Environmental Policy

University Centre of the Westfjords Environmental Policy

1. Overview and vision

The University Centre of the Westfjords (UW) is a small higher educational institution established in 2005, employing on average six full time staff members. Core operations include the operation of two masters programs with roughly a total of 50 new students (including guest students) every year, distance learning support services, Icelandic language immersion courses, and hosting guest researchers and traveling/study abroad student groups. From the beginning, UW has set goals of environmental stewardship and has followed internal policies regarding recycling and reuse of office materials. Furthermore, environmental sustainability is a broad theme throughout the masters programs and visiting study abroad student groups.

The goal of UW’s environmental policy is to formalize these pre-existing goals and actions in a transparent way, to implement additional actions to further ensure sustainable operations, and to create a cyclical formal process of review and revision. The guiding mission is to reduce environmental impact by first minimizing consumption and emissions when possible, and second by offsetting or reducing through countermeasures. At the same time, the plan aims to provide learning opportunities for students and the local community that in turn leads to long-lasting impacts that contribute to climate justice and sustainable development. UW’s environmental policy corresponds to national Icelandic laws and policies on environmental issues and the law no. 70/2012 on climate issues (Icelandic: lög um loftslagsmál).


2. Responsibility and Scope

The UW director oversees the content, implementation, and follow up of the environmental policy.

The UW research manager assists with implementation and follow up of the environmental policy.

The UW masters program directors ensure that principles of the environmental policy are incorporated into masters programs.

This policy applies to all operations within UW, both to staff and students. UW student housing is a separate entity (Icelandic: Studentagarðar Háskólaseturs Vestfjarða ses). UW representatives in the student housing general assembly will encourage a similar policy for sustainability topics specific to housing. When abroad as guest students or while conducting masters thesis research, UW students are encouraged to follow this policy to the best of their ability.


3. Goals

As a principle, carbon offsetting or other countermeasures are considered as a last resort, where actions to reduce impact are explored first and implemented whenever possible. The following are the over-arching goals of the UW environmental policy which apply to staff and students and all UW operations in the areas of transport, waste management, energy, water, acquisitions and purchases, and also ethical responsibilities of UW as an educational institution.

  • Identify and encourage internal measures that lower environmental impacts
  • Efficiently utilize supplies and resources and choose environmentally-friendly and ethically produced options
  • Reduce consumption and increase efficiency in the use of electricity and water
  • Use renewable energy sources when possible
  • Minimize waste generation and maximize recycling percentage
  • Reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions of all UW operations
  • Use carbon offsetting to compensate for major sources of emissions (e.g. transportation) through a certified entity
  • Increase environmental awareness of staff and students as well as support and encourage environmentally-friendly solutions
  • Integrate environmental ethics and sustainability (e.g. UN SDGs) as themes in masters program coursework
  • Encourage staff and students to be active in the public, scientific, and policy discourse on environmental topics


4. Implementation plan

The following actions are to be taken in order to implement the above-listed goals.

  • UW follows the Government of Iceland’s “Green Steps” program, which has measurable and detailed goals on the following areas of operation: transportation, waste, sustainable and ethical products, and other areas of consumption
  • Masters program academic directors help instructors to include topics and methods that address environmental ethics and sustainability
  • Present the UW environmental policy and progress regularly to staff, instructors, and students
  • Increase science communication of research findings and recommendation to relevant audiences
  • Conduct research on future options for encouraging staff and students to be active in public and policy discourses on environmental topics


5. Evaluation and Revision

Evaluation of UW’s performance in adherence to the environmental policy will be undertaken yearly prior to the general assembly and will be included in the annual report. Student representatives are involved in the revision process. Revision of the environmental plan will be undertaken yearly.


Ísafjörður, 27.06.2023