Roland Levinsky Building

Sustainability experts at Plymouth University are helping people to visualise what a carbon footprint looks like through a new video published today.

The University, which has historically been ranked among the greenest and most sustainable in the country, has released a short film showing 1 kilogram beach balls of carbon dioxide burying the campus. 

Produced by Bristol-based Carbon Visuals, the animated short depicts the amount of carbon produced by the University from gas and electricity use on a daily and annual basis – more than 11 million kilograms – and in turn demonstrates the scale of the challenge facing organisations seeking to reduce their emissions.

The release of the video, which can be viewed on the University's carbon and energy page, coincides with the University releasing its biennial Sustainability Report, outlining its performance to stakeholders and community partners.

Paul Lumley, Energy and Environment Manager, said: 

“For most people carbon footprints remain intangible and difficult to visualise. This video is part of a wider cultural project to engage people in the challenge we face, as well as explain some of the measures we are taking to reduce our footprint.”

The University has set itself the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and has installed hundreds of meters across its campus so it can identify utility consumption in much greater detail. It is also trialling innovative technologies to control heating and ventilation systems, linked to its IT use, in a bid to create a genuinely ‘smart, energy-aware’ campus.

“With respect to carbon reduction it was felt we had reached a ‘glass floor’.” said Paul. “To break through it, reducing emissions further, we recognised the need for greater transparency of utility consumptions, coupled with innovative methods of controlling heating and ventilation.”

The Sustainability Report details the University’s performance against targets across water, travel, carbon, waste, biodiversity and food. Among the headline figures include a reduction of 13 per cent in water usage since 2007; a reduction in waste of 14 per cent since 2005, and a 6 per cent increase in green travel to work among staff and students. 

The report also looks at metrics in teaching and research, and has found that 49 per cent of courses now have sustainability as part of the curriculum, while there’s an average of £4.4 million devoted to researching sustainability issues. 

Samantha Price, the University’s Sustainability Manager, said: 

“All universities hold a responsibility to operate sustainably, not just for their own operational sake, but also to act as a living, breathing example of a sustainable organisation for students to observe and learn from. 
“At Plymouth, we have taken great care to share what we do with the higher education sector, but also with local partners and organisations. We want to hold ourselves to the highest standards, and that means opening up our performance to the scrutiny of the community.”