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GC Zero reaches finals of Green Gown sustainability awards

18 July 2022

We are thrilled to have been named a 2030 Climate Action finalist in this year’s Green Gown Awards, thanks to our industry-leading GC Zero project and commitment to driving decarbonisation in education.

The awards are administered by The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC) and recognise exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by colleges and universities. With sustainability quickly moving ever higher in the agenda, the awards are established as the most prestigious recognition of best practice within the further and higher education sector.

Three years ago, we pledged to become carbon zero by 2030, which is 20 years ahead of the UK Government’s own 2050 pledge. We set to work on taking immediate action on a £5.5m retro-fit project across our Gloucester and Cheltenham campuses, which officially completes this week.

We expect to reduce our carbon emissions by up to 75% in year one and by 95% in the next five years. Then, coupled with improvements to our transport links and food offer, should achieve net zero status much sooner than our original goal.

The significant building works covered the installation of ground source heat pumps to electrify campus heating; solar panels – 3,245 to be exact – to generate renewable electricity; and smart energy controls to optimise energy consumption. Combined, this delivers green, competitive and secure energy services that future-proof GC in support of our net zero ambitions.

Matthew Burgess, Principal and CEO, said: “I am incredibly proud that GC Zero has been named a finalist in the prestigious Green Gown Awards, and that Gloucestershire College is officially the first college in England to be running on 100% renewable electricity.

“We know that it is our moral responsibility to lead by example and act now for climate change, and I’m delighted to have achieved what we set out to do. We are committed to engaging and educating our staff, students and the wider sector on the importance of climate change, and hope we have inspired others in the sector to follow. 

“Our main learnings from GC Zero are that achieving net zero is possible through retro-fit, not just new builds, and can be achieved in a way that improves your financial position. Leadership ambition and commitment on climate change is critical to succeed.” 

The vision was made reality thanks to £2.8m funding from Salix, alongside £2.7m invested by GC, and looks set to save the college up to £400k per year in energy bills. Sustainability consultants, Hillside Environmental Services, developed the 20-year business model and managed the project plan through to delivery.

GC Zero is scalable and forms a blueprint for other educational institutions looking to deliver low carbon campuses, and GC, along with our project partners are working to actively promote the opportunity across the sector. 

All finalists will now submit their stage 2 submissions and the winners will be announced at the Green Gown Awards Ceremony taking place at Loughborough University in November.

For more information on GC Zero, click here.


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