Writtle News

Launch of sustainability project

November 2017

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Writtle University College has launched a sustainability project to enhance, develop and promote the 'green' credentials of its campus and operations.

As part of the wide-ranging project, which is being led by students and staff, the University College is aiming to have the largest Solar PV generating capacity of any education establishment in the UK.

The project is looking at a number of initiatives to improve the University College's environmental credentials and positively impact on the lives of people here, while promoting good practice in sustainability in all activities, including teaching, research and the management of resources.

The work comes after the University College received a Brite Green Top 10 University Carbon Reduction Award for its efforts in reducing carbon emissions. The University College also affirmed its commitment to fossil fuel divestment in a campaign led by People and Planet. As part of this, it publicly stated its full acceptance of the overwhelming scientific evidence for climate change and set out its pledge to work towards being a sustainable organisation.

Professor Peter Hobson is spearheading the project. He was part of a team of scientists to have research findings into global roadless areas published in the journal Science and collaborated in a German Government-funded project leading to the successful designation of 63 ancient forests across ten European countries as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

He said: “For over 100 years the University College has provided education for people seeking careers in the land-based sector. This sector is changing and evolving rapidly as it faces increasingly more complex challenges: coping with environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change and problems of food security in the face of population growth.

“We are committed to working in partnership with students and the wider community to achieve our objectives to develop a culture that promotes human well-being, environmental sustainability and ethical socio-environmental practice, while leading through action in terms of our own campus and operations.”

Josh Abbott, a Writtle University College Conservation graduate who is now a staff member, is guiding the student-led team driving the project. He said: “The project has amazing potential and incredible support already from the student body. With a campus such as the one at Writtle, the project can develop and enhance various sustainability practices, researching their effectiveness and fine tuning these innovations.

“The projects already proposed are varied in application and could have significant impact beyond campus. This is a very practical and intelligent response from students that will develop their skills and knowledge as they take on a very large project with new obstacles and real-world application.”

The project has a number of strands including:

• A Solar Photovoltaic (PV) programme. The first stage involved the installation of roof-mounted Solar PV panels at various locations across the campus, which generate more than 300KW of electrical power, reducing the University College's carbon emissions by nearly 100 tonnes per year. The second stage is planned to include a ground-based array with a capacity of 250 - 500KW. If successful, WUC will have the largest Solar PV generating capacity of any education establishment in the UK.

• The grow-your own food campaign. Students will be growing food for the University College restaurant, The Garden Room, reducing food miles.

• International palm oil research. Students have been involved in an assessment of RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) standards for oil palm growing in Sabah, Malaysia, to determine how sustainable they truly are.

• Orchard restoration project. Students are working to restore an old orchard at Writtle University College. They have organised a public seminar on traditional apple-growing and old orchards with speakers from the RHS; held a weekend event day for the community; and carried out a landscape character assessment.

• Working with Natural England, local authorities and private land owners on sustainability projects. These include designing a green space in Colchester and producing a design plan for the Chelmer River peninsula in Chelmsford, as well as vulnerability analyses of areas in the Brecklands and High Woods.

• Sustainability in teaching. This programme will see WUC embed environmental sustainability principles, concepts and science into all Higher Education programmes.

• Students Coaches Network for People & Planet. This student-led team is responsible for promoting student participation in the design, planning and delivery of the University College's environmental sustainability agenda. It is harnessing social media and connecting with universities globally that have similar goals.

• Writtle flooding assessment. Students are determining the best way to alleviate flooding along Lordship Road, Writtle, which will inform action by WUC as well as the Essex County Council's Highways Department and Environment Agency.

• Enhanced recycling. The team is working to improve the recycling of waste and the reduced use of non-recyclable materials across campus.

• Enhanced energy management with the latest Building Management System (BMS). The heating and hot water services will be controlled by a specialist piece of computer software using various control valves and sensors. The BMS will maintain the building and hot water system at the correct temperature, reducing energy waste, emissions and costs.