Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu


A focus for Cardiff

26 October 2012

A focus for CardiffProfessor Colin Riordan

"Everybody talks about sustainability, but it's far from obvious that we all know what it means in practice. What does sustainability really mean to all of us at Cardiff University, and how is Cardiff meeting the challenges of building a sustainable future?

"As one of the newest members of the University community and someone with a long-standing interest in the environment, I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen during my first few months at Cardiff.

"The Sustainable Places Research Institute, which celebrates its second anniversary during Sustainability Week 2012, is a brilliant example of how our research is helping to create a sustainable future for communities around the world.

"Across the University there are other such examples. The Cardiff Catalysis Institute, a centre of excellence in green chemistry, is looking at innovative combustion technology to help vehicles become more efficient and less polluting. Internationally, the Danau Girang Field Centre in Malaysia, of which Cardiff is a partner, is at the forefront of conservation science. It’s helping us understand more about the animals and plants we share the planet with.

"We’re also looking at the social aspects of sustainability. How people engage with climate change, the factors that shape and affect public behaviour, the role of the media in communicating issues such as global warming and consumerism to audiences. These are all vital in helping policy makers understand the challenges, as well as the possibilities, of addressing sustainability and climate change at a local, national and international level.

"Alongside our research, staff and students across the University are working hard to ensure our day-to-day operations are generating less waste and are more efficient.  There are lots of positives here too. We were the first higher education institution in Wales to achieve the Carbon Trust Standard. Cardiff was also awarded a major standard, ISO 14001, for its environmental practices. Our students take part in Student Switch Off, a national campaign to encourage action on climate change. What they learn about energy saving in their halls of residence they take with them when they move to private accommodation and into their own homes in the future.

"What Cardiff has achieved to date is something to be proud of, but as a University we need to take the next step. Sustainable practices and principles need to become embedded in our everyday culture, not just something we know we probably should be doing. Students need to engage with Cardiff’s sustainability agenda from day one and graduate with the skills and capacity to champion and lead change in the future.

"Our carbon footprint is still too high. In the coming years we need to reduce our net emissions of carbon substantially. We also need to rethink the way we travel to and from meetings, events and conferences, and look at carbon offsetting for journeys we have to make in person. We need to make it much easier for a good idea to become practice. 

"There is still a lot of work to be done, by all of us. I want Cardiff to be one of the greenest universities in the UK, one that sets the standard for other institutions and organisations. Sustainable development isn’t easy and there are difficult issues we have to overcome, but we mustn’t be afraid to think bigger. Cardiff needs to be ambitious and better at fostering, supporting and promoting a sustainable culture in the years ahead."