About sustainability at Macquarie

About sustainability at Macquarie

Macquarie University understands that as an institution of higher learning we play a leading role in educating the leaders, professionals and policy-makers of the future. We are in a great position to bring about the change required to become more sustainable thanks to the enthusiasm and support of our students and staff.

Sustainability is more than a current buzzword: it is a concept, a goal, and a strategy.  The concept addresses the need for balance between society, environment and economy, both now and into the future.  The goal is to achieve an ecologically and socially just world within the means of nature.  The process or strategy involves understanding how we move towards this sustainable future.

Sustainability aims for a balance between:


Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported.  It is about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential.  Inclusion should be reflected in an organisation's culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce (definition of 'Inclusion' provided by Macquarie University's Equity and Diversity Unit).

Social justice and well-being

Social justice and well-being includes meeting basic human needs and concern for the rights, dignity, and welfare of all people.  It includes respect for the traditions and religions of other societies and cultures, and it fosters empathy for the life conditions of other peoples.  Ecological sustainability and resource conservation are considered part of social justice (UNESCO ESD Toolkit).

Environmental protection 

Environmental protection is the practice of protecting the natural environment for the benefit of humans and the natural environment itself.  To this end and to the best of our abilities, we will negate the impact of our activities upon our environment to maintain or enhance the integrity, quality and quantity of existing biodiversity.  This includes ensuring we equip our students with the knowledge and skills to actively contribute to environmental protection, as well as the efficient use of resources.

Economic well-being

Economic well-being "is a crucial element of human well-being because most aspects of well-being in modern human society have to be purchased, including food, water, shelter, health care and many forms of recreation " (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2002).  This includes two primary considerations: well-being of the University and well-being of the individual.  As such, we seek to maintain and/or improve the economic position to the benefit of staff, students and the community, though not at the expense of other principles or individual economic well-being.


Diversity most commonly refers to differences between individuals or groups of people in age, cultural background, disability, ethnicity, family responsibilities, gender, language, marital status, religious belief, and sexual orientation; diversity may also include other ways in which people are different, such as education, life experience, work experience and socio-economic background.  Acknowledging diversity enables differences to be recognised and valued in the educational setting and in the workplace. (Definition of 'Diversity' provided by Macquarie University's Equity and Diversity Unit)

The University recognises that:

  • Sustainability is a journey and an endpoint
  • Sustainability requires challenges to people's thinking and practices on a continual basis
  • Education plays a key role in change towards sustainability
  • Issues associated with internationalisation are all intertwined and linked to sustainability
  • The active engagement and participation of students and staff is encouraged and considered integral to the successful implementation of initiatives for change.

This commitment includes:

  • Undertaking world-changing, impactful research that contributes to solving and addressing global challenges.
  • Ensuring students leave the University prepared to contribute as active citizens to an environmentally healthy and equitable society.
  • Actively seeking to meet changing social, environmental and economic conditions and reduce the negative impact of our actions upon our environment and society.
  • The responsible consumption of energy, water, food, products and transport. 
  • Actively supporting sustainability in our local community and region. 
  • Having a reputation for being the place to learn, to work and to connect with the local and global community. 

The principles of sustainability are defined as:

Global social and community awareness

The University recognises connections to the local and global community and acknowledges that its actions and decisions have the ability to affect others beyond the immediate community. To this end sustainability will be incorporated into research as well as learning and teaching, and our reach to the local and global community will be extended through active partnerships and participation.


Staff, student and community participation in decision-making about the University's activities is valued and will be sought whenever possible in the development and implementation of the University's sustainability agenda. A range of mechanisms will be established for this purpose inclusive of joint working parties and local sustainability committees.

Shared responsibility

All members of the University community are responsible for our sustainability performance and as such will be made aware of their role through induction, professional development, the provision of necessary educational and material resources and ongoing training and awareness.

Demonstrating best practice

The University will integrate sustainability into all its aspects and functions. It will be embedded into all operational policies and procedures; considered in all strategic and operational planning; and enabled through sustainable practices. Research into sustainability best practice in the higher education sector and other sectors of the economy will also be undertaken to ensure the University maintains best practice where possible.


Educational, research and resource management activities will be utilised to profile sustainable practices amongst staff, students and the communities served by Macquarie University.

Openness and transparency

Actions and processes will be transparent and progress will be reported fully to staff, students and the wider community.

Precautionary principle

Caution and prudence will guide decisions and the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures in the context of uncertain environmental or social effects.

