Going Green at Liverpool John Moores University

The Declaration, Volume 3, Number 1: March 1999  [Operations]

by John Blythe and Wynn Calder

For Liverpool John Moores University (JMU), the last decade has been one of extraordinary accomplishment in its transition toward sustainability. This article looks at the process of going green at JMU: the steps taken; the people involved; and the conditions which allowed ideas and efforts to come to fruition. The article gives particular focus to an environmental review process which began in early 1997 and culminated in the publication of an Environmental Performance Report. This report gave JMU an opportunity for critical self-reflection and re-assessment and offered other higher education institutions a chance to examine their own commitment to sustainability.

As a city based institution, JMU comprises approximately 45 buildings spread over three main campuses. Over 20,000 students work with a staff of nearly 3,000. Operationally, the organization is typical of a ‘new’ university with fifteen Schools in three Academic Divisions (Engineering and Science; Education, Health and Social Science; Arts and Professional Studies) supported by over 25 academic and business support services under the direction of the Executive Offices of the Vice-Chancellor, Provost, Bursar and the University Registrar.

In his forward to the JMU 1997 Environmental Performance Report, Professor Peter Toyne, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of JMU, makes the following observations: “Going green is not a soft option; nor is it something to be embraced by a few zealots and fanatics. It is our common task which needs to be taken on with enthusiasm and pragmatism by us all. It is about all our futures and it is at the center of responsible citizenship. I believe we have made a start at JMU, but there is a long way to go before we can claim to be anything other than ‘light green’.”

The Last Ten Years

The following is a list of milestones in JMU’s environmental progress over the last decade:

  • Liverpool Polytechnic Green Task Group was established in response to increasing pressure from staff and students for greater awareness of environmental issues, May 1988.
  • Green Task Group was strengthened and transformed into the Environmental Awareness Committee. The Environmental Policy Unit and the post of Environmental Policy Officer were created (prompted by the imminent publication of the “Toyne Report”), September 1992.
  • “Toyne Report on Environmental Responsibility” published, 1993.
  • Environmental Policy and Action Plan was approved by the Executive Management Team in response to Toyne’s recommendations, October 1994.
  • Three new undergraduate degree programs with an environmental theme were approved, 1994.
  • Environmental purchasing policy implemented, 1995.
  • In response to “Toyne II,” funding was secured for a full-time Environment Coordinator to steer the University’s environmental program, 1996.
  • Energy efficiency awards received in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
  • Launch of the ‘Environment’ website (http//www.livjm.ac.uk/HSandE/) and an internal information bulletin called “Greenfile,” 1996.
  • Vice Chancellor signed the Talloires Declaration, October 1996.
  • JMU ‘Leadership’ Team Seminar held an awareness event – “Managing for Environmental and Cost Savings” – in conjunction with The Environment Council, 1997.
  • Environment Officer position made permanent. Curriculum Greening Officer appointed, 1997.
  • Environmental awareness training introduced as a core requirement for new staff induction program, 1997.
  • Publication of first Environmental Performance Report (EPR) stating clear and achievable objectives and targets for continual performance improvement (supervised by an Environmental Review Team), 1997.
  • Transport, Waste and Energy Steering Groups convened to pursue the objectives and targets stated in the EPR, 1997.
  • Health, Safety and Environment Unit (HS&E Unit) established, born out of the existing Health and Safety Unit and Environmental Management Unit to allow the integration of evolving management responsibilities and operational systems, 1997.
  • The Health, Safety and Environmental Awareness Committee was amalgamated to form the Health, Safety and Environment Committee, an Executive sub-committee with broad representation from across the University community, 1997.
  • Appointment and introduction of School/Service Environment Officers across the University to champion the new HS&E Policy, 1998.
  • Approval gained for the introduction of an integrated Health, Safety and Environment Policy Statement and Codes of Practice covering a wide range of HS&E matters, 1998.

Environmental Policy and Action Plan

The university’s first serious excursion into the sphere of environmental responsibility and sustainable practice was formalized following the first “Toyne Report on Environmental Responsibility” in 1993. Professor Toyne wrote the report after chairing a Committee established by the Government Department of Education to investigate the potential for greening higher education. The Environmental Policy and Action Plan (EPAP), which was established in 1994 to fulfil the recommendations of Toyne I, became the stimulus for a number of critical decisions made by the Executive in the years that followed.

Toyne I recommended there should be a review after three years. Thus Toyne II was published in July 1996. In a critical step forward, a full time Environment Officer was appointed to spearhead the remaining implementation of the EPAP as it became clear that projects required coordination on a regular basis. The Officer was also charged with developing a communications strategy to raise awareness of sustainable practices. This strategy included planning the seminar called “Managing for Environmental and Cost Savings,” aimed at Senior Management; launching the website and “Greenfile”; and creating steering groups to broaden the sustainability debate. The Officer also established an Environmental Management Unit (EMU) to carry out the recommendations of Toyne II.

The EMU, with an allocated budget, was then positioned to conduct a comprehensive study aimed to determine the adequacy of existing policies, systems and procedures in relation to environmental and sustainability issues, legislation and changing circumstances.

Environmental Review Process

In January 1997, the EMU brought together a small in-house group of Senior Managers to form an Environmental Review Team (ERT) and oversee the review process. The ERT, chaired by the Assistant Bursar (Finance), was composed of key representatives from Operational Services, Estates Management, Audit Services and Financial Services together with a member of the Academic staff with environmental management experience and the Environment Officer who was appointed overall co-ordinator for the Review.

