Welcome to the University of Galway SDG Trail

T‌he University of Galway SDG Trail is a walkable route that aims to showcase our efforts at developing the campus as a living lab for best practice in embedding The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

By walking the trail you can learn about the 17 SDGs and gain insights into the breadth of projects and initiatives taking place across the University that are progressing the SDGs. At each point, you will learn about that goal, as well as what we are doing at University of Galway to work towards achieving it. The SDG Trail demonstrates that action is needed at local, national and international level to achieve the SDGs.

Click on the image below to find the trail on Google Maps. 

screenshot of SDG trail on google maps

SDG 1: No Poverty

Location: ALIVE based in Áras na Mac Léinn

SDG 1 aims to end poverty in all of its forms across the globe by 2030. According to the UN, over 800 million people around the world live below the national poverty line of $1.25 USD per day. By ensuring that the poor and vulnerable have access to social protections and basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, and education, among others, we can eliminate poverty and improve the lives and opportunities for people everywhere.

The University of Galway has made strides to alleviate the effects of poverty on our students and staff. Based in Áras na Mac Léinn, the ALIVE programme is the University of Galway’s flagship volunteering programme. The ALIVE programme provides students with the opportunity to achieve the ALIVE Volunteering Certificate in recognition of their volunteering achievements. The ALIVE Programme not only benefits our students but also the wider community. The ALIVE programme is a major contributor to the University of Galway’s student-led Glassary initiative which sees students gather leftover household items for distribution to other students and other people in the local community.

Alongside ALIVE, Áras na Man Léinn is also home to the University of Galway’s Students Union which facilitates the University’s second-hand bookshop and Hygiene Bank, as well as the University of Galway’s student-led Student Food Pantry. The university’s Laptop Loan Scheme aims to further the availability of educational materials by supplying disadvantaged students with long-term loan of a laptop for the duration of their studies.

SDG 2: Zero Hunger

Location: Herb Garden 

SDG 2 aims to create a hunger-free world by 2030. In 2020, over 700 million people were suffering from hunger, with a further 2.4 billion people facing moderate to severe food-insecurity. Achieving food security through the creation of sustainable food systems will require a multi-dimensional approach, requiring international cooperation, investment in agriculture research and rural infrastructure and innovations in agricultural technologies.

Some of the key targets needed to ensure we achieve SDG 2 include increasing agricultural productivity, while also creating a diverse and sustainable food system. The University of Galway’s Biodiversity Trail[MO1] ,which houses our Herb Garden is one example of how the University of Galway is progressing SDG 2.

Located outside of Moffett’s Restaurant, our herb garden offers an array of herbs and edible flowers, such as violas, nasturtiums, fennel, rosemary, and mint for use in the restaurant’s dishes. The herbs and flowers are available for use by anyone. These herbs and flowers not only provide a tasty and sustainable addition to the food enjoyed by staff and students on-campus, but also support our local pollinators and increase biodiversity. The University of Galway is proud to support the pollinators that are integral to creating secure food systems, a vital part of achieving Zero Hunger.

SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being

Location: Outdoor Gym 1 outside of Arts Millenium Building

SDG 3 aims to ensure that people of every age can live a healthy life. Through promotion of healthy lifestyles, preventive measures and efficient healthcare, we can ensure that everyone across the globe can achieve a healthy life. According to the World Health Organization, noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, kill 41 million people each year, contributing to 71% of total deaths globally. Other preventable causes of death such as maternal and infant mortality and suicide also contribute significantly to global death rates.

Using thirteen targets, including reducing maternal mortality, fighting communicable diseases and achieving universal health coverage, SDG 3 aims to improve the wellness of global citizens by alleviating the impacts of the climate crisis, infectious disease, urbanization and other economic and social issues which contribute to global health problems.

The University of Galway’s outdoor gyms provide a free and accessible way for students, staff and members of the public to enjoy the benefits of exercise. The all-weather gym offers exercise bikes, chest press and shoulder well stations among others, with certain pieces of equipment specifically designed to accommodate the requirements of people with a physical disability. By  offeringan accessible and fun way to engage with physical activity, the outdoor gyms provide our communities with opportunities to prioritize good health and wellbeing in their own lives.

