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Otago goes green – your thoughts?

Friday, 17 February 2017 4:30pm

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Staff and students’ views are now being sought on the University’s proposed Sustainability Strategic Framework: 2017–2021.

Otago’s new Office of Sustainability is aiming for the University to become a national and international centre of excellence for sustainability practice and research – with enthusiastic backing from Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne.

Professor Hayne says the University has an amazing opportunity to connect the theory and practice of sustainability by integrating them both into everything we do.

She believes everybody’s actions, no matter how small, play a part in helping Otago achieve larger sustainability goals – for the University, our cities and beyond.

Office of Sustainability Manager Hilary Phipps says staff and students’ views are now being sought on the University’s proposed Sustainability Strategic Framework: 2017–2021, which includes over-arching goals and the pathways to achieving them.

Once those staff and student submissions have been considered and a final framework has been finalised, Dr Phipps will develop a list of concrete priority actions.

The proposed sustainability framework has six themes:

  • Apply a whole systems approach – by integrating sustainability into all our activities, including policies, procedures, administration and governance, operations, research, teaching, learning, community engagement and outreach activities.
  • Lead by example through our operations – which would include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and working towards becoming a zero carbon campus, while improving energy and water efficiency, minimising waste, and encouraging sustainable procurement and transport.
  • Nurture a culture of sustainability – which would include having a coordinated set of programmes and resources to maximise opportunities for staff and students to be involved with sustainable practices. Sustainability advocates would be identified in every division, department and building.
  • Enhance sustainability research – including the University supporting researchers to embed sustainability in their research practices, and supporting the University being used more as a ‘living laboratory’ of sustainable practice, research and teaching.
  • Support education for sustainability – which would include the University ensuring all students have the opportunity to be involved with sustainability issues regardless of their formal programme of study, increasing the chances the students will contribute to sustainability throughout their lives.
  • Collaborate and be a catalyst for change - by encouraging and strengthening our external relationships, the University can advocate for sustainability and be a catalyst for change in New Zealand’s cities, regions and beyond.

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Office of Sustainability Manager Hilary Phipps.

Key activities in the draft sustainability framework also include constructing, renovating and maintaining our University buildings with cost-effective environmentally sustainable designs, embedding the principles of sustainability in the University’s procurement, maximising recycling, and developing internal sustainability awards to reward and share good practices.

The University could also do regular stock-takes of research linked to sustainability, incorporate sustainability into the processes that govern how research is designed and performed, create professional development programmes to help staff integrate sustainability into their research practices and teaching, and offer a range of undergraduate sustainability-related courses and programmes.

Chief Operating Officer Stephen Willis says sustainability makes sense when we live in such a beautiful part of the world, and also makes sense economically.

Initiatives like saving power also save money, then those savings can go towards the University’s strategic imperatives – excellence in research, excellent in teaching, outstanding student experiences, outstanding campus environments, teaching, research, learning, staff and sustaining capability.

The Operations Group believes putting more emphasis on sustainability will help enable the University to achieve its vision and mission.

Dr Phipps is seeking submissions on the University’s proposed sustainability framework to find out if staff and students think it contains the correct themes, strategies and activities.

A copy of the draft framework and a consultation form are on the Office of Sustainability's webpage. Submissions close on Friday 3 March.

When the proposed framework has been finalised, Dr Phipps will submit that version to the University Council for consideration, along with a list of proposed priority actions for this year.

Dr Phipps says the aim is to ensure the University takes substantial, meaningful steps towards tackling our most significant sustainability challenges, including the University’s response to climate change.