As Scotland’s principal environmental regulator, our role is to deliver environmental protection and improvement in ways, that as far as possible, also create health and well-being benefits and sustainable economic growth.
Like any other organisation, the activities we undertake to perform this role have an impact on the environment. Our staff use various forms of transport, from cars and vans, to buses, trains and boats to get around the country to take samples, visit businesses and meet with partner organisations. Our buildings also require heat, power and water to operate, and our work also generates waste.
We want to be an exemplar in managing our environmental performance and we are continually taking active steps to reduce our environmental footprint.
What’s been achieved over the past year?
Each year we publish data measuring our success in reducing our environmental impact. Our latest report has identified considerable improvement in our performance for 2015-2016. Our greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 13.6% in one year, taking us more than halfway to our target of reducing our emissions by 42% by 2020.
Key ingredients to this success have been the moves to smaller but better and more efficient offices, work to optimise our Angus Smith Building near Glasgow, sustained drops in our travel emissions and a range of carbon reduction initiatives.
We are making steady progress to reduce our emissions from travel, and we reduced our total travel emissions by 6.6% compared to last year.
We increased the number of video conferences held within our offices. Staff are currently holding around the equivalent of 18.5 hours of video conferencing a day and 300 web conferences a month, therefore reducing the amount of travel being made by staff between offices.
Business car miles claimed was down 12% on the previous year, and we also clocked up 3,840 low-emission electric vehicle miles.
Our survey vessel, the Sir John Murray undertakes work on a three year cycle taking, analysing and reporting on more than 50,000 samples every year. By taking shorter routes and by not always returning back to home port after surveys, we have also been able to save 16,800 litres of fuel, reducing emissions and saving money.
Waste reduction initiatives also take place across our offices. Staff are encouraged to recycle paper, cans and IT equipment, and food composting takes place at offices, where it is possible to do so.
Our efforts have resulted in an 18% reduction in waste compared to last year, and during 2015-2016, 67% of our waste was recycled, saving 92 tonnes CO2e. However, 12.7% of our waste still went to landfill, and this is something we aim to reduce further in future years.
We have replaced most of our desktop and laptop computers with a new virtual desktop system that reduces energy demands by 86%.
We have also taken action to reduce the energy consumption of ‘hidden’ equipment, such as servers. In March 2016, we invested in flash systems to replace our conventional storage. This technology uses 90% less power and needs 85% less cooling and is estimated to result in an 88% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We predict that this will reduce electricity demand at our Angus Smith Building by more than 5% – saving money as well as emissions.
SEPA has set itself one of the most demanding greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Scottish public sector. While there are still big challenges ahead in our efforts to make SEPA a low carbon organisation, Terry A’Hearn. Chief Executive Officer for SEPA is optimistic for the future: “I am delighted that our performance in 2015-2016 has been the best we have ever reported. Our emissions have reduced by 13.6% in one year, taking us more than half way to our highly ambitious target.
“This work is essential in making SEPA a world class 21st century EPA. We must powerfully lead by example. There is still much for us to do to meet the challenging targets we have set, but the past year’s performance is a strong result. It lays clear foundations for us to accelerate our efforts so that we can strongly deliver on our responsibilities to help Scotland to tackle climate change.”
- Angus Smith Building energy improvements
Our Angus Smith Building (ASB) is one of our newer buildings and built to BREEAM ‘excellent’ standards. However our green network and facilities staff at ASB have taken steps to optimise the building to reduce its energy demands even further. These have produced dramatic effects. We have:
- introduced a new energy management system, portioned off certain parts of the building;
- reduced cooling levels in our server room;
- reduced energy demands from laboratory equipment;
- run staff awareness campaigns.
In 2015-2016, electricity use at ASB dropped by 15% and gas use by 17%. By doing, so we have saved 239 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from this one building in one year.
Further details regarding our environmental performance can be found in:
- SEPA environmental performance infographic
- Our performance section on our website
- SEPA’s environmental footprint 2015-2016 prezi