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University celebrates prize nomination after cutting carbon

The University of Reading has been nominated for an award in recognition of the work it has undertaken to cut carbon emissions.

It was recently listed by sustainability consultants Brite Green in its table of the best higher education institutions for reduced emissions, with the university making the second biggest reduction since 2015-16 and the fifth largest since 2005. Over the longer period, Reading has cut emissions by 50.64 per cent, with a 35 per cent reduction since 2015-16.

Thanks to these achievements, it has now been shortlisted for a 'Green Gown' award.

Installing high quality insulation in its buildings was one of the key ways in which Reading was able to slash its emissions, as well as saving more than £17 million in energy costs. Other measures included fitting energy-saving light bulbs and running a campaign highlighting to staff and students how they could take everyday steps to cut their energy usage.

Speaking to the Reading Chronicle, the university's energy manager Dan Fernbank said: "The university has made real strides in reducing its impacts on the local as well as global environment and we are committed to building on this success.

"A good mix of support from senior management and the dedication and enthusiasm of staff and students across the university has been integral to our success, ensuring we both lead by example and deliver against our targets."

The Brite Green survey listed London Metropolitan University as the best performer overall since 2005, with a 57.17 per cent reduction in emissions, followed by the University of Cumbria on 56.23 per cent, the school of African and Oriental Studies on 55.17 and Salford University on 52.04. Reading's own achievement thus meant it was one of just five to cut emissions by more than half.

It might be imagined that every university would be busy fitting more insulation and taking other steps to increase energy efficiency, but the Brite Green survey showed this not to be the case, as a number of institutions have actually seen emissions rise. The worst offender was the Greenwich-based dance school Trinity Laban Conservatoire, with a 111.45 per cent rise since 2005. Chester was up by 64.14 per cent and Bolton by 51.52. 

There were also increases at Edge Hill, Worcester, Derby, West of England, the Guildhall School of Drama, the Royal Veterinary College and Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

Many of these are new universities with more modern buildings, which may seem like a paradox. At first, it would seem logical that some of the oldest universities with medieval structures would be the least green, but it turns out not to be the case. Indeed, Reading is neither one of the newest or oldest, being the only UK university established in the inter-war period.

At the same time, some newer universities have performed well in other surveys aimed at tracking the environmental performance of universities. For instance, Nottingham Trent emerged as the top performer in the 2016 People and Planet University League for its excellent energy performance, aided by a new carbon positive building on its Beeston campus.

Curiously, some of the weakest performers in the Brite Green tables were high scorers in the People and Planet table, with the later listing Worcester fifth and West of England 26th, both among the 'first class honours' category institutions. 

However, the two tables were far from being entirely inconsistent; Trinity Laban Conservatoire finished last in the People and Planet list as well, followed by the Royal Veterinary College and Bolton.