Building a sustainable UCT

27 January 2024
Campus Life 2024 - Building a sustainable UCT
The Hasso Plattner d-school opened its doors in October 2022 on middle campus. Photo Brenton Geach.

Environmental sustainability remains a top priority at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Find out how you can help us fulfil our commitment to becoming a green campus.

Recycling in colours

The colour-coded bin system has been in place for nearly two decades and helps to keep our campuses clean. The two most important colours are:

Green – recyclables: glass, paper, plastic, cardboard and tin

Yellow – non-recyclables: dirty food containers, cigarette butts, polystyrene, etc

Other colours that are used in operations/administration are:

Blue – left-over food from the kitchens that is recycled into agri-protein

White – office paper

Slow the flow

Water resources are under severe threat globally, and South Africa is no exception. UCT’s ongoing mission is to reduce its water consumption, and you can help us achieve our goal. Reduce the amount of water you use on campus – whether that means a two-minute shower or reporting leaks to the Properties and Services team.

A living laboratory

Many UCT courses use participatory, project-based training around campus sustainability, which allows students and academics to use campus as a living laboratory. Part of the living laboratory project includes an experiment with the use and operation of Electrical Vehicles (EVs) in different UCT contexts. The project explores issues of sustainability, both environmental and financial, to consider how and when it would make sense for UCT to incorporate EVs into its vehicle fleet. If you find yourself working on a UCT research project with a sustainability focus that may have an application on campus, contact Manfred Braune, the director of environmental sustainability, to find out if it could become a living lab project.

Building green

The 400-seat New Lecture Theatre and the UCT Graduate School of Business Conference Centre were designed and built as green buildings, achieving a four-star green rating from the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA).

Avenue Road Residence is the country’s first university student residence to be awarded a Green Star rating from the GBCSA (4-star rating).

The Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking (d-school) attained a Six Star Green Star Design rating – a first for an academic building on the continent having launched the new building in 2022.

The School of Education, which has completed construction on lower campus, achieved a 4-star green building certification from the GBCSA.

6 simple tips for sustainable living

1. Reduce, re-use, recycle

  • Before you buy something, think about whether there’s another option that produces less waste.
  • Before you throw something in the dustbin, think about whether it can be recycled.
  • Before you recycle something, think about whether it can be upcycled.

Re-use whatever you can whenever you can — Google has a million ideas!

2. Burn calories, not petrol

Take a walk, lace up your running shoes, get your hands on a skateboard, borrow a bicycle – anything to avoid being a single driver in a car. If you must, arrange a carpool or use public transport whenever you need to get around. Remember, the UCT Shuttle is freely available for students and staff and uses low-emissions buses (check out the UCT Shuttle route maps).

3. Save energy

Eskom still relies on coal-fired power stations, which emit carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, cause major air pollution and contribute to climate change. The less energy you use, the lower your carbon footprint. So, turn off lights in empty rooms and unplug appliances when they’re not being used (even when they’re turned off, a lot of devices still draw electricity).

4. Grow green

With rapid urbanisation and global deforestation, there are simply fewer plants around to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. So, grow a garden wherever you are, even if it’s just a pot of herbs on your windowsill, or plant or sponsor a tree.

5. Drink from the tap

Bottled water is not necessarily better than the water from the tap, especially in Cape Town, which was awarded a 98% score in the Blue Drop Drinking Water Quality certification process. The city’s tap water is clean, cheap and sidesteps the environmental harm caused by the extraction of spring water and all those single-use plastic bottles.

6. Ditch the plastics

We all know that plastics harm the environment when they end up in landfills or in the ocean, but the damage starts during the manufacturing process, which releases pollutants into the atmosphere. Single-use plastic products (think straws, earbuds, product packaging) are a particularly big problem, so avoid them wherever possible.

7. Enjoy and spend time in nature

UCT is situated in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its main campus located on a world heritage site and protected biosphere, with many incredible walking trails and beautiful beaches to enjoy. Spend some time enjoying and appreciating this beautiful natural environment and think of ways in which you can help protect and enrich these beautiful places.

Get involved – Join the Green Campus Initiative (GCI)


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