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Whiteknights campus in the sunshine

At Reading, environmental sustainability is front of mind in everything we do.

It’s one of our strategic drivers, and the reason why sustainable practices are embedded across all of our activities: spanning research, teaching, operations, engagement with local and global communities, and commitment to developing lasting solutions. If we’re to successfully tackle climate change – and other environmental issues facing the planet – we must work together.

Our Environmental Sustainability Report 2022/23 (PDF, 11.1MB) outlines the steps we’ve taken, and the progress we’ve made, towards reducing our own environmental impact.

We’ve already made significant progress:

  • 61.2% reduction in carbon emissions against baseline
  • 35% reduction in waste generated per person against baseline
  • 4th place ranking in the latest People & Planet University League - since the report was published, we're proud to announce we've risen to 1st in the People & Planet University League (2023/24).

Key areas of progress

Together with a wide range of other topics, our Report details the steps we’ve taken across five key areas and how they contribute towards the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

Energy and carbon

Zero direct or indirect investments in fossil fuels

We aim to become a Net Zero Carbon university by 2030.

While this will require considerable planning, investment and funding, we’re already making headway. We’ve secured £3.1m grant funding to support two major decarbonisation projects – as part of a comprehensive carbon management programme – and have made the largest reductions of any research-intensive university (based on analysis of HESA data).

This work also includes prioritising renewable energy sources, reducing business travel emissions, increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings, and taking steps to align our activities with the Standardised Carbon Emissions Framework


35% reduction in waste generated per person against 2015/16 baseline

The University of Reading is ranked 1st in the UK and Europe for responsible consumption and production (THE Global Impact Rankings 2023).

Our Waste and Resource Use Strategy focuses on responsible resource use and sustainable waste management – wherever possible, we seek to reduce, re-use, recycle, and recover.

Our efforts are paying off: this academic year, 98.7% of the University’s operational waste was diverted from landfill, thanks to initiatives such as reducing single-use items and packaging and widening collection and recycling schemes.


Winner of 13 consecutive Green Flag Awards

Whiteknights, our main campus, features 130 hectares of woodland, biodiverse grassland, and a lake – and is home to more than 2,000 species of plant and animal life.

Enhancing and conserving the rich biodiversity of our green spaces is critical. To this end, we:

  • joined the Nature Positive Universities Alliance, which aims to reverse nature loss and restore ecosystems
  • support the Department for Education’s National Education Nature Park scheme, which engages young people in biodiversity initiatives
  • expanded our teaching, research and data collection activities related to biodiversity.


Among top 50 global universities for work in seven of the 17 SDGs

We take Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) seriously. As educators, we have a responsibility to equip our University community with the skills and knowledge needed to develop sustainable practices – both now and into the future.

This year, we launched the RED Sustainable Action Award, hosted a Teaching and Learning Festival that included a sustainability focus, and supported Reading Students’ Union’s Student Sustainability Summit.

We’re also working to embed ESD, appropriate to the discipline, into all of our courses.

Sustainable food

Three-star Food Made Good award

We’re passionate about promoting food sustainability through our farms, substantial catering and hospitality services, and teaching and research in subjects such as agriculture and food sciences.

Our aim is a 25% reduction in food emissions intensity by 2030. This includes taking a plant-forward approach to catering, developing a fleet of electric, refrigerated, food delivery vehicles, and reducing energy consumption in our kitchen and dining outlets.

Future commitments

Of course, there is still much more we must do to fully play our part as a leader in global environmental sustainability. We're currently updating our future plans and commitments to build on our progress to date.

Already, we have a number of key targets we are working towards in the year ahead: 

  • £1m of energy-saving projects in 2023/24
  • Delivery of the University’s first two major heat decarbonisation projects
  • Install more building-level water meters across campus
  • Reduce operational waste per person and improve our position on the waste hierarchy
  • Investigate ways to reduce our supply chain carbon footprint.

Details of our other commitments and ambitions can be found in our Environmental Sustainability Report 2022/23 (PDF, 11.1MB).

We're green in all sorts of ways
People & Planet University League
1st in the People & Planet University League 2023
The Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education 2021
Queens Anniversary Prize for climate research and action
Times Higher Education Awards 2023
Winner of Outstanding Contribution to Environmental Leadership