learning and Skills

ESSA Project logo

The University was also commended for its involvement in the "ESSA" Project, which enabled students from across Europe to audit each other's universities based on how they engage with social responsibility issues such as climate action and ethical purchasing.

The ESSA Project: European Students, Sustainability Auditing

The Green Gown Awards

As the Climate Crisis is increasingly recognised as the most pressing issue our world faces, the Green Gown Awards put a spotlight on the innovative and inspiring sustainability work taking place in universities and colleges to create a brighter future for their students.

This year’s UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards finalists represented over 850,000 students and 130,000 staff. The Awards celebrated the inspirational work and projects of 74 Finalists in 12 different categories, showing the importance of sustainability commitments even in the most unprecedented of times. Organised by EAUC - the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, the awards ceremony was held virtually on Wednesday 24 March 2021. 

Established in 2004, the Green Gown Awards UK and Ireland recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sectors across the UK and Ireland as the education sector leads a path to efficiency, employability and better quality of life all.

Past wins

In 2018, the University of Edinburgh was named ‘Sustainability Institution of the Year’ by the Green Gown Awards.


Continuous Improvement Highly Commended


Continuous Improvement Shortlisted

Sustainable Construction Shortlisted


Social Responsibility Shortlisted

Continuous Improvement Highly Commended

Promoting Positive Behaviour Shortlisted

Student Initiatives Highly Commended


Construction Highly Commended

Continuous Improvement Shortlisted

Food and Drink Shortlisted

Courses and Learning Shortlisted


Facilities and Services Winner

Student Engagement Shortlisted


Learning and Skills Shortlisted

Facilitates and Services Shortlisted


Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change Shortlisted

Enterprise Winner

Learning and Skills Shortlisted


Sustainability Institution of the Year Winner

Outstanding Leadership Team of the Year Highly Commended

Sustainability Champion – Student (Lizzie Rhoades, shortlisted)

Benefitting Society Shortlisted


Campus Health, Food and Drink Winner

Total Reporting Winner

Money for Good Winner

More information

Green Gown Awards 2020: Winners