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Climate Action - Footprint

How we're tackling our organisational carbon footprint, and how you can get involved.

The Climate Action Framework

In May 2020 the University declared a Climate Emergency and announced 11 Climate Action Framework Principles which commit it to Net Zero Carbon by 2040 in Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.


  • The University of Bath has declared a Climate Emergency
  • 11 Climate Action Framework (CAF) Principles guide its response
  • These principles are a whole institution response, addressing the University's response to the climate emergency in its core mission – education and research, alongside its responsibilities as an organisation
  • The principles commit the University to being Net Zero Carbon by 2040​
  • The University reports on progress towards the CAF Principles every year
  • The University of Bath was the first UK university to have a Carbon Management Plan and sign up to the Green Chemistry Commitment
  • Despite significant growth in its campus, investing in new teaching, research and residential facilities, it has reduced its scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 35% (compared to 2005 levels)
  • The University sources 100% of its purchased electricity from renewable energy suppliers and generated 6.5% on campus in 2020/21
  • The Climate Action Framework will provide strategies for further improvements

Our carbon footprint


  • Gas, Fuels and Electricity - 11%
  • International Travel - 21%
  • Daily Commute - 5%
  • New Buildings - 18%
  • IT Equipment - 10%
  • Lab Equipment - 9%
  • Other Procurement - 18%
  • Catering - 2%
  • Investments - 3%
  • Other - 3%

Total carbon footprint 2019/20

The University has been measuring and reducing our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for almost 15 years, including gas, electricity and fuel consumption.

From 2019/20 we expanded our declared footprint calculation to include our Scope 3 emissions, covering commuting, business travel, everything we buy (procurement), and investments.

We have calculated a draft version of our 2020/21 carbon emissions of 103,000 tCO2e. When compared to the previous year:

  • This is a 11% reduction.
  • Scope 1 & 2 emissions increased by 24% (2,667t) due to the energy intensity of maintaining covid-safe working and learning environments.
  • Business travel emissions reduced by more than 95% (3,000t) owing to Covid-19. This is anticipated to bounce back in 2021/22, ideally to a lower level than before, owing to the carbon reduction objectives of the University’s revised Travel and Expenses Policy.
  • Building construction emissions reduced by approximately 40% (8,000t), predominantly caused by the completion of the main construction of IAAPS mid-year.

We continue to work to improve this footprint, covering both the quality of data in the analysis and even adding a few areas that we have been unable to calculate to date.

Meeting our carbon targets requires major reductions in the energy demands of our campus and buildings, supported by the provision or purchase of energy from renewable sources. To understand how the former can be achieved, we have commissioned a detailed heat decarbonisation study of our campus, funded through a £144,000 grant from the Salix Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund.

In 2021 we launched our first annual Climate Survey to understand our communities views on the approach we take as a University to the climate agenda, and their level of understanding on these issues.

Net Zero Carbon Campus Fund


Our carbon emissions come from every area of our activity across the University, and the solutions to these carbon reduction challenges will also come from across our community.

Our Net Zero Carbon Campus Fund (NZCC Fund), supported by the Alumni Fund, makes grants of up to £1K available to help our community reduce carbon emissions on campus.

All types of projects will be considered, including equipment, research, influencing behaviour, communications campaigns and delivering infrastructure; as long as the project contributes to reducing the carbon emissions of the University.

NZCC fund information and how to apply

Sustainable Energy

Our priority will always be for demand reduction, as the greenest energy is that which is not used in the first place​. However we try and make the energy we do need to consume as clean as possible.


Grid electricity​

All of our on and off-campus electricity is bought through a ‘green’ renewables tariff.​

Solar photovoltaic electricity​

Our solar photovoltaic (PV) network generated 147,288 units of electricity in 2020/21.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation​

There are four CHP engines on campus​. They generated 1.6 million units of electricity in 2020/21. ​

They also generate heat that is captured and used on campus; this heat would have otherwise been wasted through conventional generation at a power station. ​

Over their lifetime so far these systems have now generated over 17 million units of electricity, saving a total of 6,000 tonnes of CO2 and £1.5m in costs.

