We speak to London Met's talented Sustainability Manager Rachel Ward to find out how she is making sure the University's green credentials are consistently some of the best in the sector. Rachel recently scooped the Energy Institute's Energy Manager of the Year award in 2017.
What inspired you to choose this career path?
I’ve always had a keen interest in the environment – even at Primary School I set up a recycling scheme! I went on to study Chemical Engineering and enjoyed the lectures we had looking at how we could prevent pollution within chemical processes so went on to do a Masters in Clean Technology. After graduating, it was hard to get a job in the sustainability industry (as not so many opportunities existed as they do now – something I’m keen to promote to our students!) so I did voluntary work at an environmental charity called Groundwork and worked in the pharmaceutical industry before gaining enough experience to get a position at an energy consultancy helping manufacturing companies reduce their energy consumption.
What has been your favourite achievement as Sustainability Manager at London Met?
I think seeing the outcome of all our hard work in 2015 by being named as the number one university for carbon reduction! It’s just been amazing to see how the whole University has worked together to achieve this and absolutely brilliant to see so many students involved in what we do.
How have London Met students been able to get involved with the University’s sustainability efforts?
Every year we run a Green Week in March with loads of great events that students can attend. In previous years we’ve run events such as the Tower Challenge of Terror – a race up the 13 storey Tower Building to show its quicker to run up the Tower than take the lift, green cocktails in the Rocket, and chilli plant growing.
I’ve also run events like the Big Dig and Give it a Go and invited students to brighten up our limited green spaces by planting a wildflower meadow and 600 spring bulbs.
I involve students in our projects. We recently completed a glazing project at Central House which was based on designs created by a charette produced by fourth year Architecture students. MSc Low Energy Architecture students are assisting us in monitoring the improvements this had made. I run Dr Bike sessions which allow staff and students to bring their bikes in and give them a maintenance session and basic repairs for free to encourage more people to cycle to University. I also work closely with the recently established London Met Green Society to identify and run events.
London Met has already been largely successful in reducing carbon emissions. What do you ideally see as the next step for keeping the University on track with its green goal?
We have many plans for the next few years! At the moment we are installing the University’s first renewable energy – photovoltaics which creates electricity from sunlight. This will be completed at the end of the month and we will have a display screen in the Science Centre reception so students can see how much energy we are generating.
Although we have very limited green spaces we have big plans for creating a summer BBQ area for the students to relax in during exam time and also creating roof gardens. We are undertaking a feasibility study for a Combined Heat and Power plant which means the University will generate its own energy with the potential to provide heat to neighbouring buildings such as the student halls across the road.
The new One Campus, One Community project is a great opportunity to improve the sustainability of our estate and I’m working closely with the planners to ensure we consider as many options as possible. We will be looking at using rainwater to flush toilets, green roofs, occupation technology to ensure things only run when rooms are used, insulation, replacing windows, renewable energy and many more!
Can you tell us more about the project "Proud to be EnviroMET"?
Proud to be EnviroMet is part of our Carbon Management Plan project. We have reduced our carbon emissions by 47% since 2009 and reduced our environmental impact. Some of the projects have been:
- Email – using an electric post van to deliver our post between the campuses
- Great Hall refurbishment – using a sustainability rating to ensure everything that went into this refurb from paint to lighting limited our environmental impact
- Upgrading lighting in the Learning Centre which reduced lighting energy use by 54% and improved the student experience
- Student Union achieving bronze in Green Impact
- Rationalising our printers – reducing energy and paper waste
- Training our maintenance team to be energy engineers
- Making changes to back of house equipment – installing more efficient motors and drives, more efficient hot water technology including air source heat pumps, lighting control, installing LED lights, more efficient fans and even energy saving on lifts.
What is your advice to London Met students and future environmentalists who want to do their part in promoting sustainability within their University or in their day-to-day routine?
There are so many simple changes and actions that people can do that really do add up and make a difference. Things like turning lights off in classrooms when you leave or see them left on really help. Let staff know if you see anything such as dripping taps, air conditioning running when a room isn’t used or recycling bins needed.
It's a really rewarding career and I’d encourage our students to look for opportunities in the sector. Come along to our Green Week – we love meeting people and telling them what we are up to and how to get involved!
Want to find out more?
You can hear Rachel discussing the latest sustainability initiatives in a recent podcast.