University of Worcester – Net Zero Carbon by 2030

Having declared a climate emergency the University of Worcester set a target to be net-zero carbon by 2030. We have been measuring and reporting our carbon footprint since 2008, both direct and indirect emissions. Our total carbon footprint in academic year 2018/19 was about 22,000 tonnes. Watch to hear our story. 

Above: Highlights – University of Worcester – Net Zero Carbon by 2030


University of Worcester – Net Zero Carbon by 2030

– Welcome by Professor David Green, University of Worcester Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive

– Video footage of Professor David Green by Sheridan Courtney

– Carbon Story by Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability:

The Carbon Story

Having declared a climate emergency, last year we set a target to be net-zero carbon by 2030.  

We have been measuring and reporting our carbon since 2008, both direct and indirect emissions. Our total carbon footprint in the academic year 2018/19 was about 22,000 tonnes.   

Since we began reporting our direct carbon has reduced by about 50%, but our indirect carbon is up by about 17%. 

Why is this?  

Direct carbon is the energy we use and the vehicles we own.   

We have made lots of changes to lighting, heating, invested in on-site renewable energy and changed our fleet vehicles to be electric. Therefore, they have gone down.  

Since 2009 we’ve had a revolving grant and used this mostly to change the lighting on campus to very efficient LEDs. We’ve also been improving the fabric of our buildings to make them more energy-efficient by adding insulation and double glazing.  We have also invested significantly in solar thermal and PV panels to heat our hot water and to generate our own electricity. 

We have been helping students and staff to change their behaviour and since 2010. This year half the resident students took part in student switch-off learning ways to save energy. 

However, we can’t do this on our own, and it saves carbon and money if we share heating and cooling and become part of a community heat network.  

The university is working with the councils to see if we can do this in Worcester. The government is funding a techno-economic feasibility study for a heat network for Worcester based around the university.  

The heat source for this might be the river or perhaps drilling down to find a geothermal heat source.  This is currently being investigated.  

We have a grant from the government to audit all our buildings and work out exactly what we need to do, when and how much it will cost so we can publish a credible action plan to decarbonise. 

Indirect carbon emissions have gone up in this period because the university has doubled its students and staff and gone from one campus to three. 

Of our total carbon footprint of 22,000 tonnes just over 3,000 tonnes come from energy used on campus but most of our carbon, about 14.5 tonnes, comes from the things we buy and how our students and staff travel to campus. 

The University is very committed to getting to zero carbon and some of the ways we’ve been reducing our indirect carbon is in our canteens. Low carbon meals are promoted to nudge us all to reduce our meat and dairy consumption and increase eating more plant-based foods.  

We have been working across Europe sharing best practice with other universities to increase sustainable campus travel.  We have a bike-share fleet including ebikes and we are looking at expanding the fleet into other organisations across the city to help reduce commuting by car. 

To reduce procurement emissions, we work with our suppliers and give them free access to a tool to help them work with their supply chains to reduce their emissions.   

In June we had 430 suppliers registered, who have committed to 9,000 actions and nearly 4,000 of these are either completed or being worked on. 

Having identified what makes up our carbon footprint, we’ve worked out we can reduce it by 50% in the next 9 years.   

What about the rest of the carbon we need to remove to be zero carbon by 2030? 

We need to invest in credible schemes that will take carbon out of the atmosphere, such as planting trees and soil conservation projects 

In short, we are aiming to be low carbon and high nature. 

Our biggest area of impact are our students and staff, that’s around 12,000 people or about 10% of the population of Worcester. To help our race to zero people need to understand carbon and what are the high impact solutions.  We offer 8 hours of carbon literacy training to all. It is important when our students graduate, they leave with the skills, knowledge and experience of climate action and sustainability.   

We think students and staff working together on projects they’ve designed is the best way to do this.  We offer students volunteering and paid jobs to support these activities. Last year we had 16 teams engaging about 800 staff and students. He’s a few examples of their projects:

Student and Staff Projects at The University of Worcester: 

  • Hazaar, a zero waste online swap shop for students 
  • A visual style for the staff mental health network 
  • Introducing ergonomic  and energy saving cleaning methods 
  • Nature cams on campus supporting wellbeing 
  • Take a break campaign 
  • Peaceful spaces to decompress 
  • Bringing the climate emergency into education 
  • Hedgehog highways and conservation 
  • Teaching children sustainability through library activities  
  • Promoting low carbon meals in the canteen 
  • Encourage sustainable travel to campus 
  • Swapped paper systems to digital 
  • Move the world. Teaching children sustainable development goals 

Teaching and Research Projects

– My name is Elena Lengthorn. I work in the School of Education. We introduce the SDGs in the core professional studies program for all our secondary teachers in training. It includes the background to the goals, a critical evaluation of the roles and responsibilities of educators, and insights on how the SDGs can be taught in practice. This year we held an educator climate assembly to support the development of a course on education in a climate emergency. This innovative program includes elements of carbon literacy and nature connectedness, climate anxiety and the SDGs.

– My name is Paulo Mora and I teach brand management. Nowadays consumers demand sustainable and responsible brands and small and large corporations are using the United Nations Sustainable Framework. My students implement the same tools used by these companies to measure their impact and identify areas for possible strategic development.

– Hello, my name is Rachel Cooper. I teach responsible business and accounting and finance at Worcester Business School. How are we going to finance zero carbon?
Businesses are looking for graduates with knowledge, skills, and experience to make this happen.
Our aim is to inspire future business leaders and we bring experts in to explore what is really happening. How do businesses report and deliver results? There is momentum and our graduates are ready.

– Hi, I’m Daniel and as a psychologist, I’m interested in social forces on our behaviour, including altruism such as kindness and helping behaviour and the role it can play in romantic long-term relationships. In a paper published recently, we looked at pro environmentalism. We found that people find it desirable in long-term partners and, we display it more in the presence of potential partners. In our courses here in psychology, we look at global themes, including climate change and the environment so that students can understand the role of psychology and helping make a difference in the world.

– My name is Alan Dixon and I’ve been doing research and teaching in sustainable development for over 25 years and I’m looking at the interrelationships between society and the environment in Sub Saharan Africa. I’ve been exploring how wetlands contribute to food security, poverty reduction and climate resilience and work with different stakeholders to develop wetland management strategies that balanced development with environmental sustainability. This informs the teaching on our geography courses such as our fieldwork to Malawi, where students gain first-hand experience of sustainability and climate change issues in the global South.

– I’m Ian Maddock and I’m a geographer and professor of River Science. My research involves investigating ways to use un-crewed aerial vehicles or drones to map and measure rivers, in particular their morphology in their flows. At Worcester, we’re also using drones to monitor soil erosion and provide evidence of the best farming practices to reduce soil run-off into rivers that can cause pollution. Rivers have suffered greater ecological declines than any other part of our natural environment and the results of this research can help us restore our rivers and enhance biodiversity.


Big thanks to the Digital Creative Team for putting this video together, to Sheridan Courtney for the video footage for Professor David Green, University of Worcester Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, CBE – and to the students and staff who are embedding sustainability into their teaching and research projects at The University of Worcester.

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Sian Evans
Sian Evans
2 years ago

Great to see the hard work and dedication to integrating sustainability into the campus, curriculum and community. Fascinating areas of teaching and high impact research to help us build a better future!

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