By Daniel Hunter

Students at the University of Strathclyde have identified savings of more than £300,000 for Scottish small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of an innovative project to reduce their carbon footprint.

The collaborative project between the University, Scottish Businesses in the Community and the Carbon Trust, provided the students with practical experience on environmental responsibilities in business, and identified potential savings of 4,825 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Seventeen students from the University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the David Livingstone Centre for Sustainability, were selected to participate on the 2012 SME Carbon Audit Project.

The University of Strathclyde was one of only three Scottish universities involved, and along with the Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, has ensured that environmental support is available to SMEs across the central belt of Scotland.

Andrew Millson, Head of Environment and Advisory Services of Scottish Business in the Community, said: “Research suggests that many small and medium sized businesses are not taking advantage of the benefits attached to measuring and monitoring their energy use.

“Feedback suggests that this is primarily due to lack of time and resource, and a perceived cost to the business. In light of this, the SME Carbon Audit Project aims to circumvent these challenges for small businesses by providing the resources to enable active measurement of the businesses’ carbon footprint.”

The students worked under the professional supervision of an expert consultant provided by Carbon Trust Scotland who delivered the carbon audit training and confirmed the accuracy and quality of the carbon audit reports before they could be released to the companies.

Sofia Díaz Rivera, a Mexican student on Strathclyde’s MSc in Environmental Entrepreneurship, said: “It was a great and challenging experience being involved in the carbon audit. I learned by practice and it is definitely something that I am going to apply to my future career.”

Mudzunga Thangavhuelelo-Lucas, a student on the MSc in Sustainability and Environmental Studies at Strathclyde, added: “I have gained strategies that if implemented in practice and in principle will bring hope and add value for my country South Africa as I return back home”.

The participating companies were from a range of sectors, including the Bike Station - a not-for-profit organisation promoting cycling and sustainable transport, Wolffe - an independent marketing and design agency, Hello Scotland - a corporate tourism company and The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO).

Warren McIntyre, Senior Manager for Carbon Trust Scotland, said: “The professionalism and enthusiasm of the individuals involved in this important project was clearly an important factor in achieving the impressive results of this partnership project. It is by such partnership working and capacity building that Scotland can lead by example in reducing carbon emissions”.

The University of Strathclyde will continue working with the Carbon Trust and Scottish Business in the Community on the 2013 SME Carbon Project, and students will be able to get credits with this work through the new class ‘Independent Study in Collaboration with Industry’. This will allow students carrying out placements and projects with industry to develop and refine professional skills.

The University is also a founding member of Sustainable Glasgow, a city-wide partnership to make Glasgow one of the most sustainable cities in Europe. It brings together partners from the public and private sectors and academia to work with citizens, communities and businesses.

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