Our commitment to the planet
Explore the environmental policies and sustainable procedures we have in place, and discover how they're making a real impact
One of our strategic priorities is to become one of the UK's leading universities in environmental sustainability.
To reach this goal, we will:
We’re aiming to become a climate-positive university by 2030. We’re one of only a handful of universities to set such an ambitious target.
By continually improving our sustainability practices, we’re working towards a low-carbon future to minimise our impact on the environment.
1. Achieve transformation through research
Our research is finding innovative and sustainable solutions to major issues threatening the future of our planet and the health of our environment.
Finding solutions through research
We’re already making a positive impact. Our researchers have developed a plastic-digesting enzyme that could help solve the plastic pollution crisis by breaking down plastic in days, not years. And our research is tackling other vital issues shaping the future, from climate change to low-carbon design. Find out more about our research into Sustainability and the Environment.
We're supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Our research impact is measured in relation to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as reported in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings 2022. The University of Portsmouth ranks in 3 sustainability categories*
- No. 17 in the UK for SDG14 Life Below Water
- No. 19 in the UK for SDG13 Climate Action
- No. 21 in the UK for SDG7 Affordable and Clean Energy
*These rankings are decided based on research, stewardship, outreach and teaching.
We're also ranked No. 25 in the UK for SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and No. 26 in the UK for SDG16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).
Innovative business partnerships
Our Clean Growth UK partnership – a pioneering network of forward-thinking green businesses – was a finalist in the Green Gown Awards 2021, which recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by UK universities and colleges.
2. Promote sustainability through civic leadership
Through strategic partnerships in the city, we’re promoting long-term environmental sustainability and raising the quality of life in our community.
Addressing climate change in Portsmouth
We’re working with our partners to assess the climate risks to our city via the Portsmouth Climate Action Board, chaired by Professor Steve Fletcher, Lead of our Sustainability and the Environment research theme. We also run Portsmouth Climate Festival in collaboration with the City Council.
Tackling plastic pollution
As a civic university, we're committed to supporting the local community through our research and activities. As part of Revolution Plastics, we’re working with partners to facilitate the city’s transition to a sustainable future, particularly in relation to plastic pollution and recycling. We’ve started a city-wide survey to map Portsmouth’s plastic litter and we’re working with Portsmouth Football Club to arrange beach cleans.
3. Partner with our students and staff on sustainability
We encourage all members of our community to live, think and work with sustainability in mind, and make positive changes by using less energy and water, reducing waste, and choosing sustainable travel options.
Supporting staff and students to take action
Sustainability is included in our staff induction to support staff in taking meaningful environmental and climate action in the workplace.
For students we also share guidance on how to live sustainably at university — like eating green and recycling in the city, including our specialist recycling points on campus. Our Students’ Union provides opportunities for students to help the environment via groups such as the Eco Society.
Sustainability focussed degrees
Many of our degree programmes directly provide students with knowledge and experience relevant to sustainability, such as BEng (Hons) and MEng Renewable Energy Engineering, and courses in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences. We're continually reviewing our curriculum to identify opportunities for our students to enhance their knowledge on sustainability.
Embedding sustainability into the curriculum
All aspects of society need to adapt to protect our planet. This is why we’re embedding environmental sustainability and leadership in other disciplines too. Many of our Business students can study the module 'Responsible and Sustainable Business', our Engineering students study the module 'Sustainable Development and Environmental Management', our English and Creative Writing students can study the module 'Ecocrisis in the Literary Imagination’, and our Fashion and Textiles students can take part in the PO1 Sustainable Fashion and Textiles project.
4. Deliver sustainability across all our operations
Our ambition of becoming a climate positive university by 2030 guides every aspect of our operations – from development of our campus and environmentally friendly catering to sustainable corporate systems and procedures.
We’ve already made progress:
- We've reduced our carbon emissions by 50% since 2009
- Our electricity is 100% renewable
- We've increased our recycling rate from 40% to 70% since 2011
- We’re aiming for all our new buildings to achieve ‘Outstanding’ ratings for sustainable design from BREEAM (the world’s leading sustainability validation and certification system) and ‘A’ rating for energy use and carbon emissions
- Our new Ravelin Sports Centre is one of the most sustainable sports facilities in the UK
- We currently waste only 2% of our food
- We’re eliminating single-use plastic from products sold in our campus cafes
- Our graduation gowns are made from 70% recycled polyester, which is manufactured from recycled plastic waste. Every gown contains a minimum of 550g of recycled plastic waste, which equates to around 30 plastic bottles (500ml). The other 30% is viscose for a soft finish.
