We won’t sugarcoat it – as a residential college that houses and feeds 340 students, we produce a lot of waste. To minimise our impact, we implement a variety of sustainability initiatives around UC to reduce and manage our waste.
The newest wings at University College, which house over 100 student rooms along with common rooms and staff offices, were built based on the Passivhaus (Passive House) model, designed to reduce the building’s ecological footprint.
Compared to most typical Australian buildings, Passive House buildings allow for energy savings of up to 90% as they use more natural sources of heat. The Passive House design allows more efficient circulation of cool air during warmer months and retains heat in the colder weather. This helps us reduce the electricity usage that would’ve come from air-conditioning or gas-heating around the College, making the building highly sustainable.
When you cater three meals a day, seven days a week, there’s bound to be uneaten or leftover food. What do we do with it? We feed it to the worms! We have a compost bin in the kitchen where students clear their ‘organic’ leftover food from their plates, such as fruits, vegetables and grains. These scraps are then put into the big compost bins located near the UC veggie garden, where it is further broken down by living organisms such as worms through the process of degradation. The resulting compost is then used as fertiliser to assist the growth of plants in our garden. Reducing food waste while also making our own fertiliser? We’re getting the best of both worlds.
Every Monday, UC provides a meat-free selection for lunch in order to reduce the consumption of meat products at UC. Consuming beef in particular has a large environmental impact, as cows emit methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. Farming livestock also means there is more deforestation, as it is converted to grazing land. Not eating meat for at least one weekly meal is a small step towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus.
Every general waste bin the college has is accompanied by a bright yellow recycling bin, promoting recycling habits. University College also uses Who Gives A Crap toilet paper which is made from 100% recycled paper fibres, sugarcane and bamboo. The product is plastic free and this company also donates 50% of their profits to WaterAid to build toilets and improve sanitation in developing countries.
Lights in our hallways tend to be left on for security and safety reasons. In the new building, we made sure to install the hallways with motion sensors that will turn on the lights when students are walking down the halls. And after a period of no movement, the lights will turn off again to save electricity.
Future Sustainability initiatives
There are always ways to become a more sustainable college. Here are some initiatives we’re hoping to push in the near future. Our 2022 environmental representative (Nick Symons) is currently working with our staff team to organise the following:
- E-waste recycling bins at College, allowing students to safely recycle batteries, vapes and other E-waste
- A reusable shopping bag box, where people grab a bag on their way to the shops, eliminating the need for them to get a plastic bag
- Removing single use plastic items, particularly the single use spreads in the kitchen
- Making the switch from plastic milk bottles to cardboard ones
- Increasing the accessibility of drinking fountains within UC to reduce plastic waste from water bottles
- Event ideas, such as College Fest (to exchange clothes with other colleges and reduce textile waste) and an Environment Night (to educate residents on the importance of striving to be more sustainable)
With a number of sustainable practices in place, we are taking steps to reduce our production of waste and be a more environmentally-friendly college. We can’t wait to work with the 2023 Sustainability Committee to implement more initiatives for a cleaner, greener UC.