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University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey
Image: Chaosheng Zhang.

University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey

In 2022, University of Galway was identified as Ireland’s number one university for Sustainable Development by the Time Higher Education’s Impact Rankings.

Below, Sustainability Officer Michelle O’Dowd Lohan recounts the University’s sustainability journey thus far, and its goals for the future.

‘Éist le fuaim na habhann agus gheobhar breac’

‘Listen to the sound of the river and you will catch a trout’

As a university community, NUI Galway is aware that life on our planet is at risk from unsustainable interactions between our societies, economies and our environment. We recognise the critical role that universities must play in educating the next generation of citizens for a sustainable society and delivering knowledge and innovation to transform society. Through our learning and research activities, and as signatory to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Accord, we are driving the transition towards a more sustainable future.




University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey
University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey
University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey

Much of our sustainability work is driven by the Community University Sustainability Partnership (CUSP), which comprises working groups organised around six key themes: Research & Learning, Energy & Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Nature & Ecosystems, Health & Wellbeing, Built Environment & Governance and Leadership. Our Learn-Live-Lead approach to sustainability places students at the heart of the sustainability journey, promoting sustainability scholarship, environmental stewardship and global citizenship as key student attributes. University of Galway launched its first Sustainability Strategy in 2017. Much has come about as a result of this first strategy. We appointed our first Sustainability Officer in 2019, became a Green Campus Ireland awarded site and began managing the campus in line with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. Thanks to our university’s collective approach to delivering sustainable societal impact, academic staff have embraced sustainability as part of their curriculum, and we also received the first Green Lab Certification in Europe. Exceeding the Public Sector 2020 Energy Efficiency target of 33%, University of Galway reached 40% in 2020.

University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey
Image: Méadhbh Ryan for University of Galway Green Shoots

While University of Galway is inspired by this progress, we are aware that we must continue to learn and look to the future. Our University of Galway Sustainability Strategy 2021–2025 sets out our vision and commitment to leadership in the transition to a sustainable future. Launched in 2021 by Dr Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the strategy aims to embed sustainability in our culture, operational policies and governance structures.

Progress on the roll out of our current strategy is gathering pace, with the publication of a new Biodiversity Action Plan and completion of our first carbon footprint assessment. Having been one of only 133 universities around the world to be awarded a gold rating for sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) – and ranking number one university in Ireland and 47th in the world in the Times Higher Education (THE) Societal Impact Ranking – the future is looking bright.

University of Galway’s Sustainability Journey
Image: University of Galway Energy Society for University of Galway Green Shoots

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