Green Impact is the University of Cambridge’s environmental accreditation scheme, designed to support and encourage departments and colleges across the University in reducing their environmental impacts. The University is committed to making a positive impact through outstanding environmental sustainability performance, and this commitment is reflected throughout its policies.
The MRC Epidemiology Unit embraces the University’s vision and has adopted its Environmental Policy (pdf) as its own. The Unit is working to reduce its environmental impact and improve sustainability by saving energy, reducing its carbon footprint and minimising waste.
Green Impact Group (GIG)
In 2013 the MRC Epidemiology established the Green Impact Group (GIG). This is a multidisciplinary team comprising individuals from both the Research Programmes and specialist Research Operations Teams. The group meet regularly to review the Unit’s environmental actions.
They have participated in the Green Impact Award since 2013 and have achieved Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum awards for the Unit as a whole and for the Unit laboratory.
In 2017 GIG achieved the new Excellence Award where the focus was on two strands:
- Working with the unit IT Team reducing the carbon footprint of IT Infrastructure in the unit, through replacing and consolidating energy and resource inefficient server. The project also aimed to cut down on the need for site-to-site travel.
- Implementing a centralised printing system that replaced old inefficient individual printers with a more energy efficient secure printing system, causing less wastage.
In autumn 2019 GIG undertook a recruitment drive and increased their numbers from three people to 11. To date (April 2021) we have 13 members comprising both staff and students. Despite the challenges faced by the group as a result of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, the team managed to complete the Silver award for the Unit in 2020 following a comprehensive audit.
In 2021 the Unit received the Green Impact Platinum award, recognising that the team “…has been incredibly successful in implementing sustainability practices despite most of the staff currently working from home” .
GIG regularly updates its staff and students of useful resources and events occurring within and outside of the Unit via the Green Impact noticeboard and electronically via Unit newsletters and bulletins. Over the last few years the Unit has made some significant changes to improve our environmental impact such as:
- Removing all plastic one-use cups and replacing with glasses in the research departments and reusable plastic cups in the testing suites.
- Replacing all communal tea, coffee and sugar with either Fairtrade products or using companies that have a strong commitment to sustainable and responsible production whilst supporting communities and local producers.
- Offering and updating mixed use, battery and printer cartridge recycling facilities in line with specific recommendations by NHS trusts at Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely and North Cambridgeshire Hospital in Wisbech.
- Reducing and modernising the number of printers in the Unit (see Excellence Award above), introducing pin number entry and making double sided printing default within IT applications.
- Adoption of the University Environmental Policy in order to purchase energy efficient appliances such as food fridges and dishwashers.
-700c Freezer modernisation programme
The University has recently signed a lease for a light-industrial unit at Cambridge Research Park. The building is being transformed into a modern laboratory facility focused on efficiently storing samples for human research studies and trials. The new laboratory operation will significantly reduce travel time and associated costs of storage because of the technology used in the facility and proximity to the Cambridge Biomedical Research Campus.
The Unit also has a separate project where it is working with the University of Cambridge Estates Division to reduce the environmental impact of ultra-low temperature freezers. We aim to significantly reduce our carbon emissions through the combined use of new technology and laboratory operations that embed environmental objectives within our operating strategy.
The laboratory team is currently recording the energy usage of the current system and comparing this data with the new site once established and operational. A report will be submitted to the University of Cambridge Green Impact team in 2022 for an Excellence Award to acknowledge the significant benefit this development will have on the Unit’s environmental impact.