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Degrees of Change

UCL does incredible things. But powering our campus and operations has a big impact. We need to radically reduce our carbon emissions. And we need your help to do it.

Create your plan for a low-carbon UCL

Let's get started

Below you’ll find 12 different carbon-reducing actions. The first half are about improving UCL’s estate. The others are about supporting behaviour change from students and staff. Spend your budget on the activities you think should be a priority for UCL. Please be aware all figures used are indicative, and are used to illustrate the approximate benefits of different approaches.

This Degrees of Change tool formed part of a 2015 consultation on the future of UCL’s carbon emissions. The consultation has now closed, but you can still use this tool to devise your own approach to UCL’s carbon reduction challenge. This is a project by the UCL Sustainability Team, based on research by Dr Tom Cohen. Find out more, including how your data will be used.

Improving our campus

In this section, you can spend your budget on activities to improve UCL’s buildings and infrastructure.

Installing solar panels

Solar panels, also known as solar photovoltaics, use the sun's energy to produce electricity. Installing these on UCL’s buildings could be a visible and effective way for us to generate more of our own energy. But remember: UCL has a limited amount of roof space.

Limit reached
You've installed as much solar as UCL can take!

Installing more efficient lighting

5% of the energy UCL consumes is used for lighting. Low-energy alternatives like LEDs could use up to 90% less electricity than old incandescent bulbs.

Limit reached
You've now replaced all of UCL's lights with low-energy alternatives!

Installing green roofs

A green roof is a roof space that’s either partially or totally covered with plants. While they can help insulate buildings, their main benefits include creating wildlife habitats, retaining water to prevent flooding and lowering air temperatures. And remember: UCL has a limited amount of roof space.

Limit reached
All suitable roofs at UCL are now green!

Buying more renewable energy from the grid

UCL imports much of its energy from the National Grid. Around 28% of this is generated from renewable sources. By investing in offsite renewable energy technologies (e.g. offshore wind turbines) UCL could help increase the amount of the UK’s energy generated from renewable sources.

Installing more efficient heating and cooling, and better controls

Much of UCL is served by a district heating network, powered by gas-driven Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engines. Upgrading the CHP and installing more efficient boilers and air conditioning units could create large energy savings.

Limit reached
You've upgraded as much of UCL's heating and cooling system as possible with your budget!

Insulating our buildings

It takes a lot of energy to heat and cool UCL’s buildings. Insulation is all about conserving heat in the winter and keeping cool in the summer. This usually consists of using insulating materials to prevent heat loss through roofs and walls, and installing double glazing.

Limit reached
You’ve now undertaken all the basic insulation measures you can across UCL!

Getting the UCL community on board

In this section, you can spend your budget on activities to help support behaviour change from staff and students.

Switching off lights and appliances

Lots of UCL’s lights, equipment and appliances are left on unnecessarily. And if the whole UCL community worked to tackle this, we could save a large amount of energy. To get everyone on board, we’d need awareness campaigns, equipment timers and much better signage.

Ensuring our labs are used more efficiently

Our labs are responsible for some incredible breakthroughs. But they use a lot of energy. Through actions like closing fume cupboard sashes, using more efficient equipment and putting timers on high energy use equipment, substantial savings could be made.

Promoting walking and cycling

Increasing the number of staff and students that walk and cycle to UCL could help reduce our carbon emissions and improve local air quality. With more bike racks and showers, awareness campaigns and cycle training, we could help the UCL community take the next step to more active travel.

Building users encouraged to tolerate a wider range of temperatures

Educating staff and students to dress appropriately and accept higher and lower building temperatures aligned to seasonal variations and occupancy levels would save lots of energy. But alongside this, we’d also need to improve controls for heating and cooling across the university.

Reducing academic flights

Presenting at international events is seen as an important part of furthering research and academic career progression. The carbon impact of flying to these events is huge; larger than powering UCL’s whole campus. Investing in videoconferencing and awareness-raising campaigns could have an impact, but fundamentally, this is about individual travel choices.

Purchasing better and sharing what we have

Over 60% of UCL’s emissions come from producing the goods and services we purchase. By sharing high energy use equipment across departments and using resource-sharing websites like Quartzy and Warpit, we can make a real reduction to purchasing of new chemicals, furniture and equipment.

Community effort

For our community actions, we’ve assumed a reasonable level of participation from students and staff. But you might think the UCL community would be far more (or less) responsive. Use this dial to set the level of participation you’d expect from staff and students, and to see the effect it has on your carbon savings.

Your proposal

Budget remaining


Community participation


Carbon saving per year

0 tonnes
which is a 0% reduction on UCL’s current annual carbon emissions

Tell us about your plan

How do you think UCL should reduce its carbon emissions?
Tell us what’s important to you.

Please note the consultation has now closed, but you can still use this tool to devise your own approach to UCL’s carbon reduction challenge.

Degrees of Change is a collaboration between UCL Sustainability Team and designer and developer Rory Pickering, based on research by Dr Tom Cohen. Find out more, including the tool’s terms and conditions and how your data will be used.