Charles Sturt Australia’s first carbon neutral university

The Charles Sturt University (CSU) has slashed its environmental footprint to become the first university in Australia to be certified as carbon neutral under the Government’s Carbon Neutral Program.

The university has been given the status for its work in reducing emissions and buying offsets across its nine campuses in New South Wales and Victoria.

It has signed a $1 million contract to lower its energy use through energy efficient lighting and upgraded air-conditioners, and has installed solar panels. In addition to its carbon saving systems, CSU is investing in a range of projects that provide carbon offset credits.

The Carbon Neutral Program is a voluntary scheme that allows businesses and other organisations, products and services to be certified as carbon neutral against the National Carbon Offset Standard. The standard provides a benchmark for organisations seeking to see their net greenhouse gas emissions equal zero.

One of the biggest challenges CSU faces in being carbon neutral is the distance staff have to travel between campuses. Nonetheless, CSU Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said the effort would have its pay-offs.

“There’s been a major thrust there to get more energy efficient vehicles, but it is a challenge and it’s something we’ve been working on for many years,” he said.

Professor Vann said there were only 26 other organisations in the country to be given the status.

“It’s about modelling good practice and one of the things that we have to engage with as a species is dealing with our emissions footprint,” he said.

“One of our graduate learning objectives is to make sure our students are environmentally [conscious] and are thinking about these issues.

“It’s a good way to raise awareness of it amongst the student population as well.”

Professor Vann said the award demonstrates that Charles Sturt University lives by the Wiradjuri phrase “yindyamarra winhanganha”, or “the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in”.

“It’s beyond the simple goals of our University Strategy, or of higher education. It goes to the heart of all Australian people, particularly our communities in regional Australia,” he said.

Businesses and communities are becoming increasingly interested in demonstrating their leadership in moving towards a low carbon economy, and in turn playing their part in reducing Australia’s emissions. Charles Sturt University joins a proactive and environmentally responsible network of over 30 leading enterprises already taking part in the Carbon Neutral Program, including Qantas, Virgin, NAB, Westpac, Australian Paper, Fuji Xerox, Castrol and Swisse.

The Government is committed to reducing Australia’s emissions through initiatives such as the Emissions Reduction Fund, Clean Energy Innovation Fund, Renewable Energy Target and the National Energy Productivity Plan.