At Edinburgh College, we recognise the Climate Emergency and that it is a direct result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. We are determined to support Scotland’s efforts to achieve Net Zero and along with all of Scotland’s other colleges we have signed the CDN College Climate Emergency Commitment.
We understand our key role in helping to address the Climate Emergency and also to drive forward efforts to be more sustainable across our whole organisation, as well as supporting the people and communities that we serve.
In response to this we have developed a comprehensive Environmental Sustainability Strategy of which the central aims are to:
- “Be a college at the cutting edge of environmental sustainability through its learning, teaching, partnerships and operations”
- “Reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2024 and to be carbon neutral by 2030”
The importance of our efforts cannot be overstated. Many college students will, in their working and personal lives, come face-to-face with the realities and challenges of climate change, which will impact on every aspect of their daily lives. As an educational institution and one of Scotland’s largest colleges, we have a responsibility to ensure it is preparing students for these challenges.
Carbon Emissions – where we are now
Edinburgh College’s operational carbon footprint has reduced by 57% from our baseline of 7271 tCO2e in 2013-14 to 3126 tCO2e in 202021. This reduction is due to a number of factors including significant investment by the College in energy efficiency, energy management and behavioural changes as well as changes to the carbon intensity of the national grid.
We report annually to the Scottish Government as part of our Public Bodies Climate Change Duties Reporting. Reports are available here
Despite the good progress to date, we still face an enormous challenge if we are to meet our interim target of 75% reduction by 2024, and to be carbon neutral by 2030. The biggest long-term challenge is how to reduce our carbon emissions from natural gas, which we use to heat our campus buildings. This challenge is recognised by the Scottish Government in its Decarbonising Heat Policy – and will require action at local and national level. We are working with partners to innovate and address this, but there are no simple solutions.
Learning and Teaching
The College’s ‘Sustainability in Education Group’ is building on previous work to further embed sustainability in the curriculum and develop new online learning and teaching resources, with the aim of ensuring that sustainability becomes a core concept in the delivery of Edinburgh College courses. This will support our students to prepare for the requirements of a low-carbon and sustainable 21st-century workforce. This work is in line with the Skills Development Scotland Regional Skills Assessment and the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan, which indicates that employers are increasingly looking for awareness of good sustainability practice in their prospective employees. We aim to integrate the principles of sustainability more widely across all curriculum areas.
Edinburgh College Students Association (ECSA)
Our Students’ Association ECSA has been awarded funding from the Scottish Government's Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), to run its Go Green project at the College. This is the second time they’ve received funding – the first project ran from 2018-2020 and focused on sustainable transport. The project achieved its carbon saving targets more than twice over, and reached over 1200 students through numerous activities.
The new project will expand on this success; with continued support for students to travel sustainably, through cycle training, promotional campaigns, and an online liftsharing platform. It will also aim to establish a community fridge on each campus to redistribute waste food from local businesses, and has already set up a free online Swap shop for students to donate and collect clothes and books from. The project staff are also working with tutors and lecturers to deliver climate literacy workshops in classes, in order to raise climate change awareness and highlight the links that sustainability has to different subject areas.
At the College we have been working to increase sustainable travel opportunities for many years. Being located in Edinburgh and Midlothian means we are very lucky to have excellent public transport services. In our 2016-17 travel survey 62% of our students said they used public transport to get to the college. 9% said they walked and 2% cycled. So, 73% of students said they travelled to college by sustainable means. However, we’d like that to be nearer 100%
Over the last few years we have worked in partnership with Cycling Scotland and ECSA to invest in cycling infrastructure and support. This has included providing secure cycle compounds, shower and changing facilities as well as a dedicated cycle lane on Sighthill Campus. Dr Bike repair sessions are also frequently held and available to staff and students.
The College has a fleet of 18 vehicles consisting of vans, buses and cars of which 50% are fully Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). The college first introduced the BEV pool cars into its fleet in 2012 and they are used by staff for traveling between our campuses and other college duties. In 2019 the EV’s covered 33,000 zero emission miles. The college also have 12 charge posts located across all four campuses.
Recycling Bins are provided at all campuses and out waste contractor further sorts this at its Materials Recovery Facility where >90% of the mixed recycling waste is recovered, with 60% recycled from the general waste. All our food waste goes to an anaerobic digester in Midlothian where it is converted into green energy and compost. Water refill points are available on all campuses – reducing single use plastic, as well as providing health benefits. Ultimately, we will be working towards a more circular approach to using resources relegating the term ‘waste’ to history.
Community Growing and Biodiversity
Edinburgh College has two formal community gardens on our Milton Road and Sighthill campuses, plus growing opportunities at Midlothian and Granton. The Community Gardens are extensively used as part of the learning experience of students in the College, as well as by a number of community groups. The gardens are an important part of our curricular delivery and for most users the garden spaces are much more than just a space to grow food. The gardens are also a space to socialise, to develop friendships and to build self-confidence. The gardens are open to all and provide a space to relax and connect with nature.
The College continues to enhance biodiversity on its already very green estate by creating new meadow areas and is working in collaboration with ECSA to develop a small woodland. We are a member of the Edinburgh Biodiversity Action Plan Partnership.
In 2014 the work at the gardens was recognised at the Green Gown awards. This video was produced for that event.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
Edinburgh College recognises the importance of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (known as the SDGs). We were one of the first colleges to sign the Sustainable Development Goals Accord. As part of our commitment we publish an annual SDG Accord report. We will continue to explore how we incorporate the SDG’s further within our operations, and in our learning and teaching.
Edinburgh College Leadership Summit - COP 26
Members of the College’s Executive team hosted a Leadership Summit following COP26.
The summit provided an opportunity for reflection on the progress the College has made in achieving the goals set out in its Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2019-2024, but also to acknowledge the size of the challenge ahead for the College if we are to achieve the goals outlined in the strategy. Download a summary of discussion from the summit below.