Angela Cox – Borders College Principal
Students are more engaged in the world around them and feel more empowered to influence and effect change within their communities, organisations and even governments than ever before.
Colleges are in the powerful position of having the opportunity to influence the mindset and values of the many thousands of students that come through our doors each academic year. We need to grasp this opportunity to change the behaviours of our students and our communities through demonstrating the importance of moving towards a more sustainable society, preparing our students to be global citizens and committing to a circular economy.
We will not fully realise the opportunity of transitioning to net zero unless there is an equal focus on developing the understanding of how our individual behaviours contribute to a circular economy, alongside the technical green skills colleges are developing and providing.
The interconnected relationships colleges have with industry, our community and our students enable us to act as the catalyst for behavioural change and take a leading role in the cultural transformation of how we live and consume energy. We need to be the exemplars of how to operate a business sustainably and insist on practice that ensures the behaviours we encourage become habits that our graduates adopt in their future life and work.
Our estate has already won a Green Gown Award for our heat from the sewage system, which is the first of its kind in the UK. The development sees a heating plant using sewage/wastewater as a sustainable heat source at the Scottish Borders Campus. The technology extracts the natural warmth contained within this water and transfers the heat to the clean side of the heating system via a heat exchange mechanism. The recovered heat is then amplified via heat pumps to generate the appropriate temperatures for use in buildings. The system now provides around 95 per cent of the heat needed by the Galashiels campus and does not impact on the normal operation of the local wastewater network.
With the current focus on the use of electric vehicles, Borders College was an early adopter in the use of electric cars as part of our fleet. With service costs of around £300 per car per year and CO2 savings in excess of 18,500 kg, the investment that we have made is contributing to our sustainability targets and responding to the climate emergency.
We have introduced a travel hierarchy with staff which forces staff to reflect on the necessity of the journey and use of an electric car first, as a part of any request for a vehicle to carry out College business when public transport is not a suitable alternative.
The average battery life of the cars is over seven years and running costs are around 3p per mile, with a projected life expectancy being up to 20 years. The benefits will continue to contribute to the carbon savings of the College for many years to come.
Electricity for the charging points at Scottish Borders Campus is generated from our onsite Solar panels, which additionally help to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce running costs.