This year, University College Cork grabbed headlines by becoming the only Irish university to make the list of the top ten most sustainable universities in the world. This is a big achievement for UCC and one that both staff and students have been working towards for some time. A number of improvements have been made across main campus as well as in each of the satellite campuses to reduce the university’s carbon footprint, showing real signs of progress. The efforts made in an attempt to make the university more environmentally friendly has impacted significantly on student lives for the better. This shows the message from the entire university community is aimed at spreading the idea of a greener and more sustainable environment.
The Boole library has played a pivotal role in reducing the college’s carbon footprint. Since September 2017 they have been running a ‘Ditch the Disposables’ campaign that encourages both students and staff to bring reusable coffee cups into the library with them instead of disposable coffee cups. Based on the fact that 200 million coffee cups are disposed in Ireland each year, this is UCC Library’s way of responding to such a high figure. This message is well communicated to any library user before even entering the facility though the use of large signs in the window. It is also well advertised on the ground floor of the library. This is heartening to see as it shows a commitment to UCC’s green cause. The introduction of bins only on the ground floor of the Boole has furthered the library’s green footprint effort as students studying on upper floors are now expected to bring their rubbish down with them after they have finished their day’s work.
Outside of the library, noticeable changes are being made too, with the introduction of the Bio Green Cafe in the Biomedical Institute. This cafe was launched by KSG Catering and is the first cafe of its kind in Ireland. It serves beverages in ceramic mugs and encourages the use of take-home cups if customers plan to take drinks away with them. But that is not the only change within the cafe experience. Everything from the plates that you are served your food on down to the plastic sauce sachets have been replaced by reusable substitutes. The CEO of KSG, Michael Gleeson commented, “It has been great to work on this project in collaboration with UCC and both students and staff have embraced the changes in a really positive way. It feels like we have made a significant step forward in turning things around and reducing plastic use on campus.” KSG have collaborated with UCC to introduce the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative in the Main Restaurant each week following the results of a recent scientific study which revealed following a plant based diet is one positive impact a person can make to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Green Campus programme has been at the fulcrum of expanding this more sustainable approach to life in UCC. Green Campus involves a seven-step programme and a cycle of constant improvements across themes such as energy, waste, water, biodiversity and transport. It considers how we can take the planet into consideration in our everyday decisions. When approached for comment on the improvements that have taken place in UCC the Sustainability Officer Maria Kirrane stated “UCC have taken serious steps over the last number of years to put sustainability and care for the environment at the heart of everything that we do. These are genuine projects that result in a real improvement to our environmental footprint. We are committed to pushing the boundaries so that we can demonstrate to others what is possible. We achieve this because of the way in which the many offices, groups and individuals across UCC come together to deliver on this shared ambition. It is down to genuine teamwork and is something that we can all be proud of.”