The University of Lincoln has recently won a Green Apple Award for implementing an innovative paper recycling scheme. The award comes as the university tries to improve its environmental record after previously poor performance.

The yoyo system was introduced at the university in 2008, and it involves waste paper being taken and recycled, which the university then buys back.

Dan Clayton, the university’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, says: “The big concern was that a lot of recycled paper that’s used in the UK could come from anywhere around the world.”

This is just one aspect where the university is working to improve its environmental practice. In previous years, the university has been pointed out for its poor record.

In the annual People & Planet Green League ranking of UK universities, Lincoln has consistently come in very close to the bottom. In their 2009 league table, the university came 107th out of 126 ranked institutions, down from 102nd in 2008. This year, it got just 22 points out of a possible 70. In comparison, Nottingham Trent University, who came first, got 58.5.

But new developments at Lincoln may boost its ranking and lessen its effect on the environment. These include signing deals with power companies to supply renewable energy to the university’s 5 campuses.

The university has made a deal with E.ON, who supply the Brayford campus and most of the rest, and Opus Energy, who provide power to the university’s smaller sites and some to Riseholme.

“The E.ON contract is for renewable energy, [but] it’s not 100% renewable, so it might be things like waste burning. It’s classed as renewable, but it’s not as pure green as the Opus contract,” which comes from hydroelectric power stations or wind turbines, says Mr Clayton.

“But [the E.ON contract] is still better than what we had before, where it came from nuclear power stations, coal-fired power stations, oil-fired and gas-powered stations.”

Mr Clayton, who’s role as Environmental Sustainability Manager was new when he joined the university in January, says there are many other things planned to make the university more eco-friendly.

One major aim is reducing the amount of energy used on campus. To help this, the university has won access to about £100,000 from HEFCE, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to fund energy-efficiency projects.

A survey done last year showed the university was using twice the amount of electricity than one would expect, given the amount of floor space.

European law requires buildings to have a “Display Energy Certificate”, which rate the building’s energy efficiency. The rating system is similar to that for household goods.

“This year we’re getting building-specific [ones], and hopefully these will show we’ve reduced our consumption from last year, and that we’re improving towards having A, B, and C-rated buildings, rather than F and G, which we had as a campus-wide assessment last time,” says Mr Clayton.

Another project will introduce software to shut down computers left on overnight. Mr Clayton estimates that 400 computers get left on every night. The University of Bolton did something similar, and they think they will have saved £150,000 over the first year. If introduced at Lincoln, this one thing could shave between 5 and 10% from the university’s electricity bill.

While these changes are being made to satisfy environmental legislation and appease outside pressure groups, such as People & Planet, Mr Clayton says there is an “ethical dimension”.

“As a university that teaches things like architecture then these are key things that are going to be incorporated in buildings in future years, so these sort of systems really need to be understood.”

“We should be looking to minimise our impact, not just because legislation is forcing us to do it, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

By Rob Wells

Rob is a third-year journalism student at the University of Lincoln, and is originally from Leicester. He also writes on his website.