The challenges facing our global ecosystem and environment are urgent and real. Our Universities are committed to playing their role in implementing more sustainable practices and policies across their campuses and work. This involves finding solutions, through cutting-edge research and producing a pipeline of graduates who have the knowledge and skills to lead us to a more environmentally friendly future.
Universities have the opportunity to create cultures of sustainability for today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders, and to set their expectations for how the world should be. Creating a more sustainable future is complex and requires action from every corner of society – but there is no avoiding this problem and there is no time to waste.
To achieve these changes the IUA Sustainability Working Group (SWG) was created.
Role of the IUA Sustainability Working Group (SWG)
The role of the SWG is to work collaboratively with universities to support and enable a holistic approach to achieving economic and environmental sustainability. Sustainability is the existential challenge of our age and major and rapid changes to current policies and practices are necessary for universities as with many other organisations.
As large multi-functional organisations, universities are faced with the challenge of mitigating and adapting to the impacts of current and future unsustainable practices that contribute to major planetary challenges such as climate change, ocean acidification and waste and biodiversity depletion. Specifically, as part State-funded organisations, universities must respond to an increasing range of government-led initiatives in relation to carbon and waste reduction across the economy and publicly funded agencies. The work of the SWG will include the following aspects of operational sustainability in the IUA universities:
- to identify and agree a framework and methodology for the estimation of GHG emissions,
- establishment of baseline data on energy and waste in the universities,
- coordination of sectoral responses to any government information requests,
- sharing of knowledge and expertise to support the reduction of emissions and otherwise,
- agree shared actions e.g., reduce paper consumption via promotion of digital technology, eliminate plastics on campus etc.
- identify opportunities for collaborative actions across all HEI’s
Focusing on the development and fostering of partnership and stakeholder engagements with the explicit objective of addressing sustainability challenges will include the following actions:
- identify collaborative actions across all HEI’s,
- exchange of knowledge and expertise to enable implementation of major change projects,
- define and agree a shared language regarding sustainability,
- agree a shared vision of future objectives and actions.
IUA has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Campus Living Labs Project, a 2-year initiative that commenced in April 2021 to reduce waste and improve recycling across the IUA universities. The joint project with funding from the Department of the Environment, Climate Action and Communications, through the National Waste Prevention Programme will focus on the behavioural science underpinning waste and recycling practices. The project aims to foster sectoral collaboration between universities and exchange best practice on how to reduce waste and improve recycling in line with national targets and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The membership of this group is drawn from the IUA member Universities.
The Group is chaired by Samantha Fahy (DCU) for the academic year 2021/22.
- Samantha Fahy, Chairperson and Sustainability Manager DCU
- Michelle O’Dowd Lohan, Sustainability Officer NUI Galway
- Darren Reidy, Sustainability Officer UCC (maternity cover for Dr. Maria Kirrane, Sustainability Officer UCC)
- Chris Fogarty, Energy Manager UL
- Michele Hallahan, Sustainability Advisor Trinity College Dublin
- Pat McDonnell, Head of Estates Strategy Trinity College Dublin
- Kieran Brassil, Facilities Manager UCD
- Ciaran Coffey, Energy Manager Maynooth University
- Mireia Guardino-Ferran, Green Campus Coordinator Maynooth University