October 2023

Sustainability blog | How we are playing our part in climate action

By Ashlea Mallett I Sustainability Manager

Share post:

Read time: approx 7 mins

Course content, university reputation, industry opportunities, location. All huge motivators for potential students making their uni choices. But increasingly, an institution’s approach to climate action is weighing heavy on students’ minds.

According to the national Sustainability Skills Survey 2022-23, 89% of students want their place of study to actively incorporate and promote sustainable development. And, rather tellingly, 2023 was the very first time sustainability impacted Clearing, entering the top 10 list of considerations of those looking at going through the UCAS system to secure their university place.

Higher education institutions across the globe are taking a good look at their procedures and practices, from the cutlery in their cafes to the cultivating of their curriculum, to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything they do.

When it comes to the future of the planet, the stakes and challenges are high and at University College Birmingham, we are working hard to make a difference, from decarbonisation to reducing waste and combating pollution. We know how important it is to you that we not just talk about it, but act.

Key to this is our evolving sustainability strategy, which we have been working on with regional sustainability champion Sustainability West Midlands for the past few years. This is all supported by a detailed roadmap of the priority areas we can improve on to meet some wide-ranging goals around travel, buildings and energy, as well as embracing the circular economy through the promotion of sustainable procurement and reuse. It’s safe to say, we are on a mission. We have three areas of focus:

Photovoltaic panels on the roof of Moss House


The first is campus, from bringing food waste right down (especially as we have a renowned college of food) to re-evaluating our IT strategy (we are in the process of completely overhauling everything from our computers to our printers to make everything more energy efficient).

Our campus buildings are also being future-proofed, while Moss House and McIntyre House have already won awards for their sustainable features. The new Sustainable Construction Skills Centre at the James Cond building is something quite special, not only being retrofitted, but gearing up to teach vital skills that are needed to build in far more planet-friendly ways.  

Our campuses

Construction students at our retrofitted skills centre


Then there’s curriculum, a crucial ‘C’ when you consider that 82% of students taking part in the Sustainability Skills Survey said they would like to see sustainable development actively incorporated and promoted through all courses and 67% want to learn more about sustainable development.

We already support sustainability-focused modules within courses, wherever possible, and will be building on these this year. These include Sustainable Aviation Practices through to Gastronomy and Sustainable Food Management. 

Our engineering and construction courses are firmly centred around sustainable building practices and feature production line technology to renewable energy simulators, rigs and specialist software for training learners in skills that support employers and their supply chains.


Finally, community. For instance, by partnering with a local company, all our campus waste is either separated for recycling or treated and processed into energy to assist in providing electricity to around 30,000 local homes.

Lecturers from our Birmingham College of Food are also key advisers on the Birmingham Food System Strategy from the Department of Public Health for Birmingham City Council.

We also sponsored the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce Sustainable Business Series for the first time this year, helping SMEs and bigger companies implement more sustainable practices into their business. Whatever the focus, however, it’s only achievable if we all play our part.

Read about the Sustainable Business Series

How students can be more sustainable

As Dr Seuss’ Lorax once sagely said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” The good news that if you want to play your part, there are some easy ways you can reduce your own carbon footprint as a student.

  • Use reusable bottles, biodegradable cups and metal straws
  • Separate waste - we have bins for food waste and recyclables
  • Cycle to campus – we have a bike shed behind Summer Row and a new one coming to The Link! Speak to Finance to get access. Birmingham also a great public transport system
  • Turn appliances and devices off properly rather than leaving on standby. And dim your monitor - dimming from 100% to 70% saves up to 20% energy

Join our student sustainability forum!

If you are one of our students and have any ideas and suggestions of ways we can tackle climate change, reduce environmental impacts and drive positive influence, why not join our higher education sustainability forum, which you can access via Canvas on the portal. We would love to hear from you.

Get involved

We also have a further education sustainability forum for college students.

Ashlea speaking at a local green week event

Show your support and improve your sustainability knowledge

You can also get up to speed on sustainability by supporting our own events and campaigns, as well as those in the community, including Brum Goes Green Week. We also have a sustainability stand at WelcomeFest (our freshers' event), where students can pick up free items made from sustainable materials from small, local businesses, including biodegradable sponges and soap. 

Find out more about sustainability at University College Birmingham. If you'd like to contact our sustainability team, email sustainability@ucb.ac.uk

*Ashlea, one of our Business Enterprise graduates, grew up on the coast of Portugal and spent most of her time working on boats and with horses, engraining in her a deep love and respect for the natural environment. She returned to the University as our Sustainability Manager in 2023 to support our sustainability steering board, leading on and implementing sustainable measures and practices as part of our wider sustainability strategy. 

Read Ashlea's story

Did you know?

The sustainability manager is set to be one of the defining job titles in the coming years, with LinkedIn Jobs’ annual research suggesting it is the second fastest-growing role in the UK. In 2022, sustainability manager ranked in seventh place, highlighting the growing focus businesses of all sectors are placing on this job role. This year, it moved up five places, the research shows.

But whatever profession you choose, whether it is engineer, nurse, teacher, chef, cyber security expert, events manager, psychologist, sports coach or virtually anything else, sustainability is sure to be embedded in the role. We can help you navigate your future career to tackle global concerns, whatever industry you're in.

Contact Hired, University College Birmingham's employability, careers and placements team, to find out more about how they can support you in your future career choices.

Contact Hired

Back to top