University sees sustainability as just “eco-bling”



One of the main aims of the University’s long-term plan has been criticised by an Emeritus Professor for Sociology in a study comparing the University’s sustainability credentials.

Professor Colin Campbell, in conjunction with the University’s Sustainability Forum, has criticised the University’s record on sustainability and suggested that York is “so far behind the curve”.

Professor Campbell says he was told the University see sustainability as just “eco-bling” and that it is something “they don’t go into”, whilst also being dismissive of York’s drop to 83rd in the Green League last year.

“The University is missing a great opportunity to advertise themselves as green and be a role model – but they are not and it is such a waste.”

Phoebe Cullingworth, YUSU Environment Officer

Although sustainability is cited as one of the four key aims for the next ten years in the University’s 2009-2019 plan, the Sustainability Forum’s study states, “the University of York lags behind the best performers in the sector” and suggests that an “ambitious programme of action is called for”.

Elizabeth Heaps, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Estates and Strategic Projects emphasised that: “The University Plan gives equal prominence to sustainability, excellence, inclusivity and internationalisation.”

“As always, universities are at different places in their evolution on sustainability as in other areas, such as excellence and inclusivity where we are highly regarded.”

The University has appointed two Sustainability Champions – Elizabeth Heaps and Alastair Fitter – to help implement sustainable action; however, Professor Campbell has questioned the determination for sustainable policies as “Elizabeth Heaps already has a job as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Estates and Fitter is semi-retired.”

“This does not show the greatest commitment to sustainability by the University. It needs the Vice-Chancellor to kick-start it [sustainability], but it can’t happen without resources being allocated. Other key aspects of the University Plan have a dedicated office – but not sustainability.”

Phoebe Cullingworth, YUSU Environment and Ethics Officer, commented that she felt “angry” at the University’s approach to sustainability.

“The University is missing a great opportunity to advertise themselves as green and be a role model – but they are not and it is such a waste.”

The comparative study of universities and their record on sustainability states that the best opportunity for York to become ‘greener’ was in the building of the new Heslington East campus. But according to Professor Campbell, “Goodricke [College] wanted a green roof and solar panels but was told no because of finance” and no building has achieved an environmental assessment rating above ‘very good’, even though universities such as Lancaster have “nine excellent ratings and one outstanding”.

Heaps claims that the University was not able to achieve an ‘excellent’ assessment rating because: “Developing on a green field site with no existing infrastructure makes many renewable targets unachievable and some are outside our control.” However the sustainable study states that an ‘excellent’ rating “can be obtained under these [Greenfield site] circumstances.”

The study has come under criticism from Heaps who claims: “It was produced without consultation with key departments and sections in the University (such as the Energy Management Group and Campus Services) whose day job includes delivering improvements in reducing our carbon foot print (for instance), and contains many factual inaccuracies.”

However the study outlined that it only examined published data in order to fully compare all institutions and Professor Campbell suggests that because: “[You] can’t find any information on the website; they don’t regard it [sustainability] highly.”

“Other universities are advertising themselves as ‘green’ to attract students, but York needs a huge effort to catch up – the bar is being raised all the time.”

A University spokesperson added: “A draft new sustainability strategy for the University was approved in principle by the Senior Management Group earlier this month.” However, Cullingworth stated that while the University has approved the draft plan, “they keep putting the formal meeting about it back.”

“It is all hot air and waffle. The University is a laughing stock because they don’t seem to see it as important, whilst students do.”


  1. I like the use of the Coventry University Hub as the image for this article. It seems very relevant.

    The incorrect crediting of a copyrighted (and thus not supposed to be used by just anyone for anything, even if you give credit) image is a nice touch, too. Kudos.


  2. That’s a slight improvement. Still not properly attributed, but at least you’re not blatantly violating copyright this time. I’m glad you at least take my snide comments into consideration and better yourselves through them.

    You guys really need to train your writers in the use of copyrighted imagery, and how to find images that you’re legally allowed to use. It really isn’t difficult.


  3. V do you not have anything better to do with your time than criticise student media. Articles are written by students so obviously they aren’t going to be perfect. You also have to consider people volunteer to work for student media while fulfilling other commitments including their degrees.


  4. I don’t expect perfection, but at least some level of professionalism should be expected by these papers.

    If I, a mere bystander can spot these mistakes, why can’t the person who actually writes the article do the same? This may be very presumptive of me, but I’d assume that people who participate in student media either enjoy it thoroughly or wish to pursue a career in it (or both). As such they should be eager to learn more about how to be proper journalists and follow the proper protocols.

    Here’s a fun, completely unrelated post from the BBC news editors: