NUI Galway Launches Community-led Sustainability Strategy

Pictured at the launch of NUI Galway’s Sustainability Strategy are l-r: Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Registrar and Deputy President, NUI Galway, Dr Frances Fahy, School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Seanad Éireann and Professor Colin Brown, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway. Photo: Paul Fennell
Nov 15 2017 Posted: 15:25 GMT

Building on its existing reputation as an environmentally-friendly and societally responsive university, NUI Galway has launched a wide-reaching Sustainability Strategy. The strategy illustrates an ambitious vision for the campus to become a role model for the transition to a more sustainable future.

The document was officially launched by Senator Alice Mary Higgins at an event held on campus on 15 November 2017 and attended by staff, students and the wider Galway community.

The strategy sets out a vision to establish NUI Galway as a leading green, smart and healthy campus. Its successful implementation will ensure that NUI Galway’s reputation around the world is enhanced, that graduates are valued for their world-readiness, that research tackles societal challenges, and that the campus will be a role model for sustainability.

The university already has a groundswell of research, events, activities, societies and building initiatives which are related to sustainability. The university offers almost 200 courses covering environmental and/or sustainability issues, and has won the top award for most biodiverse campus at Ireland’s Intervarsity BioBlitz competition. Earlier this year it announced plans to divest from fossil fuel shares.

Building on this momentum, the strategy identifies 20 measures for success, under six themes, which serve as indicators for much more extensive work under each theme. An example from each, to be implemented by 2020, include:

  • Research and learning: A 15% increase in sustainability research
  • Energy and greenhouse gas emissions: A 33% reduction in total energy consumption
  • Nature and ecosystems: Compile and implement a biodiversity management plan
  • Health and wellbeing: Strengthen mental health and resilience
  • Built Environment: Reduce water consumption by 20%
  • Governance and leadership: Flagship project with Saolta University Healthcare Group, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation 2, and Galway City Council

Attending the launch, Senator Alice-Mary Higgins from Seanad Éireann, said: “It is wonderful to see NUI Galway recognising the crucial role that they and other third level institutions can and should play in shaping a sustainable future on our shared planet. This strategy demonstrates more of the positive joined up thinking seen in the University’s recent commitment to divestment from fossil fuels following a successful campaign by staff and students. While the proposals in this plan are well-grounded in Galway and the campus community, they are also a commitment to partnership with the wider world. The UN Sustainable Development Goals have set out an important blueprint for Ireland and many countries and remind us that sustainability is not only about the environment, it is also about social sustainability. It is therefore great to see holistic proposals in this strategy that range from crucial climate change research to new mental health initiatives with space for new and innovative ideas to emerge.”

Speaking at the launch the University’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, said: “We live in times of extreme pressure on the resources of our planet, as well as the increased pressures of society which permeate through to each individual. Today, from this campus which is more than 170 years old, we are putting in place a strategy that addresses today’s reality and puts down our ideas for a more sustainable future. This is, and has been, a collaborative, community effort, and it is only by coming together and working together that we can achieve our desired future.”

NUI Galway has already instigated demonstrator projects to inspire sustainable behaviour change and to pilot elements of the Sustainability Strategy. For example, the Battle of the Buildings Project aimed to make students and staff more aware of the energy use of campus buildings and to encourage energy-efficient behaviour through collegial competition.

Community effort

The strategy is the culmination of a long process of consultation with thousands of members of the NUI Galway staff and students, as well as partners such as the Saolta University Healthcare Group.

“Through the consultation process, we spoke with people about sustainability in its broadest sense. We looked across the spectrum, from the built environment to wellbeing, from what we teach in the lecture halls to student engagement in our local communities, from research on energy and ecosystems to governance and leadership. This strategy is the culmination of all of that, and our Learn, Live, Lead approach to Sustainability hopefully gives us the foundation to build an even longer-term strategy and become an exemplar in this space”, explains Dr Frances Fahy, Senior Lecturer in Geography at NUI Galway, and member of the Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP), which led the strategy creation.

The NUI Galway Strategic Plan, Vision 2020, outlines a vision of ‘creating a sustainable campus where all resources are used efficiently and where facilities are managed and services consolidated as efficiently as possible’. To develop and realise this vision, the Community and University Sustainability Project (CUSP) was established in 2015 under the direction of the Registrar and Deputy President.

CUSP is supported by the University, Students’ Union, Saolta University Healthcare Group, HSE Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) 2 and Galway City Council, and is funded through the Students’ Projects Fund. The CUSP team is composed of more than 20 students and staff, from across the campus community and Galway University Hospitals.

To mark the launch of the strategy and to recognise the community aspect of the initiative, a special event called ‘Galway City’s Sustainability Stories’ was held on campus. With Galway City having been awarded the title European Green Leaf 2017 this year, the event featured short presentations from organisations involved in sustainability throughout Galway City, in different ways and at different scales.

Read the report here


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