Sion is the Project Coordinator at the Department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, focusing on the University’s business travel.
What sort of work do you do on a daily basis?
I largely present ideas to staff members across the university and also to the body of the university about how they can take action to reduce the emissions of their business-related travel. We support divisions within the University to develop their own ideas to promote sustainability.
How is the university currently working to lower the carbon footprint of our travel?
In the last 3 years, we have developed a world-leading online automatic reporting tool, which indicates where people are travelling. We can then use this data to encourage colleagues across the University to reduce their travel, without impacting academic abilities.
In an ideal world, what would Edinburgh’s travel look like in 5-10 years time?
We want to keep pushing active travel (cycling or walking): we’re working with the council to push for more bike racks, and reduce car park spaces to allow for active transport solutions. For business travel, I would like to see staff using video conferencing for outside communication.
What are some of the challenges Edinburgh is still facing, and what can the students do to help that?
The main challenge we face is the feeling across higher education that people have to travel for career progression. Students and course leaders must question whether they need to travel for their studies, and how this can be carried out more locally. Additionally, students can ask for more online learning to develop communication which they can use after their studies.
How do your suggestions and projects have an impact or get relayed into the university’s polices?
It varies, we can work with individual staff and students as a bottom-up approach, to help them influence peers. We also work with schools and with the university structure as a whole, to influence policy change in the long term.
How does Edinburgh’s work compare to that of other institutions?
In some ways, Edinburgh is very much a leading institution, especially with regard to our data collection; but we are maybe not as far forward in action. We have set up a network of higher institutions to discuss how to take action in a sector-wide change. There are currently 85 institutions taking part globally.
Image: iStock/JByard via scitecheuropa.eu