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Future Planet: Thinking green

Posted on Jun 24, 2013


It’s not easy being green!

A few days ago, we were very proud to be part of Manchester Metropolitan University’s 2013 Green Impact Awards. It was a fantastic celebration and showcased the kind of innovative thinking that has helped MMU to become the UK’s greenest university.

We can’t take any credit for that achievement, as we were there to launch a future initiative – The Jugaad Sustainable Energy Challenge (more about that later). But the event inspired us to take a closer look at the People and Planet Green League table 2013 to see what UK universities are doing in terms of sustainability, the environment, the wider world and saving the planet. Here’s a brief snapshot of some of their ‘proudest moments’, with links – so you can find out more.


Manchester Metropolitan University achieved the league’s highest ever score through all kinds of initiatives. There’s even a must-hear (and see) poem in their honour! Major new developments include a new data centre that saves the energy equivalent of 5,134 cups of tea a day, and the impressive new low carbon, low energy, Business School with its solar panels, rainwater harvesting and water from boreholes.

Throughout the league there are many great initiatives from recycling, reusing and reducing to beehives, wildlife trails, sustainability champions, fairtrade shops and even sustainable fashion shows. There are some amazing facilities going up like the green walls at Aston University, the green roof at The London School of Economics, the steam bridge at The University of Birmingham and the anaerobic digestion unit at Harper Adams University College that generates power using farm and food waste.


Some great campaigns have been launched too, raising sustainability awareness through such initiatives as c-change at The University of Brighton, Nottingham Trent University’s carbon elephant, Green Chester, the Worcester Energy Pioneers and SEE GREEN at Staffordshire University.

Many universities have also received some tremendous support from national initiatives such as EcoCampus, and the NUS’s Green Impact Project. While there are also other notable awards out there such as the Green Gown Awards.

All of these projects, initiatives and facilities are a huge step in the right direction. And everybody involved deserves a huge pat on the back. But who’s thinking bigger? And what sustainable initiatives are causing a stir globally? As Kermit once said – “It’s not easy being green.” So, our Lab sprung into action and we delved into the Future Index to celebrate those students, academics and universities around the world who are going further and doing interesting, fun and far-reaching things to save and improve the planet.

Collaborative initiatives – You don’t have to save the world all by yourself. You can be part of something bigger such as Second Nature or The Billion Dollar Green Challenge. And why not take a look at the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking or 25 of the world’s greenest campuses to get inspiration and identify universities you’d like to partner with and share ideas?


Embedding sustainability holistically across all university operations is now a major goal for many universities. After all it’s important to practise what you teach. American University’s
Green Teaching Certification Program rewards professors for incorporating sustainability content into the curriculum. While The University of Gloucestershire and University of Wales Trinity St David are just two of the UK universities leading the way.

Engaging with local and global communities – The University World News has written an excellent article about how universities are now doing much more in this area. As Andrew Petter, President of Simon Fraser University in Canada points out – “There is broad public support for universities playing a bigger role in society, especially in environmental and social issues.” East Carolina University rightfully won a University/Community Engagement Award for their Intergenerational Community Center while Penn State University were awarded for supporting technology-based social enterprises and implementing projects to help tackle the world’s problems in Kenya, America and beyond.


The ‘Humaniversity’, Albukhary International University provides disadvantaged and underprivileged students from around the world with full scholarships. Based in Malaysia, civic engagement is a guiding principle with nearly 6,000 hours volunteered to help local communities in 2012.

LiveGreen: Keele is a project where students don’t just think green – they live and breathe it every single day. Keele students have converted a bungalow, so students from all subject areas can live a sustainable lifestyle. Is this the university accommodation of the future?

UC Merced Water Battle 2012 – Saving the planet can be fun. In 2011, 11 halls of residence competed to save water with real-time monitoring ranking their efforts in a league table. Over 30 days, students saved 90,000 gallons of water through reporting leaks and less usage. The UCM Power Save Green Campus Program isn’t an initiative to be sniffed at!

University challenge – In a world where students expect much more from a university education than simply lectures, student challenges are the ideal way for students to learn new skills, enhance their CV, work with people from different disciplines and help save the world. Universities can enter teams into international challenges such as the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award and the Thought For Food Challenge (that the Future Index team helped to create and launch back in 2011) that inspired students do to all kinds of things from opening a pop-up locust restaurant to developing new food apps. Universities can also develop their own challenges such as the One Planet MBA Sustainability Challenge, the Stanford Challenge, or the Jugaad Sustainable Energy Challenge that neatly takes us back to why we were at MMU in the first place. We’ve developed this university-wide initiative in partnership with both students and staff to encourage students to work as individuals or teams to create frugal, flexible and remixed ideas that will help to solve the world’s energy crisis. We can’t wait to see what ideas the students come up with when it launches in October.

Click on the video trailer below:

jugaadmmu video grab

Have a look at how The Future Index can help you embed the environment into the fabric of what you do by clicking on our Future Planet page and reading about what we do, and follow us on Twitter @futureindex.

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  1. Natalie Horne
    25th June 2013

    Great to see academic institutions getting recognition for their hard work in this area. I’d also credit universities for their openness to experimenting with innovative new approaches. We work in the field of behavioural science and have had a great reception from universities wishing to use psychological insights to help change behaviours. Considering the internal battles and measurement challenges that many sustainability depts face it is very encouraging.

  2. futureindex
    25th June 2013

    Thanks Natalie. Good to see that the curriculum at some universities is really embracing this as well. Just had this great example of Salford students making a big difference flagged to us

  3. Future Planet | FutureINDEX
    15th July 2013

    […] June 24 | Future Planet: Thinking green […]


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