of our waste was recycled in Michaelmas Term 2022
As Pembroke approaches its 400th anniversary we are mindful of our responsibility to future generations. As a community we are determined to reduce our impact on the planet and to create an environment where sustainable choices are the norm.
Space and Sustainability Committee
The committee is comprised of Fellows, staff (including dedicated sustainability staff), student representatives from the JCR and MCR, and external advisors, and has met regularly since the beginning of 2022. The group discusses all major building projects, heat decarbonisation and biodiversity projects, and College sustainability communications strategies.
Following a review of the entire College estate, the Masterplan will set out the roadmap to achieving Net Zero operational carbon and Net Zero indirect carbon, as well as significantly increasing biodiversity across the College sites.
- We have committed to achieving Net Zero operational carbon by 2030 and are continuing to review the feasibility of a commitment to absolute zero.
- We are committed to setting meaningful goals for:
- Scope 3
- Biodiversity gain
- We review our Responsible Investment Policy yearly.
- We will produce and publish a full Sustainability Strategy by the end of 2023.
More information about our plans for reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions can be found below, along with details about our sustainability plans and activities in other key areas.
To meet our Zero Carbon commitments we are working with external advisers to produce and deliver on a site-wide plan for heat decarbonisation (part of our wider Masterplanning excercise). The full heat decarbonisation plan will be published in the coming weeks, and more detail can be found below.
In January 2023 we began our Scope 3 baselining exercise. Emissions will be calculated at the outset according to emission factors by spend category, with the aim of identifying our largest emissions categories and progressively moving to a primary data methodology.
As a College, we have committed to achieving Net Zero operational carbon by 2030 and are collecting data to allow us to set an ambitious but achievable Net Zero indirect carbon target.
In plans for upcoming building and maintenance projects, embodied/life-cycle carbon and biodiversity net gain have been fundamental considerations throughout the design process. Central to our plans is the provision of decarbonised heat to the whole site through the use of Air Source Heat Pumps. Our architects, Walters & Cohen, are a signatory to Architects Declare.
In early 2023 we were awarded capital funding from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (provided by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and delivered by Salix Finance) for the replacement of existing gas boilers with Air Source Heat Pumps in the Dining Hall and old Geoffrey Arthur accommodation buildings. Read more here. These works were undertaken in summer 2023 (see below).
In July 2022 we successfully applied for a government grant from Low Carbon Skills Fund which has allowed us to work with a sustainability and engineering consultant, Max Fordham, to produce a site-wide operational decarbonisation plan. The full report will be published in summer 2023.
This plan will provide a full roadmap to achieving our 2030 Net Zero target through the direct electrification of our energy provision, alongside behavioural changes. We will also be working internally to devise a set of responsible offsetting criteria.
Works in Progress
- A draught door will soon be installed in the Dining Hall to reduce heat loss and energy use.
- Sixteen air source heat pumps (ASHPs) have been installed across the GAB and Dining Hall. From the Hall this will save ~325,000kWh of gas usage per year, and 60tCO2e/a. The GAB works will save ~765,000kWh of gas usage, and 140tCO2e/a. In total this will reduce our yearly carbon emissions by ~200tCO2e/a, representing a 30% reduction in the College’s gas consumption.
- Rokos Quad has ground source energy sources built in to the design.
- The new Geoffrey Arthur Building development uses high levels of insulation and passive ventilation to reduce heating requirements and we are introducing a waste water heat recovery system which will reduce energy used to heat water by c40%. The building is designed to accept the next generation of ASHPs as they become available.
- In collaboration with the City Council, the College has sought to increase the amount of waste it sends for recycling; recycling bins are provided in all student rooms and at designated points around the College site.
- We have reduced our consumption of single use plastics, already using 1000 less plastic bottles than previous years due to plumbed-in water coolers around College and the removal of plastic water bottles from point of sale outlets.
- A juice machine purchased last year saw us reduce waste by 700 juice cartons in the month of July alone (our peak time for external conferences).
- Farthings café uses plastic free tea bags, paper straws, compostable cups/lids and wooden tea spoons.
- The Hall no longer provides single-use takeaway containers – staff and students are asked to bring their own reusable containers for takeaway meals.
- A student-led Pembroke team achieved a Green Impact Silver Award in 2022.
- Our catering team work tirelessly to reduce our food waste from the Hall and any waste produced is taken to an anaerobic digestion plant near Cassington, Oxfordshire, where it is used to generate electricity (to power over 4,000 homes) and fertiliser (used on local farmland to grow crops).