SDG 4: Quality Education

Location: Access Centre

SDG 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. Access to education can help break the cycle of poverty and reduce inequalities across multiple areas, including gender, race and sexuality. According to the World Bank, since the 2000s, significant progress on equitable education has been made, with the total enrolment rate in primary and secondary education standing at 90%, with two-thirds of countries achieving gender parity in primary school enrolment. Despite these improvements, certain areas of the world continue to lag in achieving equitable education, with some countries in the world retaining literacy rates below 50%.

University of Galway is dedicated to ensuring that all of our communities are empowered to access learning opportunities on our campus. For example,  the University of Galway’s  Access Centre ensures that all individuals, regardless of their educational background, age or personal circumstances are empowered to reach their potential at the University of Galway.

The Access Centre’s outreach programmes provide advice to primary and secondary-level students in their studies. The Access Centre participates in the HEAR and DARE schemes, which offer reduced point places to students from socio-economically disadvantaged background and school-leavers whose disabilities have negatively impacted their ability to participate in second-level education. The University of Galway’s Access Diplomas provide school-leavers with an alternative route into education. Alongside the support of the Disability Support Service, Mature Student Service and our Traveller Education Officer, the Access Centre plays a pivotal role in ensuring that everyone feels empowered to receive quality education at the University of Galway.

SDG 5: Gender Equality

Location: Alice Perry Engineering Building

SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality through the empowerment of women and girls. SDG 5 aims to achieve equality for women across several areas including work, education, marriage, healthcare and technology.

Discrimination against women disempowers women by limiting their ability to achieve their potential. According to the European Commission, women are underrepresented in the workforce, particularly in areas such as politics and high-level senior positions. Moreover, while women contribute significantly to the global economy, they are less likely to receive the same pay as men, and are more likely to take on uncompensated labour, such as caring and domestic duties. Beyond discrimination in the workforce, women and girls are also more likely to experience physical and sexual violence. As outlined by UN Women, achievement of the other SDGs is contingent on the attainment of SDG 5. For these reasons, it is vital that we end discrimination against women and provide women and girls with career and educational opportunities to better their lives.

The Alice Perry Engineering Building is a world-class teaching and research facility, accommodating over 1000 students and staff. Voted Ireland’s favourite new Building in 2012 by the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards, the building’s use of exposed constriction techniques and ecological building methods not only acts as a teaching tool, but also demonstrates the innovative nature of the women the building is named after, Alice Perry.

Born in 1885, Alice Perry was one of the first women in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree. Born in Galway, Alice won a scholarship to study at the University of Galway, where she specialized in engineering. To commemorate her legacy, the building was named in her honour. The Alice Perry Engineering Building was one of the first Engineering Schools in Ireland to achieve an Athena SWAN Silver Award in recognition of its advancement towards gender equality.

The College of Science and Engineering currently holds 5 Athena SWAN awards. Athena SWAN awards are awarded to institutions who have made significant progress on gender equality within their institutions and have pledged to furthering this progress in the future. The receipt of the School of Engineering’s most recent Athena SWAN Silver Award recognizes the school’s increasing number of female engineering students, female academic staff, particularly at Associate and Established Professor grades, as well as the extensive outreach activities carried out by the school. Alice Perry’s legacy continues to act as a source of inspiration for staff and students as the University of Galway continues its progress on SDG 5.

SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Location: Water Fountains on Campus

SDG 6 aims to ensure everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. It is vital that we learn to safely manage our water supplies. While the percentage of the global population who has access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services continues to increase, according to the UN, 2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people lack access to sanitation facilities. Moreover, global water supplies continue to be threatened by environmental threats and water misuse. Water misuse, mismanagement and waste, alongside overextraction of groundwater and contamination of freshwater supplies puts global water supplies at risk.

