The Met Office takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. Whether managing waste more effectively or reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the organisation is always striving to improve - which is where our Environment Management System (EMS) comes into play.
The Met Office operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) certified to the internationally recognised ISO14001:2004 standard of excellence. Met Office Environmental Advisor Kathy Gray explains, "Our EMS is designed to help us identify and manage our environmental impacts as effectively as possible. It provides us with a framework from which to improve our environmental performance through monitoring and effective target setting."
Keeping the lid on consumption
90% of our GHG emissions result from our supercomputer and associated IT infrastructure at Exeter HQ but this is offset by significant socioeconomic benefits that the supercomputer enables.
The Met Office participates in the government initiative: 'Greening Government: ICT'. Launched in 2011, the initiative aims to deliver 'cost-effective and energy efficient ICT estate' to enable new ways of working in the public sector. As IT Infrastructure Manager Alan MacKay explains, "The Met Office is being used as an exemplar in many areas including energy management of our data centre which covers the management of all IT equipment located in our IT Halls. We also achieve an exceptional PUE well below the industry average. PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) is the standard term for measuring the efficiency of data centres."
The massive cooling requirements of the Met Office supercomputer mean that water consumption is another area which is monitored closely. We reduce our mains water consumption by mixing and treating water from our bore hole so that it can be used safely in our cooling systems. Water from the cooling process is then re-captured and used to flush the toilets. This has resulted in a reduction in mains water usage, in an environment of increased water requirements.
Making use of our waste
A key area of focus at the Met Office has been waste management and, working closely with Facilities Management company G4S and Devon-based Coastal Recycling, an encouraging 80% recycling rate has been achieved in recent years.
• Green waste is shredded and screened before being transported to farms across Devon for free organic fertiliser. Over a 14 week period, the compost is turned three times then nutrient levels are checked and recommended dosage is calculated.
• Food waste is passed though an anaerobic digester in Bridgwater to produce biogas and bio-fertiliser for use on local farms.
• Residual waste is taken to an incinerator in Plymouth where the heat created by incineration is used to generate electricity.
Working with Insurgo Media Services the Met Office disposes of old computers and other IT infrastructure in ways that enable as much reuse as possible, as well as complying with the Data Protection Act. For example, once data cleansed, used PCs and laptops are resold to local small businesses while obsolete items are broken down and processed via recycling channels.
Building on sustainability
A new supercomputer building that's currently being built by Willmott Dixon Construction Limited for the Met Office at the Exeter Science Park is further pushing the boundaries of sustainability - even before it's completed.
"At its heart is the company's award-winning strategy to reduce onsite waste by up to 50%," explains Alex Roberts, Willmott Dixon's Sustainability Manager. "We incentivise sites by monitoring and recording all waste against specific targets that are set for each trade, encouraging better management and use of materials to prevent them becoming waste."
Where waste is unavoidable, Willmott Dixon uses its well established links with community wood re-use and recycling charities which aim to save resources and create work and training for local disadvantaged people.
Environmental concerns are at the heart of the Met Office ethos. But critically, these concerns are turned into real, measurable actions and results right across the organisation.
Biodiversity working group
Staff volunteers make up the Met Office Biodiversity Group which works to enhance biodiversity at the Exeter HQ site for which we hold the Wildlife Trusts' Biodiversity Benchmark. Only a handful of companies have met this standard - and the Met Office is the first public sector body to do so.
- A local roundabout provided a dazzling spring and summer display, having been sown with wildflower seeds in a joint project involving the Met Office, Devon Wildlife Trust and Exeter City Council.
- Our hedgehog survey established that these increasingly rare animals are visiting our site.
- 103 slow worms were moved to Met Office grounds from a local site where they were threatened by construction work.
- 'Bee hotels' were built for solitary bees using old marine Stevenson screens - located in a sunny spot on the edge of the Met Office's meadow.
"Our work enhances the site for native species and makes for a more pleasant environment for staff. It's great that the Biodiversity Benchmark officially recognises an activity that's so important, but so easily overlooked." Professor Adam Scaife, Chair, Met Office Biodiversity Working Group