Innovation and creativity

Creative and innovative approaches will be employed to find solutions to and eliminate unsustainable practices.


Where possible, the University will utilise resources generated on campus, with residual needs met using a sustainable procurement policy.

Whole systems approach

A whole-systems approach will be implemented to create successful change towards sustainability.

LiFE framework depicting the focus areas for Macquarie Sustainability

What do each of these areas mean?

Leadership and governance

Leadership and Governance addresses not only the ambitious strategic intent to be forward thinking leaders in society, but the way in which this will be achieved through our approach to the well-being of our staff and students, and by building capacity in human capital and development. 


Encompass sustainability principles into leadership as well as established and developing processes and systems to ensure long-term benefit for students, staff and the broader community. In doing so, we will become an institutional leader for sustainability in practice.

Our Leadership and Governance pages outline what we are doing to reach our objective.

Learning, teaching and research

Addressing the societal shifts required for sustainability as part of the University’s learning, teaching and research is a critical element in our journey and a responsibility we enthusiastically embrace. Through formal and informal curricula, skills training and development, knowledge transfer and research, we can have a significant, long-term positive impact on society.


Ensure students are exposed to learning experiences that maximise their opportunities to graduate as sustainability-literate citizens, whilst providing guidance to staff to ensure that research is conducted as sustainably as possible to lessen negative and increase positive impacts.

Our Learning, Teaching and Research pages outline what we are doing to reach our objective..

Partnerships and engagement

Sustainability is only possible when there is collaboration and engagement. The challenges posed by the complexity of delivering sustainable development mean that progress is achieved through the sharing of ideas and approaches that can lead us to more sustainable practices. Collaboration builds community, through which a cultural shift towards sustainability can occur. Building partnerships and strengthening engagement is a priority focus for Macquarie.


Build on existing internal and external partnerships and develop new engagement opportunities to share ideas and approaches for balanced, positive and active social, environmental and economic outcomes.

Our Partnerships and Engagement pages outline what we are doing to reach our objective.

Facilities and operations 

Sustainable buildings, resource efficiency and recovery, biodiversity management, green IT and sustainable travel planning all provide evidence of an institution’s commitment to sustainability. Addressing the way our buildings and grounds operate provides an opportunity to show students, staff and the broader community how we are planning, managing and implementing measures to meet sustainability best practice, whilst providing a living laboratory space to educate and demonstrate. 


Become a model collaborative community demonstrating global leadership and innovation in the sustainable development of built and natural environments.

Our Facilities and Operations pages outline what we are doing to reach our objective.

Leanne Denby, Director of Sustainability

Leanne Denby 

Email: leanne.denby@mq.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 9850 4464

I am thrilled to say I have been working as the Director of Sustainability since March 2008. The primary responsibility I have is to embed sustainability within the principles and practices of the University. This involves overseeing work in three key areas regarding:

  • Operations: Resource efficiency and implementation of practical initiatives
  • Education and Engagement: Active participation and awareness building of staff, students and community members, as well as the curriculum taught at the University
  • Planning and Development: In two aspects - the built infrastructure and strategic planning.

I work across the campus with the business units and Faculties to achieve change towards sustainability, and am supported by a fabulous team of people who all undertake their roles with great enthusiasm.

I am also the President of Australasian Campuses Towards Sustainability, a role I find wonderfully challenging and uplifting as we try to bring the tertiary sector together to bring a real focus to sustainability as part of core business.

Sarah Jo Steinhoff, Administration Officer

Sarah Jo Steinhoff 

Email: sarahjo.steinhoff@mq.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 9850 4471

My role within the Sustainability team focuses on day-to-day office management and providing support for our many ongoing projects.  My experience encompasses many sectors, with over 18 years experience both within Australia and internationally, however, this is my first role within a higher education institution. I obtained my Masters in Human Resource Management at UTS, and currently studying Master of International Security Studies through PICT, Macquarie, focusing on environmental and human security issues. I am excited to be working within Sustainability, as I believe this is an area that we all need to think about and engage with further in order to protect and ensure the longevity of our quality of life, through our health, our resources, and our environment.

When I'm not working, I spend time studying, going to the theatre, and engaging with life lectures. To really relax, though, I love to get out of the city and go motorbike riding with good friends. I also enjoy travelling and immersing myself within other cultures and gaining an insight into how others live, and what their relationship and beliefs are with their environment. A quote that resonates with me in all aspects of life is "You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself", Nelson Mandela.

