An investigation into environmental sustainability in third level colleges in Ireland
The global drive toward sustainability is well under way. Academic institutions have an important role to play in this shift towards sustainability. Third level educational establishments, as part o f the wider public sector in Ireland, are now expected to become exemplar organisations, leading the way in environmental sustainability. As someone who works in an Institute o f Technology in Ireland, I have taken a keen interest in the linkage that exists between the demands and targets that are being set for the wider public sector in relation to energy efficiency and environmental sustainability, and the response o f the individual institutions concerned. Many individual environmental protection measures are being adopted by colleges and universities; however, a more systematic approach to achieving environmental sustainability and reducing environmental impacts o f their activities is preferable. This thesis sets out to establish whether or not third level colleges in Ireland are in fact embracing environmental sustainability or if they are exemplar organisations. It also seeks to establish what the drivers and benefits o f environmental sustainability are for the sector and what barriers exist to achieving the goal o f environmental sustainability. It does this by performing a comprehensive literature review, and by presenting the findings o f a comprehensive college campus environmental sustainability survey targeted at the Institutes o f Technology in Ireland. The survey clearly shows that despite the existence o f many individual environmental sustainability initiatives throughout the sector, there is a distinct lack o f any formal systems to address these issues, despite the clear evidence that such systems have many benefits. The other barriers to achieving environmental sustainability that emerge from the survey include human, financial and technical resource constraints and senior management leadership. This work recommends that colleges should adopt a formal Environmental Management System, with the An Taisce Green Flag College system being recommended as the m ost appropriate route for a third level college in Ireland to take to achieve the goal o f campus environmental sustainability. It incorporates all o f the elements o f a traditional environmental management system in addition to curriculum development and the involvement o f the w ider community.
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