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In a Green League

18 September 2009

Sodexo is helping Bradford University to become an ‘Ecoversity’ providing sustainable facilities and services to students and teachers, and providing leadership for a more sustainable way towards a sustainable society and business environment.

FIVE YEARS AGO only a handful of universities took their green credentials seriously. Since then growing concern about climate change and carbon emissions, new green league tables and an awareness that universities have a responsibility to show leadership on major societal issues such as sustainable development, has created a seachange in attitudes and activities on campuses across the country.
The pressures for change are growing and the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) is looking into possible ways to link future funding to university carbon emissions. (see PFM April 2009 Sustainable by Degrees) Getting a university to go a shade greener is no easy task. They are big, complex organisations and have many specialised and devolved structures and functions. Successful greening requires partnership between many different groups and stakeholders who influence the day to day operations and services that contribute to campus life. Food, catering and hospitality is a crucial service area and Sodexo has been developing its services to provide sound environmental practices at the sites at which it operates.
The Bradford University Ecoversity programme has been running since 2005 and is committed to embedding sustainability into its everyday operations and practices. Ecoversity recently won the national Green Gown category for ‘Continual Improvement’, across the entire institution. It was also awarded best new entrant in the Business in the Community Environment Index and moved up from 32nd to 10th in the People and Planet Green League Table.
At Sodexo, sustainability is defined as bringing together economic, social and environmental factors into its everyday business practice and it is fundamental to the way it operates. The Sodexo team at the University led by Patricia Cannon has been highly receptive and supportive of Ecoversity helping to deliver a number of green projects. Sodexo sits on two key Ecoversity task groupsfood and drink and recycling, where ideas for action and change are discussed, agreed and then implemented. Recent ideas have included investigating total food waste composting, re-use of coffee grinds, conversion of waste cooking oil into biodiesel and the provision of a more sustainable service limiting waste and transport impacts.
Working with the Ecoversity project team, Sodexo has supported investment in recycling banks at all catering outlets on the campus - coffee bars, snack bars and restaurants - which has made a significant difference to the visibility of recycling and reduced paper, plastics, aluminium and glass that is wasted on campus each day. Bradford University students and staff get through 5,000 cups of coffee a week, which produces 70kg of coffee waste. Currently coffee waste is being recycled and composted to be reused on the University estate. Working with student engagement co-ordinator Sheri Leigh Miles and the Ecoversity student ambassadors, Sodexo introduced reusable travel mugs (lug-a-mugs) aiming to reduce disposable coffee cups. By offering a 10 pence discount for using the mugs the scheme has reduced the number of cup disposed by 30,000 in the first year. Sodexo has also eliminated plastic cups, plates and cutlery and insists on products made from sustainable materials such as wooden cutlery and plates which are made from recyclable and compostablematerials.
To combat the amount of food waste produced every day Sodexo and the University worked together to create a scheme to compost the waste into a useful final product. Currently the food waste is sent off-site to a third party contractor but this year the University has purchased a ‘rocket’ to allow them to compost on site and avoid unnecessary travel.
Further reductions in travel have been achieved in the past 12 months through the production of all sandwiches on site. Previously, sandwiches were being made off-site and transported a significant number of road miles each day. Sodexo was very receptive to the proposal to purchase and make the sandwiches fresh each day using local products where possible.
To complement the more conventional recycling schemes, an innovative bio-diesel project was introduced. This involves the recycling of waste oil for use within its vehicle fleet across the campus, enabling the University to help reduce its carbon footprint. Each week, cooking oil is collected for conversion from the University’s main restaurant kitchen, which represents ninety percent of the kitchen’s oil waste.
One year into the pilot of an innovative energy management programme to reduce energy consumption and wastage at the University, important lessons are being learned. The first step in the programme was the installation of meters to establish benchmark levels of energy use. This was followed by engaging the team and customers in best practice working methods to reflect what energy savings can be achieved.
The findings are currently being analysed, but early results are positive and show a 15 per cent saving of energy usage. In addition, as part of the programme, individual equipment assessments are carried out to establish individual energy consumptions and to identify best practice replacement. This has helped assess replacement requirements for existing and new developments.
To assist the process, the University’s Ecoversity website provides energy saving advice for students and staff as well as information relating to common myths relating to energy usage.
Sodexo is now part of the Bradford City Fairtrade working group which supports the local
community. The group’s work has resulted in Bradford City achieving Fairtrade accreditation. The University now has a Fairtrade Policy. This entails making Fairtrade products available for sale in all campus shops and cafes, as well as serving Fairtrade products at meetings and promoting Fairtrade to students and staff. It has also created a catering committee to oversee all Fairtrade initiatives.
Chris Spargo, head of commercial services at the University of Bradford, said: “At the University, there is a thorough awareness and understanding of the environmental and social issues and responsibilities, and this is evident in the approach to direct service delivery. The University’s concept and principles of ‘Ecoversity’ have been fully adopted by the contract operation and more importantly there has been a thoroughly proactive approach to add value to the University with the exploration and implementation of a range of initiatives.”
Patricia Cannon, area contract manager for Sodexo at the University of Bradford, said: “We are extremely proud of our achievements at the University. We have a strong and successful partnership with the University of Bradford, and together we have really set the standard in the higher education sector. We are looking forward to the future and building on our success.”
Sodexo is committed to its responsibility to promote and implement sustainable initiatives across all of its sites. It will continue to invest in projects such as the ‘Ecoversity’ project at the University of Bradford to maintain its high standards and green credentials, which look set to become even more significant to universities if HFCE’s plans get the go ahead to link funding to carbon emissions.

Ecoversity Programme

  • The Ecoversity Programme aims to embed the principles and practice of sustainable
  • development across the entire institution.
  • Working towards sustainable education by
  • engaging students, staff, the local community and employers on the skills and knowledge needed in the pursuit of sustainable development.
  • Working towards a healthy environment by minimising resource use and emissions whilst also enhancing the surrounding environment.
  • Working towards social well-being by creating a greener, safer environment in which students,staff and the local community can live, interact, study and be active.
  • Working towards a thriving economy through research, innovation and knowledge transfer to bring greater prosperity to the students, the University, City and Region.

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