Initial preparation by the ERT consisted of determining the scope of the Review and determining the personnel who would contribute to the review process. Methods of gathering information were to include formal questionnaires, checklists, interviews with a range of key personnel, and general observation. The ERT established the following objectives:

Key Objectives of the Review:

  • Produce a management tool which evaluates the policies and practices within the organization.
  • Make recommendations for further action in areas identified as lacking environmental consideration.
  • Raise awareness and understanding of environmental issues and of the need for commitment to the process of environmental improvement.

Reporting and Publicizing the Environmental Review

The inaugural Environmental Performance Report (EPR) 1997, launched in September, represents the University’s commitment to accountability through the disclosure of actual performance against stated policy objectives. Moreover, it establishes the University’s intentions for continual performance improvement and describes how this is to be achieved.

It was agreed that the report should be professionally presented for the widest possible circulation with the greatest effect, and written for all potential audiences – students, staff, stakeholder groups, other UK and foreign higher education institutions.

Following extensive consultation and many redrafts by the Environment Officer, 4000 reports were printed, the majority of which were distributed internally. Other recipients included 200 suppliers, contractors and associates of JMU, local schools and colleges, Vice Chancellors and Principles from all UK higher education institutions, and all 250 Talloires Declaration signatories (see Resources section to view report on website).

Highlights from the Environmental Performance Report

JMU is fulfilling many of its policy goals in all areas of campus operations. In Energy Conservation, the University has established an ongoing energy management program which has performed an energy audit for all University buildings; completed ten specified energy conservation projects; conducted a University-wide energy awareness campaign including good practice publications and training seminars; developed and promoted Energy Conservation Task Groups; and re-negotiated utility contracts. As noted above, JMU was given three energy efficiency awards by utility companies between 1994 and 1997.

In the area of Waste Management and Reduction, a Waste Management Steering Group was established in 1997 in response to a December 1996 report entitled “Wastebusting – Reducing the Waste Burden at JMU,” produced by the Environmental Management Unit. This group immediately addressed the report’s recommendations. First, it was agreed that reduction of waste bound for landfill was a priority. Second, in acknowledging that paper constituted a significant percentage of University waste, recycling initiatives were established.

Paper reduction initiatives have been supported by the transfer of various institutional publications, such as the staff and student handbooks, to the Campus Wide Information System (CWIS). Many University handbooks and other procedural documents are now only available on the CWIS. A recycling scheme to collect computer consumables such as ink and toner cartridges has been introduced into all University learning resource centers and Information Technology suites. In 1995, the Academic Board agreed on a policy to allow all printed coursework, including theses, to be submitted on double-sided printed paper. The use of the double-sided printers has been encouraged and they have started to replace old printers. A strict policy of double-sided printing and copying was then introduced in to the Print Office. A Waste Audit and Review of procedures is currently underway.

The JMU Food Policy includes the following goals: to make healthy, nutritious and ethnically sensitive food generally available at all University catering outlets; to purchase foodstuffs from local suppliers wherever possible; to maximize use of organically grown foodstuff; to minimize energy usage in the preparation and cooking of food; and, to minimize the packaging of foods at catering outlets. JMU is making significant progress in meeting these goals. Recent changes include in-house production of refectory sandwiches which had previously been brought in, and an increase in vegetarian options at food services.

JMU’s policy on Purchasing states: “In purchasing its services, materials, equipment and consumable items, the University will give preference to products which do least harm to the environment, which are not supplied with excessive packaging, and which are benign or at least harmless in their effect on the environment. Where possible preference will be given to local or regional suppliers to maximize the University’s input to the local community.” Currently, JMU requires suppliers of furniture and computer hardware (over ten units) to take away packaging after delivery and installation. Cleaning solution containers are also disposed of or refilled by suppliers. JMU plans to hold an awareness event to teach product awareness among purchasers in March 1999.

JMU’s policy on Transport and Commuting includes a commitment to purchasing fuel efficient University vehicles and minimizing damaging emissions; encouraging walking, bicycle use and public transport among the University community and between campuses; and a campaign for cycling paths linking campuses and other student facilities. In July 1997 a Transport and Commuting Steering Group was established in response to a number of transport concerns. This group is primarily concerned with fostering less student and staff dependence on cars by providing attractive and sustainable options. The Steering Group’s first task was to facilitate the introduction of a shuttle bus service linking the main University campuses and buildings. JMU also contributed to the Liverpool City Council’s cycling strategy in 1997 and then established a University strategy to complement the local plan which includes improved bicycle parking facilities and interest-free loans for staff to purchase bicycles. A University Travel Survey was conducted in February 1999. (Not included here are achievements in the areas of the Built Environment; Health, Safety, Welfare, and the Learning Environment; Greening the Curriculum; plus a recent initiative in Education for Citizenship – see website for more information.)

Meeting the Objectives of the Review

The key outputs of the Review were met and exceeded. Feedback on the content and format of the Environmental Performance Report (EPR), both from JMU students and staff and from other institutions engaged in the process of implementing the recommendations of ‘Toyne I & II’ was complimentary and encouraging and has added credence to the whole environmental review process. The experience of producing an EPR achieved a number of tangible benefits for the institution as well as continuing debate over the role of colleges and universities in environmental responsibility and sustainable practice.

The production of an EPR has provided an opportunity to promote positive and practical solutions to environmental concerns; acknowledges the vital contribution made by a number of key ‘champions’ within the organization; allows the assessment of performance against a set of target indicators; and highlights the need for sustained efforts to raise awareness and encourage cooperation across the organization if policy statements are to be transformed into reality.

John Blythe is the Environment Officer at Liverpool John Moores University. He can be reached at a.j.blythe@livjm.ac.uk. Wynn Calder coordinates outreach and membership and edits The Declaration for ULSF.

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