University College Cork has become the world’s first university to be awarded its fourth Green Flag from An Taisce, on behalf of the International Foundation for Environmental Education.
The award follows an assessment of the University’s Green Flag programme in April by an external panel of staff from the Environmental Education Unit in An Taisce and the Department for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.
Green Flags are awarded to universities that have demonstrated they have implemented a seven-step programme of environmental management across campus.
“Our success is thanks to the student-led, research-informed, and practice-focused nature of the Green Campus programme at UCC,” said Professor John O’Halloran, Deputy President and Registrar, UCC.
The brainchild of a group of students seeking to play an active role in making the campus more sustainable, the Green Campus programme at UCC has flourished in the 12 years.
Since its inception, 125 campuses across 21 countries have registered on the programme, known internationally as EcoCampus, and 43 have been awarded Green Flags.
Led by students and supported by senior management, UCC’s Green Campus programme has witnessed the university reduce waste levels by a third while recycling rates have increased by about 20%.
Energy efficiency has improved by 37% and water efficiency by 14%, while recent highlights have included the decision to manage much of campus green space for biodiversity with the sowing of a wildflower meadow at Perrott’s Inch and the launch of a single-use plastic free café in collaboration with KSG.
The success of the programme is also credited to the work of a network of green teams across the university championing sustainability in their areas, including the award-winning ‘Green Library Team’ with their ban on disposable cups and introduction of binless offices.
“The aim is for UCC’s campus infrastructure to be used as a demonstration site for solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems,” said Mark Poland, Director of Buildings and Estates, UCC.
Future plans for the University include the launch of the Climate Action Plan and a reuse scheme for UCC staff and students, the phased implementation of ‘plastic-free’ elements across the catering outlets on campus, and the further rollout of renewable energy projects with funding from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.