Staffordshire University: ‘Leave future generations with a sustainable future’


It’s fair to say that 2020 will go down as a year of upheaval and challenge and, as we get towards the end of December, it’s only natural to look back.

While it’s probably not best to dwell too much on what’s gone before it’s still important to count our blessings.

We should look back and marvel at the strength and courage of our health workers, care givers and key workers and praise the hard work and ingenuity of our scientists whose dedicated efforts brought us Covid-19 vaccines.

Those in the community who rallied round to support the vulnerable and feed the hungry – and the people who simply got through this year by looking after themselves, their family, their friends and work colleagues – all deserve to be recognised.

This year has been tough and although there is still some way to go until we reach ‘normality’ again, we’ll continue to get through it together.

With 2020 being such a tumultuous year much of the focus has been on the immediate future. The effects of the pandemic will be long-lasting and there has rightly been a lot of attention on how this will impact our society and economy.

As we move forward and look to life in a post-pandemic world we must also recognise the increasingly urgent need to focus on ensuring the future we build is a sustainable one.

Turning the clock back to August 20, 2018, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg skipped school and protested with a handmade sign that read ‘school strike for climate’ outside the Swedish Parliament.

Greta’s actions sparked a global youth movement as millions of young people, tired of having watched adults fail to protect their planet and take action on climate change, demanded better of world leaders.

Whilst coverage of the climate crisis has, in many ways, been superseded in the news agenda by the pandemic, the threat it poses has not gone away.

Here at Staffordshire University, we recognise how much environmental sustainability matters – to our students, our staff, our communities and our future.

With overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human behaviour, we must all take steps to protect our environment.

Environmental sustainability is a priority at Staffordshire University. We see this as essential to our commitments as a student-focused, digital-led and civic-minded institution.

Our focus reaches further than green initiatives by proactively evaluating the impact of our ongoing operations, such as teaching, research and commercial activities.

Sally McGill, Staffordshire University’s chief financial officer and deputy chief executive.

It also considers our campus and buildings, including their energy consumption and carbon emissions.

We’ve signed up to the One Planet Pledge which was set up to mobilise businesses and universities to get behind the Net-Zero target.

By becoming a signatory we’ve made a commitment to becoming a Carbon Net-Zero organisation by 2030.

This means that within the space of 10 years, the university aims to achieve an overall balance between the emissions it produces and those it removes from the atmosphere.

It involves switching to clean technologies like renewables. And any carbon we continue to put out into the atmosphere should be counterbalanced by doing good things for the environment like planting more trees.

Staffordshire University has a duty to help all students and staff become more sustainable members of society and to understand the consequences of the choices they make in their everyday lives.

Our academics already carry out research which supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and we have active research groups looking at impacts of microplastics and green walls on our environments.

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We are working to embed sustainability into all of our academic programmes and this includes exciting plans to launch new courses within the fields of climate change and sustainability at the beginning of the 2021/22 academic year.

We are working hard to ensure we develop the University’s own campuses in a sustainable manner and to improve the efficiency of our operations.

For example, a 450-metre stretch of the River Trent has been re-naturalised – providing another link in the chain for a joined-up wildlife corridor though the heart of Stoke-on-Trent.

A straight section of the river near the Leek Road campus has been transformed so it naturally meanders through the site, offering a potentially diverse and dynamic habitat for river-dwelling wildlife.

The scheme, delivered by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust as a component of the European Regional Development Fund’s SUNRISE Project, will significantly enhance our on-campus nature reserve which is used regularly as a study site for students on our degree programmes.

The future right now may feel uncertain but brighter days do lie ahead. It’s a future we can all play a part in building and it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that the world we leave for the generations to follow is a sustainable one.





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