The department of Psychiatry was recently awarded the Bronze award by Green Impact, an NUS initiative to encourage environmentally sustainable practices at Universities.
The Green Impact initiative was set up to encourage greener University campuses by setting standards and targets for departments to work towards, and rewarding them with a status reflecting the work done to shrink environmental footprints.
The team at Douglas House started by setting up an environmental committee. With the help of the guidelines provided by Green Impact, they then identified energy saving measures, opportunities to encourage efficient use of resources, and changing behaviours.
The Green Impact scheme starts by increasing the sustainability of everyday activities, which individually may not contribute much to the environmental footprint of the department, but as a whole have a big impact. By nudging each of these micro-activities towards sustainability, the department hopes to improve the overall strain it puts on the environment.
The Douglas House committee started by setting each printer in Douglas House to print double-sided by default. They then set their sights on energy efficiency, applying stickers to light switches encouraging the staff to “Switch Off!”, and encouraging recycling and reusing of resources.
Anna Crofts, head of the Douglas House Administrative Team, said “In Douglas House we’re not very good at turning off equipment like monitors and printers overnight and at weekends. The key messages we tried to get across to everyone were about the amount of recycling we do including pens and batteries, encouraging people to think about their transport needs (e.g. do you need to drive/fly to that meeting, could you conference call/skype instead?) and making sure that electrical equipment is turned off when not needed.”
Advocating for more efficient travel may perhaps prove the most impactful. Research requires collaboration across many departments in Cambridge and many Universities across the UK and the world. Travelling is an activity that seems inevitable every now and again as a researcher – but maybe it doesn’t have to be. By encouraging teleconferencing, the department hopes that the overall carbon footprint will shrink significantly.
Green Impact has multiple levels of awards, and the Department was awarded the Bronze status this year. However, Ms Crofts says, “We’ve already started working towards our bid for a silver award next year. We’d like to encourage people to get involved and are particularly keen to get students on board.”