Plymouth University

Plymouth University has an international reputation for its approach to sustainability – one that fuses teaching, research and campus management within a single and cohesive strategy. The overall best performing university in the People and Planet Green League, and a serial winner at the Green Gown Awards, Plymouth has embedded sustainability across its curriculum and has a dedicated research institute.

2014/2015 performance
• Energy/carbon: 15% reduction in CO2e since 2005/06 from electricity and gas use.
• Water: 2.6m3 water use per student per year, achieving our target of less than 3.3m3, a 36.8% reduction in water use since 2005/06.
• Waste: 42.3% waste recycled in 2014/15, waste generated is 22kg per student.
• Food: 3 star accreditation from Sustainable Restaurant Association 2014, Silver & Bronze accreditation from Food for Life scheme 2015 and Food and Drink Green Gown Award 2014.

Automatic monitoring and targeting, and energy reduction
The University has a system of profile alerts and a C3NTINEL energy dashboard platform that monitors changes in energy use outside of the expected norm. It checks consumption against historic profiles, and energy use against BMS models, and will create an alert when an item of plant is not functioning as expected (and using more energy than it should). In a little more than 12 months since installation, it has helped to identify and prevent potential increases in consumption totalling £120,000. With other energy saving projects, consumption has reduced over this period by £90,000.

LED lighting replacement
In the last academic year, 1,000 T8 fluorescent luminaires were replaced with Osram Siteco LED panel luminaires on the ground, first and second floor of the library. Additional LED luminaires were installed in stairwells, cupboards and other areas. To optimise energy savings, PIR sensors are used throughout these areas. We have extensive metering across campus, and additional Modbus pulsed output metering was installed to measure power consumption from this installation. The lighting has delivered a 32% reduction in energy use, equating to savings of over £1,400 a week.

Sustainable Food
In 2014, we embarked on a project to roll out a model of sustainable catering within our cafes and hospitality services with the aims to deliver: on site, local and sustainable sourcing; increasing community access to healthy and fresh food; working across the city as a partner to gain Sustainable Food City Status; and using the cafes as an informal learning resource for students. This has had some big results, with three quarters of our spend being with local suppliers in the South West, useable food waste being donated to local charities and actual food waste being composted. And sourcing improvements such as 100% organic milk fresh milk, MSC or local Responsible Fishing Scheme for fish and all sourced from our local fish markets, local Red Tractor meat as a minimum standard, and seasonal menu plans for example. This has resulted in us gaining a number of awards including: three star status from the Sustainable Restaurant Association; Bronze and Silver ratings from Food for Life; the Good Egg Award; Taste of the West Gold and Silver awards; and Green Gowns 2014 Food and Drink award. This is constantly evolving and we are currently working on a supply chain audit to understand the wider impact of food sourcing!

Teaching and Learning – NUS Responsible Futures Award
Since 2005 the Centre for Sustainable Futures has played a leading role in ensuring that Sustainability Education is embedded across both the curriculum and co-curriculum; with increasing attention to developing active, experiential and collaborative pedagogical approaches. As a result, the University recently received The Responsible Futures Award from the National Union of Students (NUS) in recognition of the quality of its Sustainability Education work. In awarding Plymouth full accreditation, the NUS praised the University for its whole-institutional approach stating:

It is incredibly clear that both the University and UPSU are truly committed to embedding Education for Sustainable Development within their core functions, which is enriching the experiences of students across the university. For more information see

Education for Sustainability in Higher Education: Achievements and Prospects
In 2015 the university hosted the first in a series of international conferences around three overarching themes:
• ESD Pedagogy: Criticality, Creativity and Collaboration
• Innovative Learning Spaces for ESD
• Towards the Sustainable University

Attended by over 120 participants, this resulted in a broad range of research papers and examples of good practice being shared. This included showcasing pioneering practice such as a teaching module that brings together nursing and design students to tackle issues of sustainability in the health sector. Created by Professor Janet Richardson with colleagues in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the project received a Green Gown Award in the Courses and Learning category and challenges nursing students to view products and practices in the health sector through a sustainability lens and to consider those that might be at risk to resource shortages and disruptions. The students then work with their contemporaries in the School of Architecture, Design and the Environment to see how new designs might create innovative solutions. Launched in 2013, the project has already seen several prototypes put into development. For more information see 

Research – Sustainable Earth Institute
The Sustainable Earth Institute (SEI) was established in September 2015, building on both the successful work of the Institute for Sustainability Solutions Research and the successful research excellence framework (REF) return within key sustainability themes at Plymouth. The Institute, headed by the internationally-recognised geologist, Professor Iain Stewart, includes over 300 researchers investigating sustainability from a variety of different disciplines and perspectives including Science, Business, Arts, Humanities, and Health. For more information see

Plymouth – Creating a Sustainable Future
In 2015, the SEI developed a research manifesto, together with Plymouth City Council, that aimed to identify priority research themes that support Plymouth’s sustainable growth challenges. This research manifesto was launched together with a workshop, attended by around 90 delegates, aimed at bringing together representatives from the University, City Council and local community. For more information see

Creating greener spaces
The University’s success in sustainability league tables and awards programmes has been achieved despite being located on a city-centre campus with precious little green space. But it’s redevelopment of the historic Drake’s Reservoir and Gardens, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund, transformed it into a resource used by staff, students and community groups alike, and has won several awards and was shortlisted also for a Green Gown Award in 2015.

Main Contact Name: Samantha Price, Sustainability Manager
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