‘Green Norrington’ scrutinises colleges

COLLEGES’ green credentials have come under scrutiny following the release of a new environment survey, carried out by OUSU.

Graduate college Linacre came out top in OUSU’s environmental league table, with Merton and Hertford coming second and third. St Anne’s, Lincoln and Corpus Christi are bottom.

Each college’s ranking was based on a total score, calculated from its performance on a number of criteria including use of energy-saving light bulbs, recycling facilities, ethical food sourcing and whether or not it had a vegetable patch. The data was collected by anonymous volunteers from 25 colleges across the University.

Hector Guinness, a member of OUSU’s Environment and Ethics committee which organised the survey, said it was created to measure the impact of Oxford on the environment.

"Oxford is an international hub of great research into the environment and the atmosphere, but the environmental practices of many colleges is a shameful reminder of how much more could be done by the policymakers of each college," he said.

"Even some of the better colleges are still using energy-inefficient light bulbs, thereby not only adding unnecessary carbon emissions to the atmosphere, but costing the college and its students around £10 a year per light-bulb in unnecessary electricity costs. This league table should be able to show up the worst offending colleges and spur them into action."

Niel Bowerman, OUSU’s Environment and Ethics Officer, added, "Some colleges are more concerned with their finances and getting them to implement environmentally-friendly initiatives is sometimes very difficult because they make complaints such as, ‘recycling bins aren’t aesthetically pleasing’.

"It’s very difficult to make an Oxford college environmentally friendly; recycling and better light-bulbs are only scratching the surface."

Corpus Christi Environment Rep Eleanor Grieveson was surprised by her college’s poor performance in the table. "For a small and relatively poor college I think we do quite well," she said. "Many of the things to help the environment, although they cost less in the long run, have a larger immediate cost. Trying to persuade people like the Bursar that it’s really worth it is the problem. I’ve always had support from the JCR."

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Guinness defended Corpus’s position in the table, saying, "Corpus score so low because, according to the person from Corpus who replied to our survey, they don’t use energy-saving light bulbs in student rooms, the library, or common areas; they don’t have an environmental policy; they haven’t had an environmental audit; they have no PIR sensors; the computers in their computer room are never turned off.

"They do well on recycling, getting 5 points for having two bins in each room, 4 points for paper recycling in the library, 4 for paper recycling in the computer room, 4 for paper recycling in the JCR and 1 for can recycling in the JCR," he said.

Sorcha McDonagh, St Anne’s College Environment Rep said, "Currently there is a green policy in place [at St Anne’s] which includes the provision of recycling facilities for the use of all students on campus. This term sees the beginning of a college-wide recycling drive and the publication of a new green policy under which each St Anne’s student will have a recycling bin in their room in addition to their standard bin. I firmly believe this will significantly reduce our impact on the environment."

Merton’s JCR President, Danielle Quinn, claimed that she did not expect Merton to have such a high position in OUSU’s table. "It’s a pleasant surprise to have done so well. College staff are open to hearing our suggestions and are very supportive of our efforts to be more environmentally friendly, but some projects are difficult to get implemented," she said.

A recent national survey of UK universities conducted by People & Planet placed Oxford University joint 27th with a score of 35 out of 50. Cambridge came 8th in the league and Oxford Brookes were awarded 5th place.

Kate Aydin, Oxford’s Sustainable Development and Waste Management Officer, said, "I’m aware that some of the colleges are very keen to improve their environmental performance, though I hope that in the near future, all colleges will be paying attention to their environmental impacts and developing plans to improve them."