Sustainable Travel


The University is working hard to ensure there are sustainable methods of commuting to campus through continuously seeking to improve bus services, cycling and walking infrastructure, in partnership with bus providers, and our local council.

We also run an electric bike lease scheme for staff, loan bikes for students, have electric vehicle charging points on campus and more. You can get more detail on some of these efforts here.

Interest-free loans are also available to assist eligible staff with the cost of public transport season tickets.

It’s worth noting though that the commute is only one small part of our footprint. The largest transport emissions come from staff and students undertaking long-haul flights, and so we’re beginning to explore how we can mitigate that whilst continuing to deliver an excellent learning experience for our students, and research environment.

Cycling and walking to the University
Students getting on a bus on campus

Campus Initiatives

Some of the steps our community takes to reduce our carbon footprint and be more sustainable.


Leave No Trace

In 2019, an Exchange cup scheme was introduced in the Pitstop and 4W café and has since been extended to all hospitality outlets on campus.

This scheme allows you to buy a reusable coffee cup for £2 or swap it for a token if you don't want to carry it around. This can then be used instead of a disposable cup, to help reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill. Using an Exchange cup or your own reusable cup gives you a 20p discount on your hot drink.

Munch Box, a food waste reduction initiative, allows students, staff and visitors to campus to bring their own container and buy surplus food for just £2.50. It is available in lime tree, Fountain Canteen and Sports Café at the end of hot counter service until the food has ran out.

For those items you can't re-use, there are recycling points on campus or you can arrange collection if necessary.

Student Switch Off​

Take climate action in halls this year through the University of Bath Student Switch Off campaign, each year typically 1500-2000 first year students sign up and pledge to behave in an energy efficient way.

Residents of Bath halls compete to save the most energy, water and recycle effectively. The winning hall is crowned the Student Switch Off champions and rewarded with an end of year prize as well other prizes given away during the competition. ​

Taking action on the climate crisis in halls has a huge impact. Last year as part of the campaign students in University of Bath residences saved over 379,499 kWh in energy which is the equivalent of making 11,859,344 cups of tea!​

How to take personal action in halls:​

  • Save energy by switching off lights and electrical appliances such as laptops when not in use. In the kitchen only fill the kettle with the water you need (the more you boil, the more energy you use) and put a lid on your pan to cook your food quicker.​
  • Save water by not leaving the tap running unnecessarily and reducing your shower time.​
  • Recycle well by segregating your waste and putting it in the correct bin. Buy items with less packaging where possible too.​

Get involved now! Find out more at the University of Bath Student Switch Off site including information on volunteering opportunities and competitions.

Pack for Good​

The end of term ‘Pack for Good’ campaign is run in conjunction with has, the Students’ Union, the Student Community Partnership, the local council and Bath Spa University. This campaign collects unwanted items from students as they move out of accommodation and donates them to charity. A total of £656,656 has been raised in Bath for the British Heart Foundation since the campaign began in 2012, diverting an estimated 375 tonnes from landfill, equivalent to 3,818,736 kg carbon emissions

Please consider the environment when making purchases during your time at the university and ask yourself whether it’s a necessity as hundreds of clothing items, kitchenware and food are donated to charity at the end of the academic year.

Fairtrade Clothing​

As part of our continued efforts to provide more sustainable options across campus, we have sourced a new supplier for our branded clothing.​

Neutral®, our new clothing supplier, uses 100% organic Fairtrade cotton and renewable energy to create high-quality, ethical clothing. Giving a better deal for farmers, workers, the planet and their wearers, Neutral® clothing is manufactured and certified according to the highest social, ethical and environmental standards in the world, ensuring that our branded clothing range is made with true regard for both people and planet.

Sustainable Buildings

At the University of Bath, we try to apply best practice in our construction projects to minimise their carbon footprint and make them as sustainable as possible.


