University of Akureyri (Mynd: Auðunn Níelsson)

Committed to growing a green campus

Environmental affairs are a priority at the University of Akureyri. We aim high and our objective is to be fully carbon neutral by 2023.

The University of Akureyri is the first university in Iceland to achieve the Green Flag certification.

We at UNAK are implementing the Green Steps programme to reduce environmental impact from our daily operations. We have now completed the first four steps of the programme and are the first university in Iceland to reach that milestone.

We look forward to strengthening still further the environmental work of the university!

We recycle

Students, teachers and other staff members at the University are exemplary in regard to the environment. Everyone sorts their garbage and places it in specially marked trash bins.

There are seven categories:

  1. Paper and non-corrugated cardboard
  2. Returnable containers
  3. Plastic
  4. Cartons and paper cups
  5. General household refuse
  6. Organic household refuse
  7. Glass and metal

There are no trash bins in classrooms and meeting rooms. You simply take your garbage with you and dispose of it at the next sorting station.

The Green Flag certification

The University of Akureyri is the first university in Iceland to achieve the Green Flag certification, which is awarded for good environmental awareness. It was granted to the University at a formal ceremony on 16 September 2013. The University was awarded the Green Flag certification for the second time in 2017.

The aims of the Green Flag certification scheme are the following:

  • Improve the environment of the University and reduce waste and use of water and energy
  • Enhance public spirit within the University
  • Increase environmental awareness through education and projects inside and outside the classroom
  • Strengthen democratic work methods in the management of the University when decisions are made in relation to students
  • Provide students with education and skills to address environmental affairs
  • Enhance international solidarity and language skills
  • Connect the University to its community, businesses and the public

Green Steps

Green Steps logo

We at UNAK began preparation for taking part in the Green Steps programme in 2019. A year later, we fulfilled all requirements for being recognised as having completed step 2 and now we only have the fifth step left.

Objectives and categories of the programme

The programme focuses on reducing environmental impact from the operations of the University and strengthening the environmental awareness of employees.
By participating in the Green Steps programme, we have the opportunity to carry out active environmental work in a systematic way. The programme is divided into five steps. Each step consists in around 20–40 measures that institutions must implement.


  • Reduce environmental impact
  • Strengthen environmental awareness of employees
  • Increase wellbeing of employees and improve their work environment
  • Reduce operating costs


  • Electricity and heating
  • Transportation
  • Waste sorting and waste reduction
  • Procurement
  • Meetings and events
  • Communication and management

Green Teaching Award

The award is given to teachers who have integrated environmental protection into their courses.

Brynhildur Bjarnadóttir, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education

Brynhildur receives the award for her course Natural Science in Learning and Play. The course focuses on the concept of sustainability in a wide context. Students learn about the Earth’s ecosystem, sustainable ways of living and the impact they have on their environment. Through working on a project, students analyse their own attitudes, values and behaviour, in addition to examining their own consumer habits. Students also learn how to calculate their ecological and carbon footprint, work on ways of improvement and present ideas on changes to their own consumer habits to address the environmental and climate problems of the future. At the same time as they analyse their own lifestyle, students relate these subjects to educational work in preschools and primary schools and look at ways to work with the concepts at other educational levels.

Rachael Lorna Johnstone, Professor in the Faculty of Law

Rachael receives the award for the courses Introduction to Circumpolar Studies and Model Arctic Council. The course Introduction to Circumpolar Studies introduces students in Polar Law to various tools and methods to address the challenges of the Arctic, including climate change, pollution, biological diversity, tourism, use of natural resources and shipping. In the course Model Arctic Council, students communicate with other students in the Arctic on meetings of the Arctic Council and in simulated work, they, for example, negotiate collaborative measures to tackle environmental problems in the Arctic. The discussions this year were on marine plastic and protected areas.

Sustainability workshop at the University of Akureyri

The annual sustainability workshop at the University of Akureyri provides a forum for researchers and experts to exchange results, knowledge, and ideas on environmental research. A special emphasis lies on bringing together international partners, forging networks for future collaboration, and increasing interest among students by encouraging their active or passive participation.

The conference is held annually and is advertised in the university's calendar here on the web.