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Sustainability - University on track to meet carbon emissions target

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The University is set to lower its environmental impact even further as it edges closer to an ambitious carbon reduction target months ahead of schedule.

In 2016, we set a bold new target of reducing its carbon footprint to 45% by July 2021 after meeting a target of a 35% reduction, based on its baseline 2008/09 emissions. By the end of January 2020, our carbon footprint dropped to 44% below baseline, bringing it closer to its new target much earlier than expected.

What is the University doing differently?

The reduction in carbon emissions are the result of several new and ongoing sustainability initiatives across the University’s campus sites and estates introduced over the past 18 months.

These include:

  • Extending the University’s district heating system – a more efficient centralised heating system that reduces pollution – to two additional science buildings.
  • Larger use of solar panels across the University estate – use of PV panels has increased fivefold since summer 2018, with the latest installation at CEDAR Farm bringing the University’s total solar panel portfolio to 1,577 individual panels to generate 395 kWp (kilowatt peak).
  • Saving direct energy through upgrades to IT servers and server room cooling.
  • Upgrading lighting within buildings. The latest improvement was made to the Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) building, where LED lighting was installed throughout.
  • A year-on-year reduction in international travel (prior to the COVID-19 outbreak).
  • The launch of Warp-It, a furniture and equipment recycling scheme aimed at reducing waste, saving nearly £100,000 in two years. The Warp-It scheme allows surplus office supplies and furniture to be reallocated across the University, reducing the need to buy new items. Staff are also encouraged to use the JUMP platform, rewarding points for environmentally-friendly actions such as recycling, cutting unnecessary travel, and reporting energy and water wastage.

The 44% reduction was made in seven key areas:

  • Heating and ventilation (10%)
  • Decarbonisation of the UK Grid (9%)
  • Improvements to water, waste and travel sustainability (7%)
  • Redevelopment of halls of residence (6%).
  • Utilising renewable energy and other electricity improvement projects (5%)
  • Changes to estate such as refurbishments and new builds (4%)
  • Energy centre and district heating (3%).

Dan Fernbank, Energy and Sustainability Manager at the University of Reading, said:

“The University has established a reputation for delivering on its ambitious sustainability targets, and it’s great to see we are so close to meeting our 5-year target 18 months early.  We recognise the urgency for more radical carbon emission cuts remain, and are now setting our minds to how we can achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.”

You may have seen reports that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting air quality and carbon emissions. The 44% reduction of carbon footprint was recorded at the end of January 2020, before University operations were scaled down in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. When the affect that this will have on our carbon footprint becomes clearer and update will be published here.

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