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Plymouth College of Art shortlisted for sustainability in Think Global Awards

With an active embrace of sustainability practices, the specialist art school was shortlisted alongside leading international organisations including Amnesty International and Sony.

Plymouth College of Art has been shortlisted for the CSR/Sustainability Transformation Award at this year’s international Think Global Awards, based on the college’s active embrace of sustainability best practices. The university-sector art school was shortlisted alongside leading international organisations including Amnesty International and Sony.

Recognising global success in individuals and organisations that span multiple industries and activities, this year the fifth annual Think Global Awards programme follows the theme of ‘Reimagining Culture’. With such an unprecedented recent shift in how the world operates, for 2022 the awards have chosen to spotlight the dramatic recent changes to our work life and how we interact with each other.

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Students and staff get involved in the 2019 Climate Strike in Plymouth

Nicky Turvey, Sustainability & Facilities Officer at Plymouth College of Art said: “We are continuously working to increase the energy efficiency of our buildings, facilities and courses; we are increasing the biodiversity and diversity of our planting schemes at all sites; we have successfully reduced our carbon footprint by 43%, and are working on increasing our recycling rates for all waste from classroom, to furniture, catering and workshop materials.

“We are not only embedding sustainability within our estate, we are making it a continually taught practice through the teaching and learning curriculum from Pre-Degree throughout to our Masters courses, in the classroom and through external live briefs. Plymouth College of Art is committed to sustainable best practice, which is driven through cross disciplinary collaboration by the students, academic staff, Students’ Union, professional services, our senior leadership team and Governors, and as a result, we are very honoured for this work to be acknowledged by being shortlisted in the Think Global Awards.”

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Plymouth College of Art

Harriet Moore, the college’s Students’ Union President said, “Sustainability is one of the core values of the Students’ Union, something we consider in everything we do. For example, we have transferred to using compostable mailers for any letters and merchandise parcels we send out. Being sustainable is incredibly important to our student body, which is why we recently added two Sustainability Representatives, one for Further Education and one for Higher Education, to ensure that students are able to put forward their ideas and suggestions, and work directly with key staff in the college to make a difference not just for our community but for the world. We’re even in the process of launching a collaborative monthly Sustainability Newsletter and annual Sustainability Week to celebrate and educate both staff and students.”

Working towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030, sustainability initiatives at Plymouth College of Art include moving to a 100% zero carbon renewable electricity tariff that’s reduced the Higher Education Institution’s carbon footprint by 43%. The college has rolled out a program to install eco-friendly LED lighting throughout its estate and installed solar pV installations to generate more electricity, have increased wall and roof insulation to reduce the amount of energy used to heat the buildings, and replaced single pane windows on campus with double glazing.

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Plymouth College of Art's Contemplative Garden

Last year Plymouth College of Art created a Contemplative Garden to promote the use of natural dyes by staff and students and to increase net biodiversity across the campus, as part of a project that is being extended this year through the introduction of subtropical plants across multiple sites and plans to introduce planters to make the city-centre site more hospitable to different varieties of bees. Last Christmas, we even started a new policy of renting sustainable Christmas trees.

Plymouth College of Art’s £8million Craft, Design and Fabrication workshop building employs a heat recovery system, drawing waste heat from the glass furnace and kilns situated in the open-plan studios, which then supplies space heating to the rest of the building to make it as self-sustaining as possible. The workshop also boasts mechanical ventilation with the latest systems, solar panelling on the roof and the building is BREEAM certified.

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Inside Plymouth College of Art's Craft, Design & Fabrication Workshop

The college actively recycles at least two-thirds of all waste generated in classrooms and offices, with a food waste collection in The Refectory, the college’s on site cafeteria, which is then composted. All the food served in The Refectory is locally-sourced, supporting local businesses and reducing unnecessary food miles and consumption of fossil fuels.

With a commitment to sustainability that extends to the curriculum level, last year Plymouth College of Art’s senior leadership team formally agreed on a Climate Emergency Declaration, committing to consider all future strategic decisions in light of their environmental impact and response to the international climate emergency. The staff Climate Change Action Group meets regularly to discuss and propose new initiatives. Plymouth College of Art is a partner in the Green Minds initiative, which aims to recognise the role of nature in shaping a healthy future and to put nature at the heart of Plymouth’s decision-making processes.

Many staff, students and alumni from Plymouth College of Art demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in their personal and professional practices, exemplified in Fab Lab Plymouth Principal Technician Ian Hankey’s recently launched Upcycled Glass Company CIC, which intends to implement a circular economy model and upcycle local waste glass (the majority of which cannot currently be recycled) into new glass suitable for use in handmade art and design products, utilising a mixture of new technologies, modern farming methods and historical glass mixing processes that go back to the 17th century.