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Green universities 2022 results

University students are often champions of sustainability, so it makes sense that the universities that they attend are doing their part to make a positive difference on the environment. So by delving into the universities' eco-friendly actions, we've established which can be considered true green universities.
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As the UK’s net zero emissions target date comes ever closer, Uswitch sought to see if the UK’s education establishments are doing enough to be considered green universities. This annual study is designed to see which universities are leading the way in terms of green initiatives and renewable energy. 

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This information was obtained with a Freedom of Information request to 132 universities. We asked:
  • Who is your main energy supplier? (Please answer individually for both gas and electric if applicable)

  • Are you on a green/renewable energy tariff with them? (Please answer individually for both gas and electric if applicable)

  • Do you have any renewable installations across your buildings? If yes, please state which of the following you have and any others not listed: - Solar panels - Solar thermal panels - Wind turbines - Air source heat pump - Ground source heat pump - Biomass systems - Hydroelectric systems - Other

  • Do you have any fully electric vehicles on your fleet of vehicles for staff? If yes, please state how many.

  • Are there any eco-friendly initiatives across your buildings such as green transport for staff, recycling initiatives, etc? If so, please state them.

We have subsequently split the universities into five tiers based on their answers to the above questions.

Platinum tier: Top committed green universities

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesEco-friendly initiatives
Birmingham City UniversityYYYYY
Liverpool John MooresYYYYY
Royal HollowayYYYYY
University of LeicesterYYYYY
University of WinchesterYYYYY
University of WolverhamptonYYYYY
University St AndrewsYYYYY

Encouragingly, seven universities of the 104 that responded came back with five positive notes on the questions we asked.

Among these, Birmingham City University has the most on-site renewable installations featuring solar panels, solar thermal, an air source heat pump, and a biomass system. Royal Holloway also makes use of rainwater harvesting.

All of the universities in this tier have at least one electric vehicle as part of their fleets. However, a few have gone above and beyond, with Liverpool John Moores boasting 17 electric vehicles, the University of Winchester having 15 EVs and the University of St. Andrews having five electric cars, 10 vans, and two tractors!

Eco-friendly initiatives are run by all of the universities, but the University of Winchester has some interesting events such as offering green walks and having campus blackouts. It has also won a gold award for having a hedgehog-friendly campus. The University of Wolverhampton, on the other hand, plans on installing more EV chargers.

None of the seven universities in this tier are Russell Group members.
Green universities - Hedgehog - image module

Gold tier: Greatly committed green universities

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesEco-friendly initiatives
Bath Spa UniversityYNYYY
Birbeck, University of LondonYYNYY
Bournemouth UniversityYNYYY
Brunel UniversityYNYYY
Canterbury Christ Church UniversityYYYNY
Cardiff MetYNYYY
Cardiff UniversityYNYYY
Coventry UniversityYNYYY
De Montfort UniversityYNYYY
Edge Hill UniversityYNYYY
Edinburgh Napier UniversityYNYYY
Glyndwr UniversityYNYYY
Heriot-Watt UniversityYNYYY
Keele UniversityYNYYY
King's College LondonYNYYY
Kingston UniversityYNYYY
London MetYNYYY
London South Bank UniversityYNYYY
Manchester Metropolitan UniversityYNYYY
Northumbria UniversityYNYYY
Open UniversityYNYYY
Queen's University BelfastYNYYY
Robert Gordon UniversityYNYYY
Royal Veterinary CollegeYNYYY
Sheffield Hallam UniversityYNYYY
University of AberdeenYNYYY
University of BathYNYYY
University of BedfordshireYNYYY
University of BrightonYNYYY
University of Central LancashireYNYYY
University of ChicesterYNYYY
University of DerbyYNYYY
University of East AngliaYNYYY
University of EdinburghYNYYY
University of ExeterYNYYY
University of GloucestershireYNYYY
University of GreenwichYNYYY
University of LeedsYNYYY
University of LiverpoolYNYYY
University of LondonYNYYY
University of NorthamptonYNYYY
University of OxfordYNYYY
University of ReadingYNYYY
University of SheffieldYNYYY
University of StirlingYNYYY
University of StrathclydeYNYYY
University of SurreyYNYYY
University of Wales, Trinity St DavidYNYYY
University of WarwickYNYYY
University of West England, BristolYNYYY
University of WestminsterYYYNY
University of WorcesterYNYYY
University of YorkYNYYY
York St John UniversityYNYYY

Gold tier universities achieved four ticks out of five.

20% of the universities here are Russell Group members: Cardiff University, King's College London, Queen's University Belfast, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, University of Oxford, University of Sheffield, University of Warwick, and the University of York.

Only two universities in this tier do not have any electric vehicles as part of their fleets (Canterbury Christ Church University and the University of Westminster). Heriot-Watt University has 44 electric vehicles on the other hand, seven of which are electric vans, the most in this tier. As a more novel way for getting around campus, some universities have started using electric golf buggies.

All of the universities have stated that they are on a renewable energy tariff with their electricity supplier - EDF Energy supplies 34 of them. For gas, Corona and Total Energies are the two most popular energy suppliers, with 25 and 20 educational institutes using them respectively.

