How colleges can fight climate change

Dumfries and Galloway College shows what the sector can achieve in battling climate change, says Joanna Campbell

Climate change: Colleges have to take decisive action to lower their carbon footprint, says one college principal

The recent climate protests were a wake-up call for all of us. Thousands, including many school pupils, students and others, took to the streets under a banner of environmentalism that resonated across the world. In particular, the leadership of teenager Greta Thunberg, which spurred much of the movement, gave it a sense of urgency, importance and emergency that the issue needs.

Also, Greta’s message was that we are all capable, no matter who we are, of doing something to have a positive impact on our environment and that it is incumbent on us all to do our bit.


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Caring about climate change

We at Dumfries and Galloway College felt a deep sense of collegiality with Greta and all those who stood up for the cause that they care so deeply about. We are lucky enough to be located in the beautiful South of Scotland, full of unspoiled countryside – it truly is an awe-inspiring part of the world. It is, therefore, unsurprising that we take our responsibilities as custodians of this remarkable part of the world seriously.

We have beaten our own ambitious carbon reduction target of 20 per cent by two years and intend to exceed even our own lofty expectations in the future. We have installed a wind turbine, a bank of solar panels and ground source heating so that we rely as little as possible on traditional fuels at our twin campuses at Stranraer and Dumfries. We have recently built a green energy centre, which has produced advanced hi-tech ideas aimed at tackling the severe issues that we face.

On top of this, we have introduced carbon-friendly food packaging and removed bottled water for catered events across our estate, which has led to a huge reduction in single-use plastic. We promote a cycle-to-work scheme to bolster not only our green initiative but also the health and wellbeing of staff and students.

We’ve even taken a green approach to lighting, including installing smart LED lighting in our sports hall that uses Bluetooth controls to allow us to customise exactly how bright we want it to be and to avoid using power on unnecessary parts of the facility. This, combined with our domestic energy drive that encourages our college community to switch off their lights, computers, and chargers when they’re not in use, especially overnight, has shown our dedication to conservation.

Remaining realistic

While we at Dumfries and Galloway College are rightly proud of our record as an environmentally sound college, we remain realistic about the big challenges ahead.

Once again, we look to Greta for inspiration. While her willingness to speak out and commitment to her deeply and sincerely held beliefs are, of course, very impressive, it is her willingness to reach out to others, including the hundreds of thousands who took part in the protests that she was the figurehead for, that has made her contribution so valuable. The lesson from her work is that it is only by working together towards a common goal of ensuring that future generations have a planet worth living on that we can truly succeed.

Dumfries and Galloway College stands firm behind this idea. We believe that in the stunning South of Scotland we need to work with others to keep our region beautiful. To that end, we have been working tirelessly to provide environmentalism training to our students and to people employed by our local authority to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and confidence required to make a positive contribution to the climate fight.

Our commitment to the collaborative fight against climate change goes even further. We have set up our Climate Emergency Development Group that brings together a range of participating agencies and stakeholders, including a dedicated group of our own students, to create an exceptional team of people focused on the goal of keeping our region green. Our team is ambitious, hungry for change and dedicated to working as a cohesive unit – their results are poised to be sector-leading and exemplary.

However, much as Greta and her fellow activists have shown us that we need not be limited in our passion and ambition, we want to go further. The team at Dumfries and Galloway College believe we have created a green blueprint of collaboration on climate change that can be applied across Scotland. We realise that Scotland’s colleges are packed with talented, skilled, innovative and passionate people who care deeply about these issues, and we feel that our model of working, dedicated in our own right and equally committed to working with other stakeholders, is one that can be learned from, adapted and implemented by colleges across the country. Our college stands ready to help make this a reality.

The time is now, the climate challenge is upon us all; let’s get started.

Joanna Campbell is principal of Dumfries and Galloway College

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