Environmental and Transport Policy

The University of Akureyri (UNAK) is the first university in Iceland to achieve the Green Flag certification, which is awarded for good environmental awareness.

The Environmental and Transport Policy of the University was approved in the University Council on 2 November 2017.

Environmental and Transport Policy 2018-2022

Introduction

The Environmental Council has operated at UNAK since the beginning of 2008. In the initial years, an emphasis was placed on achieving the Green Flag certification from Landvernd (Icelandic Environmental Union) and purposeful work took place on improving conduct, waste management and awareness of environmental affairs within the University. In the fall of 2013, the University then achieved, first among universities in Iceland, the Green Flag certification of Landvernd for successful work on environmental affairs. In December of 2016, the University signed the Climate Statement of the City of Reykjavik and Festa and thus committed to purposefully decrease greenhouse gas emissions, reduce forming of waste and measure results. The University has systematically attended to this task in recent years.

This Environmental and Transport Policy is put forth as part of following up on the good and important work that has been carried out in environmental affairs in recent years at UNAK. The Policy looks to the future, reviews objectives, ways to reach those objectives and discusses the impact it is intended to have.

The Environmental and Transport Policy is strategic and describes how UNAK envisions the future of environmental and transport affairs at the institution. It is not intended to be binding in regard to those actions that are considered necessary and does not entail a commitment regarding time schedules that are presented. These are for guidance purposes and the Environmental Council will follow up on what is expected to be accomplished at each time, in collaboration with the Management Board.

Objectives

In all its operations, UNAK will aim to contribute to sustainability in all areas of environmental affairs. Progressive and ambitious work will be steadily carried out in both environmental and transport affairs and the aim will always be to attain better results in the daily operations of the University. Furthermore, the University has set itself the aim of being a carbon-neutral institution in 2020.

UNAK commits to follow as best it can domestic and international resolutions concerning environmental protection. A guiding principle for all operations of UNAK is the Umhverfis- og samgöngustefna Akureyrarbæjar (pdf in icelandic), as the University operates within the town limits of Akureyri. Thus, UNAK will show consideration for the environment and nature in all decision making regarding teaching/education, research, management and operations. The University will aim to set an example for individuals and institutions in society and wants to be a leader in environmental affairs.

  1. UNAK emphasises environmental education and increasing the environmental awareness of each student who graduates from the University. In addition, UNAK places an emphasis on providing all employees with information on the University’s policy on environmental affairs and on employees being made to adhere to the policy implemented at each time.
  2. Academics and students at the University are encouraged to be active in acquiring information and developing new ways to protect nature and environment, in addition to disseminating information to the public and the government.
  3. The policy of UNAK on environmental affairs must extend to managers, other employees and student associations and be a part of the daily life of everyone, both students and staff. The action plan that here follows must be reviewed annually.

Milestones - ways to reach objectives

1. Education

Education is one of the most important aspects of the Environmental and Transport Policy of UNAK. Information dissemination and education are the foundation for achieving results in environmental affairs. Effective and steady flow of information increases the odds that staff members and students will adopt an environmentally friendly lifestyle. An emphasis will be placed on providing encouragement and information to both students and employees through diverse means. Webpages, information screens, environmental advice, lectures, etc. will be used. The objective is to contribute to improved utilisation, reduced waste, increased sorting and better environmental awareness.

  • Increase visibility of environmental affairs within the University.
  • At the start of each academic year (in the fall), all first-year students are given a detailed introduction of UNAK’s policy on environmental affairs. They are taught how to use the University’s recycling system and given advice on ways to decrease the use of private cars to travel to and from the University.
  • Special educational projects will be developed in regard to environmental affairs that all first-year students at UNAK must undertake.
  • Dissemination of advice to employees and students on what can be improved in environmental affairs at the University.
  • Dissemination of information on environmental affairs through the information screens and computers of the University, for example, screen savers.

2. Matters concerning climate and air quality

There is increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which leads to global warming. By signing the Climate Statement of the City of Reykjavik and Festa, UNAK has committed to work on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Transport is the aspect of the University’s operations that can mainly be emphasised in connection with this. Work will be undertaken to increase the use of environmentally friendly means of transport both among staff and students. As of 2018, employees of the University will be able to sign a transport agreement which entails a commitment to travel to and from work in an environmentally friendly way an average of three times each week. Emphasis will be placed on reducing the use of private cars to travel to and from the University, decreasing the number of flights by people from the University as much as possible, and carrying out purposeful work on strengthening forestation at Végeirsstaðir, land belonging to the University in Fnjóskadalur valley. These actions, that is, to reduce emissions and increase carbon capture are to contribute to fulfilling the aim of the University to become a carbon-neutral institution in 2020.

