Progress with the Environmental Sustainability agenda in FBMH: June 2024 update

by | Jun 17, 2024 | AD ES update, Environmental Sustainability (ES) | 0 comments

Blog by Dr Maggy Fostier, FBMH Associate Dean for Environmental Sustainability.

Welcome to the 4th edition of the FBMH Environmental Sustainability (ES) Good Newsletter. Palpable progress has been made in the recent months at the University level and within the Faculty, which I am very pleased to report on.

At University level, we have a lot to celebrate:

UoM has been named top in both the UK and Europe, and second in the world for meaningful contributions towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) in the 2024 Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings. We came top in the world for SDG11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Pr. Jamie Woodward (from Geography) is listed within the top 10 most impactful environmental professionals in the UK in the ENDS (Environmental Data Services) report Power List 2024. His work has exposed that microplastic pollution in Manchester’s rivers is directly linked to untreated sewage discharges outside periods of exceptional rainfall (see blog).  .  

We have reached two big milestones in our zero-carbon master plan. In March, Phase 1 of our zero-carbon buildings project (Estate zero carbon plan) was completed with Booth Street East and Dalton Ellis;  it will save an estimated 332 tonnes of carbon annually (see blog). In May, we secured a landmark agreement to purchase our electricity from a 104,000-panel solar farm to be built within a year with biodiversity net gains. Our electricity supply is already green, but this will add renewable energy to the UK grid, providing up to 65% of our electricity and saving 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year (see blog).

Our Nature action plan is being refined to fulfil our 11 commitments following a 2022 baseline audit. Did you know that many initiatives are already taking place to increase biodiversity on campus? My project student, Jacob, wrote a blog to help us keep tab, and the ES team helps us relax with 2 min videos showcasing the best of each season on campus: Spring, Autumn, Winter

We also want to engage staff, students and the community with sustainability, biodiversity and its benefits. Four key events occurred this term:

  • The Firs botanical grounds team has been very active, organising or taking part in many events, including the RHS Urban Show in Mayfield Depot.
  • Manchester Museum has launched their new exhibition: WILD, helping us to explore key questions on ways to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.
  • FSE has curated the first Green together event, bringing science and sustainability to Manchester’s central library.
  • UoM has run its first sustainability action month in April, with many student-led exhibits.

At Faculty level, we keep making progress on all our strategic goals, except for air travel.

a. Engaging all Faculty wet laboratories by 2025 with tools focusing on reducing consumption and waste, sharing resources more effectively and developing more sustainable protocols: LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework) and 6R (Review, Reduce, Reuse Refill, Replace, Recycle).

  • Several high-profile publications have highlighted the environmental footprint of research practices and a landmark UK Concordat for Environmental Sustainability of Research and Innovation has been launched, with Wellcome and CRUK starting to request certifications such as LEAF as part of their grant proposal application (see blog).
  • 81% of our PIs have a LEAF champion and 45% of PIs have a LEAF award (16% Bronze, 17% Silver, 4% Gold). This steady increase results from our monthly training workshops (190 people trained), the efforts of our growing community of 131 LEAF champions, and the impact-research generated by our ES project students. After two successful pilots, we will expand our training programme in September to all lab members and master students.
  • I also want to commend the PIs who have switched their ULTs from -80 ℃ to -70 ℃. ULTs are the second biggest energy consumers in our labs after the fume cupboards. The chill up movement is currently led by the CRUK Manchester Institute who have switched 55 out of 61 ULTs at -70 ℃ (see ULT blog).  
  • Martin Farley, co-creator of LEAF and now associate director for environment and sustainability at UKRI, was again our keynote speaker at our second FBMH ES showcase and he was very impressed by our progress over the last two years.

b. Engaging staff and students with sustainable actions on campus to reach our University targets:

Limit annual air travel emissions to 50% of our 2018/19 level.

  • I am awaiting data, but I have been told that our emissions are creeping up. We must tackle this challenging topic and agree on innovative ways to collaborate, disseminate and network with less impact. I am looking for volunteers to start a cross Faculty working group.
  • Several policies are supporting this target: The travel decision tree, the top fund policy, our video conferences facilities, and two staff courses promote ways to publicise your work beyond conferences: Using Social Media for Impact workshop, and How to Communicate your Research.
  • UoM is also keen to promote sustainable commute To support this initiative, green champions in SHS organised an active travel breakfast in May, gathering ideas to improve active travel.

 Recycle 45% of waste produced through our operations by 2025.

c. Disseminating UoM research on climate change, climate solution and resilience.

  • Sustainable Future at UoM aims to disseminate ES research (see past seminars and news) and promote cross discipline thinking and collaborations to increase our opportunities and deliver solutions (training and funding opportunities). Contact them if you have ideas/queries.
  • The climate network newsletter lists all the climate action events happening at UoM and in Manchester.
  • Greener NHS is progressing well and our colleagues at green MFT are disseminating good practices via a monthly seminar series. Past recordings on vimeo.

d. Supporting green spaces on campus (e.g., Smith quad) that promote biodiversity whilst offering enjoyment and opportunities for nature-based learning or well-being activities.

  • Bred is our new Michael Smith quad garden manager (blog). His expertise is in soil ecology and with your help, we aim to monitor our quad biodiversity with iNaturalist.
  • Sally Freeman and Harriet Beakley have designed a great stall on trees for the community festival. We loved it so much that we requested it for the ES showcase and our new Biodiversity social.
  • Thanks to ES project students, we have recommendations to help enhance biodiversity on campus and activities to engage staff and students, supporting two commitments from our Nature Action plan.
  • At the initiative of Jenny Herbert from the Division of Medical Education (DoME), we created a biodiversity social afternoon, pulling together our new engagement activities and a bioblitz on campus. This blueprint can now be reused or adapted.

e. Embedding sustainability in our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

  • QAAs and governing bodies are asking or advising to embed sustainability in the curriculum, and a small group of academics are emerging to lead the way – please contact me if you want to join us.
  • In April, I sponsored a small delegation to attend the MMU Symposium on Sustainability Teaching in Higher Education. This was very interesting, and we will build on our new knowledge and network.
  • Several upcoming T&L symposia will feature a sustainability theme:
    • The UoM ITL conference: 26-27th June
    • The FBMH Symposium: The Future of Teaching and Learning – 4th September will host a workshop to discuss and brainstorm plans to embed ES in each school.

f. Promoting sustainable actions in our wider community (schools, community, organisations, businesses – local or afar) with the help of trained students:

  • Our UG 6R champions and Bred took part in the Green together event organised by FSE.

g. Educating and exciting those we can reach about existing and future solutions to tackle the climate crisis.

  • The FBMH ES Good Newsletter is our tool for this priority. We disseminate it externally via various social media platform and I hope you find the articles written by our Y1 UG student exciting – I did (see blog- synthetic starch made from CO2).

To find out more about Environmental Sustainability: visit the Faculty’s intranet page, website, read our ES Good Newsletter or contact . For more information on Environmental Sustainability at the University watch this short film or visit their website.