Sustainability at JCU

Welcome to the JCU sustainability induction for all students and staff. Learn about JCU's fantastic sustainability initiatives here, and how you can get involved to work and study more sustainably. Further information about each topic can be found throughout the TropEco website.

JCU's Sustainability Initiatives

Below are some of the great sustainability initiatives that JCU has invested in to create more sustainable campuses and actively pursue its commitment to sustainable development.

JCU CDC tank

JCU's award winning energy management initiatives includes the Campus District Cooling system, a state of the art Energy Management System and solar power installations.

Our award-winning campus district cooling system (CDC) keeps our buildings cool in the tropical heat. We have the largest CDC tank in the southern hemisphere, holding 12.5 million litres of water which is used to create the CDC chilled water air-conditioning system. This incredible energy saving system saves thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from being released and creates millions of dollars in energy savings every year.

JCU Estate Directorate staff carefully monitor energy use in every campus using a state-of-the-art energy management system software. Air-conditioning and lighting is timetabled to match occupation in teaching spaces and adjusted for daily weather conditions for maximum efficiency. Standard fluorescent lighting is being steadily phased out and replaced with flat LED panels in older JCU buildings saving up to 63% of energy consumption, while getting the same number of lumens of light and a better brightening system.

Below: images from the Energy Management System showing monitoring air-conditioning temperatures and timetabled occupancy in JCU buildings.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world, and is devised by the Unites States Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage sustainable design.

All new JCU buildings are built to the highest sustainability ratings which significantly reduce their environmental impact. JCU’s landmark The Science Place building is the first educational building in Australia to achieve a prestigious LEED® Gold rating for its environmentally sustainable design.

Here is a list of sustainability initiatives in the Science Place:

  • Recovery and recycling of 93.5% of all demolition and construction materials, a new record for a large development in Townsville.
  • A light reflective roof colour, to reduce building heat gain and air conditioning energy use.
  • Energy-efficient design appropriate to the tropical environment and built to contemporary standards.
  • A 25kW solar photovoltaic energy system on the roof which generates an average of 125kWh of renewable energy each day.
  • A façade optimised to maximise daylight entering the building while minimising heat gain.
  • Daylight sensitive lighting that reduces power consumption when natural daylight is available.
  • Special concrete reinforcement in paths, using JCU’s own research results. The recycled plastic fibre technology replaces steel reinforcement which significantly reduces the path’s high embodied energy and hence the environmental impact.
  • Smart metering and circuits to ensure building data is available to the building and energy management systems, to optimise its performance and comfort for occupants.
  • Sustainable Certified Wood used in construction.
  • Superior indoor air quality management and testing.
  • Multiple low-emitting materials to ensure quality indoor air, including low-emission adhesives, sealants, paints, and flooring.
  • Water-saving taps and fittings.
  • The JCU Ideas Lab in Cairns (below left) is also LEED® Gold rated with similar sustainability features to the Science Place including a bioswale to naturally filter pollutants from storm water runoff before it enters waterways (below centre).  Energy generation from the solar installation and power consumption can be viewed from a screen in side the building (below right).

JCU encourages staff and students to patronize sustainable modes of transport. Walking, cycling, and scootering to, from, and within campus are great ways of saving the environment from emissions from single occupancy cars while maintaining our physical fitness.

JCU runs a Green Bike Fleet program, has campus bike workshops and end-of-ride facilities, and has installed several bike racks to support the use of bicycles on campus. Designated bicycle racks are located near most major buildings on campus. There are also secure, swipe-access end of trip facilities for cyclists. Shower facilities are available in most major buildings on campus for cyclists who want to freshen up before going on with their day duties.

James Cook University campuses have access to excellent public transport that runs frequently at set times daily, transporting people to and from the University’s campuses. Public buses offer JCU commuters a relaxed time during transit. Travelling to JCU on a bus takes a car off the road and reduces JCU’s carbon footprint.