The installation of 3 new outdoor water fountains across campus demonstrates University of Galway ongoing commitment to progressing SDGs 6. The installation of new water fountains has increased the total number of water fountains to over 25 internal water fountains and 4 external hands-free stations across campus. In line with SDGs 6 and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and the university’s Sustainability Strategy, the University of Galway aims to reduce total water consumption by 10% across campus and eliminate the use of single-use plastic items such as water bottles. 

SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

Location: Building No.9, Distillery Road

SDG 7 aims to ensure that everyone can access affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy. Renewable energy solutions are continuously increasing in their reliability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, allowing us to reduce our reliance on unsustainable fossil fuels. According to the UN, globally, 733 million people do not have access to electricity, 2.4 billion people still rely on polluting cooking methods, and less than 20% of our total energy production comes from renewable energy sources. In order to create a sustainable and equitable world, it is vital that access to sustainable, renewable energy sources is increased across the globe.

One process that allows us to move toward a cleaner energy system is the process of retrofitting. Retrofitting involves the modification of components of a building so that the building's energy efficiency is improved. Alongside benefits to the climate, retrofitting improves the comfort of a building by helping the building stay warm more easily when needed and creating healthy airflow. 

Building No.9 found on Distillery Road is a building retrofitted to A2 energy standards. Through the installation of solar panels, a new roof, triple glaze windows, a heat pump and new insulation along the outside of the building, the building now represents the most energy-efficient building on-campus. The process of retrofitting has made the building entirely energy self-sufficient, requiring no fossil-fuel derived energy sources or support from other energy lines. 

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Location: J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics

SDG 8 aims to promotes economic growth and decent work opportunities for everyone. Through the creation of jobs, businesses foster economic activity while also providing people with opportunities to improve their living conditions. Despite a number of financial crises such as the 2008 economic crisis, the number of workers living in extreme poverty has reduced drastically over the past number of decades. However, while progress has been made to ensure that workers have access to safe and fulfilling forms of work, a number of barriers to safe work opportunities still exist. According to the UN, 1 in 10 children are engaged in child labour worldwide. While the International Labour Organization notes that employment growth has stagnated at 0.1% annually since 2008.

Focusing on an interdisciplinary approach, the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics located in the University of Galway contributes significantly to progress on SDG 8. Through research and teaching, staff aim to create the next generation of ethical business professionals capable of influencing public policy and the economy for good. The school is dedicated to the SDGs, with a particular focus on challenges related to digitalization, economic development, innovation, and sustainability issues, among others.

Within the school several research centres aim to unlock the potential of business as a tool for sustainable development and social change. Organizations such as the Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit contribute to research related to the social and economic benefits of our marine resources, while the Centre for Entrepreneurial Growth & Scaling offers support to innovative indigenous and foreign-owned business. Through a combination of research and practice across interdisciplinary SDG-focused topics, the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics demonstrates the potential of SDG 8 to help alleviate global injustices.

SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Location: Business Innovation Centre

SDG 9 seeks to create resilient and innovative industry and infrastructure. Industry, and the infrastructure it relies on, contributes significantly to our economic and technological sectors. Alongside providing a vital source of employment, industry improves the quality of life for people through the creation of new technologies and the more efficient distribution of resources. While access to infrastructure across the globe has improved, globally just 54% of people have Internet access.

According to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, a key challenge to the achievement of SDG 9 includes a lack of research into how sustainable industry, innovation and infrastructure can be achieved.

The University of Galway’s Business Innovation Centre is a key contributor to progress on SDG 9. The Business Information Centre is home to over 35 businesses.  In the last 5 years, we have spun-out 16 companies, bringing our total number of spin-outs currently operating to 27. The creation of companies whose purpose is to turn research into societal impact is one of the core activities of the Innovation Office at University of Galway. Examples of spinouts with a particular focus on solutions for a sustainable world include Bioprobe Diagnostics, NVP Energy and VorTech Water Solutions.  

Through the provision of facilities including laboratories, offices and co-working spaces, the Business Innovation Centre offers access to tools that are often inaccessible to new and growing business. Alongside access to physical tools, a specialist team of business experts offering mentoring, business development guidance and commercial and IP guidance, provide further support to start-ups. Companies such as GlasPort Bio, a sustainable agriculture-focused biotechnology company, and RealSim, a company that specialized in virtual world environments, have both seen success through the support of the Business Innovation Centre.

