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How ‘green’ is the University of Warwick’s environmental policy?

People & Planet is the UK’s largest student network campaigning for environmental and social justice. In 2019 it ranked Warwick 60 out of 154 UK Institutions based on environmental and ethical performance. Comparatively, neighbouring university Coventry ranked seventh. Warwick’s low ranking was caused by weaknesses in water usage reduction, workers’ rights, ethical investment and the cutting of carbon emissions. Though Coventry also proved to be weak in ethical investment, its relatively high score in other categories improved its rank. It should be noted that this comparison does not consider important differences between the universities. For example, Warwick’s first year and postgraduate accommodation is mostly on campus, providing cleaning services that use a lot of water and electricity. However, regardless of these differences,  there is clearly room for improvement.

In 2019, People & Planet ranked Warwick 60 out of 154 UK Institutions based on environmental and ethical performance

The University of Warwick has recently declared a state of Climate Emergency and has therefore begun implementing an environmental policy and sustainability plan to combat the ever-worsening environmental situation. In this policy, the University states it will ‘endeavour to exceed the requirements of relevant environmental legislation’. It will integrate environmental issues into its teaching and research activities, whilst raising awareness of good environmental management policies and practices. It will promote the use of products and services that are least harmful to the environment and continue to reduce its consumption of primary raw materials such as fossil fuels. The University will seek a more extensive use of energy efficient, low carbon measures, recyclable components and renewables. It will implement a long-term waste management strategy and encourage and facilitate sustainable forms of transport to, from and within the University. Finally, it will develop and maintain university buildings and grounds in an environmentally sensitive way, seeking to protect and enhance natural habitats and diversity.

The University of Warwick has recently declared a Climate Emergency and has therefore begun implementing an environmental policy and sustainability plan to combat the ever-worsening environmental situation

On top of other developments, the University is committed to sustainable growth. By 2030, Warwick will have grown, and it will have grown sustainably. Growth will be seen especially in science, technology, engineering and maths, though it will be evident in other spheres too. The plan states that: ‘In all that we do and seek to achieve, we must and will ensure the sustainability of our University in all senses – financial, social and environmental – by embedding innovative sustainable development ambitions and practices throughout our strategic plans and activities’. This can be achieved by using more efficient fuels, transports and energy generation methods. The University of Warwick’s Environmental Policy discussed demonstrates how the University structure supports a greener policy. The Environmental Sustainability responsibility lies at the Executive Office. Professor Christine Ennew is the University of Warwick’s Provost. She is also the Executive Board lead for the University environmental sustainability strategy and its implementation.

In the last year, the University has published several environmental targets which are regularly reviewed. They cover the topics of waste, water, transport, sustainable procurement, emissions and discharges, biodiversity and engagement. They have set targets for both the near future, such as by the end of 2020, and more distant targets, like by 2030 or 2050.

The University of Warwick’s Environmental Policy discussed demonstrates how the University structure supports a greener policy

The implementation of such climate-focused strategies can be seen around campus. The University has over 3500 cycle parking spaces in over 150 locations. Shower facilities are provided to encourage commuting by bicycle, as well as a network of cycle routes linking campus to the local area. The University also acknowledges that the meat industry causes a significant environmental impact.  This can be seen in stores such as Bread Oven, which now has meat-free Mondays, and the Cafe Library and NAIC Cafe, both of which serve vegetarian meals daily. Another important issue for Warwick is food waste. Warwick Conferences have committed to reducing food waste through the Too Good To Go app, and water refill stations are available across campus. The use of reusable cups is encouraged by Warwick outlets which offer 20p off for their use. Warwick Cup has launched this year, a green initiative that promotes the phrase “Borrow. Use. Return”.  On top of this, every Thursday the SU has a Food Co-op stall, selling local and ethically produced products. The Swap Shop or Vintage Kilo Sale are also held in the SU, offering second-hand and sustainable clothing.

It is absolutely critical that the university implements the changes it proposes to make, and that we see a positive difference on the environment as a result

In terms of other developments, I would suggest a further attack on carbon emissions. By planting more trees on and around campus, the university could improve its appearance as well as its air quality,  particularly in areas near roads and heavy traffic. More widely, the University could use Ecosia – a search engine that devotes 80% of its profits to organisations that focus on reforestation – as the default search engine on campus computers.

Overall, the University of Warwick can pride itself on responding to student feedback and campaigning. However, climate targets themselves are not enough to make a difference. It is absolutely critical that the University implements the changes it proposes to make, and that we see a positive difference on the environment as a result.

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