Our environmental impacts explained

La Trobe University has taken another step towards reducing its environmental footprint in 2012, with results showing a range of improvements across campuses including a reduction in water use across the University by 11 per cent.

We also significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with staff business travel and the Bendigo campus recorded a 12 per cent reduction in commuting by car during 2012.

The findings are a part of the University’s third sustainability report, Building Futures.

La Trobe has been tracking and publicly reporting its social, economic and environmental impacts since 2010, and arguably produces the most comprehensive sustainability report published by a University worldwide.

‘We have made significant progress over the last year in minimizing our environmental impact,’ said Stephen Muir, Director, Sustainability.

‘These results  are the efforts  of many people across all faculties, divisions and campuses as more staff and students gain the skills and knowledge to address sustainability challenges in their work and daily lives.’

The report showed the University achieved its goals around energy and water consumption, but still faces challenges in the areas of recycling and waste reduction which failed to reach the University’s expectations.

‘While the University used considerably less paper over the last 12 months, championed by efforts to provide better online resources for staff and students, we fell short on targets for recycling and waste sent to landfill.’

‘Recycling rate of general waste dropped slightly from 25% to 24.6%,’ he continued, ‘although the volume of co-mingled recycling, which includes disposable coffee cups, glass bottles, aluminum and plastic containers, increased by five per cent.’ General waste sent to landfill increased by 7 per cent.

‘We have made meaningful improvements in key areas, but our environmental performance is measured on a continuum and there are always opportunities for further improvement’ he continued. 

‘Energy reduction across the University was supported by investing in more efficient LED lighting, staff efforts to turn off lights and equipment when not in use and conducting regular building audits.’

Building Futures details a number of other achievements:

1,390 furniture items provided to the University community for reuse

Green Building Council of Australia’s 5 Star Green Star design certification achieved for three La Trobe buildings

381% increase in video conferencing sessions scheduled between 2009 and 2012

92% of all purchased office paper from post-consumer waste recycled content.

In  2012, the Melbourne campus generated electricity from its own cogeneration plant. The plant, run by natural gas, produces fewer emissions than electricity purchased from the brown coal based Victorian grid.

The plant produced 25,216,710 KWh (90,780 GJ) of electricity last year, supplying the campus with 53 per cent of its energy. Of this, 25,545 gigajoules of electricity were exported to surrounding organisations and back into Victoria’s electricity grid.

Mr. Muir said as sustainability awareness grows, the University will be seeking new policies and projects led by students, staff, and the wider community.

‘We are committed to creating change that will see the University on the right path to addressing some of our and therefore our communities and the planets most pressing environmental issues.’

Read the full sustainability report Building Futures.

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