Explore how we're making our campus sustainable
Since 2009, we've reduced our carbon emissions by 50%. We've achieved this through reducing our electricity, gas, water and fuel usage, and improving our waste disposal. We're continuing to pursue all opportunities to reduce our emissions and minimise our impact on climate change.
All our electricity is sourced from renewable supplies. We continue to install LED lighting solutions across our campus and have taken greater control of how we heat our buildings. This helps us reduce our emissions and continue to work towards our goal of becoming carbon positive.
Other sustainability initiatives include:
- Fitting lighting movement sensors in corridors, classrooms and offices
- Closely controlling heating provision
- Upgrading our heating boilers and electrical heaters
- Insulating plant room equipment
Throughout the year, we manage and monitor the environmental impact of our estate through our environmental management system.
We've been certified to the international standard for environmental management systems, ISO 14001, since 2012. And we’ve developed an institution-wide plan to achieve a sufficient level for monitoring and controlling our environmental impact.
To achieve the ISO standard, the following operations were rigorously audited: energy efficiency, carbon emissions, recycling, water management, construction, travel, biodiversity and catering. Our Environmental Sustainability Performance Report 2018–2020 provides an overview of these areas and we measure our carbon emissions. Our measured carbon emissions from the use of energy, water, vehicles and waste disposal are at their lowest since 2009–10.
Since 2011, we've increased our recycling rate from 40% to 70%.
Our recycling programme saves valuable materials from going to landfill and any non-recyclable waste is processed in an energy recovery facility to create electricity.
We monitor our waste at the university through microchip technology. Our wheelie bins are tagged, enabling us to collect data on the volume of waste and how often these are being emptied. Through this process we can calculate our recycling rates.
The more we recycle, the more money we save, and the less of an impact we have on our environment.
What happens to waste once it's collected?
We ensure all our waste is disposed of safely.
As part of our recycling programme at Portsmouth, we've installed separate bins for recycling, food, liquids and batteries. Any non-recyclable items are extracted by our contractor, Suez. Our waste material is sorted and processed via their materials recycling facility near Bristol.
The separated waste is then managed by different means. Food waste is anaerobically digested, while general waste (recycling contaminated with food or liquid) goes to a waste-to-energy plant.
At the University of Portsmouth we only use paper and board from sustainable and recycled accredited resources in our printed communications. The printers we use are accredited to environment management standards, and use lithographic vegetable based inks.
We use specialist finishes such as laminates, which are manufactured from sustainable wood pulp, and the print itself is fully recyclable.
If you would like to know more about our sustainable print please email email@example.com
Policies and objectives
Explore our policies and accreditations that relate to our environmental sustainability objectives at Portsmouth.
Can't find what you're looking for? Search all our policies and standards.
2020-21 Environmental performance report final
ISO 14001 Accreditation Certificate
Our sustainability team
Our Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Bernie Topham, chairs the University's Sustainability Strategic Delivery Group in collaboration with the Director of Estates and Campus Services and the Director of the Sustainability and the Environment research theme.
Our Energy and Environment Team consists of three professionals with a remit that covers sustainable travel, carbon management, environmental legislation compliance systems, energy, water and waste contracts, and associated budget and invoice management. The team includes:
- Ian McCormack, Energy and Environment Manager
- Marian Michalsky, Energy and Environment Assistant
- Shaun Slaymaker, Sustainability Co-ordinator
The team cover operational sustainability project improvements in the region of £200,000 annually.
There are a further eight staff and an external Advisory Council engaged with our Revolution Plastics initiative, which aims to find solutions to global plastic pollution.
Sustainability news and events
NewsView all news
Reusable packaging revolution is close - experts say
University of Portsmouth takes another step closer to becoming climate positive
New resource to help in the fight against climate change
Great leap towards finding solutions for a net zero carbon Portsmouth
‘Plastic-eating’ enzymes to be deployed to combat waste polyester clothing
EventsView all events
Find out more
Discover more about how we're developing our campus with award winning buildings and learn about our approach to sustainable food on campus.