  • Transport agreements for staff of the University will be implemented in 2018.
  • Employees and students at UNAK will be encouraged to make use of environmentally friendly means of transport for their daily travel to and from the University. This consists, for example, in increasing the visibility of environmentally friendly transport means.
    • Employees and students of the University will be encouraged to make use of the free Akureyri bus service.
    • Employees and students will be encouraged to travel on foot or by bicycle to and from the University.
    • Employees and students will be encouraged to carpool, both in the case of shorter and longer trips.
    • Rental cars: As of 1 February 2016, the employees of the University are obligated to rent an electric car if their daily commute is less than 100 km and if the driving is in densely populated areas.
  • Employees and students will be encouraged to make use of green parking spaces and charging stations for electric cars at UNAK.
  • Purposeful work will be undertaken to increase forestation on the land of Végeirsstaðir in Fnjóskadalur valley and employees will be encouraged to take part in this community project.
  • At the start of a new year, the carbon accounting of the previous year will be made public and visible to both staff and students.
  • The carbon accounting for each year will specify measurable objectives for the next year. The Environmental Council manages the carbon accounting and is in charge of setting viable objectives.

3. Waste management issues

Waste management issues within UNAK have been well attended to since 2013 when the University achieved the Green Flag certification from Landvernd. During 2010 to 2013, work took place on implementing an effective recycling system that has now proven its worth and currently, only about 40% of all waste from UNAK is general refuse. The rest is sorted and is sent to appropriate recycling facilities. In the next few years, work will take place on maintaining these good results and on further improving them by decreasing still more the share of general refuse.

  • Purposeful work will be undertaken to further increase sorting and recycling at UNAK.

4. Various other matters

UNAK will work systematically on various other environmental matters which, in one way or another, contribute to a more sustainable community at the University. These include purchasing of environmentally friendly cleaning materials, green government accounting, food waste, etc. All work processes for purchasing must be reviewed, as well as processes for equipment use, and ways sought to improve results in this area.

In order to reach the defined objectives, two ways will be followed; on the one hand, encouragement and information dissemination that will be directed at all employees and students of the University and, on the other, implementation of work methods at the University.

As regards encouragement and information dissemination, the following will be emphasised:

  • General education on environmental affairs for students and employees.
  • Encouragement to make better use of products owned by the University and practice more economical purchasing by implementing work processes for purchasing that show consideration for the environment.
  • Increased teaching in how to use the instruments and equipment of the University in order to reduce waste that occurs due to mistakes or misunderstanding.

As regards work methods, the following will be emphasised:

  • Maintain the Green Flag certification of Landvernd.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of the University and fulfill the objectives set by the University each year in its carbon accounting.
  • Decrease the use of private cars to travel to and from work, for example, by implementing transport agreements for employees and actively disseminating information to both staff and students.
  • Further reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfill.
  • Furthermore, UNAK will look to developments in environmental policies among other public institutions in Iceland and other universities in the Nordic Countries and in Europe to implement new methods and ideas that support the objectives of this Policy.

Positive impact

With a formal policy on environmental affairs where work takes place according to the defined means mentioned above, positive impact is attained in many areas:

  • The image of the University is strengthened and it becomes a leader among higher education institutions in the country as regards environmental affairs.
  • Awareness of environmental affairs has a positive impact on operations as waste is systematically reduced.
  • Increased environmental awareness, both among students and staff, encourages tidiness and care for one’s immediate environment, which improves the appearance and atmosphere of the University.
  • Care for one’s immediate environment encourages awareness and synergy at the University and should thus strengthen its operations, as well as its reputation.
  • Follow-up to the policy on environmental affairs improves the wellbeing and health of staff and students and enhances job satisfaction.

Catalysts

The catalyst behind the objectives of the policy on environmental affairs being met is first and foremost information dissemination, which has already to some extent led to an attitude change among students and staff at the University as regards issues concerning the environment.

The University can furthermore make an important contribution through the following means:

  • Support for all efforts to improve the visibility of environmental affairs, for example, by having climate objectives visible on the website of the University.
  • Further increase the number of green parking spaces and charging stations by the University and thus encourage people to use environmentally friendly means of transport.
  • Improve facilities for people who travel by bicycle.
  • Discuss matters concerning the Environmental Council annually at the University Assembly.
  • Support efforts to bring informative lectures and information from specialists on environmental affairs to the University.
  • Address environmental affairs in the annual introduction for first-year students.
  • Celebrate Environment Day at the University each fall.

Action plan

Below are specified projects that need to be carried out in connection with the policy on environmental affairs. Responsibility for implementation is determined by the nature of the project, but it may be assumed that the Rector and/or Managing Director will take the initiative in organising implementation, on the basis of the policy.

Project 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
Maintain Green Flag certification   x   x   x
Annual carbon accounting of UNAK x x x x x x
Implementation of transport agreements x x x x x x
Improved facilities for people who travel by bicycle   x x      
Further development for environmentally friendly means of transport   x x x x x
Annual introduction for first-year students x x x x x x
Environmental agenda at annual University Assembly x x x x x x

On behalf of the Environmental Council
Brynhildur Bjarnadóttir, Chair