The University of Chester is celebrating recognition of its environmental initiatives in the higher education sector’s Green Gown Awards.
The university’s Hospitality and Residential Services team came first in the Food and Drink category, in which it was commended for its wide range of environmental and sustainability initiatives.
These have been undertaken through the key areas of food procurement and waste, packaging, and catering equipment.
Hospitality services, the department responsible for feeding the entire university, was recognised for the crucial role it plays in contributing to the institution’s sustainable future and how it seeks to lead by example.
The team has also replaced disposable polystyrene takeout boxes with a recyclable ‘eco takeout box’, thus avoiding thousands of containers from going to landfill.
This initiative was particularly singled out for mention by the awards’ judges, who said: “Chester won because of the Eco-Box project, supported by an excellent holistic sustainable food approach.
“Holistically, Chester’s sustainable food based work is excellent, whether it be curriculum projects, energy savings or work with community. The judges were both excited by the achievements of Eco Box and its future potential.
“Eco Box is a game changing project not only for universities and colleges, but the hospitality sector as a whole. The mechanism to return the box for a washed one is brilliant.”
Ian White, the University’s domestic bursar and director of hospitality and residential services, said: “This is great news for the university, and for our hospitality services team in particular.
“Given that we feed approximately 40,000 people a week, students staff and visitors, we take our environmental initiatives extremely seriously and are mindful of any opportunities to recycle and avoid waste. We are particularly proud that our Eco Box initiative was deserving of a special mention.”
In the Research and Development Student category, Alex Lerczak, from Winsford, was highly commended for his MSc project, which investigated the perceptions of staff and students within six departments.
He interviewed staff about their attitudes to sustainability, student projects and the establishment of a teaching and research sustainability focused network.
His research was instrumental in catalysing a period of curriculum change at the university, and he achieved a distinction for his work.
The judges said: “This project shows a powerful link between student research and curriculum initiatives, and offers potential for further work and embedding.”
Alex added: “It was a privilege to attend the Green Gown Awards and receive the Highly Commended Award for my work about the University’s curriculum. It’s always great to have your hard work recognised and appreciated, especially when it’s on a national scale!”
Student Karen Elliott, who graduated this year with a BSc in Geography, was also a finalist in the Sustainability Champion category.
Karen, from Bembridge, Isle of Wight, spent her time at Chester dedicated to helping others learn about sustainable matters, and to encouraging colleagues to think and act more sustainably in everyday life.
She was a key volunteer for Green Chester (a University-wide environmental initiative), gaining over 150 volunteering hours in the process.
Professor Tim Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, added: “Our Green Gown Awards are evidence of how seriously we take sustainability at the University of Chester, and we have worked hard to embed it into all aspects of our activities.
“In particular, winning the Food and Drink award celebrates the stalwart achievements of our hospitality services.
“I applaud the team’s successes in reducing the amount of food waste going to landfill, and saving the environment from the debris of 78,000 polystyrene boxes, as well as other creative and empowering initiatives. Similarly, the recognition given to Alex and Karen proves the hard work of our students, and our staff, and demonstrates the impact that their work has had on this institution.”
More information about the Awards can be found at www.greengownawards.org/2016-finalists .