Environment and Sustainability

Paving the way for a more sustainable future

It’s becoming impossible to ignore the concerning effects of climate change, so it’s no surprise that zero carbon is at the top of everyone’s agenda – including ours. We all understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and supporting the sustainability of our environment and as a university, we recognise our impact.

From our estate to our teaching, learning and research, we are making a concerted effort to reduce our emissions, set green targets and put sustainability at the heart of our growth and development plans to ensure we are aligned to the UK’s strategy.

Trees in front of the University's Markeaton Street site
iconMore than 400 solar panels installed
iconUniversity successfully passed its ISO 14001 recertification audit
iconMore than 150 trees planted
iconShortlisted in the Green Gown Awards 2023
iconBean Fund initiative launchedby Union of Students to neutralise the impact the outlet’s takeaway cups have on the environment
iconBecame member of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance

On campus

Zero carbon by 2040

The University has a target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Earlier this year, we published our Carbon Management Plan, which outlines how we intend to reach this ambitious goal over the coming years.

Projects to reduce the University's carbon emissions are already under way. Over the past academic year, more than 400 solar panels have been installed across the University estate, 14 diesel vans have been replaced with battery electric vans, and 11 petrol cars have been replaced with battery hybrid cars. In addition, a device power saving policy which aims to reduce energy wastage from devices that are left on when not in use, has been implemented.


We have continued to maintain the ‘low mow’ and wildflower areas on campus and have developed a small wildflower area at our Devonshire Dome site in Buxton. Grass that is mown short has very little value to biodiversity. By sowing wildflowers or letting grass grow longer, we are helping to create valuable habitats for invertebrates, which in turn provide a food source for many other animals whose numbers are in decline, such as hedgehogs.

In addition, more than 150 trees were planted during the winter of 2022-23, including 50 fruit trees, creating an edible orchard on our Kedleston Road site that staff and students will be able to forage from in years to come. Nine birdboxes have also been installed.  

A new allotment space was also set up by the Union of Students at our Kedleston Road site, which student groups are using to grow their own vegetables. Next to the allotments, a wildlife pond has also been created to provide a much-needed water source on campus. It is hoped that this will be the first in a series of small wildlife ponds created to enhance biodiversity onsite.

Wildflower area outside the University of Derby's sport Centre
Wildflowers at the University's Kedleston Road site

Sustainable Food

The University has approved and published its Sustainable Food Policy, which commits to the responsible sourcing of products, maintaining its Fairtrade certification and minimising its catering waste.

As part of this commitment, food waste recycling has been rolled out across its sites in catering kitchens, staff kitchens and in circulation spaces. The food waste is now taken to an anaerobic digestion plant where it is converted into biogas and fertiliser, diverting it away from general waste where it would be incinerated.

Go Green Week

In March 2023, we held our annual Go Green Week, to raise awareness of what the University is doing to action sustainability and to get staff and students to think about the changes they can make to become more sustainable both at work and at home.

A series of activities and events were held, including a Sustainability Fair, litter picks, academic talks as well as hedgehog surveying. Climate literacy sessions were also delivered by colleagues in the Business School, which aimed to educate attendees on the science behind climate change and empower people to take action.

One of the most successful activities took place at the University’s Buxton Campus, where students helped to build insect hotels, hedgehog houses, hang flower baskets and sow poppy seeds. More than 30 students attended over the course of the day, providing them with the opportunity to spend time outdoors in nature and learn some valuable new skills.

Staff at the University smiling in atrium behind plant sale stand
Staff at the University holding a plant sale in the Atrium at Kedleston Road as part of Go Green Week

Sustainable Travel

During the 2022-23 academic year, the University has made significant strides in advancing its sustainable travel initiatives. Access-controlled cycle storage and equipped changing facilities with heated lockers have been installed, providing enhanced convenience for active travel users.

This advancement and ambition aligns with the University’s achievement of securing £800,000 in grant funding from Derby City Council.

This funding will facilitate the development of an advanced sustainable travel hub at the University’s Kedleston Road site, proposed to be operational in summer 2024. The hub will usher in a new era of active travel facilities for students and staff, enabling the University’s commitment in transforming the Derby campus with sustainable travel embedded throughout.

Awards and accreditations

The University successfully passed its ISO 14001 recertification audit in June 2023, demonstrating its continued commitment to reducing its environmental impact through its Environmental Management System. The University has also maintained its Responsible Futures, Fairtrade and Hedgehog Friendly Campus Awards.

In addition to this, the University was shortlisted for its biodiversity work in the Nature Positive category of the 2023 Green Gown Awards. ‘From dull green grass to beautifully wild’ – the University’s submission told the story of how the University’s Kedleston Road site has embraced biodiversity, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, which forced the University to reduce its mowing regime, which meant staff started to see the benefits that long grass areas can bring to the site.

Since then, staff in Estates have worked in collaboration with academics and students to create a biodiversity action plan. Actions have included an increase in wildflower areas, the planting of hundreds of trees, leaving dead wood in areas to create habitats for invertebrates, as well as creating insect hotels, bird and bat boxes and hedgehog houses.

In December, Derby became a member of the Nature Positive Universities Alliance – a network of global universities that made an official pledge, committing to reversing biodiversity decline.

The Nature Positive Universities Alliance brings together higher education institutions to use their unique power and influence as drivers of positive change. 

Encouraging ideas for sustainability

A new initiative to help the environment was launched by the Union of Students’ coffee shop Blends this year.

The aim of the Bean Fund is to neutralise the impact that the outlet’s takeaway cups have on the environment. Customers of Blends coffee shops, which are located across the University’s sites, who use a takeaway cup pay 15p more than those who use a reusable cup.

This pays for the materials of the cup, with the money left over from each purchase put into a central pot of money called the Bean Fund. Students and staff are encouraged to submit their own ideas for sustainability projects that they would like to see funded either on-campus, or in the local community.

During 2022-2023, the Fund has supported: