Some universities have a commitment to both academic education and sustainable development, and the sustainable development goals can support several sustainable actions that universities may take as principles and attitudes. From this perspective, the purpose of this study is to present environmentally sustainable practices at a federal university in Brazil and to analyze and discuss the potential environmental impacts associated with an environmentally sustainable practice implemented using life cycle assessment (LCA) and its benefits for the university’s decision-makers.Design/methodology/approachTo accomplish that, the study combines a description of environmentally sustainable practices at the 13 campuses of the Universidade Tecnológica Federal do Paraná (UTFPR) in terms of education, water and electricity consumption, waste management and emissions. As a result of this analysis, one campus identified that a high volume of disposable plastic cups were being disposed of, for which the use of reusable plastic cups was introduced. In addition, an LCA study (ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006) quantified the benefits of the introduction of said reusable plastic cups.FindingsThe results show that the university is working on environmentally sustainable initiatives and policies to become greener. At the same time, using a systematic LCA made it possible to measure that replacing disposable plastic cups for reusable ones reduced waste generation but increased water consumption on the campus. Faced with this, a sensitization was carried out to reduce water consumption. Finally, the current study provides lessons on the environmental performance to universities interested in sustainable practices, fostering perspectives for a better world. The findings of this study encourage organizations to accomplish environmental actions toward greener universities. The study shows that institutions need to be reflective and analytical about how even “greening” measures have impacts, which can be mitigated if necessary.Practical implicationsThe sustainable practical implications were reported, and an LCA was conducted to assess potential environmental impacts of reusable plastic cups. It was identified that raw material production is the phase that generates most environmental impacts during the life cycle of the product, along with the consumer use phase, due to the quantity of water used to wash the reusable cups. In addition, the practical contributions of this study are to provide insights to institutions that aim to use environmental actions, i.e. suggestions of sustainable paths toward a greener university.Originality/valueThis is one of the first studies to investigate and discuss sustainable practices at UTFPR/Brazil. The study assessed one of the practices using a scientific technique (LCA) to assess the impacts of reusable plastic cups distributed to the students of one of the 13 campuses. Although there are other studies on LCA in the literature, the value of this study lies in expanding what has already been experienced/found on the use of LCA to assess environmental practices in university campuses.
International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 17, 2020
Keywords: LCA; Life cycle assessment; Sustainable university; Sustainable development goals; SDG; Campus greening