Building a greener future for our campus communities

Updated 08/09/2022

We’re always thinking about the future at Gower College Swansea, especially as the new term starts.

As students, each step you take with us  brings you closer to your desired career, or the next stage of your education. Likewise, your tutors are focused on how best to ensure you achieve your goals. But that collective focus on the future also means we, staff and students alike, must also share in a commitment to act sustainably to safeguard our environment and the world we pass on to future generations.   

When you consider the scale of our College, which serves thousands of students and employs hundreds of staff across six  campuses, operating with sustainability in mind is no simple task. Nevertheless, it is essential that we hold ourselves accountable to do all that we can to act responsibly, while constantly investigating new ways that we can improve.

Some of the multiple investments made across our campuses to improve the energy and resource efficiency of our everyday activities are so seamless, you’d be forgiven for not noticing them.

All our campuses have been retrofitted with energy efficient LED lighting, recycling bins are available in every area of our buildings, we harvest rainwater to irrigate our grounds, and Gorseinon has become the first campus to have solar panels installed. These and other similar investments and practises have already allowed us to secure Green Dragon Environment Standard Level 5 accreditation, meaning we have been recognised for our continual dedicated environmental improvement on campus - but this is just the start.

Some of the most rewarding environmental and sustainability projects at Gower College Swansea are those that see students and staff working together to make real changes that will benefit our community. Earlier this year, our landscaping students created a special memorial garden at the Tycoch Campus. Thanks to the support of Keep Wales Tidy and Welsh Government, we are also seeing students progressing with a much larger long-term project to create a wellness and sensory garden, which will include native species and planting specifically selected to encourage pollinators to aid biodiversity.

At Gorseinon, students and staff have planted 350 saplings, provided free of charge by Woodland Trust, across two areas of the campus. Areas previously covered in grass and bramble will now become home to a variety of eleven tree species including oak, silver birch and rowan. As they mature, these trees will provide food and shelter for hundreds of wildlife species helping to increase biodiversity, as well as enhancing air quality across the campus, creating valuable green space and playing an essential role in tackling climate change.

Our work to increase the biodiversity of our campuses will see over 3,000 native wildflower species planted at Gorseinon and Tycoch this year. That means that over 18,000 bulbs will be planted, with each variety being specifically selected with local conditions and environmental needs in mind. Additionally bird boxes, bug hotels, homes for hedgehogs, toads and frogs, are now permanent fixtures at both campuses.

Of course, creating new environmentally focused resources is only one part of our sustainability efforts. Responsibly managing and, wherever possible, reducing waste is key to our efforts to reducing our environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Balancing the need to ensure that our students have access to the latest technology, while maintaining our commitment to reducing waste, is a particular challenge. As part of our pledge to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill, Gower College Swansea’s IT team have been working in partnership with our technology suppliers to ensure that 100% of our broken and surplus IT equipment is reused or recycled. To put that into perspective, over the last two years, the team have arranged collections for almost 12 tonnes of equipment. That’s the equivalent of one double decker bus worth of equipment. As a result, 85% of that technology has been refurbished and reused, with the remaining 15% being broken down for recycling. And, in the near future, staff and students will be able to recycle personal unwanted and broken IT equipment and books via the College’s suppliers, free of charge.

Further environmental initiatives at the College will see us move towards our target of becoming net zero by 2030. That progression will see us end the sale of plastic water bottles across all campuses and introduce transport sharing schemes across all College sites. Students will also be able to take part in a range of environmental and sustainability events including recycling, repair and reuse workshops, beach cleans, zero waste weeks, sustainable fashion talks, and opportunities to visit a range of sustainability projects.

However, the purpose of this blog is not just to celebrate the joint successes of our staff and students, but to give you a flavour of how you can be a part of this too as you settle into College life. We see our work to date and future plans as a starting point, and we look forward to working with our next generation of students to further protect our environment and build a better future for our community.