We have used BREEAM (BREEAM - Sustainability Assessment Method) as an ‘eco-design’ process for buildings for many years. We have typically enhanced this with specific targets for energy and carbon efficiency which go beyond the standards required of us by the planning process. We also employ other best practice such as having Independent Commissioning Managers on the project design teams to act as validators for these targets for up to two years after completion of a building and thus implementing many of the industry best practice ‘Soft Landings’ approaches.

This approach has been used on the recently built Milner Centre and the Polden student residence. Both were built with enhanced insulation, with excellent airtightness, sophisticated lighting and controls, and natural ventilation where possible. Polden has an intelligent heating control system that allows user control of the electric heating with automatic shut off when rooms are empty or windows open, combined with a pair of small CHP (Combined Heat & Power) units providing hot water to the building.​

10 West and 4 East South were also built to high energy standards, with excellent levels of insulation and airtightness four times better than the building regulations demand. They have sophisticated heating and ventilation controls, and high-efficiency automated lighting.​

The Chancellors’ Building has solar panels on the roof and a mini power station that generates electricity on-site and recycles the waste heat – Sustainable power on campus.

The East Building uses a novel ‘concrete cool’ system called Termodeck® (thermal energy storage for energy-efficient buildings) to minimise energy use, and 4 West was the first building in the UK to use a similar German system.

The new School of Management is also being built to these standards. In addition, we have collaborated with our academic colleagues to complete a full embodied carbon assessment of the building which will be used to inform our approach going forwards.​

We have a history of significant collaboration with our academic colleagues to study our buildings, learn from the process, and share the findings to help make improvements with the construction industry in general – for example Bath Campus Building Energy Performance Evaluation​​.

Sustainable construction is a significant area of research - BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials ​such as the BaleHaus project, which evaluated the use of straw and hemp as basic building materials - Bath researchers develop houses with zero carbon footprint​.

We are now investigating the standards we need to build and refurbish our buildings to meet our new net-zero carbon targets. This is a significant challenge as we look across some of the older buildings on campus, but one that is shared with the rest of society – we hope our work in this area can provide wider lessons and learnings for us to share.​


Sustainable Procurement

How we work to make sure we buy goods and services sustainably.


Sustainable Procurement is defined by the HEPA (Higher Education Procurement Association) guide to Sustainable Procurement as:

The process of recognising the adverse and favourable environmental, social and economic impacts of purchased goods, works and services. It is a wide-ranging cradle-to-grave approach and should consider the entire supply chain rather than just the individual product or service.

As a new or returning student or staff member to the University, we suggest that when you buy anything on the University’s behalf, that you think before you act. A guide could be to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I really need this product/service at all?
  2. Is there an alternative that I can use that the University already has?
  3. If I do need to buy, only buy what I need. A bulk discount is cheaper per item, but overall, it is only cheaper if all the items are used.
  4. What is the embodied carbon* of the product/service and, if high, is there a suitable greener alternative at a similar cost?

Do not forget other responsible areas relating to the product/service, such as it being locally sourced, meeting modern slavery requirements, re-useability or recyclability, producing minimal waste, etc.

*Where embodied carbon is the lifetime carbon dioxide emissions occurring as a result of that product/service being manufactured/provided.


Get involved through the Students' Union

For students there are numerous ways to get involved and help make a difference in the fight against climate change.


The Students' Union​ (SU)

The SU is committed to the fight against the climate crisis. ​ In 2020, it declared a Climate Emergency alongside the University. ​

As an organisation it tackles climate change in different ways:​

  • through student-led campaigns and activities
  • by lobbying the University on their carbon commitments and the Climate Action Framework
  • by looking at the organisation and addressing the carbon footprint of The SU​

People and Planet​

People and Planet is a campus-based society, with links to the wider UK network. Its aim is to campaign for social and environmental justice.

