Sustainability and the University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham is committed to environmental sustainability through our research, teaching, campus activity, investments and our work with partners locally and globally. 

Over the last decade and more, our University has been taking action to support the environment and deliver research to secure a more sustainable planet. Over the next decade, in partnership with our staff and student community, we will make a step-change in our efforts to assist the response to the climate emergency and to support environmental sustainability more widely.
Centre for Sustainable Chemistry

A strategic commitment to sustainability

Our recently published University Strategy puts sustainability at the heart of the core goals that will guide our work as an institution for the years to come: 

We will make an outstanding contribution to supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through our research and education, our engagement with partners and our behaviour on campus and in our communities. We will place a special emphasis on environmental sustainability, supporting the City of Nottingham’s desire to be a net zero carbon city by 2028 and working with partners in China and Malaysia to improve sustainability within their regions.

Our Recent Achievements

The University has worked hard on its own campus environmental performance, over the last ten years we have:

  • Delivered year-on-year reductions in our carbon dioxide emissions, achieving a total reduction of 36% in emissions since 2009/10 
  • Invested in renewable energy installations on campus which generate 950,000 kWh each year to power our activities sustainably
  • Provided sustainable transport between campuses through our Hopper bus services, which carry more than 1 million passengers each year
  • Divested from all fossil fuel investments and introduced an ethical investments policy to guide our other financial investments and activity
  • Ensured that less than 1% of our waste enters landfill, recycling 38% of our waste on site, and converting food waste into energy and bio-fertiliser
  • Driven down single-use plastics on campus through our WasteNott campaign, which includes a ‘latte levy’ to fund waste reduction initiatives, a ban on plastic straws and a reduction of more than 75,000 disposable cups in the past year.

The University’s global research programme has a well-deserved reputation for supporting a more sustainable planet:

  • Our research into green chemicals helps to tackle greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and turn them into re-useable chemicals, operating from the world’s first carbon-neutral laboratory
  • Our research into sustainable propulsion has delivered electric motorbikes that reach speeds in excess of 180mph, and is developing battery-powered flight for passenger aircraft
  • Our research into future foods focuses on improving the sustainability of food production, developing climate resistant crops and new, sustainable food sources for a global population
  • Our campus in Ningbo, China conducts research into carbon reduction to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and is developing smart manufacturing processes to support the city’s green industry strategy
  • Our campus in Malaysia conducts research into supporting sustainable methods for palm oil production and provides a world-leading field laboratory for research into environmental protection
  • Closer to home, we are working with Nottingham City Council to regenerate the Trent Basin, the second largest brownfield housing development in Europe, with energy efficient housing.  

Our Future Ambitions

Building on these achievements, the University will now accelerate its efforts to further improve the sustainability of our estate and embed environmental sustainability in our education and research, as well as in the mindset and behaviours of our staff and students. 

Importantly, we will do this urgently but in a considered and scientific manner, using our academic expertise to develop science-based interventions, meaningful targets and robust campus activity. 

We have created an Environmental Sustainability Committee at the top of our University to steer our efforts. Its members include senior leaders, scientists and students. It has representatives from the UK, China and Malaysia to provide a truly global perspective. Some of the first activities of the committee will be to:

  • Work with our students and staff to enable all of our students to learn about environmental sustainability, regardless of the course they choose to study, and to provide more learning opportunities on environmental sustainability in our specialist courses
  • Commission a study on the University’s current resilience to climate change to inform how we can reduce its impact on the institution and enable us to prepare and adapt sustainably
  • Establish science-based targets for carbon reduction to inform our longer term plans and provide an evidence-based approach which sets out clearly how we intend to achieve them
  • Embed carbon reduction and sustainability ambitions into our plans for the University estate, further reducing emissions from our buildings, increasing on-site sustainable transport and integrating on-site renewable energy schemes
  • Review and reduce the amount of travel we undertake on University business, particularly air travel 
  • Ensure that all our existing spaces are used as efficiently and effectively as possible and set even higher standards on low- to zero-carbon for any new construction projects 
  • Invest in large-scale renewable and low carbon energy projects to heat and power our campuses
  • Make sustainability a priority area in our Universities for Nottingham partnership with Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham City Council to maximise our collective impact and support the city’s ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral by 2028. 
  • Launch a Green Rewards programme across the universities to incentivise positive sustainable behaviours by our staff and students.

The Climate Emergency

2020 is an important year for environmental sustainability at the University of Nottingham, building on our record to date to deliver a science-based approach for our future ambitions, underpinned by a strategic commitment in our University Strategy. 

As such, the University of Nottingham has joined the UK Government, Nottingham City Council, many universities and other organisations in their declaration of a climate emergency, and commits to science-based research, teaching and campus activity to ensure that everything we do has a lasting, positive impact on our global environment. 

Sustainability Team

Estate Office, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD