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by Stevie Kearney, Head of News <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;">Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) has announced plans to use renewable energies to power two of its main buildings. The Teviot building of the Students’ Union will have a rainwater recovery system fitted whilst much of the building at the Pleasance will be powered by solar panels set to be fitted to the roof.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;">The work is being carried out as part of EUSA’s environmental policy, which is shaped in conjunction with the National Union of Students (NUS). The NUS runs the Sound Impact Awards, an accreditation scheme based in Macclesfield which works with most of the universities in the UK to help develop a more environmentally friendly organisation.</p> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;"></p>

EUSA is based at Potterrow

The scheme is voluntary, but has eighty-five students’ associations signed up now in only its third year of existence. A twenty-one step criteria is laid out covering areas from recycling facilities to the stocking of Fairtrade products in student unions. Each university is then audited during the year and can be graded in one of four ways: ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘bronze’ or ‘working towards accreditation’.

EUSA received a silver award in the first year of the awards, then managed to gain a gold last year. The gold award is reserved for the top five students’ associations in the UK.

George Thomas is Vice President of EUSA and the environmental policy of the university is part of his remit. He feels the awards scheme is of great use to the university, saying, “The scheme looks a bit daunting to begin with and the first year is definitely the hardest. The pack they send out is excellent though. It lays everything out very clearly. After that, it’s just about maintaining the work already done and finding new ways to build on it”.

And build on it they certainly have, with the new solar panels and rainwater collection system now costed and work due to begin at the start of next year. Alan Blackwood, EUSA’s Sound Impact Coordinator, is delighted the funding is there, “Obviously these projects can be expensive and they have to be cost effective, but these two new schemes are a major step forward in our already excellent strategy”.

The Potterrow dome is "a nightmare to heat"

As with most older universities, many of the EUSA buildings are listed, which makes it difficult to bring them up to modern standards with regard to heating requirements. Blackwood pointed to this fact, saying that, “buildings just weren’t designed with environmental concerns in mind 100 years ago, or even 20 years ago. The Pleasance Dome is a nightmare to heat, so we just don’t even try. It is due for demolition in a few years’ time and will be replaced with something much better insulated”.

But whilst Edinburgh University leads the way, across town, Napier University is one of the few who have yet to join the Sound Impact scheme. Although there have been calls from both within and outwith the university to sign up, the Napier Students’ Association (NSA) is now one of just a handful of students’ association who have yet to do so.

The huge solar panel wall at Merchiston

Nobody from the Napier Students’ Association was available for comment on this issue.

Although the NSA has not committed to become part of the scheme, the university has given a lot of funding to environmental projects, including the wall of solar panels installed at the Merchiston campus.

Catherine Dishington, the Environmental Auditor for Sound Impact said, “It is a shame that some universities haven’t joined the scheme. It is all about working together to help make our campuses carbon neutral and zero-waste”.

“We have even introduced a new pack this year specifically targeting smaller universities who lack the manpower to fulfil the criteria of the original pack. But if a university doesn’t wish to join, there is nothing we can do”.

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