A Greener Future

Addressing a packed audience, one of the first questions Rob Holdway poses is: “What are we leaving for future generations?”.

Rob is one of the UK’s leading eco experts and shared his environmental insight with University of Wolverhampton staff and other guests when he spoke at a recent event.

Our legacy

His question proved thought-provoking, especially when backed up by statistics. Revealing that the average UK household wastes £480 each year on food which ends up in the bin makes people stop and think about their own actions.

“We have to think about our legacy; our children’s children,” he says. “At the moment, people’s lives are so far from sustainable.” With the human race already living beyond what the earth can carry, Rob’s ultimate objective is that we can become resource efficient. He is passionate about changing attitudes and is on a mission to raise awareness of ways to reduce carbon emissions.

Rob advises companies and Government in the UK and around the world on how to reduce the environmental impact of their business and has led a number of high-profile initiatives.

He works with companies as diverse as Dell, Selfridges and L’Oreal but stresses that individual actions are as important as major projects. He firmly believes that small changes can make a big difference.

Reducing our impact

And he praised the University of Wolverhampton’s Carbon Management Plan, which is focused on reducing the University’s carbon emissions by 25% over the next five years.

“Universities are trying to reduce their impact and are engaging their students,” he says. “They have an important role to play.”

Rob, who is known for presenting the Channel 4 reality show Dumped, where 11 unsuspecting  people were marooned on a landfill site and had to forage to survive, gave a leadership seminar at the launch of the plan. He offered advice and insight in keeping with its ethos and inspired staff and business people with ways to reduce carbon emissions, both in the workplace and at home.

The event was organised by the University’s Leadership and Development (LEAD) in partnership with the Core Team.

Representatives from energy/utilities supply industries and sustainability and environmental consultants were also among those who attended.

Rob’s consultancy, Giraffe Innovation, advises on carbon management and resource efficiency and has identified savings of more than £75 million and 50,000 tonnes of CO2 for clients.

Rob was also Project Director for the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Man Sculpture. This seven metre high, three tonne installation made out of electronic waste, represented what one British person will get through in a lifetime.

The aim of the project was to highlight the scale of the environmental impact we all have.

The sculpture was launched outside London’s City Hall and is now on permanent display at The Eden Project in Cornwall. He is currently planning a new sculpture event for Trafalgar Square, which involves calculating the carbon footprints of 1,000 people and then creating 1,000 sculpted creatures to represent them.

Rob, whose background is as an industrial designer, says that businesses are becoming much more aware of their carbon footprint and are more open to change and new ways of working.

But that doesn’t mean every venture is successful. Using natural materials where possible is a good alternative but an attempt to pioneer lactic acid printers resulted in them melting in a hot climate.

“I’m interested in creativity,” he says. “Not every green initiative will be a success but it’s important to look at different options and try new things.”

The UK government has identified the university sector as key to delivering carbon reduction across the UK and Rob agrees that higher education institutions are vital in terms of influence, research and leading by example.

The University's plan

The University of Wolverhampton’s Carbon Management Plan will raise awareness of issues such as climate change and encourage collective responsibility and action among staff, students and visitors. The plan has been driven by the Estates and Facilities department, with input from across the University.

Projects include installing a combined heat and power unit on City Campus, staff and student recycling initiatives and awareness campaigns, improving timetabling efficiency and extending the use of Building Energy Management Systems.

When staff were asked for feedback last year about ways to be greener, the number one issue raised was about the number of PCs left on overnight. IT Services will be undertaking a new project to manage this problem.

Jane Nelson, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Affairs, is chairing the University’s Carbon Management Core Team. She says: “These projects alone will achieve more than half of what we need to do. There are 35 projects planned in total and there is a lot of exciting work ahead.

“Carbon management enables the University to make a significant contribution to the environment, benefiting current and future generations.”

Which brings us back to Rob’s question; there is much that can be done individually and collectively to ensure that there is a positive legacy for future generations.


  • Since April 2009, Wolverhampton has been one of 11 universities participating in the Carbon Trust’s fifth HE Carbon Management programme.
  • The 40+ universities that have participated so far have achieved an average reduction of 25% in their carbon emissions.
  • The overriding aim of the programme is to help the higher education sector tackle the threat of climate change, and to achieve significant reductions in energy costs.
  • Since April 2010 any organisation that consumed more than 6,000 Mega Watt hours of half hourly monitored electricity during 2008 is legally obliged to participate in the Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment.
  • The Carbon Management Core Team consists of staff from across the University, including Executive, Estates and Facilities, Finance, IT Services, academic staff, Marketing and Communications and also student representatives.