- Food waste bins are provided in student accommodation and staff kitchen spaces.
- Used coffee grounds from Farthings Café are used by our gardener.
- We are part of the Collegiate food purchasing consortium (FoodBuy) which helps us reduce the number of suppliers we use by consolidating the number of supplier deliveries to three times per week. This has reduced our carbon footprint in this activity by at least 40%.
- The team enjoy sourcing local suppliers for our food and drink. The bar stocks Pembroke Ale and beers from Chadlington Brewery 22 miles away, who use Oxfordshire spring water to produce the ale.
- Our menus have been redesigned to contain seasonal items (for example only using asparagus in April & May, not using berries around Christmas and only using seasonal or farmed fish from accredited sources).
- The College community is encouraged to minimise energy usage for example by turning off unneeded lights and not leaving computers running unnecessarily.
- The College’s central heating system – usually on from October until April/May (weather dependent) – is not left on 24 hours/day but is normally timed to be on for the necessary periods. We have also invested in the most energy efficient gas boilers available at this time with plans for replacement (to sources such as ASHPs) being worked up in the Space and Sustainability Study.
Our aim is to increase site-wide diversity at Pembroke. This will involve:
- Publishing our biodiversity baseline
- Ensuring biodiversity net gain on all masterplan building projects
- Considering biodiversity when making land-use decisions.
Biodiversity projects, targets and impacts are considered by our Space and Sustainability Steering Committee and we are working with relevant departments and stakeholders to set meaningful targets for biodiversity gain.
In order to better understand and subsequently improve Pembroke’s onsite biodiversity impacts, the following works have been undertaken:
- An estate-wide biodiversity survey was conducted in June 2022 to determine the College’s ecological baseline and will produce a constraints and opportunities report.
- With the help of our JCR Environmental Rep and a small team of students, Pembroke participated in the Conference of Colleges Biodiversity Audit in Summer 2022 (see below). We will continue to measure biodiversity annually by this means.
- Our Sports Ground was used for research throughout 2022 by members of the Oxford Biology Department working on the new Defra Biodiversity Metric.
- In 2021, the JCR initiated the ‘Pembroke Biodiversity Project’ which has set up biodiversity monitoring on the College’s Main Site and at the Pembroke Sports Ground and focuses on maintaining/enhancing biodiversity and providing a research site for student projects.
The Pembroke Biodiversity Project aims to protect and restore biodiversity on Pembroke College land. It is a student-led initiative with three main aims: biodiversity conservation, research and outreach.
So far, the team have conducted a wide variety of data-gathering activities, including Bioblitz-type surveys of plants and insects, surveys of earthworms and trees, bird ringing, and camera trapping to observe mammals. They have also run several outreach initiatives for the Pembroke and wider Oxford community, including a nature drawing day and bird ringing demonstrations.
Next steps will involve using the data collected so far to plan and carry out the restoration and creation of new habitats on Pembroke land, such as riparian buffers. This is hoped to attract a wide range of species, including water voles and grass snakes. The team also plan to support student research projects, by gathering long term ecological data and opening up the project to students who want to run their own investigations. The Pembroke Biodiversity Project is a long-term initiative, and we hope it will be passed down and built upon by future generations of Pembroke students.
Read more about the project's progress here.
Next policy is due for review in January 2024, it will then be reviewed annually.
Steps we are taking to ensure we invest responsibly include:
- Prioritising ESG considerations in the appointment of a new fund manager, a process students and staff have engaged with. The new fund manager, once appointed, will meet with students once a year to discuss ESG considerations.
- Working with consultants (JTFM) to create an ESG reporting template which will be updated on a quarterly basis.
News and Events
Dr Nicole Miranda Publishes Research on the Dangers of Missing the 1.5°C Climate Target
Pembroke College Lecturer in Engineering, Dr Nicole Miranda, is the first author and co-lead of an important research paper with fellow Oxford academics titled ‘Change in cooling degree days with global mean temperature increasing from 1.5 °C to 2.0 °C’.
Pembroke Biodiversity Project Flourishes
We are excited to share the success of the Pembroke College Biodiversity Project. Set up in 2021 by a team of undergraduate biologists, the project began with two unassuming and overgrown fields near the Pembroke sports ground, which turned out to be hidden gems of biodiversity potential.
Pembroke Biodiversity Project Bioblitz
The Pembroke Biodiversity Project are organising their next termly bioblitz on Sunday 26th November (10-14:30): a survey of all living things, including plants, fungi, insects, mammals, birds and anything else you can find.