Sustainability of Irish HEI campuses

Dr Bernadette O’Regan and her research team have won funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for a 2 year study on the sustainability of Irish HEI campuses. The study is in collaboration with An Taisce and plans to work with all Irish university campuses interested in participating, plus Limerick and other ITs. The UL campus, which gained the Green Campus Award in 2015, and LIT will be used as case studies in developing an ambitious plan to ensure that HEI campuses play a full role in contributing to a reduction in Irish greenhouse gas emissions, in line with legally binding EU targets, as failure to meet these targets will result in heavy recurrent fines for Ireland.

The 2015 Irish Government White Paper on Energy Stressed the urgent need for active cooperation between central government and local communities in taking actionsto drive down our greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to free up funding to encourage community level action. A campus community on the one hand is a substantial consumer of energy and materials, but on the other hand is in a position to implement sustainability policies as it has strong governance structures, a large population of staff and students, controls a land surface on which renewableenergy generation and waste management technologies may be sited, and can deliver enhanced building energy efficiency and sustainable land-use.

At the same time, HEIs have strong educational missions, which underpin further crucial opportunities to support national sustainability goals. International experience shows that ‘green campuses’ can lead by example in developing, trialling and commissioning new technologiesand management systems, and students in all disciplines learn most about potentials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by seeing these in action. HEIs work with industry in developing new technologies, and with Local Authorities and voluntary communities, such as Ballanagran in Wicklow, which are already very active in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and with environmental NGOs such as An Taisce in the Green Campus Scheme, so that opportunities to lead by example are many and significant, and through such collaborations new ideas can be developed and disseminated further. This project aims to evaluate the extent to which HIE campuses may support the ambitious goals set out in the White Paper. For more information contact Dr Bernadette O’Regan.

Images: Sustainability of Irish Campuses