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Global first as UCC retains Green Flag

22 Apr 2013
Global first as UCC retains Green Flag

UCC has reaffirmed its standing as the world’s first Green Flag campus, a world first in itself for the prestigious international award programme.

UCC was the first university in the world to be awarded the status of a Green Campus by the Foundation of Environmental Education and An Taisce in 2010. The status renewal was made by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, T.D., on behalf of An Taisce.

The news comes following a rigorous re-evaluation by an expert panel of UCC’s performance in this area. An Taisce once again granted the international accreditation following a detailed review of a portfolio of achievements, validated by a formal site visit.

A number of student-led environmental initiatives in 2007 proved to be the catalyst that led to UCC’s first Green Flag award, in conjunction with an extensive environmental review by the Buildings & Estates Department at UCC and academic staff.

The Green-Campus programme has seen UCC take significant strides forward in its sustainability. Recycling rates have increased from 21% in 2007 to 75% in 2012, with a plan in place for this figure to exceed 90% in the coming years. The total campus energy consumption, which relies exclusively on green provision, has been reduced by 9%. The number of UCC staff members cycling to work has doubled from 6% in 2007 to 12% in 2012. The campus landscape, external spaces and public walkways have seen marked upgrades. Some of the most significant outcomes include a cumulative saving on waste of nearly €1,000,000 in the last 6 years, as well as over 750,000 M3 of water have been saved since 2007.

Accepting the award on behalf of the University, President of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy commented: “It is a source of immense pride to the University, its staff and its students for UCC to become the first third level institution in the world to reaffirm this important recognition. It is wonderful to see our students take such innovative and creative steps towards ensuring UCC remains a leader when it comes to sustainability and a marvellous example of good citizenship by all involved”.

Minister Hogan commented:“UCC has shown great leadership in achieving the world’s first Green Flag and this achievement is no doubt an exemplar for the wider community. Indeed your actions can have an immediate and direct impact beyond the campus grounds, for example through sustainable transport measures. And most importantly your institution is a place of learning, so by increasing environmental awareness among your student population you have the potential to influence society generally, helping to ensure that environmental issues remain to the fore in our priorities”.

Dr. Michael John O' Mahony of the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce said: "We are delighted that UCC have renewed their Green-Flag and have continued to develop and adopt the Green Campus Programme over the last three years. During this time it is evident that not only have they continued to reduce their environmental impact in areas such as waste, energy, water, travel and biodiversity but they have greatly increased the scope and impact of the programme in areas such as student and staff involvement, procurement and college wide teaching. This is most clearly displayed in the abilities and competencies of the students involved in the programme. These students are the most important outcome of the programme".

Student buy-in from the outset has been pivotal to the success of UCC’s Green Campus programme, with both the Students' Union (SU) and UCC Environmental Society taking a leading role. Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Sam Ryan, UCC SU Deputy President said: "This is a great day for the University. It represents the culmination of years of hard work by students and staff on campus. The idea of UCC's Green Campus project is that it encapsulates all aspects of the University, it's led by the students, informed by research and is practice focused”.

Mark Poland, UCC’s Director of Building and Estates, added: "Maintaining Green Campus status is an endeavour we take very seriously through continually trying to improve our environmental performance in waste management, commuting and energy. The renewed status not only recognises the on-going commitment of students and staff towards ensuring the practice of running a modern campus meets stringent environmental standards, but it also rewards them on a global scale”.

The development continues to build on the momentum generated by further international recognition recently. UCC is now ranked 3rd in the world from a field of 215 competing universities in the Universitas Indonesia Greenmetric World University Ranking system, due to its exceptional work in the area of environment-friendly university management. It is ranked second in the world in the category of urban campus. 

Professor John O'Halloran, Head of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who has been involved heavily with the project stated: "Today's decision is reflective of UCC’s mission to remain a truly green campus with the interaction of academic, support staff and the student community creating an exceptional combination of ideas and initiatives". 

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