TCDSU mandated to record carbon cost of its activities

The environmental officer will formulate this policy and review it on an annual basis

Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) has passed a motion mandating the union’s Environmental Officer to formulate a policy on carbon costing and reporting. 

This policy will include the creation of a schedule of carbon costs for many of the union’s typical activities. 

The motion notes that the union already reports its financial expenditure, but “does not currently make any effort to quantify the carbon cost of its activities”, alongside noting that calculating the “exact carbon cost” of union activities is “prohibitively difficult” and a schedule of estimates is required for the union to make “a reasonable estimate” of its carbon footprint.

With the passing of this motion, Council has mandated that the Environmental Officer must formulate a “Non-binding Policy on Carbon Costing and Reporting”, including a schedule of carbon costs for “typical union activities”. 

Council also mandated that the Environmental Officer conduct a review of this policy at least once per academic year, and that this review be brought to Council as a discussion item and the Environmental Officer will also be required to bring a discussion to Council about any “substantive alterations made at any point in time” and to notify the Oversight Commission of any changes made at any point in time.

The motion was proposed to Council by Environmental Officer Áine Hennessy and seconded by STEM convenor Daniel O’Reilly. 

During the discussion at Council, O’Reilly emphasised that “as a planet it doesn’t really matter how much Euro we spend” and that he hopes this motion will lead to a “trend” in other students’ unions around the country. 

Welfare and Equality Officer Leah Keogh then added her voice to the discussion saying that “we’ve [college] committed to being world leader in terms of sustainability and we’re nowhere near there” and that she thinks this motion is a “good, practical thing that we in the union can do”

Speaking to Trinity News today, Environmental Officer Áine Hennessy, who proposed the motion, said that “we’re used to hearing about how much things cost in euro”, and it is “important for the long term health of the union that our finances are kept in the green”, but that “it’s important for the long term health of the planet that the union, and everyone else, consciously make the green choice and not just the cheap choice”. 

“The only way we can know if we’re making better choices is by quantifying them, and calculating the carbon cost of products and activities is already a widely used practice,” Hennessy said.

 “We hope that this Carbon Costing policy will act as a reference book of sorts, that the Union can track our organisational carbon footprint and make concentrated decisions to reduce it.”

Hennessy continued: “As far as we know, no other students’ union tracks the carbon cost of their operations, only the financial cost.”

“Hopefully we can set a trend, produce a schedule of costs that other organisations can use for themselves, or modify to fit their needs, and start a wider practice of Carbon Costing.”

Prior to this, TCDSU was not mandated to report any of its annual carbon costs.

The new policy is set to be reviewed on an annual basis, and this review will be brought to Council by the Environmental Officer as a discussion item.

Additional reporting by Sarah Emerson, Connie Roughan, Jamie Cox, Jade Brunton and Kate Glen. 

Kate Henshaw

Kate Henshaw is current Editor-in-Chief of Trinity News, and a graduate of Sociology and Social Policy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.

Shannon Connolly

Shannon Connolly is the Editor-in-Chief of the 69th volume Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister student of English Literature and Philosophy. She previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.