Dental treatment at the PDSE

University of Plymouth is celebrating after winning an unprecedented hat-trick of prizes at higher education’s biggest awards ceremony devoted to green issues and sustainability.

The University won three Green Gown Awards – for Enterprise, Courses and Learning, and Food and Drink – cementing its reputation as one of the most sustainability-minded institutions in the country.

The event, held at Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester, and introduced by author and television presenter Simon Reeve, saw Plymouth take one fifth of all the awards on the night.

In the Enterprise category, the University won for its Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise (PDSE), which provides dental outreach services and treatment to a wide range of community groups. Staff and students run brushing clubs at local schools, work with some of the most vulnerable members of the community such as the homeless and drug addicts, and have been developing learning resources and tools so that these practices can be adopted by other organisations and universities.

The PDSE also oversees all of the NHS treatment that students, under supervision, provide to the 16,000 registered patients at its four dental facilities in Plymouth, Truro and Exeter, and it also orchestrates student volunteering in the community.

A teaching module that brings together nursing and design students to work together on tackling issues of sustainability in the health sector impressed the judges in the Courses and Learning category. Created by Professor Janet Richardson with colleagues in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, the project challenges nursing students to view products and practices in the health sector through a sustainability lens and to consider those that might be at risk to resource shortages and disruptions.

The students then work with their contemporaries in the School of Architecture, Design and the Environment to see how new designs might create innovative solutions. Launched in 2013, the project has already seen several prototypes put into development.

Nursing Sustainability by Design

We do this for our students – inspiring them with real-world challenges and the chance to work with those from other disciplines so that they can see new perspectives.

A short video on the new sustainability skills approach that brings together nursing and health students, with designers

The third award recognised the strides the University has made in Food and Drink, through ethical and local sourcing, the provision of healthy food through its campus outlets, and in reducing food wastage by 66 per cent. The University's Catering team has introduced a range of recycling and green initiatives, including the removal of disposable packaging from many of its products, a growing scheme for students and the local community, and donating produce to food banks in the city.

Professor David Coslett, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “This trio of awards cements Plymouth’s reputation as the leading green university in the country, and demonstrates how that expertise permeates across the institution. Our commitment to sustainability runs through our teaching, our research, and the way we run our campus – and we do it because it is the right thing for our students and our community.”

The awards are the latest in a long line of accolades for Plymouth, and its feted ‘tri-cameral approach to sustainability, embracing teaching, research and the management of its estates. It won a Green Gown for Continuous Improvement - Institutional Change in 2011, and has been the overall best performing university in the People and Planet Green League since it began. It is also ranked in the top ten universities in the global UI GreenMetrics league.