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Environment and sustainability

We are committed to managing and reducing our environmental impact and to promoting sustainable development wherever we can.

A wooden insect house fixed to a campus wall

From greener buildings to biodiversity and recycling, at York St John University we are committed to a sustainable future for everyone.

We are striving to be sustainable and reduce our environmental impact to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability is also outlined as one of the Visions in the University's 2026 strategy.

What we do

How to get involved

You can read more information about our environmental impact work in our downloadable leaflet:

You can also explore sustainability features around our campus, including bicycle racks, recycling points, and wildlife habitats, on our Sustainability Map.

If you would like to be involved in our future projects or to find out more information, please email or tweet us @YSJSustain.


We exceeded our target of a 43% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 by achieving a 48.9% reduction during 2018-9 (compared to the 2005 baseline). Our future targets are to further this reduction; our aims are a 65% reduction by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

Our focus is carbon neutrality, and to support this, we have made a range of updates to energy systems across campus. These include:

  • Roof mounted solar photovoltaic panels on buildings including St Anthony's House, Foss, Skell, De Grey, Fountains and St John Central
  • Solar carports and battery storage at York St John University Sports Park
  • Air source heat pumps on campus and accommodation sites

We have recently fitted solar panels on six of our campus buildings. To find out more about our decarbonisation work across campus, visit our decarbonisation page.

Sustainable energy sourcing

In addition to sourcing low-carbon energy from our main provider, 40% of our renewable electricity comes directly from wind farms: Altwalis, Andershaw, Baillie and Berry Burn.

We aim to reduce our use of natural gas for heating on all our estates, including at The Grange and City Residence sites.

Biodiversity enhancement

Close up of two wooden bird boxes on a campus wall

We are dedicated to enhancing biodiversity on our estates. On Lord Mayor's Walk, our main campus, we have bird boxes, insect hotels and log piles for hedgehogs and invertebrates. Our grounds are maintained beautifully by the Grounds Team; some grass areas are left to overgrow in the summer and a wildflower meadow has been established behind the Chapel.

At York St John University Sports Park we have wildlife ponds, beehives and an apple orchard which allows biodiversity to flourish. We have worked with the local community to plant hundreds of trees on the site and plans are underway to plant more.

We have a plan to support biodiversity across all our sites, including student residences. The aim is to increase the diversity of habitats and species. An example could be installing and maintaining freshwater habitats, green roofs, and fauna towers.

Hedgehog friendly campus

We are participating in the Hedgehog Friendly Campus Scheme. After achieving silver certification in 2021-22, we are now aiming for gold certification.

Efforts to make our campus more hedgehog friendly have included establishing wildflower areas, leaving other grass areas long to provide food sources and shelter, planting hedgehog friendly species, and putting hedgehog houses in the log piles that provide a retreat for wildlife.

We have also installed permanent feeding stations, and have put out water drinking bowls to support our hedgehog population.

Find out more on the YSJ Sustainability blog.

Sustainable development

Creative Centre building

Our new Creative Centre and its surrounding landscape includes many features to enhance biodiversity. The Creative Centre achieved an overall 'Excellent' rating for its Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) in its design stage assessment.

This is due to its consideration for health and wellbeing, low-carbon design, low water consumption, use of sustainable materials, reduction in waste, biodiversity enhancement, sustainable transport measures and minimal contamination.

It has also won 2 categories in the 2022 York Design Awards, one in Sustainability and the other in Community/Education.

Sustainable catering

We are continuing to work with our catering team to make sure that our future sourcing is as sustainable and ethical as possible.

Sustainable travel

A row of electric scooters parked on the York St John campus
  • Cycle to Work scheme: We run a Cycle to Work scheme for staff which enables a tax saving by paying for a bicycle through payroll. Details can be found on the intranet.
  • E-scooters: are a new addition to our estate. They can be found on our Lord Mayor’s Walk campus, just outside the Holgate building and Fountains Learning Centre, at the York St John University Sports Park, and at City Residence. These can be used for travelling around the city centre.
  • Electrical vehicles: 70% of our maintenance vans are electric and when replacing vehicles, we are adding to this electric fleet.



Education for sustainable development

Each decision we take, the investment we make and innovation we pursue must recognise wider environmental responsibility.

Building on the positive initiatives we already have in place to protect our habitat and procure new business and buildings responsibly, we must set a positive example - shaping capacity to rise to the environmental challenges our planet increasingly faces for a more sustainable future.

We are also involved in the University's cross-departmental Living Labs project.

Green Week

We also collaborate university-wide for Green Week, an annual, week long event organised in collaboration with York St John University Students' Union.

Green Week started in 2021 and it held its second annual Green Week in 2022. The Week brought together a range of events to engage staff and students with sustainability issues.

Sustainable procurement

We use the UN Global Goals as a benchmark to assess supplier contributions to our own environmental impact. This ensures that supplier contracts include the obligation to minimise waste for both goods and the associated packaging.

Waste management

Close-up of a metal bicycle with a sign on the basket reading 'Share more, consume less'
  • Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle: Our first aim is to reduce waste, and reuse, repair and repurpose items before they are sent for recycling. Wherever possible we reuse and reallocate furniture on the estate, including at accommodation sites, preferring to relocate, repair or reupholster an item, rather than immediately procure new goods.
  • British Heart Foundation (BHF): BHF Clothing banks are located on our Lord Mayor's Walk campus and at residential sites so that students and staff can donate their unwanted goods. The annual BHF 'Pack for Good' campaign supports our efforts to reduce waste. Donation bags are delivered to accommodation sites to encourage students to donate their unwanted items before they leave their accommodation at the end of the academic year.
  • Zero Waste to Landfill: All waste produced by York St John is diverted from landfill. The waste is segregated into recyclables, which are reused as a commodity, and general waste which is processed to create refuse-derived fuel. Our food waste is converted into electricity and low carbon-fertilisers are made as a by-product, which are sold by local businesses. Green waste from all our sites is recycled or sent externally to create compost. We also have separate collection bins for batteries and pens.
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