Australian Catholic University (ACU) is proud to recognise its longstanding responsibility to embrace the natural environment, and practicing sustainability is directly related to the Catholic Mission of our university.
Pope Francis observes in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ – Caring for our Common Home, “how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society and interior peace”.
ACU has worked steadily to transform the way it operates in order to lighten its environmental impact through gains in energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste recycling. There have been some significant achievements: in 2014 and 2015, ACU was Australia’s most energy-efficient university and one of its most efficient water users.
It has a recycling rate of above 40 per cent, up from barely 15 per cent four years ago. The major source of the University’s environmental impacts is its many buildings, and ACU has invested strategically and ethically in sustainable renovations, refurbishment and new-building construction.
Its Melbourne Campus is home to the Daniel Mannix Building, which obtained six stars under the Green Star rating system, indicating world-leading sustainable design and construction.
ACU’s operational sustainability program has positioned the University well to meet the increasingly urgent demands made of organisations in all sectors for stronger sustainability leadership, and to grasp the many emerging opportunities to display it.
Those demands have emerged from many sources, including the moral imperative stated in Laudato Si’, from the expectations of our students, alumni and staff, from the wider Catholic community, and from sound financial drivers for efficiency and resilience.
The opportunities are many: they include smart energy and building technologies; clever use of videoconference technologies to remotely connect our people across our dispersed campuses; paperless administration and assignments; better building management; and enabling and empowering our community of students and staff to take more action daily to help ACU reach its sustainability targets.
ACU is now planning in detail how it can expand its sustainability program to meet these new challenges. For our students and staff, the day to day experience of sustainability is subtle, because so much of our sustainability work has been prosaic and out-of-sight: it’s in the built form of our campuses, in the operation of our heating and cooling systems, in the digitisation of our buildings, and in our lights, taps, toilets, showers and water tanks (all 550,000 litres of them).
Over the next several years, those initiatives will continue apace, but inspired by Laudato Si’ and its commitment to the common good, ACU will elevate its practice of missionbased
sustainability so that it becomes a normal, positive part of the daily experience of campus life, and will contribute to ACU’s strong record in preparing its graduates to create a better world.
Mark Doggett is the National Sustainability Manager for ACU. He has worked in sustainability management since 2007, in the Tertiary and NGO sectors.
His main interests are in ethical supply chains, sustainable buildings, and behaviour-change. Previously, he served in the Australian Army.
Mark received his Master of Environment from the University of Melbourne.