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Durham University

Colleges & wider student experience

Student news

Top green ranking recognises environmental action

(6 January 2021)

Student sitting in green area with book

It’s really important to us that we take good care of our environment. So we’re proud to have achieved the top ‘Platinum’ award for EcoCampus.

What is EcoCampus?

It’s a scheme that helps UK colleges and universities manage their environmental impacts.

We’ve been working to make our University environmentally sustainable for over 15 years. But we only started to focus on the EcoCampus accreditation in early 2020 and in just one year we’ve progressed through the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels and now achieved the top Platinum award.

What is Durham doing about the environment?

Our goal is to be an environmentally sustainable university. We’ve already achieved a lot:

  • For 15 years, we’ve run our Green Move Out project – giving students the chance to donate belongings they no longer want to charity, rather than throw them away, at the end of each academic year. We’re excited that the project has been shortlisted for the Student Engagement prize in the Green Gown Awards 2020.
  • We have renewable technologies including ground source heat pumps and solar panels on campus so we can generate our own electricity. In 2018/19, we generated over 300,000kWh – enough to power 80 homes for a year.
  • Staff and students can bid for funding for projects to reduce our carbon emissions. Since 2011, we’ve awarded £670,000 to over 100 projects. These have saved nearly 4,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
  • We use zero carbon electricity, generated through off-shore wind farms. This has helped us to reduce the carbon footprint of our electricity use by nearly half since 2005.
  • We don’t invest in companies that extract fossil fuels.
  • We use rainwater to flush toilets on campus, and encourage everyone to use recyclable cups together with meal boxes and recycle furniture across our Departments and Colleges.
  • In 2020, we carried out a three month biodiversity survey of our estate and recorded 416 plant species, 99 bird species and 24 mammal species including otter, badger, roe deer and fox. 
  • We were ranked one of the world’s top universities for our contribution to a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • We strive to be a Fairtrade champion and have been accredited by the Fairtrade Foundation since 2007.
  • Our Environmental Sustainability Strategic Planning Group (ESSPG) tracks progress against our 110 environmental targets, reviews our policies and enables staff and students to discuss environmental issues.

And we want to go further:

  • We’ve recently launched our Integrated Sustainable Travel Plan, to enable staff and students to choose active transport.
  • We’re signed up to the County Durham Single Use Plastics Pledge and we’re working hard to remove single-use plastics from our University.
  • We’re working with the Carbon Trust to agree an ambitious new carbon reduction target across the University.
  • We’re investing £6.5m in our Infrastructure Improvements project, which includes improving foot and cycle paths around our campus.

World-leading environmental research

We also seek to lead society in becoming more environmentally sustainable, through our world-leading research.

Experts from the Durham Energy Institute are looking at ways to heat homes and workplaces by harnessing the warm water in abandoned coal mines, our physicists are working on ways to make solar power cheaper and more efficient and our surface scientists developed a coated mesh to help clean up oil spills.

Join us in making Durham a greener place

Being an environmentally sustainable University requires us all to do our bit.

Our dedicated Energy and Sustainability Team works with students and staff across the entire University to raise awareness of environmental issues. Join our Greenspace movement.