The University of Tasmania has announced it will become carbon neutral, following the lead of trailblazer Charles Sturt.

Vice-chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said the decision to make the move was taken following a “sustained program of improvement” in the institution’s carbon footprint, through measures such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and transport changes.

He said the move had been strongly guided by the student body, and believed it would appeal to prospective students.

“We are internationally recognised for our research endeavours across a range of fields including ocean and Antarctic studies, marine biodiversity, planning and agriculture,” Professor Rathjen said.

“It’s only fitting that we ourselves as a university strive to provide leadership and innovation in addressing the principles of sustainability in a direct and impactful way.”

Staff, students and alumni have all been engaged in sustainability initiatives. The university’s sustainability manager, Corey Peterson, said a “proactive approach” had been taken.

Recent key energy and carbon-saving initiatives include:

  • Undertaking energy audits of buildings leading to energy efficiency improvements such as upgrading lighting systems to LED and heating systems to more efficient technologies
  • Ensuring all new major building projects achieve Green Star rating certification and evaluate refurbishments using the same framework
  • Installation of photovoltaic and solar hot water systems
  • Substantial focus on reducing transport emissions through improved support for active and public transport modes
  • Significant investment in “virtual travel” support through videoconferencing improvements
  • LPG and diesel fuel source replacements with natural gas
  • Conducting energy challenges and competitions

“Our efforts speak directly to our values where as a university community we strive towards a sustainable society in being agents of change and transformation through a collective approach,” Mr Peterson said.

Student Rachel Hill was part of a group that convened in August to discuss the carbon neutral shift, and said the announcement was an important milestone.

“We, as students, are proud to attend a university which supports sustainable goals on which our future livelihoods and global community depends,” she said.

The certification will be through the federal government’s Carbon Neutral Program, which is a voluntary program allowing businesses and other organisations to be certified as carbon neutral against the National Carbon Offset Standard.

The University of Tasmania is the second university to commit to carbon neutrality through the program. Charles Sturt University achieved recognition as a carbon neutral university under the scheme last year.

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