Sustainability on campus

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We seek to positively improve sustainability in the learning environment across our campuses, through responsible estates management, partnership working and public engagement. We also take opportunities to use our university sites to support learning for sustainability and use the campus as a living laboratory in the delivery of courses and research. We recognise that reducing environmental impact is best achieved through long term planning and we adhere to building regulations on environmental conversations.

Our buildings

Sustainability features can be found on all three of our campuses:

Solar panels

We currently generate approximately 2.5% of our own electricity on-site through solar panels, and projects are under way to install more. While we are still relying on the grid, this shift to ‘green’ energy means we are supporting the renewable energy industry and this is an important step in our mission to lower our carbon footprint.

We are working on a plan to increase solar panels on our camps in order to generate 5% of our electrical supply, new installations to be delivered in 2020-2021.

We have solar panels located across 11 of our buildings at our Colchester campus, these include The Albert Sloman Library, Sports Arena and Knowledge Gateway.

Essex Business School

The Essex Business School building in Colchester is the UK's first zero-carbon business school building and houses our Accounting, Finance and Management and Marketing groups as well as over 2,000 students and staff.

It has been estimated that the design of the building reduces emissions by 18% as a result of solar panels, making use of natural light, heat circulation.

The central courtyard is open to the sky and forms a water garden, collecting roof surface rainwater, which is in turn used to irrigate the winter garden planting.

The building has been orientated to make maximum benefit of solar energy, both through passive heat gains and PV energy.

The 500sqm solar array offsets 47.9 tonnes of CO2 annually generating enough electrical energy to offset over 20% of the site's carbon emissions.

New buildings and refurbishment

At the University of Essex we believe in responsible construction and refurbishment.

All our new build and refurbishment projects are assessed for sustainability performance and impacts, with BREEAM ‘very good’ as the minimum rating expected for major building projects.

Any new building must incorporate in 15% renewables, this is increased where funding allows.

We have a preference to invest in FSC certified furniture that complies with our ethical purchasing commitments.

Case study:

Over the last 18 months the Estates department has undertaken a series of projects under the umbrella of the SWAE programme (Smart Working at Essex), two of these projects have taken office space, currently not being used at optimum efficiency due to new working at home protocol and converted them into teaching space for our Health and Social Care department.

The combined area is circa 1000Sqm, which now provides teaching capacity for 300 + students. The work was undertaken in two sections by Rose Builders and TJ Evers, both local contractors in Essex.

The spaces were designed with modern facilities including new flooring supplied by IVC commercial who’s sustainability goals and practices include using wind and solar energy generation to power their manufacturing, along with a high recycled content to their carpet tiles and vinyl. These products also have a great lifespan and will offer the University a great looking space for years to come. We have also upgraded all areas with low energy LED lighting which under our standard practices are set to switch off when not in use, installed a new mechanical heating and ventilation system ensuring all areas comply with current building regulations but are able to power down based on CO2 sensors when not in use to ensure the output matches the requirement at any one time. Our in house Maintenance team manage these systems remotely, giving the estates team full control over output.

State of the art IT infrastructure & equipment has been installed in these spaces giving the University maximum flexibility for use in the future allowing us to cut down on the volume of new spaces required, creating a multi-functional approach to teaching, studying and working at Essex.

Sustainability Champions Network

Our Sustainability Champions Network coordinates and implements the Essex sustainability policy. The group includes both staff and student representatives. We aim to reduce the costs incurred by our University by improving waste, energy, transport and catering management, working with existing human resources and support.

In all our current activities, such as recycling, energy management, habitats, fair trade, transport, and procurement, our University has a considerable carbon footprint, but we are targeting considerable reductions in net emissions of carbon in the coming years. Although much has been achieved, there is much still to be done.

Getting involved on campus

We have a variety of initiatives across our campuses to inform and enable our students, staff and visitors to make changes that have a positive impact on the local environment.

We are constantly exploring ways that we can be more sustainable on campus and can provide funding for revolutionary new sustainability projects, so if you have an idea that you would like to share please contact the Sustainability Team.

Little choices, big changes

Our accommodation is responsible for around 60% of the University’s overall carbon emission figures. Our annual Little Choices Big Changes campaign encourages students to save energy and recycle while living in University accommodation.

Our suggested essential changes are: 


  • Save energy by switching off what’s not in use (including chargers, screens and lights).
  • Boiling the kettle? Only fill with what you need.
  • Take a reusable cup to Essex Food outlets on campus and save up to 10p when you buy a hot drink.
  • Think before you print: if you do need to print, change the settings to double-sided (duplex) and black and white printing.


  • Use our A to Z of waste and recycling to send things to the right place. 
  • Put tin cans, card and paper, plastic bottles and trays in your mixed recycling.
  • Put glass bottles and jars in the glass bin.
  • Non-recycling waste and food leftovers should go in general waste.


  • Dripping tap? Broken window? Flickering lights? Report faults to the Estates Team.
  • Always put your litter in a bin to keep the campus looking beautiful.
  • Put wipes, sanitary products, floss, cotton buds etc. in the bin – don’t flush them down the toilet.  

