New ways of working and environmental sustainability

Despite the challenging conditions of the last 18 months, it feels like we might be on the brink of returning to our offices, sharing lunch breaks with colleagues and enjoying our beautiful city once more.

This is an opportunity for us to re-evaluate our ways of working, and with that incorporating more sustainable practices. We adapted to working from home, proving we can adjust when needed, and I hope that we can adopt some of the changes made for good.

Our new Environmental Sustainability Strategy was approved in March 2021, but it is essential to highlight that this is just the first step. The University commitment articulated by the strategy is the starting point and its timely implementation is critical.

The University already delivers a range of initiatives to reduce our negative impacts, while working towards net zero carbon emissions and biodiversity net gain. There are many ways to achieve this, and we will need to engage with a variety of existing tools. It requires cooperation from across the University departments and faculties. We are encouraging staff and students to get involved at every stage of the process.

How would you suggest colleagues approach becoming more sustainable?

With our help and support, we are asking colleagues to assess how we can all contribute to a more sustainable world. Individual actions add up to have a tangible impact, in line with the targets of the new strategy.


Five easy steps to live more sustainably:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

One of the ways we reduce the amount of waste produced by the University is by encouraging staff to reuse items, primarily through WARPit. Every year we avoid sending on average 100,000 kilograms to waste and make savings of £100,000 using WARPit.

  1. Go paperless

We saved 7,462,130 sheets of paper in April – June 2020; that represents a 93% decrease in sheets of paper use over lockdown. It would be great to see that kind of reduction continue.

  1. Switch it off

In line with the health benefits of switching off for humans, such as taking regular breaks, scheduling meetings to avoid lunch time and flexible work patterns, it’s important to switch off electrical devices at the plug when not in use.

  1. Choose a plant-based diet

Data from our biggest catering supplier up to February 2020 told us that 38% of meals served were vegetarian or vegan. As cutting down on meat and dairy are clear ways to reduce the carbon and biodiversity impact of the food we eat, we will be looking for innovative ways of doing that.

  1. Green your commute

 We are offering up to 30% off bus travel across Oxfordshire, helping you to green your commute when we return to the office.

What is happening within the colleges?

The Existing College Sustainability Initiatives document, published by the Conference of Colleges Sustainability Working Group in May 2021, aimed to share details of existing and planned sustainability initiatives within the colleges and permanent private halls.


Where can I find out more?

Please visit the environmental sustainability website to learn more about further steps you can take, sign up to our monthly newsletter and join a Green Impact team.

Oxford Net Zero have designed a toolkit to help us all understand what a credible net zero commitment looks like. Access the toolkit here.