Environment and Sustainability

Climate change is one of the most urgent and significant issues of our time, global in its impact and yet one that can be addressed at the local level, by individuals and organisations.

As a University we are committed to ensuring we are as environmentally sustainable as we can be ourselves, but also by driving change and awareness through the education we provide, the research our staff undertake, and in how we manage our estate and procure and deliver our services.

As London's campus university, we are fortunate to have 54 acres of parkland campus to work, study, live on and enjoy. Find out more about how we are looking after our campus, and some of the recent activities below.

For more detailed information on our commitment and approach to environmental sustainability, find more information in the sections below.

Key stats

581kg of produce grown on campus in 2021/2022

1331 eggs laid by our campus chickens in 2021/2022

7500 meals produced from produce grown on campus in 2021/2022

783 total hours spent by volunteers across all Growhampton initiatives in 2021/2022

14,000 lightbulbs have been replaced with LED and motion and daylight controls

508m2 of solar electricity panels installed on University buildings

1,750 thermostatic radiator valves installed

4,000m2 of 30cm thick loft insulation in all buildings with unoccupied pitched roofs

1,875m of heating pipework insulated

Draught proofing of 615 windows and doors

Nettles project - dyeing nettle fibres

Dyeing nettle fibres

Nettles project

Turning nettles into clothing and other materials might sound an uncomfortable idea, but that's exactly what a team of students and staff did in spring 2023. From raw nettles they produced an array of threads, weaving and craft products, which were showcased at an event in May.

Starting with a harvest of nettles gathered on a frosty December morning in the Southlands car park, participants learned how to crush the stems to extract nettle fibres. A series of four workshops held from February to March demonstrated ways of cleaning, processing, spinning and then crafting with the materials produced.

Alongside the workshops, a series of displays and posters explained how commercial clothing production can be highly polluting and resource-heavy, particularly the dyeing industry which damages water courses. The displays and posters attracted particular attention at the lunchtime sessions, seen by hundreds of students who marvelled at the amount of nettles required to make a tiny portion of useable fibre.

Supported by funding from Southlands Venture, the project has been led by Mona-Lisa De Greve, RSU environmental officer, who picked up Hiroko's ideas for both nettle crafting and using waste coffee grounds from the Hive Café to make a body scrub. Mona-Lisa said the whole project had been a huge learning exercise: "It was a pleasure to meet both the students and staff, who enthusiastically embraced the concept of this project, and generously shared their diverse experiences and knowledge.

The eye-catching project was set up by Dr Hiroko Onishi, senior lecturer in the Law School at the University, who came up with the idea and gathered a team of helpers to bring it to fruition. This team along with Hiroko's colleagues and students were deeply affected by her death in October 2022, and vowed to continue the project as a legacy of her passion, commitment and enthusiasm for learning and commitment to environmental causes.

Winning design idea - hedgehog hide

Winning deisgn idea - hedgehog hide

School of Arts and Digital industries Design Challenge

On 24 and 25 April 2023, more than 60 undergraduate and postgraduate Computer Science students took part in a 'Sustainability Design Challenge' as part of their Computing and Society module.

In just four hours the students, working in groups, performed the whole product design lifecycle of ideation, prototyping, user-testing and refinement. The challenge took the theme of Sustainable University Campus, and the students made prototypes for products and services that tackled key issues such as recycling, food waste, active transport, biodiversity and reducing single-use plastics.

Research and user feedback were key in developing the solutions.

The winning designs awarded prize money vouchers, and our judges came from across the University and the Vice-Chancellor's office.

It was a fun and creative event that showed how computer science can be applied to real-world problems, and we look forward to seeing some of the ideas developed further in future projects.

Thermophilic aerobic digester

Thermophilic aerobic digester

New Biodigester - eliminating compostable waste in landfill

To further enhance our sustainability efforts, the University has implemented a compostable waste stream that allows for the centralised disposal of food waste and catering disposables.

Through research and evaluation of several options, we selected Harp Renewables' thermophilic aerobic digester machine. This technology converts 80% of compostable waste into compost in just 24 hours. It constantly regenerates microbes, neutralizes ammonia to eliminate unpleasant odors, and heats to 70 degrees to reduce pathogens. Additionally, it prevents the oxidation of carbon into CO2, thereby minimising greenhouse gas and eliminating emissions from incurred from transporting food waste.

As a result, we are now able to produce nutrient-rich soil products that can be used throughout our campus, eliminating compostable waste in landfills, offsetting our carbon footprint, and contributing to a circular economy with an accredited biofertilizer. Depending on the quantity of soil products we generate, there is even the potential to sell them to third parties.

The compostable waste stream system was installed in the spring. Signage is displayed across all catering outlets on campus to raise awareness and to encourage all members of our community to dispose of compostable waste in an eco-friendly manner, reducing our carbon footprint.

Future initiatives will look at the introduction of food caddies in each hall of residence to further convert compostable waste.

Apleona - establishing sustainable practices and initiatives

A slide from Apleona's presentation

Apleona - establishing sustainable practices and initiatives

The University works with experienced facilities management company Apleona, who operate cleaning, pest control, window cleaning, feminine hygiene and hotel and conferencing services within an environmentally friendly ethos.

The following presentation highlights the initiatives Apleona have introduced and areas they would like to improve.