Electric scooters are a fun, sustainable way to get around the Bebegu Yumba Townsville campus, they are available to hire in multiple locations to reduce vehicle use around the campus. JCU also has a Yurika electric car charger on the Bebegu Yumba campus, part of the Queensland electric superhighway Queensland Government initiative.

We have a CTM SMART ride share program activated by our Concur travel booking system to encourage staff to carpool when travelling between campuses. The JCU vehicle fleet includes hybrid vehicles available to staff travelling between campuses.

Virtual commute is another sustainable alternative to travelling. Online staff meetings, study modes, conferences, and workshops are run at JCU using the highest quality online communication platforms, reducing the need for travel between campuses.

JCU values conserving water on our campuses. Rain tanks associated with many JCU buildings on campuses from the Torres Strait to Townsville to catch rainwater from building rooves to reduce town water use. In the Nguma-bada Cairns campus JCU has installed AquaClic® water saving aerators in all  campus sink faucets, saving at least half of water and energy usage associated with regular faucets.

We have planted hardy native gardens on our campuses using plants local to each location to save on irrigation. Our irrigation systems are specially designed to be water efficient. See further details of our water-conscious gardens and water-saving irrigation systems designed by TropEco staff.

JCU also saves water by

  • recycling water discarded in laboratory reverse osmosis systems, and using it to operate toilets, rather than be wasted.
  • Installation of rainwater tanks on new buildings, such as the Boatshed in Cairns and ATSIP in Townsville.

  • Education and awareness programs for staff and students.
  • Reuse of old cooling tower tanks to store storm and bore water for irrigation.
  • Use of bore water and stormwater to irrigate grounds.
  • Improved irrigation practices, metering and monitoring.
  • Installation of water efficient showers and tap fittings.
  • Installation of water efficient fittings and toilets in all new and refurbished buildings.
  • Installation of additional sub-metering and connection to the JCU energy management system to identify usage patterns and faults.
  • Working with Townsville City Council to minimise irrigation use and comply with water restrictions.

JCU's campuses each have an unique rich biodiversity which plays a major part in the attraction of JCU to students and staff. The Bebegu Yumba and Nguma-bada campus has a Natural Assets Management Plan (NAMP) that outlines the management of the natural assets of the campus and ensures protection and enhancement of biodiversity.

The NAMP aims to inform future sustainable development projects to ensure JCU is an exemplar of best practice in campus planning and development, by identifying high value species, habitats and green corridors.  JCU takes care to protect native wildlife including in our natural freshwater creeks, where fish ladders (below left) have been installed to allow fish to travel unhindered to their spawning grounds (Bebegu Yumba). Motion sensor cameras record native mammals, birds and reptiles that call our campuses home and help us monitor campus biodiversity (below centre and right).

In our campus community gardens, students use compost generated from our lunchroom waste to grow fresh produce. We process our green waste onsite to create mulch for our native landscaped gardens.

Our native plant nursery also supports ex situ conservation programs for Australian threatened plant species and the effect of the invasive disease myrtle rust on native flora. The Bebegu Yumba plant nursery provides thousands of trees, including plants significant for indigenous food and medicine, that are planted back in revegetation areas on site to keep our native landscapes thriving. JCU also actively monitors occurrence of invasive weed species on campus , and regularly eradicates weeds and revegetates damaged areas with native plants.

Images below: campus native plant nursery, revegetation plot on the Townsville campus, TropEco volunteers removing weeds from the Orpheus Island Research Station.

All staff and students are part of the JCU TropEco program, making every small sustainability action count towards our greater sustainability goals.

TropEco creates a culture of active sustainability at JCU through the following initiatives:

  • Student internships making a practical difference completing sustainability projects on campus
  • Annual sustainability program - a friendly competition between teams, performing sustainability actions
  • LiFE benchmarking every two years, and the annual Times Higher Education Impact Ranking against the UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • The JCU War on Waste
  • Caring for wildlife on campus
  • Protecting native landscapes and revegetation
  • Awarding and recognising sustainability achievements by the JCU community

How can I get involved in sustainability at JCU?

