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University of Sheffield - Low carbon behaviour change

As a participant on the Carbon Trust’s collaborative low carbon behaviour change programme, the university developed a behaviour change campaign to deliver cost-effective and sustained energy and carbon saving across their organisation.

University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield was one of the participants on the Carbon Trust’s first collaborative low carbon behaviour change programme. The programme brought together ten public sector organisations from around the UK, including local authorities, statutory bodies, higher education institutions, and NHS Trusts. Over six months participants each developed a one-to-two year behaviour change campaign designed to deliver cost-effective and sustained energy and carbon saving across their organisation.

The University of Sheffield has nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, and over 6,000 members of staff. The University worked with the Carbon Trust in 2008 to develop a carbon management plan, and has held the Carbon Trust Standard for Carbon since 2009 certifying year-on-year reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the introductory sessions in the behaviour change programme participants were asked to run a targeted pilot before developing and designing a full campaign. The University decided to run a Labs Switch Off campaign targeting laboratories in twelve buildings. The Faculty of Science emits 43% of the University's carbon emissions, excluding residences and non-University owned buildings.

This campaign was designed to overcome identified behavioural barriers to energy efficiency savings. In particular there was uncertainty about what equipment could and could not be switched off without disturbing the work of others. Research staff also had a lack of understanding or engagement with the benefits of energy efficiency, and there was a hassle factor that prevented action being taken.

'Never turn off stickers' on SITraN water purification unit

Communications were sent from a faculty-level with details about the campaign, and an energy saving competition was held in the departments involved. A series of stickers were designed to be put on equipment, explaining whether they should be turned off when not in use, turned off at the end of the day, or left on all the time.

For the duration of the campaign week-by-week updates were provided of energy use, and league tables were produced for the competition. The winners were the Molecular Biology & Biotechnology Department that managed to reduce energy use by almost 10% - equivalent to making over quarter of a million cups of tea.

Working with the Carbon Trust we were able to develop a strategy for implementing a large-scale behaviour change campaign, prioritising the actions and audiences that would have the biggest impact on energy use. The results we have seen are a testament to the power of engaging the very committed staff we have across the University to do their bit to help us improve our environmental performance. We have been able to engage senior leadership and now have an active network of green champions.

Tim Allen, Environmental Project Officer at the University of Sheffield

University of Sheffield Arts Tower Blackout (before and after)

Changing Behaviour Saves Money

The Carbon Trust estimate that by investing between 1-2% of an organisation’s total annual utility bill to create a successful behaviour change programme, that could lead to savings of up to 10% in energy costs. Some of the common ways these savings can be achieved include:

  • Turning down heating by 1C can cut heating costs by 8%.
  • Turning off computers and monitors when not in use could save £36 per person per year.
  • Teleconferencing instead of travelling to a meeting could save £240 per person per year.

Since the successful pilot further campaigns have been run by the University’s Green Impact team, including an Arts Tower Blackout. This involved one of the more prominent buildings in the University, combining both academic and professional services departments, with a higher-than-usual amount of office equipment. With senior-level support, and using a series of volunteers, a concerted effort to switch equipment off over the weekend when not in use resulted in a 20% energy saving compared with an average of previous weekends.

The University estimates that in 2012/13 there were almost 2,000 people reached by campaign teams, and that a drive to encourage staff to switch lights off when leaving a room has potentially saved over 200 tonnes CO2 and over £30,000 a year. Over half of all University departments now have a staff volunteer or volunteers helping to green their workplace.

As a result of the work done during the Labs Switch Off campaign options are now being investigated for more detailed energy monitoring, going beyond a building level and looking at individual rooms or floors. Beyond this, thanks to the fact that Sheffield Hallam University was also participating on the low carbon behaviour change programme, discussions about collaborative approaches to behaviour change across both of Sheffield’s major universities are currently underway.

The University of Sheffield carries out vital research into sustainability. Our scientists and engineers work in interdisciplinary ways on such crucial areas as affordable renewable energy, food security, green buildings, and new approaches to planning and sustainable policy. But we also need to practice what we preach, and our care for the future of our planet sometimes begins very close to home

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield

Carbon Trust Approach to Behaviour Change

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Carbon Trust approach to behaviour change


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