Interestingly, the University of Central Lancashire, Brunel University, Keele University, and the University of Sheffield all stated that they receive some of their energy from onsite wind turbines. In comparison, out of the 54 establishments in this tier, 50 have solar panels with only Birbeck, the University of London, University of Stirling, Royal Veterinary College, and the University of Westminster not using them. 

However, it's positive to see that all of these universities have eco-friendly initiatives in place. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David keeps honey bees on its Lampeter campus to improve natural pollination and also undertook a no-mow initiative in May. 10 universities also say they have a hedgehog-friendly campus. Four universities, including the University of Leeds, University of Derby, De Montfort University, and the University of Surrey, are trying to achieve net zero emissions and have strategies in place to do so.  

Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at Uswitch.com, commented on the positive news of universities:

“It’s great to see that some universities are going above and beyond in attempting to become green universities. The ways in which becoming greener and existing more sustainably can be achieved are numerous, and the steps that some of these establishments are taking are commendable.”

“Everything from producing their own energy via renewable installations on campus, to having electric car fleets, and doing what they can to protect local wildlife, shows that they are leading by example in trying to achieve net zero carbon emissions.”

“While not every university will have the capacity to implement all available sustainable tools, it’s good to see that almost all are willing to “go green” in some way or another, whether that’s choosing a renewable energy tariff with their supplier, or recycling their food waste.”

Silver tier: Adequately committed green universities

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesEco-friendly initiatives
Abertay UniversityNNYYY
Aberystwyth UniversityNNYYY
Bangor UniversityNNYYY
Cranfield UniversityNNYYY
Goldsmiths, University of LondonNNYYY
Lancaster UniversityNNYYY
Liverpool Hope UniversityYNYNY
London Business SchoolNNYYY
London School of EconomicsYNYNY
London School of HygieneYNYNY
Nottingham Trent UniversityYNYYN
Plymouth UniversityYNYNY
Queen Mary LondonYNYNY
School of Oriental and African StudiesYNYNY
Southampton Solent UniversityNNYYY
Swansea UniversityNNYYY
University College LondonYNYNY
University of BoltonYYYNN
University of CambridgeNNYYY
University of CumbriaNNYYY
University of DundeeNNYYY
University of East LondonYNYNY
University of GlasgowNNYYY
University of HuddersfieldNNYYY
University of HullYNYNY
University of KentNNYYY
University of PortsmouthYNYNY
University of RoehamptonYNYNY
University of SalfordNNYYY
University of SunderlandNNYYY
University of SussexNNYYY
University of the Arts LondonYNYNY
University of the West of ScotlandNNYYY
University of UlsterYNYNY

34 universities, which rank in the silver tier, achieved three ticks out of the available categories.

17 universities - a surprisingly high number - are not on a renewable energy tariff for their electricity. However, every university in the silver tier does have some form of renewable installation on site. All of them apart from the University of Huddersfield have solar panels, but Huddersfield is only one of two universities to have wind turbines.

Electric vehicles aren’t used by almost 40% of the universities in this tier. However, those that do have an impressive array of vehicles. The University of Dundee states that it has two electric cars, fifteen electric vans, and two electric gators as part of its fleet.

Bronze tier: Partially committed green universities

University nameGreen electricity tariffGreen gas tariffRenewable installationsElectric vehiclesEco-friendly initiatives
Anglia Ruskin UniversityNNYNY
Glasgow Caledonian UniversityNNNNY
Harper Adams UniversityNNYNY
Loughborough UniversityNNNYY
Queen Margaret UniversityNNNNY
Royal Academy of MusicYNNNY
University of BradfordNNYNY
University of HertfordshireNNYNY
University of West LondonNNYNY

Universities in this tier achieved 2 ticks or less.

The Royal Academy of Music is the only supplier to have a green electricity tariff, and none of them have green gas. All of the universities in this tier are with EDF Energy for electricity apart from the University of Bradford, which is with npower. Corona also dominates as the gas supplier except in the cases of Glasgow Caledonian University and Queen Margaret University which are with Total Energies.

All of the universities in the Bronze tier, except for Loughborough University, do not own any electric vehicles as part of their fleets. However, they all run eco-friendly initiatives, with the University of Bradford and the University of West London highlighting their cycle-to-work schemes.

Green university findings

Green universities - Grass - Image module

In total across the study, 99 universities or 95% have renewable installations on campus. Solar panels have proven to be the most popular with 96 universities stating that they have them. This is followed by 51 having solar thermal panels for heating water, and 45 having at least one air source heat pump. Wind turbines on the other hand are only used by nine universities, and no universities have a hydroelectric system unsurprisingly.  

74% of the universities are on a green or renewable energy tariff with their energy supplier. However, only 11 universities are on a green gas tariff in comparison. EDF Energy is the most popular electricity supplier with 64 universities being with them. 

Electric vehicles are part of 80 university fleets, and other universities said they were intending to invest in them in the near future, showing their growing popularity.

Only two universities stated that they didn’t have any eco-friendly initiatives in place.

There is now a wide range of renewable energy installations that you can look into investing in for your own home. But the easiest way to get started is to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint with this handy carbon footprint calculator.

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