JCU is committed to creating a more sustainable future. In 2016 JCU became the first university signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

All JCU staff have an obligation to: “Support the principles of the TropEco program and engage in commitment to JCU sustainability goals and objectives”.

Here are some practical ways you can reduce your environmental impact by saving power on campus.

  • Shut down your computer and monitors each day in offices, laboratories and residential buildings where possible, especially on weekends and holidays
  • Turn off lights and appliances when not in use
  • Schedule use of larger equipment for maximum efficiency in laboratories.
  • Keep fridges and freezers clean and defrosted in kitchens, laboratories and residential spaces.
  • When replacing electrical appliances for offices, kitchens or research spaces, purchase items with the highest energy efficiency ratings
  • Keep doors and windows shut in air-conditioned spaces, for example in residential buildings, computer labs and offices.

Choose to travel sustainably to campus, around campus and between JCU campuses

  • Choose to catch a bus to campus through the Sunbus service
  • Ride your bike or scooter to campus, purchase a bike through the Green Bike Fleet sale and workshop service. Save fuel and get fit at the same time, then freshen up in great end of ride facilities. There are covered bike racks for safely parking bicycles around campus.
  • Hire an electric scooter rather than drive your car across campus
  • Carpool with friends and colleagues when commuting to campus, going to an off-campus event, driving between campuses or hiring a car from the airport, save fuel and enjoy a social commute!

What can you do to avoid creating waste and reduce the amount of waste you create on campus?

  • Bring a reusable cup, mug, water bottle and lunch in a lunchbox to campus
  • Avoid printing where possible, go digital! If you have to print; print double-sided, or 2 sheets per page.
  • Avoid buying poor-quality goods that can't be repaired or recycled
  • Before ordering new office furniture, check out the JCU Warp It page for used office furniture available for collection, you can also list item no longer required to donate to another JCU team
  • Reduce food waste, create a milk club in your staff or student residence communal kitchen to pool purchasing of milk and reduce milk waste. Create an "USE ME UP -EAT ME" section of your communal fridge to share food that needs to be used up.

JCU provides chilled fresh drinking water in water fountains on all campuses. Water fountains (known locally as bubblers) contain bottle refill taps as well as drinking faucets. Chilled water stations are available on each floor of multi-story buildings. JCU has installed several digital water bottle refill station that record the number of bottles refilled number of disposable bottles saved from landfill. JCU marketing provide mobile drinking water bottle refill stations at all JCU open day events for attendees and no longer provide bottled water. JCU Marketing and TropEco have provided thousands of reusable water bottles to students to promote reducing plastic waste on campus, including visiting high school students on JCU open Day (see below). See the  JCU Marketing Event Toolkit for more information about the mobile water stations.

JCU recycles many different waste streams including:

  • Paper and Cardboard boxes
  • Co-mingled recycling - Aluminum and steel cans, glass bottles and jars,, plastic bottles and containers
  • Batteries
  • E-waste including computers and mobile phones
  • Florescent light tubes
  • Printer cartridges
  • Scrap metal
  • Furniture through the Warp it system

Specialist Recycling

In the recycling hubs (below) located around each campus, you can recycle specialist items that can not be recycled in yellow co-mingled recycle bins:

Here are some tips to protecting the beautiful tropical environment on JCU campuses:

  • Remember all campus drains lead eventually to the Great Barrier Reef, carefully follow disposal guidelines for chemicals in laboratories and workshops and respect our waterways.
  • Dispose of waste correctly on campus following the Waste and Recycling Procedures
  • Travel carefully around campus to avoid hurting native wildlife crossing roads. Report injured wildlife to JCU Security
  • Get involved in TropEco activities such as the sustainability program, tree planting, clean-up days and the community garden to really make an impact.