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Our research supports a more sustainable planet by creating a shared understanding, identifying opportunities, and bringing people together.

Two bottles of water, one with clear water in and the other with blue water in

Waste as a resource

With the global population thriving, the human race is producing more waste than ever. For example, most municipal solid waste generated globally is concentrated in low-income countries, and around 90% of this waste is disposed of in hazardous, unregulated dumps or openly burned. These poor waste management practices heavily pollute the air, water, and soil in nearby vulnerable communities and ecosystems. In high-income countries, a substantial portion of municipal solid waste is diverted into landfills, which are expensive and highly engineered but can be sources of emerging contaminants. Globally, both management practices exhibit lost economic opportunities, as valuable energy and resources are wasted, meaning, there is an opportunity to improve the sustainability of municipal solid waste management worldwide.

A person using ChatGPT on their mobile phone

Reducing the carbon footprint of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has exploded at the forefront of the public's attention in recent years, with disruptive technologies such as ChatGPT having the potential to change the way we interact with the world.

A space probe over a cloud-covered planet, with stars in the background

Agreeing ethical and sustainability norms for space

The space industry is booming. With three rovers currently exploring Mars and a manned mission to the moon planned for 2025, the universe is at our fingertips.

Person holding up a placard with the words 'The time to act is now' written on it

Using game theory for environmental modelling

International environmental agreements are an important framework for countries to make a commitment to sustainability and bring pressing issues to the forefront of public attention. However, the targets and agreements made at international conferences such as COP27 often fail to meet expectations in the long-term as individual governments or nations renege on their commitments.

People peddling bikes

Art and attitudes to the climate crisis

The climate crisis is still accelerating. In 2023 global greenhouse gas emissions remain at record-high levels. Back in 2021 at COP26, the UK’s chief scientist said “changes in behaviour are needed to tackle the climate crisis”, but how do we connect hearts and minds to bring this behaviour change about?

Two men in hard hats working on an electric car battery

Meeting the growing demand for electrical vehicles

Electric cars are set to dominate the market by 2035. Decarbonising transport will be a big step to meeting global climate targets and the UK has proposed a ban on the sale of new petrol vehicles by 2030 to help the transition to electric cars. Consumers are keen to make ethical choices and the improvements in electric vehicle (EV) performance have already seen many make the switch: electric cars accounted for 14% of global sales last year and this figure is projected to rise to 18% by the end of 2023.

Trees with the sunlight shining through them

Ask a Tree: Decarbonisation, Sustainability, and Inclusion through the Arts

In the face of the ever-pressing global challenge of climate change, the need for innovative and collaborative solutions has never been more urgent. The 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report underscores the significance of incorporating the perspectives of youth, indigenous knowledge, gender equity, local wisdom, and urban-rural dynamics in the pursuit of effective climate change adaptation.

Lab technicians inspecting lab-grown meat in a petri dish

Increasing the sustainaiblity of meat production

We may consume less than we used to, but meat remains an important British staple: the average Briton eats a significant 84.2kg every year – almost double the global average! Increasing awareness of the problems associated with this high consumption is leading many to consider healthier and more sustainable alternatives, so it's no surprise that recent advances in lab-grown meat have caught the public’s interest. This exciting field is still in its infancy but already Open University researchers are seeing potential far beyond a simple ethical meat substitute.

Dr Rebecca Harrison talking to a woman, with posters of the project in the background

The environmental impact of filmmaking

In our digital age of movie and television consumption, the language we use to talk about engaging with moving images has transformed. We ‘stream’ shows. Images are projected onto ‘green’ screens. Many of us who use computers – filmmakers, broadcasters, and audiences alike – store files on the ‘cloud.’ With digital’s organically coded vocabulary evoking water and air, the harmful mass production of analogue technologies, such as plastic film strips and DVDS, might seem like a relic from the past.

Man wearing a high viz jacket, measuring carbon in a forest

Combatting the climate crisis on campus

The Open University is giving over part of its Milton Keynes campus to an ecosystem regeneration project to address the sustainability challenges facing our society by capturing carbon from the atmosphere and boosting biodiversity.

Arial shot of the Rupunini River weaving through the rainforest

Supporting indigenous sustainability solutions

The Amazon rainforest plays a vital role in sustaining life on Earth. Estimates suggest its rich biodiversity stores the equivalent of 10 years of global fossil fuel emissions. But deforestation, illegal mining and climate change threaten its existence and the lives of the 30 million people who call it home. OU researchers are supporting Indigenous communities fighting these sustainability challenges.