Carbon neutrality by 2030 and reductions in food wastage and water consumption are among the targets set out in NUI Galway’s new sustainability strategy, launched by the university this week.
The NUI Galway Sustainability Strategy 2021-2025 outlines the unversity’s transition to a sustainable future by embedding sustainability into its culture, operational policies, governance structure, and communities.
The strategy document was officially launched on Tuesday by Dr Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and chair of The Elders.
The strategy was developed by the Community University Sustainability Partnership (CUSP ) team, chaired by Professor Jamie Goggins, following campus wide consultation.
The strategy identifies 25 key measures of success organised around six themes: research and learning, energy and greenhouse gas emissions, nature and ecosystems, health and wellbeing, built environment, and governance and leadership.
Key sustainability measures outlined in the document include integration of sustainability across all university education programmes by 2023. NUI Galway currently offers some 230 courses that cover environmental and sustainability content.
The university aims to improve energy efficiency by 45 per cent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent, and work to ensure 20 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025. It aims to reduce food wastage by 50 per cent and water consumption by 10 per cent by the same date.
It also aims to become an exemplar in biodiversity related research and learning, with the implementation of its Biodiversity Action Plan.
Health and wellbeing measures outlined in the strategy include achieving a tobacco free campus by 2021, Healthy Campus status by 2022, and reducing, year on year, the level of harmful drinking among students.
Sustainability has been gathering momentum as a core value at NUI Galway for a number of years. The university launched its first sustainability strategy for the campus in 2017. This was followed by the appointment of the university’s first sustainability officer, Michelle O’Dowd Lohan, in September 2019.
Under the first sustainability strategy NUI Galway secured Green Campus Ireland award, securing the first Green Lab certification in Europe, exceeding the Public Sector 2020 Energy Efficiency target of 33 per cent and reaching the university’s target of 40 per cent in 2020, managing the campus grounds in line with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, and embracing sustainability as part of the curriculum.
'When it comes to sustainability, the students’ voice was loudest. We will inherit this planet and want to make sure it’s one that we can live in'
“It is heartening to see NUI Galway stepping up and shaping a future that has sustainability at the core,” Dr Mary Robinson said at the launch. “It is incumbent on universities to act on the single greatest challenge our society faces. Through your learn-live-lead approach - advancing sustainability through your teaching and learning, research, actions and impacts - you can play a leading role in the transition to a more sustainable future. By unleashing sustainability potential in the leaders of tomorrow, you can extend sustainability beyond the campus wall and into our communities.”
Threat to the planet
Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, NUI Galway deputy president and registrar and chair of the CUSP Advisory Board, said: “We are living in a time of great threat to the sustainability of our planet. Today we are putting in place a strategy that sets out our vision and commitment to lead the transition to a sustainable future on our campus, in our city, and around the world. The strategy has been a collaboration involving academics, students, and professional staff right across the university and in the wider community. It is only by coming together that we can achieve the future we want.”
NUI Galway Students’ Union president, Padraic Twoomey [pictured above], said: “When it comes to sustainability, the students’ voice was loudest. We will inherit this planet and want to make sure that it’s one that we can live in. Too long as a society we let things just go by without change and we hope with pushing for sustainability within the college we can make waves for the future.”
The strategy is the latest milestone in the university’s ongoing commitment to sustainability; others include signing the Sustainable Development Goals Accord in December 2019 and more recently winning the Sustainability Category of the Galway Chamber Awards, in recognition of the university’s commitment to extend sustainability beyond the campus walls and into local communities.
The full Sustainability Strategy 2021-2025 document can be viewed at www.nuigalway.ie/media/sustainability/files/NUI-Galway-Sustainability-Strategy-2021-2025 pdf.