Universities and colleges from across the UK and Ireland have demonstrated how they are leading the way to efficiency, employability and creating a better future of life for everyone.
Education is proving how sustainability is just good business sense. From the efficient buildings they create and the effective way they use energy, to how they create students fit for the future, their research in finding better ways to adapt to a changing climate and the communities they impact, universities and colleges are at the forefront of radically creating a better future.
This was evident at the 12th Green Gown Awards 2016, held at the Athena in Leicester, in partnership with De Montfort University (DMU) and University of Leicester. It was a celebration of remarkable sustainability initiatives, starring 21 Winners and 26 Highly Commended entries from 115 finalists representing 1.5 million students and 240,000 staff. With an audience of 390 sustainability leaders applauding sustainability excellence within tertiary education, the Green Gown Awards celebrated those that are making the radical change that is needed to make all our lives better.
It is no longer enough to be a ‘less bad organisation’ focused on preventing the worst environmental and social excesses.
The evening was hosted by Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business, Marks & Spencer. Amongst others, Mike is a Visiting Fellow at the Smith Centre for Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, a Senior Associate at the Cambridge Programme for Sustainable Leadership and a chemistry graduate from Sheffield University. Mike said, “We stand on the cusp of great change in the economy and society. It is no longer enough to be a ‘less bad organisation’ focused on preventing the worst environmental and social excesses. Every higher and further education establishment, business and government department needs to be thinking about how we change radically our approach to education, commerce and politics to create a future that is low carbon, equal, circular, fair, restorative and committed to the wellbeing of all. The Green Gown Awards help identify these sustainability best practices and encourage the wider higher and further education system to scale up their use.”
Each year the Awards bring together the most inspirational projects from across the sector and this year was no exception. Scooping an amazing haul of four Awards was University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) (Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change; Learning and Skills); and in partnership with the University of Bristol (Student Engagement), culminating with Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Environment and Sustainability being awarded the coveted Leadership Award – which is exclusive to senior strategic leadership, at executive or governance level, at a tertiary education institution. Of Jim’s win, Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor, says “UWE is committed to embedding sustainability in everything we do particularly within the curricula. The award of a Leadership Green Gown will be welcome external recognition of our efforts and, in particular, the excellent leadership role that Jim has played in our journey towards becoming a sustainable university.”
Royal Agricultural University won an impressive two awards (Best Newcomer and Enterprise and Employability) where they nurture students to embrace sustainability, both social and environmental, offering them opportunities to put such theories as corporate sustainability and ethical leadership into practice. Professor Chris Gaskell MBE, Vice-Chancellor, says “It is a fantastic achievement for us at the Royal Agricultural University to be recognised for our enterprise activities, and we are very proud. We aim to foster and support an enterprising spirit within our student and alumni populations, and also to involve the local community; we all need a sustainable future, and entrepreneurial approaches will be a key component.”
Scotland stole the show for the Built Environment category with wins for South Lanarkshire College and the University of Aberdeen. With University of Aberdeen actively reducing energy use by going ‘passive’” which sees the first fully certified Passive House Nursery in Scotland and the first at a Scottish University.
Organised and delivered by the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), Chief Executive, Iain Patton, describes the importance of the Green Gown Awards, “Every year the excellence recognised by the Green Gown Awards shows the business alignment and value of sustainability. Sustainability makes business sense and this year’s inspiring initiatives prove that sustainability benefits staff, students, the wider community and of course the bottom line. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists for their hard work. It was wonderful to celebrate their successes in Leicester.”
The full list of winners can be found at www.greengownawards.org.uk
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!