How green are we?

How does Durham University ensure that it is green?

Green policies are not just aimed at the university but the wider community too.

All the environmental efforts made by our university have been collectivised within Durham University’s Environment Office, otherwise known as Greenspace. Greenspace has made many efforts to commit to improving the quality of these environments in a variety of ways, for all those who live, work, and study in the university and in the surrounding community. Policies ensure that pollution is minimised, complying with relevant legislation and encourage all within our community to adopt a more sustainable approach to their work and lifestyle.


Durham University’s mission is to establish this place as one of the most environmentally sustainable universities in the UK.


It aims to do this through:

  • Analysing and modify our environmental footprint.
  • Encouraging all members to develop their own sustainable lifestyles.
  • To partner with the community and implement action plans.

There are many teams, that are student led or include student membership, taking on responsibility to ensure that these aims are met, and they include;

  • Environmental Sustainability Strategic Planning Group;

Oversees university strategy and policy relating to environmental sustainability and are an advisory body to the University Executive Committee.

  • Carbon Management Team (staff only);

Oversees the development and implementation of the Carbon Management Plan. They are always examining the university processes to see where more carbon savings can be made; focus is not only on electricity and gas usage, but also on travel emissions (e.g. business miles). In order to fund this, the team have been given a £100,000 budget to be spent on anything from training or publicity materials to timer switches or new equipment; it is possible to bid for some of this money for your department/college.

  • Queen’s Campus Environmental Issues Group;

Discusses environmental sustainability issues at Queen’s Campus.

  • Greenspace Student Environment Group;

Encourages students to adopt environmentally sustainable behaviours.

  • Green Travel Plan Steering Group;

Provides the management support required to take forward the strategic decisions of the university relating to travel planning, including contributing to the establishment of the new staff Green Travel Plan for the Durham campus.

  • Fairtrade Steering Group;

Durham University strives to be a Fairtrade champion; the university has been accredited by the Fairtrade Foundation since 2007. Led by the Fairtrade Steering Group and driven by the Fairtrade Policy, the university works hard both to increase the range of Fairtrade products sold on campus, and also to raise awareness of the issues. Details of the university’s retail outlets and the Fairtrade products that they sell can be found in the university’s Fairtrade Directory.

  • Staff Environment Champions;

Staff representatives from every department and college within the university make up the Environment Champions. This person acts as an environmental advocate and champions best practice for their department or college. The Champions also provide vital two-way communication between Greenspace and their respective department or college.


The City Campus includes examples of high quality wildlife habitats located within its estate. These include deciduous woodland, coniferous woodland, grassland, and wetland habitats. These habitats, and the wildlife that they host, are an important resource for the university, Durham City and the region, and help to make Durham University an attractive institution for study and work, for staff and students alike. To develop the biodiversity aspect of the university’s Environment Policy, the Greenspace Advisory Group established a Biodiversity Working Group, which developed a comprehensive database of the flora and fauna present in the university estate, as a thorough knowledge of what is already present is a prerequisite for future planning and conservation. They also have a bat conservation and barn owl project.


Greenspace encourages everyone throughout the university to either act to reduce energy usage, or where appropriate, notify Estates and Buildings of any excessive or unnecessary use of energy to enable E&B to act on your behalf. It is increasingly apparent that most people within the university community are concerned about energy usage and would like to minimise this as much as possible.

Low Carbon Technologies

Energy research has been carried out at Durham University for decades in areas like photovoltaics leading to the formation of the Durham Centre for Renewable Energy in 2000. The Durham Centre for Crop Improvement Technology, the Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems, and the Institute for Hazard and Risk Research soon followed, and these groups were encompassed by the Durham Energy Institute from 2009 in order to further facilitate the ground breaking research being carried out. In addition, Durham looks at low or zero carbon technologies when it plans new buildings or major refurbishments.


Durham University is committed to reducing, reusing, and recycling its items and to this end a number of initiatives and policies are in place across the university. With prevention measures such as the provision of reusable bags to students by a number of colleges, Durham also works hard to reuse and recycle, with currently around 52% of the waste recycled ‘at source’.


Estates and Buildings has a rolling programme of water conservation measures on campus. The work has involved the retrofitting of water saving devices in general public toilet areas. Additionally staff Environment Champions have worked with Greenspace to install ‘save-a-flush’ devices in pre 1999 toilets. There have also been 3000 shower timers installed in colleges in order to reduce shower lengths.

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