Skip to main content

The University and the environment – University of Reading

Show access keys

The University and the environment

A leading environmental university

The University of Reading has been at the forefront of research into sustainability and the environment for many decades. This leadership in climate and environmental science research brings with it responsibilities to show educational leadership in our own environmental practises. The University is proud of its achievements in this area and is committed to ensure that we do everything possible to mitigate our own environmental impact.

Our green aspirations 

Academic leadership

Our achievements on campus


We are determined to manage our University sustainably. The University's Carbon Management Plan commits us to reducing our own carbon footprint by 35% by 2015/16 and 40% by 2020. Our staff and students will play a key role in achieving these targets. Plans are also well underway to reducing water consumption across campus.

We are aiming to increase recycling rates year on year and reduce waste going to landfill. We will continue to increase sustainable travel options and explore new ways of encouraging staff and students to leave the car at home.

A set of environmental objectives can be found in the University's Environmental Policy for each of the University's significant environmental impacts.


The University of Reading takes a leading role in research concerned with the environment and sustainability. This research effort is manifest across the University and is being carried out in many different Schools and Departments.

Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research

Focusing on climate research, the Walker Institute is the hub for much of this work. Our staff are engaged in many different fields and on many different projects, from mitigating the impact of climate change to sustainable built environments, the interplay between crops and climate, the impact of climate on business or influencing human behaviour to reduce our carbon footprint. Our leadership in integrated climate system research will deliver better knowledge and understanding of future climate and its impacts for the benefit of society.

Our research and the sustainability agenda

The sustainability agenda plays an important role in our research across the University. We take a multi/cross-disciplinary approach and have researchers from many different departments working on this important issue. Examples can be found in the School of Construction Management, the Technologies for Sustainable Built Environments Centre - TSBE - University of Reading (TSBE), the Design Innovation Research Centre and in the Henley Business School. Current research projects include investigating the impact of buildings on climate and research into smart materials and devices inspired by nature (biomimetics). We are also managing a £5million Government funded programme to train 50 engineers in sustainable built environments over the next eight years (TSBE) and offer a range of taught programmes such as an MSc in Renewable Energy and Sustainability. Find out more on the School of Construction Management and Engineering website.

Our achievements on campus

Our staff and students are key to our ability to meet the University's responsibilities and aspirations:

      • Over 200 members are acting as University of Reading Environmental Champions to help develop best practise across the University.
      • Our annual Green Week is a celebration of the progress we are all making and an opportunity for staff and students to take stock of their own impact.
      • The University has achieved the ISO14001 Environmental Management standard for its Greenlands Campus, Whiteknights and London Road Campuses as well as the  Standard for the Whiteknights Campus.
      • The Whiteknights Campus has achieved the Green Flag award 4 years running and is recognised as being a hub for wildlife and biodiversity.
      • By July 2013, we had reduced our carbon footprint by 15% compared to 2008/09 and recycled 68% of our waste.
      • 2014 saw the addition of 'Readybikes' Reading's new cycle hire scheme.

Sustainability Team

The Sustainability Team are dedicated to improving environmental performance and compliance across the University. Read more about their activities and campaigns on the Clean and Green website.

The team also produce two newsletters ('Sustainability Matters' and 'Travel Wise') which aim to raise the profile of the environmental and 'green' work that is going on at the University and increase awareness of ways that stuff and students can get involved with environmental issues at the University.

Buildings and facilities

Ensuring the University provides the highest quality facilities for staff and students is a priority at Reading. We are committed to investing in environmentally-conscious building design and aim to achieve good or better Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) standards for any new developments.

We are also investing significantly in the existing estate, to ensure facilities are refreshed and environmentally friendly for the future.  This includes a significant investment in a new district heating system feeding many of the buildings on the Whiteknights campus, which will provide low carbon heat and electricity through a combination of a combined heat and power (CHP) unit and high-efficiency gas boilers.

The university has also committed to providing more cycle parking.


Our beautiful Whiteknights and Greenlands campuses are very popular with students, staff and visitors. Managing them sustainably and encouraging biodiversity ensures they continue to be one of our strongest assets. We have achieved the Green Flag award 4 years running and strive to ensure that the campus remains a hub for wildlife and biodiversity. Greenlands campus boasts a Green Tourism award and has achieved ISO14001 environmental management status.


In the most recent Green League tables for universities, we jumped 42 places for environmental performance to 17th place awarding the University a 1st, this is a huge increase from 2011 where we were placed 72nd. We hold Fairtrade status, have  ambitious targets for recycling, purchase all of our non-domestic electricity from assured green and renewable energy sources and take part in the Green Impact Awards to encourage staff to take environmental ownership of their own buildings. We have also held The Carbon Trust Standard since 2011 in recognition of measuring, managing and reducing our carbon emissions and demonstrates our commitment to reducing carbon emissions year on year.

Travel and transport

Staff, students and visitors are encouraged to travel to the University on public transport. We work closely with the local bus company to constantly improve bus services onto campus and provide discounted tickets that meet the needs of staff and students. Bus passenger numbers on the University routes have doubled over five years due to this close working relationship. We have two car club cars based on our Whiteknights campus and promote car sharing through our own carshare website. We also encourage cycling with 1800 bike racks on campus and  regular Dr Bike sessions and bike maintenance courses which are extremely popular. We continue to explore new ways of encouraging people to reduce car use.

Our new Travel Policy outlines our recommendations for using the most sustainable mode that is practical and minimising our carbon emissions by restricting flights to economy class.

Sustainable Procurement

The Procurement Department recognises its responsibility to carry out activities in an environmentally responsible manner and has introduced a Sustainable Procurement Policy in order to meet the objectives in the University's Environmental Policy.

Read about the procurement department's achievments here  Sustainable Procurement.


The catering department has focused closely on social responsibility and as a result have been awarded a Gold Green Impact Award, received Good Egg, Chicken and Pig Awards from the Compassion in World Farming Organisation.  They have also implemented a sustainable food policy which reflect its commitment to; take into account economic, social and environmental factors during procurement, use seasonally available ingredients, reduce packaging and labelling and increase training and awareness amongst many others.

Cedar tree on Whiteknights Campus


  • View the University's environmental policies
  • Find out more about the Higher Education Carbon Management Programme

other information

We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.

Back to top