Environmentally sustainable innovations are occurring across all aspects of life at UTS, according to groups taking part in a United Nations global initiative.

The UTS Sustainability Team and UTS Build have teamed up to bring forward the first Sustainable Development Goals week, and showcase its commitment to sustainability through an exhibition, which concludes on Sunday.

Alex Fransen, UTS’s Sustainable Development Goals project manager, told Central News the university had made great developments towards sustainability over the past year, and that SDGs week aims to inform staff and students of the continuing progress.

“From the operational side of things, we have the plastic-free food court, there are solar panels and renewable energy opportunities expanding across the university to meet our zero carbon targets, there is also the waste management system we are using… so there are many solutions on campus demonstrating that we are doing the right thing,” Fransen said.

The SDG Week exhibition. Photo by Michaela Cullen.

Last year, UTS participated in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Ranking, being ranked as the 2nd most sustainable university in Australia and 15th in the world.

“There were over 1500 universities participating in the THE from around the world, but it was an indication that the university is doing a lot across all aspects of uni life,” said Alex.

The sustainable development goals were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015, and in 2016 UTS was one of the first universities to become a signatory to the University Commitment to the SDGs in the Asia Pacific region. These goals aim to strengthen human health, education, equality and economic growth in order to alleviate poverty and other deprivations, all whilst creating a more sustainable and liveable future for all.

Earlier this year, the UTS 2021 Sustainability Report was released, highlighting the university’s commitment to each individual goal.

The report included sustainability initiatives that the university had committed to throughout 2020 and 2021, including the partnership between Lendlease, Junglefly and UTS to create the first combined PV green roof in Australia, installing solar panels around and on top of low-level vegetation, improving solar performance by 3.6 per cent and cooling surface temperatures by 20 degrees.

UTS has also developed water saving and recycling initiatives, achieving an overall fall in water consumption of 6 per cent, and the continued UTS Women in Engineering and IT program, being the longest running program of its type in Australia, aims to challenge the gender gap in educational opportunities within the STEM sector.

UTS is part of this international network that is looking at driving global research, change and impact in SDGs which just proves how much work UTS is putting in to create a sustainable campus.

As of this year, the university is a member of the Worldwide Universities Network; an organisation that aims to address the global challenges centred around the SDGs, further exploring UTS’ commitment to international partnerships, making active claims to improve the sustainable wellbeing of staff and students.

“UTS is part of this international network that is looking at driving global research, change and impact in SDGs which just proves how much work UTS is putting in to create a sustainable campus,” UTS Build manager Veronica Wong, told Central News.

The SDGs exhibition aims to raise the profile of the SDGs and allow university staff and students to interact and become aware of the work UTS has committed to.

“I didn’t even realise all that the university is doing,” Veronica told Central News.

“I think that’s the challenge with such a big institution, a lot of people just don’t know, so from our point of view, awareness raising is a big part of what the exhibition is trying to achieve.”

Despite the university’s current achievements, the Sustainability Team has been quick to turn its focus to the next sustainable steps, with the report stating:

“The next step in the University’s decarbonisation journey has begun, with the development of the UTS Climate Positive Plan – a road map with targets and timelines to transition UTS to net zero and beyond.”

Alex also spoke to Central News about UTS’ net carbon emissions goal.

“Our climate action policy is currently being refined and finalised and should be circulating the community by the end of this year; that will be the university’s commitment coming forward,” she said.

The exhibition will run until September 25th in the foyer of building one.

Main image of Alex Fransen (left) and Veronica Wong (right) taken by Michaela Cullen.