UCC becomes first university in the world to secure five Green Flags

Celebrating the awarding of UCC’s fifth Green Flag are Mark Poland (UCC Director of Buildings and Estates), Deirdre O’Carroll, (An Taisce Green-Campus Manager), UCC President Prof. John O’Halloran, Dearbhla Richardson (UCCSU Environmental & Sustainability Officer) and Dr Maria Kirrane (Head of Sustainability and Climate Action).

University College Cork (UCC) has become the first higher education institute in the world to secure a fifth FEE Green Flag, which was raised on the university campus.

Universities across the world are assessed under eight criteria including environmental management and commitment to biodiversity, and a green flag is awarded when judges from An Taisce, on behalf of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), find that these standards have been met. In 2010 UCC pioneered a sector leading Green Campus programme which is student-led, research-informed and practice-focused with a strong commitment across the university.

The result has been been transformative change in UCC’s oeprations including:

  • Reducing its consumption of disposable cups by over one million units, thanks to the impacts of our 2023 Plastic Free UCC campaign,
  • Reduced food waste in campus restaurants by 18%,
  • Introduced a digital submissions and sustainable printing policy that has reduced printing numbers from over 19 million pages per year in 2018 to under 5 million pages last year,
  • Achieve an overall reduction in waste tonnage of over 40%,
  • Reduced energy consumption by over 21% across our most intensive buildings.

Not only the first to reach the milestone of five flags, in 2010 UCC was the first campus in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from the FEE.

Speaking at the Flag Raising Ceremony, Professor John O’Halloran (UCC President) said;

“We hope our actions help both inspire and support those seeking protect our environment. In the 14 years since our first Green Flag was raised, we have seen many more notable achievements and are proud to be recognised as a global leader in sustainability in higher education.  In 2018, for example, UCC was the first University outside of North America to be awarded a Gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. 

We are consistently ranked in the top ten “green” universities by the UI Green Metric ranking and in 2023 we were extremely honoured to be named the Global Sustainability Institution of the Year by the International Green Gown Awards”

UCC’s Sustainability and Climate Action plan commits to the university being net zero carbon by 2040 and a zero-waste campus by 2030. Professor O’Halloran also paid tribute to the students who have led the charge on making UCC a world leader in sustainability:

“Those students had seen the transformative power of the Green Flag at primary and secondary level and knew that its collaborative and continual improvement approach would have a radical impact at the university.  UCC’s Green Campus programme continues to be “student-led, research-informed, and practice-focused” and we are particularly proud of our student leaders here today, who continue to challenge us”.

Dr Maria Kirrane (Head of Sustainability and Climate Action at UCC) added;

“The programme has transformed UCC and placed sustainability at the core of everything that we do on campus.  These impacts can only be achieved by working collaboratively, being open to experimentation, and continually challenging one another to do better”.

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