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Bright minds take on Lancaster’s green challenge

Competition winners

11 March 2016

Professor Gail Whiteman, Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business, was one of a panel of judges tasked with choosing a winner in this week's College Sustainability Challenge. 

Students from Lancaster University’s nine colleges did battle to come up with a prize-winning idea to make their campus more sustainable.

Teams of up to eight students were coached by Lancaster academics over a month to hone their concept and work it up into a plausible proposal before presenting it to the panel of judges.

In addition to Professor Whiteman, there were: Professor Gordon Walker, Co-Director of the Economic and Social Research Council -funded DEMAND Centre; Mr Mark Swindlehurst, Director of Facilities and Dr Stephen Bryan - Heysham 2, Senior Environmental Officer.

The winners were Bowland College, whose project aimed to tackle energy consumption habits on campus through collective smart metering and encouraging positive behaviour change. On campus energy consumption would be displayed in the iLancaster app relative to allocation via inclusive bill payments for accommodation. This would enable a charge for over consumption and rewards for low consumption. This would aim to create longer term energy awareness and form habits for later life around conservation of energy.

Other ideas included:

  • A short-term bike rental scheme for the university, similar to those found in many cities across the world, presented by Fylde College. This would provide students and staff with access to a convenient, healthy and low-carbon transport mode for short trips. In order to make prices competitive with other modes, the project would aim to attract a sponsor in order to subsidise the costs. The bikes themselves would be bookable via the iLancaster app and would include a built-in GPS feature to enable users to track rides and share with others online.
  • A ‘ veggie points’ card presented by Pendle College which focussed on encouraging a transition from a red-meat to vegetable-based diet to help reduce food carbon emissions and enhance health. The card would be introduced on campus to reward more sustainable choices in food consumption. This would also be combined with extensive education and campaign based activities to help promote the benefits of the vegetarian diet; for example cookery classes. Surveys conducted by the team revealed that 62% of students were interested in learning more about the impacts of meat production and how to create more interesting and healthy meals using vegetarian ingredients.

Professor Mary Smyth, Principal of Bowland College, said: “We are delighted that so many students wanted to engage with sustainability issues across campus in the Colleges Sustainability Challenge Competition and we have been seriously impressed with their suggestions.

"Lancaster takes sustainability very seriously. We have a strong research base in this area with more than 65 scientists and social scientists in the Lancaster Environment Centre, research centres like  the ESRC funded Demand Centre; Energy Lancaster; and the Pentland Centre for Sustainable Business,  and  academic staff across many different departments working on these issues.”

Our award-winning Facilities team works to ensure our campus reflects our commitment to sustainability.

Jon Mills, Carbon, Environment and Sustainability Manager, said: “It’s great that the colleges have really got involved in this competition and fantastic to see the range of exciting and innovative ideas generated.  This builds on previous joint projects between the colleges, Facilities and Green Lancaster to drive sustainability, such as the carbon competitions and recycling challenges.  Hopefully, we can develop some of the ideas further and incorporate them in our wider sustainability projects.”

The university’s Student Union works with the Facilities team to deliver a strong ‘Green Lancaster’  programme and they collaborated with the Nine Colleges to develop this competition.

Lancaster is a collegiate university with eight undergraduate colleges and one graduate college. The colleges allow students to be involved and engaged in social, sporting, and volunteering activities and allow them to be responsible for their own affairs.