Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Green Impact Audits

Last week the University completed several days of auditing the different departments that had taken part in the Green Impact Universities project. The University's sustainability champions have spent the last six months implementing changes within their departments to bring about environmental improvements accross the Univrsity as a whole. Sustainability intern Stefano Maggi joined in the day of doing the audits at the Greenwich Campus and summarises the experience below:

Last Thursday and Friday, 5th and 6th May, the campuses of the University of Greenwich were audited for the Green Impact Universities scheme, a departmental accreditation scheme which encourages University staff to make changes at work in order to help reduce the negative impacts on the environment.

Collection point for used toner cartridges

As intern at the Sustainability Team of the University, I decided to take part in this interesting activity. I joined the team on 5th May, when the auditing took place at Greenwich and Avery Hill campuses.

During the morning, John Bailey, Adam White, myself and the other participants were introduced to the Green Impact project and trained by Joanna Romanowicz (Green Impact Project Officer at the National Union of Students) to ensure the quality of the auditing.

Collection for good on one side paper

The role of an environmental auditor is that to examine, check and evaluate the environmental performances of an organization through a semi-structured assessment. In practice, our task required us to visit University’s schools and offices in order to verify their actions in compliance with the Bronze and Silver Green Impact Workbook.

These workbooks provided us with the criteria that we used to evaluate the work of every department audited. Essentially, what we did was ask relevant questions for every criterion and request evidence to check compliances. Such evidence could take several forms like, for instance, communications sent to staff members, labelled bins, posters stuck on walls, printer settings, paper used in offices and so on.

The mentioned criteria refer to different environmental themes and issues of communications, recycling, electricity and energy, procurement and travel. When the criteria is not met, the auditor can issue a Compliance Action Request (CAR) which requires the department to address the outstanding issue and provide the auditor with suitable evidence within a week.

Office thermometer
Once the training was complete, we could begin the actual audit. John and Adam lefto to audit the Avery Hill Campus while Heather Lilliman, Joanna and myself took charge of auditing the Greenwich Campus.

We started with a collective assessment at the Accommodation Office of the Greenwich Campus after which I and Heather audited the Student Union, the ILS department and the Humanities and Social Sciences School. Throughout the auditing I could see that my University is really moving toward a more sustainable use of resources and a less harmful impact on the environment.

Posters promoting walk to work week and how to double sided print
For example, I noticed that most of departments/offices now induct new staff on significant green issues and encourage them to do their part from their first day of work. Furthermore, they make use of shut down plans, use stickers on light switches, draw up check-lists aimed at identifying energy saving opportunities and try to encourage colleagues to recycle. Finally, most of printers and photocopiers are currently set to duplex (double-sided printing) and the paper used is often recycled.

Environmental auditing training at the Medway Campus

So I can definitely say that the work of the Sustainability Team has been very effective so far and its members have been able to sensitize University’s staff awareness of environmental issues.

Personally, I found this opportunity very interesting since I could gain valuable experience and learn something new and useful. I am proud to study in such “green” academic institution and confident that the University of Greenwich will keep on improving and reach ambitious goals in the near future.

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