Colchester Campus initiatives

  • Books can be donated to the British Heart Foundation at our book bank.
  • Water bottles can be refilled at one of our water coolers (search 'water' on Find Your Way).
  • We offer recycling facilities across all campus and accommodation buildings. Our A to Z of waste and recycling can help you find the right place for everything.
  • We organise an annual Environment Week.
  • The Sustainable Essex programme brings staff and students together, providing a framework to make their departments more sustainable.
  • Honey produced from our campus beehives can be purchased at local health food shops.
  • Our Summer School students produced an interactive map showing where to buy second hand clothes locally and have garments repaired: Sustainably Fashionable.
  • Bennison Farm deliver local organic seasonal vegetables.
  • Walk Colchester organise outings to experience Colchester's backyard beauty.
  • Essex Wildlife Trust offer volunteering opportunities at local reserves.
  • We have a Green Thumbs student society who work on an allotment at our Colchester campus. The aim is to grow their own produce and reap the benefits of being outside.
  • We encourage students and staff to explore the grounds of the Colchester campus and discover the wildlife and habitats.
  • In December 2021, the Students' Union set up a food bank collection for the local charity Colchester Foodbank, collecting 615.6kg of donations.

Seasonal sustainability


  • Pick a pumpkin which is grown more locally to you to lower your carbon footprint.
  • If you are planning on carving your pumpkin, save the insides to cook with rather than throwing them away.
  • Get creative with your costume. You don’t have to buy costumes from the shops: take a look in your wardrobe and see if you can upcycle any of the items to create an outfit.
  • Recycle your pumpkin in one of our dedicated bins in the week after Halloween.

Bonfire Night

  • Please check bonfires carefully for sleeping hedgehogs.
  • Don't burn any man-made materials use natural materials; bonfire night isn't an excuse to burn furniture or household waste. If you have any safe furniture consider selling it on gumtree or putting it on freecycle or ask a charity shop if they will take it.
  • The weather can make a massive difference to the extent to which the fumes emitted by bonfires and fireworks pollute the air. Check the weather forecast in advance and choosing an evening for your bonfire accordingly. If the night air is still and misty, then the effects of pollution are intensified.


  • Reuse wrapping paper, give gifts in reusable bags and even consider whether you need to give gifts at all.
  • If you need Christmas crackers, make your own or buy ones that don’t have plastic toys in.
  • Remember to shut down your PC when you leave for the Christmas break!

Working on campus

To manage energy use, thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) will be turned down in offices and seminar rooms ahead of the Christmas break. You’re welcome to turn these up if you need to, but please remember to turn them down again when you leave the room.

Staff sustainability

  • We have a range of Moodle modules which staff can complete to learn about sustainability at the University.
  • New staff members complete the 'How We Work at Essex' induction on Moodle which includes information about the Sustainability Sub Strategy, sustainability policies and sustainability on campus.
  • The Sustainability team attends induction events for new staff members to reinforce understanding of sustainability on campus.
  • Essex Food outlets offer a 10p discount for using a reusable cup.
  • Unwanted items can be advertised on the staff small-ads email list.
  • Support is available for travelling to campus sustainably; Dr Bike's repair service visits the Colchester campus during term time.
  • Video conferencing facilities and Zoom is available to reduce the need to travel.
  • Our Green Thumbs Society allows staff to learn about tending to plants and crops in the Campus Garden.

Student sustainability

  • During Welcome Week, we are out and about on campus. Visit our stall and get involved with us on everything from sustainability tips to hedgehog surveys. 
  • We offer a wide range of taught modules that focus on environmental impact, as well as our Summer School in Sustainable Practice.
  • Recycling facilities are available in all accommodation and campus buildings. Our A to Z of waste and recycling can help you find the right place for everything.
  • Unwanted items, including clothes, books and furniture, can be advertised and sold via the student small-ads email list.
  • When moving out, donate unwanted items to the British Heart Foundation using the bags delivered to your room. Visit the moving out page to find out what you can donate, how much money was raised, and how many tonnes avoided landfill.
  • We offer volunteering opportunities as a Sustainable Essex project assistant and Sustainable Essex Auditor (takes place annually in May), helping departments across the University to be more sustainable.
  • There are opportunities for students to get funding for a sustainability project, for more information visit our Crowdfunding page.

Travel sustainably

  • The annual season First UoE bus pass is available for discounted travel to our Colchester Campus and within the Colchester area.
  • The annual season Arriva bus pass is available for discounted travel to our Southend Campus within the Southend area.
  • We run a Cyclescheme for staff, deducting the cost of a new bike and equipment from salary payments enabling a saving of up to 40%.
  • The Walking Together email subscription list encourages staff and students to coordinate walking to campus together.

Free drinking water


  • We provide free access to drinking water to all our staff and students.
  • To find a water fountain near you, go to ‘FindYourWay’ and type in ‘water’ in this search bar. All places with water fountains will appear, and you will be able to choose the one closest to you. 
  • You can also ask any Essex Food outlets to fill your water bottle for free.
  • All tap water in our campus accommodation is safe and ready to drink.


  • You can find water fountains in various locations around the campus: in every floor of the Gateway and Cliff Town building or in the University Square Common room.


  • You can ask any SU location to fill your water bottle for free: the SU Lounge, the Library or the Corbett Theatre.

UoE Sustainability on social media:

Wivenhoe Park in the summer
Get in touch
Sustainability team
Telephone: 01206 872950