Report Produced by 25 Students of PU80 Master of Health Safety and Environment 2017
Edited by Melissa Haswell and Chinonye Uba
There is now a strong consensus around the world that reducing our ecological footprint and caring for our environment is absolutely essential for the health and wellbeing of present and future generations. According to the Global Footprint Network, Australians had the eleventh largest ecological footprint amongst all world’s nations in 2014 (latest available data; datafootprintnetwork.org). The average Australian in 2014 consumed the resources of 6.89 global hectares; which means if everyone lived in the same way, it would take four planet Earths to produce the resources that would be consumed. We are already witnessing major impacts of the Australian way of living on the continent’s wildlife, forests, rivers, water supplies, coastal ecosystems and reefs, and importantly, our climate.
Although there is still a long way to go for Australians to close the deficit between what we use and what is sustainable for our precious environment, there is some good news suggesting that we are on the right track. Australia’s footprint fell significantly between 2011 and 2014, from an estimated 8.80 to 6.89 global hectares per person. In contrast, over the same period, the per capita footprint in the United States of America was nearly stable from 8.54 to 8.37 global hectares per person.
Making choices that impact less on the environment, and being an active participant and sharing stories about living more sustainably is not only good for the planet – it is also good for people’s health and wellbeing. Social media has enabled a huge increase in awareness of what we can do and brought sophisticated information about how to move forward to our fingertips. However, it can also bring misinformation and confusion, making informed choices more difficult for individuals as well as for organisations.
Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, is committed to operating as ecologically sustainable as possible while providing high quality education enabling undergraduate and postgraduate students to gain skills and knowledge to address real world challenges. One unit that is specifically dedicated to environmental management and sustainability is PUN015, a capstone of PU80 Master of Health, Safety and Environment. In 2017, the students undertook a group challenge – to examine sustainability features and opportunities and recommend tools for auditing sustainability performance at their own campus and business area at Kelvin Grove Campus and Village.
This report presents the students’ combined contributions to a sustainability scoping review and recommended audit tools for Queensland University of Technology and associated businesses at Kelvin Grove Campus and Village located 6 kilometres north of the Central Business District of Brisbane, Queensland.
Methods and Structure of the Report
The review was conducted by 29 students of the PU80 Master of Health, Safety and Environment in the School of Public Health and Social Work, Faculty of Health, QUT between July and September 2017. The activity provided partial fulfilment of assessment requirements for PUN015 Environmental Management and Sustainability. Twenty five students chose to have their work included in this report through a signed consent process. Some requested to be named alongside their work, while others preferred to only be named on the overall document.
In producing this review, the students first collectively discussed the most likely major categories of the human ‘ecological footprint’ at Kelvin Grove, i.e. environmental damage or depletion associated with consumption and/or pollution occurring through university and business activities, as well as by staff and students in their everyday lives. They also discussed ‘ecological handprints’, i.e. personal and collective behaviours and activities and knowledge sharing, development and translation into action as a result of teaching, research and social interactions in the local area via education and daily life in each area.
The students then divided into five groups to research and report on key footprint/handprint categories which form the chapters of this report; namely people, water, food, energy and waste. Each group then further sub-divided their category into more specific components to enable each student to contribute an independent, topic report to be included as a section in each chapter. These detail recent evidence on key environmental aspects and impacts on sustainability with relevance to Kelvin Grove campus and local businesses. Students also developed new tools or identified appropriate existing tools that could be used to audit the current and future status of sustainability efforts on campus. These are placed in the Appendix of the full report. Each section concludes with suggestions and recommendations for improvements that could be made to reduce the footprint and increase the handprint of Kelvin Grove campus and village.