News and Views

In a world first, UCC to raise fourth Green Flag

27 Jun 2019
Recent highlights of UCC's Green Campus programme include the sowing of a wildflower meadow at Perrott’s Inch to promote biodiversity.

University College Cork will today become the world’s first university to be awarded its fourth Green Flag from An Taisce, on behalf of the International Foundation for Environmental Education.

Green Flags are awarded to universities that have demonstrated they have implemented a seven-step programme of environmental management across campus and UCC staff have been invited to meet at the Quad at 4 pm today (June 27) to watch the flag being raised.

The award follows an assessment of the University’s Green Flag programme in April by an external panel comprised of members of staff from the Environmental Education Unit in An Taisce and the Department for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. 

Professor John O’Halloran, Deputy President and Registrar, UCC said: “Our success is thanks to the student-led, research-informed, and practice-focused nature of the Green Campus programme at UCC.” 

The brainchild of a group of students seeking to play an active role in making the campus more sustainable, the Green Campus programme at UCC has flourished in the 12 years since its inception and since then 125 campuses across 21 countries have registered on the programme, known internationally as EcoCampus, and 43 have been awarded Green Flags.

Led by students and supported by senior management, UCC’s Green Campus programme has witnessed the university reduce waste levels by a third while recycling rates have increased by about 20%. 

Energy efficiency has improved by 37% and water efficiency by 14%, while recent highlights have included the decision to manage much of campus green space for biodiversity with the sowing of a beautiful wildflower meadow at Perrott’s Inch and the launch of a single-use plastic free café in collaboration with KSG. 

The success of the programme is also credited to the work of a network of green teams across the university championing sustainability in their areas, including the award-winning ‘Green Library Team’ with their ban on disposable cups and introduction of binless offices. 

Mark Poland, Director of Buildings and Estates, UCC said “the aim is for UCC’s campus infrastructure to be used as a demonstration site for solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems,” which has been formalised in the University’s Living Laboratory programme.

International accolades have honoured not only the University’s operational sustainability but also its coverage of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its curriculum, research and outreach activities.

According to UCC’s Sustainability Officer Maria Kirrane, this is what sets UCC apart. “The SDGs are not just the focus of what we are doing here in UCC in our research and teaching, but also how we do it.”

UCC was last year named the first university outside the US and Canada to be awarded Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System (STARS) Gold from the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The University ranked 21st globally in the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking, positioning it first in the world for our contribution to responsible consumption & production, and it has been consistently placed in the top 10 of the UI Green Metric Ranking. 

Future plans include the launch of the Climate Action Plan for the University and a re-use scheme for UCC staff and students, the phased implementation of ‘plastic-free’ elements across the catering outlets on campus, and the further rollout of renewable energy projects with funding from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. 

The University is committed to embedding sustainability in all aspects of campus life and having honest dialogue around the challenges that this presents, with its sustainability-related data openly accessible via the University’s STARS report.

For more on this story contact:

Lynne Nolan, Media & PR Officer, UCC: 087 210 1119 or

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