Past projects include:

  • increasing plant-based food awareness
  • introducing food waste bins
  • creating a P&P podcast

Chemical Engineering Sustainability Group (CESG)

CESG is a student-led sustainability group, dedicated to raising awareness and making sustainable change in regard to energy consumption on campus. ​

Past projects include:

  • signing petitions calling for climate to be a top priority for the University
  • creating a beta version of the sustainability website
  • organising climate action related events ​

CESG plans to create a small team of STEM students to work on the LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency Framework Programme). It will be engaging with staff and students to develop additional metrics and monitor the carbon emissions from the department. It is also planning to work on making student spaces more energy efficient and propose additional measures to lower the carbon footprint of departments.

Engineers Without Borders​ (EWB)

EWB is a tight-knit community of individuals who are driven to make a positive impact on the world through innovation in fields such as engineering, design, electronics etc.

It hosts design challenges, workshops, and guest speaker talks on things such as doughnut economics, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Members become ambassadors for STEM and society as they join in running fun workshops in local classrooms and at science fairs.

The society also runs a number of trips such as an annual trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Wales.

Members from all backgrounds are welcome- you don't have to be an engineer to join EWB. Its vision is a world where people everywhere have equal access to the benefits of engineering.

Sustainable Architecture Society​

A group of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) students passionate about promoting sustainability in the curriculum and community through student-led action. Its aims are: ​

  • curriculum change - inspiring the department to put environmental, social and economic sustainability at the heart of the curriculum ​
  • intersectionality - developing a better understanding of sustainability and its intersectionality by exploring the relationship between the built environment and communities of colour, for example
  • inclusivity - creating an accessible and inclusive community that encourages collective sharing of resources
  • engagement - promoting and facilitating access to local and global sustainability-based events and creating our own around topics such as system change, climate justice and environmental racism

Sustainable Fashion Society​

The Sustainable Fashion Society is committed to bringing about change. While tackling the climate crisis can feel quite overwhelming, fashion is an area where students can make realistic and attainable changes to reduce their own carbon footprint.

The society provides opportunities for students to pursue their interest in fashion in a more sustainable way. Ultimately, it hopes to bring together people who share a genuine love of ‘clothes that do not cost the Earth’.

It hosts swap shops, with recent successful events including secondhand ballgowns to coincide with Ball dates and secondhand sports kit. Helping students save money, and reducing the environmental impact of clothing through re-use.

One Young World Bath​

One Young World identifies, promotes and connects the world’s most impactful young leaders to create a better world, with more responsible, more effective leadership.​

The One Young World Bath caucus is an opportunity to reconnect with Ambassadors from across the UK and meet new potential collaborators at the University of Bath. The event will also address a number of emerging issues such as the role big data can play in creating positive change. ​

Connect with One Young World Bath on Instagram: One Young World Bath (@oywbath) or contact Emily Richards.

Being an Academic Rep​

Academic Reps are the eyes and the ears of The Students’ Union and act as the bridge between The Students’ Union and The University. ​

Their core function is to represent their cohorts' voices by collecting feedback on the academic experience. ​Feedback is used to create positive change, ensuring your university experience is the best it can be.​

The SU has over 500 Reps representing all our students.


Carbon offsetting

We're taking a sector-leading position on carbon offsetting.


Carbon Offsetting is the process of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions arising from an organisation’s activity by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere e.g., sequestering carbon dioxide through growing new forest.

Offsetting can be a controversial area. To ensure high quality offsetting academics from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have developed the Oxford Principles for offsetting and EAUC Carbon Coalition scheme for Universities.

To ensure authentic carbon sequestration in line with the Oxford Principles, the University of Bath is trialling an offset mechanism through the EAUC Carbon Coalition scheme using the highest quality offsets recommended. Presently this only applies to travel related to Wellcome Trust funded research.

This involves a mix of 93% UK Woodland Carbon Code accredited offsets based on UK afforestation and 7% of Climework’s accredited offsets based on direct air carbon capture and storage. We have also mandated the use of a higher quality carbon calculator than Wellcome Trust requests to ensure the full climate change impacts of flights are captured.

As such the University of Bath is taking a sector leading position on offsetting for the Wellcome Trust, ensuring offsets are authentic, accredited and will actually sequester carbon in a meaningful way whilst supporting growth of new forest.