Shaping a Sustainable Future at UWC Day 2023

Happy UWC Day 2023! Today, all UWCs worldwide unite to 'Shape a Sustainable Future' - our #UWCDay23 theme.

At UWC Atlantic, we believe in the power of community to drive positive change, and our commitments to sustainability reflect this philosophy. From student-led initiatives, to innovative teaching and learning, to our newly appointed Director of Operations and Sustainability, our community seeks to better understand, take good action, and lead in financial and environmental sustainability.

SusCo (short for Sustainability Council), is a student-led organisation within UWCA that promotes sustainability across all areas of college life.  Seeking to inspire a passion for sustainability in all students, SusCo is both our community’s sensemaker recognising areas of need and driving force that acts through council projects and the hard work of our reps and taskforce members!  SusCo wrote the College’s Sustainability Policy (last revised September 2022) in which we commit to working towards the use of 100% renewable energy, sustainably sourcing our food, and interweaving sustainability throughout our curriculum.  Current projects that aim to improve campus sustainability include our: Energy Taskforce which is working to compile an accurate Carbon Footprint Report using the flight data from all our students, and Political Taskforce which has met with local members of the Senedd (the Welsh Parliament) to advocate for the Warm this Winter campaign seeking to shield low-income households from rising energy costs.  Moreover, SusCo guides tangible action on campus, such as through our maintenance of the Valley.

The Valley is our organic farm here on campus.  Student service guided by a core staff ensures fresh produce with zero food miles is available to all community members. Abundant, seasonal harvests are also provided directly to our caterer Holyroyd Howe for use in the school canteen.  New initiatives this year will see food preservation as well as supply to our Hot2Go student restaurant.  Winner of a 2021 Green Apple Environment Award for sustainability,  Holyroyd Howe further supports our school’s sustainability mission with locally and ethically sourced foods meeting the Red Tractor and Ocean Wise standards.  All coffee (as of 2013) served at the College is Fair Trade.

UWC Atlantic’s Group 6 department is leading the way in sustainable art education.  Through innovative and purposeful partnerships with the local community, strategic supply chain management, and the responsible utilization of resources, the College’s Visual Arts programme is taking significant steps to reduce waste and foster a greener, more sustainable future.  Our local community members have provided EcoCraft and Plant Dye workshops both to reduce plastic, glass, and metal waste and to reduce the use of products derived from petroleum resources.  Our faculty also encourages students to further reduce textile waste targeting Swap Shops, screenprinters, and laundries for raw materials destined for landfills.

Our new educational vision also places sustainability at the forefront of teaching and learning. We have developed and are piloting a bespoke academic pathway in a groundbreaking partnership with the International Baccalaureate, launched with a pioneer cohort of 24 students in August 2023. Our Systems Transformation Pathway within the IBDP centers what it means to educate for just futures, for collective liberation, for mutual thriving of people and planet. In the place of two Standard Level subjects, students are taking a 14-point course where they learn and practice how to initiate systems-level interventions in the sustainability-related impact areas of Food, Energy, Biodiversity, and less obviously, Migration. This program is reshaping our campus into an action lab for transformative change, and promises to place sustainability-focused and action-oriented learning firmly at the core of what a UWC and IB education looks like in the future.  New ‘Prentis’ co curriculars complement the impact areas with Atlantic College Energy, Diaspora Documentaries, Empower-IT, and Narratives for Social Change, among this year’s offerings.

Our co-curricular activities also emphasize our connection to and responsibility for ocean systems with a specific sustainability focus of the new Seascapes Prentis.  Collecting and repurposing plastic waste from our seafront, experiments with floating wind turbines, monitoring microplastics, as well as Atlantic/Pacific’s training and design activities all too seek innovative solutions to sustainability challenges.  To reduce chemical and plastic outflows, one recent action was our installation of 13 Toucan Eco Active units that provide chemical-free cleaning solutions across campus.  

David Emery, who in his role as UWC Atlantic’s newly appointed Director of Operations and Sustainability, provides strategic vision as well as experience in the renewable energy sector.  Applying a lens of sustainability to all of the College’s operations, David has engaged our community in ambitious plans to modernize the College estate, innovating and delivering improvements to our facilities, programmes, and resource flows.  David holds our strategic plan which includes a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2032 with net zero by 2040.  David also leads our annual carbon footprint calculations for both direct and indirect emissions.  This year, David is overseeing the retirement of a biomass thermal generation plant installed in 2008.  Taking this plant offline has resulted in notable improvements in local air quality.