Sustainable practices

Our Strategic Plan 2013-2020 contains an objective to make more efficient use of resources and enhance our environmental performance. Below you can read about how we are working towards our resource reduction targets and how you can help.

Saving energy

In 2018, the University used just under 100,300,000 kWh of energy, which is equivalent to just under 160 kWh of energy per square metre of gross floor area, or just under 3,000 kWh per full-time equivalent student.

The University has been monitoring, measuring and working to reduce energy use for 40 years. We save energy by including energy-efficient operating plant, lighting and equipment in our buildings, by using motion and light sensors, by encouraging staff and students to save energy by turning off lights and equipment when not in use, and by enabling energy saving defaults/sleep modes on computing and other equipment.

After energy consumption decreased considerably in the 1980s and remained relatively steady in the 1990s, a period of extended operating hours, more leased buildings and increased IT needs contributed to an exponential increase from the late 1990s to mid-2000s. This increase was halted by intensively engaging senior leaders, decision-makers, and staff and students in energy saving initiatives. The mid-2000s heralded the start of a significant building programme including mainly medical, science and engineering buildings, which tend to be more energy intensive than others. While total energy consumption has stared to creep up again, and is now double what it was in the early 1980s, the rate of increase is less than half of what it was previously and is still considerably less than could have been expected by the tripling of our student numbers and the 2.5 times greater gross floor area. 

What you can do

  • Turn off the lights if you're going to leave the office for more than 10 minutes.
  • Switch off lights in other areas when you can see that they are not needed.
  • Turn off computer screens that are not in use.
  • When you're leaving the office for the day, turn both your personal computer and your screen off.
  • Make sure that energy-saving modes are operating on all types of electronic equipment.
  • If you're the last to leave the office, turn off lights, printers and photocopiers.
  • Report faulty and energy intensive equipment by filling out a maintenance request.

Saving water

In 2018, the University used just under 460,000 cubic metres of water, which is equivalent to 0.72 cubic metres of water per square metre of gross floor area, or 14 cubic metres per full-time equivalent student.

 The University has been monitoring, measuring and working to reduce water use for 40 years. We save water by including water-efficient operating plant, fittings and equipment in our buildings, and by encouraging staff and students to save water in kitchens, toilets and bathrooms, and labs. Water used for heating and cooling our buildings is re-recirculated. As a result of these initiatives, we still used slightly less water in total in 2018 than our peak in the early 1980’s, despite tripling our student numbers and increasing our gross floor area by 2.5. Our buildings also use 62% less water per square metre of gross floor area than they did in 1981.

In 2016, the University won an Environment and Sustainability award for initiatives on our Newmarket Campus, that included sustainable water use. The award was conferred by New Zealand’s Institute for Professional Engineers in recognition of the use of natural springs and bore water for heat exchange in process cooling water systems, cooling tower make-up and irrigation, instead of potable mains water supplies. The initiatives included re-injection of water back into the aquifer system from which it came to protect the natural resource for sustainable use.

The University’s Business School has a system for collecting water from its roof and using it for flushing toilets. This saves on average 1,250m3/year of fresh water.

The University’s Student Well-being and Sustainability teams have identified access to free water on the University’s campuses as an essential component of student well-being. They have conducted an audit of water fountains on campus and are working with Property Services to address the gaps and minimise the need for bottled water on Campus. 

What you can do

In kitchens

  • Wait until dishwashers are full before using them.
  • Use porcelain cups and give them a quick rinse between drinks rather than using a dishwasher.

In toilets and bathrooms

  • Don't use a full flush when half a flush will do.
  • Report dripping taps and running toilets or urinals that are not operating ‘on demand’ by completing a maintenance request.

In labs

  • Think about water and energy use when planning experiments.
  • Build water and energy efficiency into experimental design.
  • If possible, make sure that lab equipment is connected to a water recycling system and that the system is working properly (instead of running water to waste).
  • Use electric vacuum pumps instead of water-based venturi systems.

Saving paper

Paper is used all over the University - in offices, computer labs, art and design studios, for projects and theses, and sometimes still for lecture notes and handouts. It’s an area where small changes in an individual’s behaviour can make a big difference.

While we began monitoring paper use relatively recently compared to energy and water, we have also reduced the total amount of paper we use. We have done so by switching from hard copies of course materials and lecture notes to online ones, by reducing printing and by increasing double-sided printing.

What you can do

  • Think before you print, and print only if it is absolutely essential.
  • Use electronic rather than paper-based filing systems, including for all projects and theses.
  • Design documents and handouts to minimise paper use by reducing the size of the margins.
  • Collect single-sided paper and re-use it for notes and drafts.
  • Use double-sided printing and photocopying modes wherever possible.
  • Recycle paper that has been used on both sides.

For academic staff

Ask for projects to be submitted electronically and review and mark them online.

Minimising waste

Since 2007, the University has been monitoring, measuring and reporting internally on landfill wastes, and separation for recycling. Large scale, comprehesive audits are undertaken every 2-3 years to provide insights on the composition of the wastes, including food waste. The data are used to prioritise and design interventions to minimise waste to landfill. 

The University requires all of the commercial kitchens that operate on its campuses to minimise their food waste and separate any pre- and post-consumer food waste for composting. The Faculty of Science is integrated into this service, with staff and post-graduate students managing separating food waste from their kitchens for composting. A similar model is being trialled or rolled out other faculties.

Read more about composting

What you can do

  • Think carefully about any purchases you feel compelled to make, and avoid unecessary consumption.
  • Choose products that are more durable, have recyclable or compostable packaging, and have fewer environmental impacts.
  • Avoid replacing products that are still functional.
  • Repair, rather than replace, repairable items.
  • Find new homes for used furniture by letting staff and students know they are available.
  • Donate leftover stationary items to your local kindergarten.
  • Use the Sustainable Events Guide and associated checklist to help make your next event more sustainable. 
  • Separate cardboard and paper for recycling.
  • Recycle toner cartridges.

Reducing carbon emissions

Our main focus for carbon has been to save energy in buildings and to minimise the materials we use and waste. Reductions in the energy we use in our buildings and waste minimisation have therefore also reduced our carbon footprint.

We encourage staff and students to help us to improve further by using passive or public forms of transport, by car-pooling, and by using on-line video-conferencing wherever possible.

We also encourage staff and students to help protect biodiversity and off-set emissions by getting involved in the restoration and conservation of our native forests.

What you can do

  • If you live relatively close take the opportunity to get some exercise by walking, jogging or cycling to and from the University.
  • Support public transport by catching a bus, train or ferry, wherever possible.
  • If you have no choice but to use a car to get to work, share a ride with friends, family, co-workers or students.
  • Take part in tree planting activities – get a group of colleagues or friends together and set up your own group or join an existing one to help plant and nurture native plants.