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Issue 1797 (PDF)
The student newspaper of Imperial College London

Keep the Cat Free

What is Imperial doing to meet its sustainability goals?

Environment Officer Camilla Billari takes at look at the College's progress towards its net zero goal

00000 0covid Empty Campus South Ken 043 Photo: Imperial College London


in Issue 1797

Imperial launched its first Sustainability Strategy in December 2020, consisting of a roadmap to 2026 and a commitment to become a net zero institution by 2040. The strategy aims to work towards this by targeting three key areas: resource management (e.g. energy, catering, travel), academic excellence (research) and engagement of its staff and students, as well as partners and local communities. Its release was officially presented at the College’s Sustainability Week in February 2021. With this year’s Sustainability Week coming up from Monday 21st March, hosting various daily speaker events and activities throughout the week, we wanted to review the progress that has been made on this roadmap.

So, how is the College doing one year on? What has been achieved, and where are we going? The 2021 People and Planet league table of UK universities on environmental and ethical performance bumped Imperial up from the 130th position in 2019 to the 66th, scoring a 2:2. Nothing to be boasting about around the country, but it shows the upwards direction the College is taking for the coming years. As you might expect, it scores highest in education for sustainable development, staff and student engagement, and energy sources. In terms of sustainability, it scores lowest in water, sustainable food, waste, recycling and ethical investment. Let us, therefore, take a look at what the college has been doing on each of its focus points, starting with resource management.

Last summer, various staff and student projects were launched to start collecting data to track Imperial’s progress on various sustainability metrics. This includes a biodiversity audit carried out on all College campuses, and a preliminary calculation of the College’s carbon footprint due to flying. Future projects in the plan include assessments of prepared food, energy usage and waste from the catering, a carbon foot-printing tool and water usage on campus. A Sustainable Food Policy is in review and will be released later in 2022. All campus catering outlets are phasing out the use of single-use plastics, as well as encouraging the use of reusable cups and containers. Union sports clubs have switched to PlayerLayer to supply their standard student range of sports kits, a company that uses eco-fabrics and biodegradable packaging, which are made to order. A new Carbon Offset for Travel Policy has been published by the Imperial Research Office, and the Estates Team released its latest Carbon Management and Sustainability Activities Report. The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework has awarded six silver and 15 bronze certificates to Imperial labs, with the College pushing to increase these numbers. The College will also be appointing two new members of staff who will be working full-time on these sustainability projects in the Estates team and beyond.

On the topic of academic excellence, Imperial has numerous academics researching sustainability across its departments - from green technologies and materials to policies and the circular economy. The Grantham Institute organised a variety of events in the run-up to and during COP26, with various academics speaking and presenting their research at the conference. There is also an increasing number of modules and courses integrating sustainability into undergraduate and postgraduate studies, as well as bursaries and competitions for innovative scientific and engineering solutions to climate problems.

For engagement of students, halls have been running the annual Student Switch Off campaign to encourage students to reduce their energy consumption, with complementary competitions such as the February Student Switch Off Climate Quiz, where Imperial’s Beit and Xenia halls of residence took the top two spots on the national leader board. The Union is increasing the funding and publicity of their Liberation and Community networks, including the Ethics and Environment network. Together with Sustainable Imperial, the network has once again been organising Sustainability Week to bring attention to all the research and action that is taking place at the university to staff and students. In addition, Imperial recently took part in this year’s London Student Sustainability Conference, with the College’s Academic Leader in Sustainability (Professor Paul Lickiss) and the Union’s Deputy President of Finance & Services (Sam Lee) being on the steering group for the conference.

Professor Lickiss will also be hosting a panel to kick off Sustainability Week on Monday, for a more in-depth update on the College’s progress. To answer questions on this, Sam Lee, Kamil Khoury (Head of Catering & Events) and Andrew Hammond (Head of Energy, Engineering and Environment in the Estates Division) will be sitting on the panel. Check the Sustainable Imperial and Union website for the calendar of events for the upcoming week!

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