Sustainability in action
The University of Otago is taking a bold approach to sustainability, integrating sustainable principles and practices across all campuses and all activities.
Sustainability is not new to Otago, but with the official launch of the Sustainability Strategic Framework: 2017–2021 earlier this year, the University is clearly outlining its objectives for the future and how it plans to achieve them.
The framework is the culmination of a rigorous planning, consultation and negotiation process that has taken place over several years, with input from many groups and individuals – including staff and students.
Manager of the Office of Sustainability Dr Hilary Phipps says this buy-in now gives Otago an opportunity to become an Australasian leader in sustainability practice and research.
“As a research-led university with an unwavering commitment to excellence – and an emphasis on meaningful actions over empty words – we can work together to achieve our goals.
“By treating our campuses as ‘living laboratories’ of sustainability practice, research and teaching we will be able to address our own sustainability challenges and equip our students with sustainability skills they can take out into the world.”
Cutting the University’s carbon footprint is a priority. “We hope to halve the University’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and cut our carbon footprint by one third within the next three years by changing the fuel supply of the boiler that heats about 40 per cent of the Dunedin campus from coal to locally-sourced wood,” she says.
A website (Sustainability at Otago) has been created to highlight progress and a “green team” network has been established throughout the University to provide help and support in sustainability practice.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for staff and students to work with us,” Phipps says. “A points system will reward sustainability actions, so that workplaces and residential colleges can be recognised as supporting sustainable practices. Every little thing counts. Even something as simple as turning off the light when leaving a room makes a difference.”
The Sustainability Framework is an evolving document, articulating 22 strategies within six themes, enabling sustainability to be embedded within the core ethos at Otago. It builds on initiatives already underway, challenges the implementation of new sustainability practices, and encourages the celebration of progress and success.
Apply a whole systems approach
Sustainability will be integrated throughout all activities, from administration and operations, to research, teaching and community engagement.
Lead by example through our operations
Otago will raise the bar by pursuing a low carbon future, promoting sustainability in its built environment and in the procurement of goods, encouraging sustainable transport, minimising water consumption, pursuing a goal of zero waste and supporting sustainable food systems.
Nurture a culture of sustainability
Staff and students will be encouraged to actively engage in collaborative sustainability programmes so that this becomes the new norm.
Enhance sustainability research
Sustainability-related research and sustainable research practices will be encouraged, with the University used as a “living laboratory”.
Support education for sustainability
All students will have the opportunity to be engaged with sustainability issues regardless of their programme of study, equipping them to make a positive contribution to sustainability throughout their lives.
Collaborate and be a catalyst for change
Collaborative relationships with other institutions and the wider community will enable the University to advocate for sustainability in New Zealand and beyond.
Photo: Sharron Bennett