Belinda Bean, Sustainability Officer

Belinda Bean 

Email: belinda.bean@mq.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 9850 1003

My role within the sustainability team is about engagement, education and outreach. I coordinate initiatives that involve our staff, students and wider community in sustainability. I believe that working with communities of practice (such as a University) is key to achieving the necessary cultural change towards sustainability. My undergraduate and Masters education (both undertaken at Macquarie University) engaged my interest in community-based social marketing campaigns directed towards sustainability.

Outside my life at Macquarie, I am a national ambassador for 1 Million Women - a campaign that empowers women to take action on climate change. We aim to get one million Australian women on board, so please spread the word to the ladies in your lives! On weekends you'll find me doing bushcare or bushwalking in some of the gorgeous national parks we have around Sydney, or scuba diving if it's not too cold!    

My favourite quote comes from the Stockholm Declaration:

"Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality, and adequate conditions of life, environment of quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations"

- though I do wish they'd said 'Humans have' rather than 'Man has'!

Samantha Newton, Arboretum Coordinator

Samantha Newton 

Email: samantha.newton@mq.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 9850 8170

I am the coordinator of the Macquarie University Arboretum. The project to establish the Arboretum began in 2009, although the idea had been floating around for many years. The Arboretum was officially launched in August 2010, and our wonderful website is testament to the enthusiasm for many staff and students for the beautiful landscape of Macquarie University. An Arboretum is a living collection of trees. The Macquarie University Arboretum is the result of many years of landscape planning, and includes all the trees and gardens on campus. The park-like grounds provide a drawcard for students nationally and internationally, and the Arboretum has strong links with research and undergraduate teaching.

Prior to working on the Arboretum, I was involved with the Biodiversity working group, an affiliation of staff and students who came together to support the newly established Biodiversity section of Sustainability. The working group supported Belinda Bean in establishing the Bushcare groups, and John Macris in the initial stages of Biodiversity planning across campus. My work with Sustainability is part time, with the remainder of my time spent in the Department of Biological Sciences, providing support to various plant ecology researchers.

Prior to working at Macquarie University, I spent many years at the Nature Conservation Council of NSW in a variety of roles. I am currently on the Executive Committee of the National Parks Association of NSW.

Sally Northover, Property Sustainability Officer

Email: sally.northover@mq.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 9850 7140

My role focuses on looking at our resource use here at Macquarie including data reporting and analysis, and with particular attention to compliance reporting. In addition, I am responsible for resource re-use, with an emphasis on office furniture.

I have a degree in Environmental Science after studying at Macquarie as a mature age student, and a varied background in travel, hospitality and IT.

When I’m not at work I like to spend time in the garden, working with native plants and attempting to grow vegetables despite our resident possums, wallaby and a multitude of caterpillars. At the moment I am struggling to learn guitar, but my ultimate passions are travelling and photography, particularly in wilderness areas.

John Macris, Biodiversity Planner

Email: john.macris@mq.edu.au
Phone: +61 2 9850 4103

I joined the Sustainability team in 2009. Having done a long stint of study at Macquarie in the environmental sciences, this was something of a home-coming.

The Biodiversity Planner role involves reasserting the ‘Campus in a Park’ theme, on which our University was originally founded. This feeds into campus operations, capital projects and the longer-term planning of the university.

Managing of campus biodiversity embraces goals for protection and restoration of vegetation and watercourses, and by extension affording security to species that live or visit here. We envisage a green campus, where the open spaces are enhanced with habitat corridors along healthy creeks.

Away from work, I enjoy visiting new places, learning and occasions involving cake.


Green Gown Awards Australasia - Student Engagement Winner 

Tap It, Bottled Water Free Campaign, wins Green Gown Award Australasia!

Macquarie University's Sustainability team have won the student engagement award at the annual Green Gown Awards Australasia, recognising their innovative 'Tap-it' campaign to encourage switching from bottled to tap water.

The Australian Bottled Water Institute estimates that Australians are spending over $500 million on bottled water every year. While a litre of tap water in Sydney costs only a fraction of a cent, residents can pay upwards of $3.88 a litre for bottled water, as Choice Magazine explored in 2013.

"A growing movement to avoid bottled water and choose the humble tap is gaining momentum both in Australia and around the world," says Belinda Bean. "Macquarie University is part of this movement and is spreading our 'Tap It - It's Fresh and Free' message."

