Sustainability at the SSL

The Social Science Library (SSL) supports the University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy with its targets to achieve net zero carbon and biodiversity net gain, both by 2035.  We have participated in Green Impact, an environmental accreditation and awards scheme run by the National Union of Students and coordinated by the University's Environmental Sustainability Team. In 2015 we received the Bronze Award and the Best Newcomer Award, and in 2016 we achieved the Gold Award and the Staff Award.

Our current focus is on maintaining our green practices, finding new ways to reduce our environmental impacts, encouraging and enabling sustainable behaviour among our staff and readers, and sharing our experiences.


The University’s Environmental Sustainability Strategy has 10 priority areas.  Here are the actions we are taking within areas of key relevance to the SSL:

Carbon emissions from University buildings: reduce carbon emissions related to our energy consumption to a minimal level

  • We have low energy LED lighting with motion sensors.
  • We leave the lights off in our discussion and training rooms when not in use.
  • We switch off unnecessary electrical equipment during low-use periods (vacation, evenings, weekends).
  • Our photocopiers go into low-energy ‘sleep’ mode after a few minutes’ inactivity.
  • We provide the option to scan free of charge instead of photocopying.
  • We switch off all PCs overnight.
  • We leave reader PCs off when not in use.
  • The reader PCs are set to enter standby mode after a few minutes of inactivity.
  • We have set PC monitor brightness as low as possible.
  • We have enabled power saving settings on staff PCs.

Sustainable resource use: reduce the environmental impacts of our consumption and supply chain

  • We provide and manage shared resources to support teaching and research.
  • We provide scanned chapters and articles for reading lists and we purchase e-books instead of print when available and appropriate.
  • We repair damaged library books to avoid buying new replacements.
  • We send unwanted, non-legal deposit books to Better World Books for reuse or recycling.
  • We offer and acquire office supplies and equipment via WARPit, the University’s reuse portal.
  • We run Stationery Amnesties to put unused stationery back into circulation.
  • We provide reusable plates, glasses and tap water instead of single-use items and bottled water for staff events and meetings.
  • We removed individual desk bins and have clearly labelled ‘waste points’ so readers can take their recycling and general waste to a single location.
  • We significantly reduced the number of printed guides offered to readers.
  • Printing is double-sided by default for reader printers and most of our staff printers.
  • We share annual printing statistics and paper-saving tips with staff.
  • We use recycled paper in all of our photocopiers and printers.
  • We offer recycled card and plastic-free cover sheets for use with our binding machine.

Travel, food and biodiversity

We also support our staff in making sustainable travel choices and we inspire sustainable food choices by sharing seasonal recipes.  We aim to stimulate interest in biodiversity by promoting and participating in national biodiversity surveys, and encouraging staff and readers to enjoy nature local to the library and around Oxford.


There are many actions you can take to help the SSL reduce carbon emissions and resource consumption:

  • Switch off the lights in the Discussion Rooms, the Information Skills Training Room & the Q-Step Lab if you are the last to leave.
  • Make use of the flexible lighting options in these rooms – lights can be dimmed or turned off when using the projector.
  • Think before you print/copy – print only the pages you need: will a scan do instead?
  • Photocopy double-sided – see the Photocopying Guide online, by the photocopiers or ask staff.
  • Shut down reader PCs after use.
  • Enable power saving settings on your laptop.
  • Switch off laptops and mobile devices when not in use.
  • Unplug chargers from the mains socket when devices are fully charged or disconnected.
  • Remember to renew your stack requests via SOLO if you need them for longer to stop them travelling unnecessarily to and from Offsite Storage.
  • Take care of library books so they last longer.
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle – refill it at the water dispenser in the Locker Room.
  • Bring your own reusable cup with a lid – get a discount on hot drinks at the Manor Road Building Café.
  • Ask staff for scrap paper or help yourself from the tray in the Print & Copy Room.
  • Request plastic-free cover sheets for use with our binding machine.
  • Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard and drinks cans at the waste points located throughout the library.
  • Put waste in the correct bin – please don’t contaminate recycling with wet or unsuitable waste.

And finally, please contact us with your ideas for reducing the SSL’s environmental impacts!