A new environmental policy has been passed by Council, after it was supported by over 1,300 signatories. That is nearly more than the turnout for this year's sabbatical elections and around 400 more than those who voted for John Collins last year.
The paper sets out a number of aims, including:
- Reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2009 and achieve carbon neutral status by 2012.
- Reduce waste sent to landfill by 50% by 2010.
- Reduce water consumption via water conservation techniques.
Carbon Emissions and Tours
Every term the Union makes funding available for "tours", where clubs take an excursion to somewhere out of the area of their normal activity. Rough calculations have shown that the majority of ICU's carbon footprint is as a result of tours, specifically air travel associated with them. Indeed, one trip by the rugby team accounted for almost one quarter of all carbon emissions of tours and around one eighth of the total emissions of the organisation as a whole. In all, approximately 240 tonnes of carbon are added to the atmosphere as a result of these trips.
A key part of the environmental policy is a new incentive to take the train rather than the plane, as was the case with the rugby team. The paper defines two zones, based on journey time by train, where subsidy for flights would be reduced. In zone 1 no flights will be subsidised at all, with train travel subsidised at the standard rate of 32%. Of course, should the plane prove to be 32% cheaper than the train then this provides no incentive. In zone 2 flights will be subsidised at 16%, with trains remaining at the standard rate of 32%.
There is some doubt over the green credentials of high-speed trains, particularly in the UK where electricity is supplied by gas or coal. In France, however, carbon emissions due to the Eurostar and other TGV services are greatly reduced due to over 80% of the electricity coming from nuclear power stations.
The use of on-site renewables and carbon-neutral technologies is recommended where feasible, as another measure of reducing an estimated 140 tonnes of carbon emissions due to the building itself.
The policy also calls for an end to disposal skiffs, paper or polystyrene plates and plastic cutlery, preferring a reusable solution instead. Hard-wearing plastic skiffs are recommended, with real plates and metal cutlery making a comeback. The last time it was tried, the metal cutlery mysteriously disappeared, presumably into the rooms in Beit Hall somewhere.
Also included are provisions for improving recycling provision and a composting scheme for waste from catering. This can presumably be used to fertilise the new plants which have sprung up in Beit Quad.
A reduction in water use forms yet another part of this wide-ranging environmental policy, with aerated shower heads and cistern dams featuring amongst a number of water reduction methods.
New toilets constructed as part of the ongoing building redevelopment are expected to feature the latest water-reduction technology, with infra-red sensors and percussion taps reducing flushing of urinals and water left flowing when not required.
A "grey water" solution is suggested, were rainwater is collected and used to flush toilets. This is somewhat controversial, as the cost of adding this to the existing building has been described by the architects of the redevelopment as quite high.
In the same council a Fairtrade policy was passed, bringing Imperial one step closer to "Fairtrade University" status.