An army of student volunteers helped Macquarie Sustainability to develop a campus wide Tap Map, hand out over 2,000 re-usable water bottles (made in Australia from renewable sugar cane), and hosted a popular Bottled Water Free Day that once and for all dispelled the myth around tap vs bottled water - 62% preferred tap over bottled in blind taste tests, and many couldn't tell the difference!

With students successfully recruiting more than 700 members of the Macquarie University community to pledge to choose tap whenever available, staff have also taken up the message throughout the year across the North Ryde campus:

  • Cognitive Science started Pimp My Water station to make refilling fun
  • Faculty of Human Science hosted "Nude Drinks" to promote the initiative
  • The Department of Marketing and Management handed out 'cookies and a leaflet' promoting Tap It
  • Biology located and promoted all bubblers within their building
  • Campus Life installed new Tap It filtered water bubblers
  • Music, Media, Communications and Cultural studies integrated Tap It into MAS 389 "Public Relations Theory" as an example of good PR.

Guests at the Green Gown Awards, now in their fifth year, included sustainability professionals from tertiary education and leaders from the sector, such as the Australian Greens, Australian Conservation Foundation and the Office for Learning & Teaching (OLT).

"Being awarded as the winner against tough competition was indeed an honour" said Director of Sustainability, Leanne Denby. "It highlights the dedication and commitment of both our staff and students involved in the Tap-it campaign we've been running throughout the year".

I'm in

Empower your team, friends or family to go bottled water free with M-Power: Tap It.


Winner of Green Lifestyle Large Business Award

Green LIfestyle Awards 2012 Winner 

The Green Lifestyle Awards showcase the companies, people and products that are actually out there doing truly wonderful things to minimise impact on the environment, help make a green lifestyle easy, and show the carbon-emitting mainstream players how it should be done.

Macquarie won the Green Lifestyle Large Business Award! It was our focus on core business through education and engagement that set us apart from the other entries and saw us take out the big prize, so yay us!

Highly Commended for Green Gown Awards Australasia - Skills for Sustainability

Macquarie’s skills-for-sustainability initiatives won a Highly Commended Green Gown Award Australasia. Our aim to go beyond individual behaviour change or single actions, instead seeking to implement systemic change within the University, our community, and society at large. Macquarie addresses both formal and informal skill development. The Learning and Teaching Plan has sustainability amongst its core values, and is considered a principle and enabler that will guide the implementation of Macquarie’s values. The programs and practices of the University reflect a commitment to sustainability in the University’s social, physical and cultural environments.


Winner of Bicycling Achievement Awards - Educational Institution Award

This award recognises commitment and innovation in promoting and encouraging cycling to school or educational institution, with Macquarie University taking out the winning prize in 2011. 

Macquarie University has made a significant achievement in becoming a cycle-friendly Campus. This has occurred through a sustained investment of cycling infrastructure and the development of complementary behaviour change programs to promote cycling to Campus. In 2006, Macquarie University took the first step towards becoming a cycle-friendly Campus with the development of the Macquarie University Bicycle Master-plan. A key focus of this strategy was to building more bicycle parking and end of trip facilities on Campus and to improve cycling accessibility across the Campus. Since 2006, the University has built an additional 227 bicycle parking spaces as well as becoming the first university campus in NSW to install dedicated end of trip parking, showering and locker facilities known as the ‘bike hubs’. There are currently 110 users of the campuses two bike hubs. The University has also built two new 3m wide shared user paths on University Ave and Link Road to improve accessibility coming into Campus. In 2009, Macquarie began a program of cycle skills training courses which have trained over 150 people. Free bicycle ‘tune ups’ for staff and students have also been provided each year and in 2010 the University developed a regional cycling map to assist students and staff in finding the best routes to Campus.

AWWWARD "Site of the Day" for our Green Campus Guide

Awwward is the awards scheme for design, creativity and innovation on the Internet so we’ve created an evaluation system based on 4 criteria: Design, Creativity, Usability and Content. Our Green Campus Guide won a "Site of the Day" Awwward.

City of Ryde's Annual Spring Gala competition - 5 titles!

2nd Place in Best Bushcare Site

Knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers from Bushcare@MQ (Macquarie staff, students, and community) use solid bush regeneration methodology on the Ecology Reserve, Mars Creek site and results have been excellent to date. The habitat value is good as is the resilience and diversity.

Innovation Award in Best Bushcare site 

Awarded for the campus Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest remnant restoration project of our Thursday Bushcare@MQ group.

