Double success in prestigious international sustainability awards

Issue date: 03 April 2017

The University of the West of England's reputation for excellence in sustainability has been recognised on the global stage with two prizes at the International Green Gown Awards.

UWE Bristol – shortlisted in the contest for the first time - received the accolade in the Continuous Improvement category and was a joint winner with the University of Bristol for Student Engagement.

The International Green Gown Awards recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges. The awards have three categories - Community Innovation, Continuous Improvement and Student Engagement - and cover all aspects of higher education institutions.

Against rivals from Australia's University of Technology Sydney and France's INP Ensat, UWE Bristol was successful in the Continuous Improvement category for its Sustainability Plan for 2013-2020: Positive Footprint. Judges praised the plan for its three strong facets: structure, scope and students. They said: “With its scale of impact it epitomised a whole institution-wide approach, embracing all aspects and making it a very worthy winner. With strong methodologies and best practice across the sector, testing new approaches and activities, it offered an array of elements for global replication.”

A joint project with the University of Bristol, Green Capital: Student Capital, was triumphant in the Student Engagement category. The project was funded by a grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and saw students donate more than 127,000 hours to sustainable activities as part of Bristol's year as European Green Capital.

Judges said the 'dynamic' project had high levels of student engagement, curricular and extra-curricular activity, and a direct impact on graduate employability. They commented: “It clearly demonstrates a sustainable model for student engagement and is a very worthy winner.”

The two universities faced competition from Glasgow School of Art, Aix Marseille University in France, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, University of British Colombia in Canada and the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

UWE Bristol earned passage through to the international finals after winning four awards at the UK and Ireland Green Gown Awards 2016 Ceremony in November. Its competitors were drawn from winners of the Australasia and French-speaking Europe & Canada regional versions of the Green Gown Awards, as well as the victors in the Global Universities Partnership on Environment and Sustainability Green Gown Awards for universities in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and North America.

Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Environment & Sustainability at UWE Bristol, said: “I am delighted at this international recognition of the amazing sustainability activities of UWE's students and staff. There are too many people to acknowledge personally but I must note the critical contribution of the Sustainability Board, the Knowledge Exchange for Sustainability Education group and the Green Team in the Students' Union in winning these awards. They are recognition of a long-standing commitment to sustainability and they will encourage us to do more and better things to help create a sustainable future.”

The awards were presented on 30 March in a ceremony at Lancaster University. A video recording of the event is available here.

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