Two Sides shames University of Gloucestershire for dropping print prospectuses

Two Sides is a key proponent in the campaign against harmful 'greenwashing'
Two Sides is a key proponent in the campaign against harmful 'greenwashing'

The University of Gloucestershire has been blasted by Two Sides over its decision to discontinue its print prospectuses in favour of digital, a move which “fundamentally ignores” print’s sustainable qualities.

Around 2.5 million paper prospectuses containing course and university information are printed yearly by the university for fairs around the UK. At a Ucas fair in Bristol on 9 March, the university elected instead to give prospective students a paper wristband filled with wildflower seeds and printed with a QR code to access digital prospectuses.

Vice chancellor Stephen Marston called the move “a further step we can take in applying the principles of sustainability across everything we do”, but paper sustainability advocate Two Sides condemned the decision to reject print for failing to produce any studies or research it may have undertaken to conclude that a move away from print is better for the environment.

A statement from Two Sides said: “This decision fundamentally ignores the unique sustainable attributes of print and paper, whilst also fuelling the misconception that digital communication is environmentally free of charge.

“Two Sides was disappointed that the University of Gloucestershire, as a respected institute of higher education, failed to highlight the research and comparative studies it undertook to conclude that moving away from print is better for the environment.

“Their announcement makes no reference to the impacts of digital and what the university will be doing to measure and mitigate these impacts.”

Last year, the University of Gloucestershire was awarded first position in the 2019 Sustainable University league run by student campaigning network People & Planet. As part of its sustainability commitment, it has pledged to stop using fossil fuels and has reduced its carbon emissions by 46% since 2005.

In response to the university’s decision to move away from paper prospectuses, Two Sides highlighted that emails alone generate 300 million tonnes of CO2 each year and that the pulp and paper industry accounts for just 1% of emissions, having reduced its CO2 emissions by 25% between 2005 and 2017.

As a sector, pulp and paper is reportedly the biggest single user and producer of renewable energy in Europe, with 60% of energy consumption from renewable sources.

Speaking to other universities considering similar moves, Two Sides concluded: “In today’s always-on digital world, printed prospectuses give prospective students the freedom to focus, without distraction, advertising cookies, alerts or notifications, on one of the most important decisions of their lives.

“Two Sides encourages all universities to respect the right of their students to choose their preferred medium, whether print or digital, and to not make unsubstantiated claims about paper’s environmental impact.”