Four out of four for Bangor University in Green Gown Awards Finals

Bangor University has reached the 2016 finals of the Green Gown Awards with all four of its entries.  It is the first year that the University has entered these prestigious awards, run by The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC). The University joins over 100 other finalists representing a combined population of 1.5 million students and nearly quarter of a million staff who benefit from pioneering sustainability initiatives in teaching, leadership, research, and student life.

Delighted with the successes, Dr Einir Young, the University’s Director of Sustainability, explained:

“This time last year The Sustainability Lab was established as the corporate focus of sustainability at Bangor University, acting as a hub and catalyst to bring sustainability to life in all aspects of what we do through our research, teaching and learning, public engagement and our campus affairs.  It’s relatively early days on this phase of our journey so I was delighted to discover that we’ve made it to the finals in all the categories we entered, each being an excellent example of integration, collaboration and involvement between The Sustainability Lab team, our students, and other University teams.

We are in the finals for Best Facilities and Services project for our #LoveYourHalls campaign, Best Community project for what was a superb #LoveYourClothesBangor campaign, Best Newcomer award for The Sustainability Lab team – a great birthday present, arriving days after our first anniversary, and the Sustainability Leadership Award; I’m the nominated person but it’s actually a recognition of the commitment of our Vice-Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the University’s Executive to making this a priority for Bangor University.”

#LoveYourHalls

With almost 3000 students a year passing through the University’s Halls of Residence, the University realised that there was an opportunity not only to improve students’ independent living skills and improve their food use, but also to encourage sustainability habits.

The #LoveYourHalls campaign, run by the Halls' Residential Life team" with expert guidance from the Sustainability Lab team, has created major savings for the University and students, and has led to significant donations to charities. Leading by example, the University has made savings of over £100,000 in a year, and generated individual savings for students by encouraging them to budget and plan their food shopping. The University and individual students have also been donating goods to charities for their use or re-sale. As Deirdre McIntyre, Residential Life Manager for the University’s Student Halls explained:

“Bangor University Halls of Residence have been voted the best in the UK for quality of accommodation in the ‘What Uni’ student choice award.  As part of our drive for constant improvement and the University’s focus on becoming ‘The Sustainable University’, we decided to run a campaign that would benefit the students, the University and the community.

“We turned to our sustainability experts at the University’s Sustainability Lab to work with us on our campaign, identifying where savings could be made and providing a baseline against which to measure our success.”

Activities included Bangor on a Budget and Nosh 4 Students workshops to improve cooking and shopping skills and reduce food waste, #LoveYourClothesBangor, Pack for Good and The Big Give are all projects which encourage students to recycle and donate their unused or unwanted goods.  A “SwitchOff” campaign encouraged students to reduce their electricity consumption while retrofitting showerheads for more water efficient ones brought water and electricity savings to the University.

#LoveYourClothesBangor

In a ground-breaking pilot for potential rollout to other Welsh, UK and international Universities, Bangor University’s Sustainability Lab and Students’ Union teamed up with WRAP’s consumer clothing campaign Love Your Clothes and challenged communities around Bangor to have a spring clearout of their wardrobes and donate a tonne of unloved clothes to local charities as part of #LoveYourClothesBangor week. The popup venue on Bangor High Street was the perfect place to show what one tonne of clothes looks like and how fast it could be collected from a small community, with donors receiving tokens to “spend” at the highly popular Swishing event at the end of the week.

“We were keen to find an initiative that would benefit and strengthen our links with the whole of Bangor and beyond, including university staff and students, local businesses and the local community, which highlighted the environmental impacts of clothes, and which helped people take easy, practical steps to have fun and save money while reducing their clothing waste,” explained Rebecca Colley-Jones, who led #LoveYourClothesBangor on behalf of the University.  “We received double the amount of donations we'd initially hoped for as everyone rallied round to make the week a success, and since then we’ve seen huge enthusiasm for similar events across Gwynedd and Anglesey.”

Linking with Bangor Science Festival and the #LoveYourHalls campaign, the popup shop was also a buzzing creative hub for a series of free events designed to help people make the most of their clothes, while fun games and activities drew attention to the true worth of clothing, the environmental issues of clothing waste, and how choosing to buy clothes second hand and donating unwanted clothes to charity can help others.  Exciting designers and experts shared practical, easy ideas for making space, saving money, and best care and use of existing items in the unique daily workshops and masterclasses, with participants discovering how to give clothes a new lease of life through alterations, repairs or upcycling of their favourite items.

Bangor University’s Director of Sustainability and Sustainability Lab team

Both Einir and her Sustainability Lab team are also finalists in the "Leadership" and “Best Newcomer” categories respectively.  As the University’s Director of Sustainability, Einir has a remit to drive sustainability through all facets of the organisation, underlining the global need for people everywhere to live well within the carrying capacity of the Planet.  Under her leadership, sustainable development at the University has transitioned from a ‘coalition of the willing’ to a strategic driver that is embedded throughout the University’s strategic plan. This year, Bangor University has embraced the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales 2015) Act as a framework for action, enshrining high level commitment to sustainability in its development plans.

Einir’s team is dedicated to working throughout the University and beyond from the University’s Sustainability Lab. They have several awards to their name already including ranking in the top 5% of international universities in the UI Green Metric 2016, and 1st Class honours and ‘Best in Wales’ for two consecutive years in the People and Planet Green League. The team’s sustainability health-check and its associated charter mark for business has been recognised by independent reviewers as ‘best in Europe’, and the University also holds both the prestigious Green Dragon and ISO14001 Environmental Management certifications.

The Sustainability Lab is keen to point out that all of these successes are a reflection of the Vice chancellor, the Deputy Vice-chancellor and the Executive’s commitment to sustainability, which is a clear thread through the vision outlined in the University’s Strategic Plan 2015-2020, and the enthusiasm with which so many colleagues are embracing the challenges associated with ensuring the well-being of future generations.

The Green Gown Awards

Established in 2004, and with a judging panel of over 80 experts, the Green Gown Awards validate and showcase the exceptional, pioneering and bold 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 resilience, adaptability, efficiency, employability and better quality of life for us all.

The winners will be announced at the prestigious Green Gown Awards Ceremony held at The Athena situated in the Cultural Quarter, Leicester on 10 November, in partnership with De Montfort University (DMU) and University of Leicester.

Publication date: 13 July 2016