Institutions north of the border are working to embed sustainability on campus, says Olga Wojtas
Universities may face prosecution if they dump computer monitors in a skip.
But David Somervell, Edinburgh University's energy and sustainability manager, wonders how many institutions know this.
Somervell is secretary of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges Scotland (EAUC-S), which last November launched the Campus Sustainability Programme (CaSPr) to support staff responsible for sustainability issues. Specifically, it will encourage best practice in energy consumption, travel and waste management, including keeping its 32 members up to speed on the 400 pieces of environmental legislation.
"There's potential for inadvertently breaking the law and polluting the local or global environment, which has quite substantial reputation risk issues," he says. "That's where CaSPr comes in. I couldn't say we're unique, as we are ploughing a similar furrow to others, but the approach we are taking is to engage the greatest possible number of institutions and to assist in mainstreaming the concept of sustainable development."
The Scottish Executive says universities and colleges have a vital contribution to make to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-14), acting as a model in their own estate development, spreading knowledge to their students and the wider community, and researching more sustainable technologies. And it has given CaSPr £120,000 over three years to help improve the sector's performance.
Pat Hoy, deputy director of estates at Strathclyde University and CaSPr sponsor in the EAUC-S, says members want training and awareness-raising for senior managers; the chance to share information, problems and solutions; links with other organisations involved in promoting sustainability; and guidance on finding funding and support.
CaSPr's launch was supported by the Scottish Funding Council, which is encouraging institutions to take a holistic approach to sustainable development, embedding it throughout their work, including teaching and learning, estate management and research and business services. "The structure of Scottish degrees, with the ability to specialise at a relatively late stage, suggests to me more opportunity to offer modules (on sustainable development) than would be possible in England," says David Beards, SFC senior policy officer. "Although we've got very little influence on course content, it's very good to see."
Sustainability is even helping to break down disciplinary boundaries. St Andrews University set up an interdisciplinary cross-faculty module in sustainability for students in arts and science. It was an immediate success, with students demanding a full degree, which was launched in 2004.