Innovation Award in Best Edible Garden 

Previously a car park, the Bush Tucker Garden provides not only a beautiful space in which to enjoy the out doors but is also a valuable educational resource with primarily local plants used by the Darug people.

Participation in Best Edible Garden 

Community members and students tend plots in this large Community Garden. Compost and horse manure, along with abundant rain have ensured plenty of verdant growth this year.

Winner of Best Pre-School Garden and Participation in Best Children's Garden

Gumnut Cottage has seen numerous changes as the University campus has grown over time. The outdoor environments were transformed with the development of the Cochlear building opposite Gumnut. This resulted in a vast outdoor space which is surrounded by beautiful tall gum trees, winding tracks, rock walls, a grassy slope and is now home to two friendly chickens.

The staff have always focused on establishing and maintaining relationships to support families and children and are now embarking on a journey of finding innovative ways to deliver and share learning programs that enhance learning for all.


Winner NSW State Government Green Globe Public Sector Sustainability 

Awarded a Green Globe for our holistic approach to sustainability.

Macquarie University has developed a holistic strategy for change towards sustainability, which includes all aspects of our functions from procurement, resource efficiency and transportation to learning and teaching, engagement, fair trade, and governance. Through a collaborative and participatory approach we have been able to achieve significant results in each of these areas.

Our resource focus has led to substantial savings in energy, water and waste. Most notably is our Sydney Water awarded 4-star achievement in water management; our 70% diversion of waste from landfill; and our large-scale energy savings initiatives such as the installation of a third chilled water tower. Our learning and teaching focus endeavours to ensure that all students become socially and environmentally responsible citizens through including interdisciplinary studies that focus on society and the environment in all degrees. Our focus on responsible purchasing has seen us become the joint first Fairtrade accredited university in the Southern Hemisphere, and the abolishment of plastic in our Food Court area.

These changes have occurred through the efforts of our staff and students. We recognise their contribution by giving prizes and awards, thanking them for their support. Importantly, we recognise their efforts by publicly communicating what has been achieved so far.

NSW Keep Australia Beautiful Runner Up - Water Conservation

With a campus the size of a small town, and an obligation to educate and enhance society and the environment, waste management at Macquarie is both a challenge and a responsibility. Yet a decentralised waste system, reflecting the University's governance structures, prevented us from developing an integrated approach to waste management. After conducting a comprehensive waste audit (2008), we took steps to change waste management practices. Through a collaborative approach and stretch targets, we have transformed a challenging waste management situation to a system that addresses the cycle of reduction, reuse and recycling within a short 18-month timeframe.

NSW Keep Australia Beautiful Highly Commended - Waste Minimisation

Macquarie University uses approximately enough water per week to fill two Olympic pools. In line with our core function of educating and transforming society, we demonstrate and educate for best practice in water use. We actively pursue ways to improve performance through a holistic approach to water management. Guided by the hierarchy of water use reduction: behaviour change, efficiency and supply management we are transforming our Campus through education, improving the performance of our fixtures and fittings and targeted supply projects large projects such as sewer mining and storm water harvesting.


FTAANZ Certified Fair Trade University

Early in 2008, a small group of student campaigned Macquarie University to trial a Fair Trade coffee blend and provided free coffee and chocolate tastings. The response was overwhelming with 862 signatures petitioning to make the change within the first few hours. This movement gathered momentum, and by December 2008, the whole campus was selling only 100% organic / Fair Trade coffee, tea, chai and hot chocolate. 

In 2009, Macquarie University became Australia's joint-first certified 'Fair Trade University' by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand, and is continuing to make socially responsible choices that will impact on farmers, workers and their families in developing nations.


Bronze Medal in the Green Buildings Awards

Recognising the environmental sustainability of the mixed mode E4A and E4B buildings. The building incorporates an active façade, which allows the building to be naturally ventilated. The air conditioning is not activated until the temperature exceeds 25 degrees. Internally, open plan work spaces and glazed partitioned offices allow natural daylight and natural ventilation to reach central portions of the building. North/south orientation and external sun shading devices minimise solar heat gain whist highlight windows maximise natural daylight.


NSW State Government Green Globe Award for Sustainability

Awarded for our tri-generation plant, located next to building C7A. The plant uses gas to fuel two generators that produce electrical energy to power the surrounding buildings. The heat recovered from the generators is used to run an absorption chiller. It produces chilled water for consumption in surrounding buildings, as well as providing heating to various buildings including the pools in the Aquatic Centre. The system reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 44% compared to a traditional system.

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