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Environment

Greening UEA

What more can we do to ‘green’ UEA?
TERESA BELTON reports on her experience so far – and asks for views and ideas.

My joining with union reps in other organisations last autumn for some training sessions on environmental matters immediately highlighted how far in advance of many other employers UEA is in its proactive stance on sustainability issues.  5+ sustainability-related posts have been created, and this team are committed to improving and monitoring performance.  However, there is still a great deal of scope for reducing UEA’s environmental impact.

I was recently asked by UCU to complete and return the TUC’s Green Reps’ Survey 2012 which collects information about the environmental performance of employers. To complete the survey, I had to find out how UEA is performing and spoke with Martyn Newton, UEA’s Sustainability Manager.

My report to the TUC revealed a great deal of progress by UEA on many environmental matters – and also some interesting and surprising initiatives which UCU is happy to draw attention to, as well as some challenges.

Less waste of computer energy ? More teleconferencing?

Completing the TUC’s Green Reps Survey made both the achievements and the work still to be done by UEA very concrete.   It revealed that transport issues are being actively addressed and many measures have been taken to increase energy efficiency.  This, however, is not the whole picture.  While undergraduates are asked to switch off computers when not in use, I am unaware of any attempts to cut night time and weekend electricity consumption by staff – my personal observation is that some computers are simply left on when out of use for long periods, some monitors simply cannot be switched off, and lights are not routinely switched off when not needed, even sometimes over periods when the university is closed.

The unions, for their part, have not made proposals to management on climate change or other environmental concerns, and there is no joint management/union agreement regarding these issues.  This seems to be an area for union members to consider.  What are your thoughts on this?

My discussion with Martyn Newton brought to light some welcome details of UEA’s pro-environmental thinking, among them: UEA has signed up to several national and international carbon reduction schemes, each one to be audited independently and with financial reward or penalty implications; excess waste heat produced in the summer is used to drive CHE chillers; and all income from car parking is ring fenced to be ploughed back in to enhancing provision for cyclists and bus users, thus UEA has contributed a substantial amount to the initial costs of running new bus services which benefit UEA.

On a somewhat less positive note, although Estates are trialling Eluminate, the teleconferencing system for which UEA has bought a license and runs as part of Blackboard, and for which CSED has put on a course, there has been no proactive encouragement of staff to use the system in preference to travelling to meetings.  With Eluminate, teleconferencing can be undertaken from your own desk, can include the giving of a PowerPoint presentation, and will automatically record everything that is said by participants; yet how many people are aware of this facility?

In addition, although ways are being sought to improve UEA’s insulation and glazing, the teaching wall is very difficult to retrofit.

UEA’s approach could be summarised as a major effort on the supply side, largely by greening its energy sources.   But there is still much to be done on tackling the demand for energy by changing the culture and habits of energy users.  It could be said that a university is particularly well-placed to exert some influence in this respect, by incorporating the urgent issue of climate change into its teaching across the curriculum. So far, schools have varied in their enthusiasm to take up this challenge and huge potential remains.

What next?
We need your ideas on ‘greening of the campus and the greening of the curriculum’

To best represent the views of campus staff, I need campus unions to help me to collect the opinions and positive ideas of union members about matters concerning the environment.

Large, general questions are:

Q: What should campus unions be encouraging our employers to do to ‘green’ UEA?
Q: And how can WE as employees contribute to a ‘greener’ UEA? (as academic, clerical or maintenance staff etc)
Q: what greener policy and practice by UEA would benefit staff and the environment?

Two more personal questions are:

Q: If you were asked to switch off your computer overnight, how would you respond?
Q: Now that you have read of the Eluminate teleconferencing facility would you consider using it?

If I receive responses, I will publish them on the UCU website. Let me know if you prefer anonymity and we will respect that, though some open dialogue would be healthy.

Let me have your views! Please email me at t.belton@uea.ac.uk