You can learn more about innovation and technology in the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland located in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequality

Location: Institute for Lifecourse and Society

SDG 10 aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. According to the United Nations, one in five people have experienced discrimination in their lives, while the number of migrants and refugees across the globe continues to increase. Inequality exists in different forms, including, economic, social, sex, race and disability, among others.

The University of Galway’s Institute for Lifecourse and Society (ILAS) is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on applied social science research. ILAS focuses on research that informs policy and practice, with the aim of having a tangible positive difference on the institute’s targeted populations including older persons, children and families, and persons with disabilities. The institute’s International Disability Law Summer School provides participants with an opportunity to engage with disability law and ethics, with an emphasis on translating current legislation into tangible reforms for people with disabilities. Recent progress on SDG 10 from the institute includes their participation in the 2022 Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Amendment Bill.

Through coordination of over 20 civil society organizations, ILAS aims to amend areas of concern in the 2015 version of the Act, including discrimination against people detained in the mental health system and pregnant people, the need to prohibit all forms of restraint, access to justice for those subject to the Bill, the exclusion of disabled people from jury service, and the role of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in monitoring the UN Convention.

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Location: An Mheitheal Rothar

SDG 11 aims to create safe, resilient and sustainable cities and living spaces for humans across the globe. As global populations increase and rapid growth of mega-cities continues, it is vital that sustainable modes of living are created. According to the UN, nearly 1 billion live in slums, while 99% of the world’s urban populations breath polluted air and less that one-third of city dwellers living in sub-Saharan Africa have access to public transportation. While global threats such as climate change represent threats to our cities, progress on sustainable cities continues to be made in cities across the globe.

One initiative based in the University of Galway that aims to improve sustainability in our local community is An Mheitheal Rothar. An Mheitheal Rothar is a social enterprise that aims to encourage a cycling culture in Galway city through providing people with the means to cycle, and by emphasising the environmental and health benefits of that aims. The UN notes that cycling is a healthy and non-polluting lifestyle choice, contributing to progress not only on SDG 11 but also SDG 3.  Founded by members of the university’s Ecology Society and created with support from the University of Galway’s Business Innovation Centre, An Mheitheal Rothar offers bike and bike parts, bike repairs and workshops to anyone with an interest. 

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Location: CÚRAM Lab, Europe's first certified Green Lab

SDG 12 aims to encourage sustainable consumption and production patterns. The unsustainable creation and use of products and services has detrimental effects for our planet, including contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss and increasing pollution levels. According to the UN, it is estimated that 30% of food is lost or wasted in every country every day. Approximately 6.4 trillion litres of water are wasted every year. Meanwhile, our reliance on natural resources and fossil fuels continues to increase. It is vital that we transition toward more sustainable modes of consumption and production to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of economic and technological advancements, without damaging our planet.

The University of Galway’s Green Labs initiative is one way the University of Galway is making progress on SDG 12. The Green Labs initiative aims to reduce the negative environmental impact associated with laboratory activities by creating a culture of sustainability within the scientific community. Laboratories use 16 times as much plastic as the average Irish person, and six times as much energy as a standard office building. Through changes in work practices and equipment use, the University of Galway has succeeded in creating a more sustainable mode of consumption and production within the University of Galway’s medical device research lab, CÚRAM, becoming the first European science lab to receive Green Lab certification. Roll out of Green Lab certification across the campus is gathering pace. 28 of our labs are Green Lab certified and the University of Galway aims to double this number by the end of 2023.

SDG 13: Climate Action

Location: GEOFIT Borehole

SDG 13 aims to take action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Climate change is a major threat to societies around the globe, and its impacts are being felt in every country around the world. The impacts of climate change are multifaceted. Increasing global temperatures have profound effects on our weather systems, oceans and terrestrial environments. These changes have negative consequences on our complex ecosystems, which in turn impact our food and water systems, healthcare and economy, endangering millions of people across the globe.

For these reasons it is critical that we take rapid action against climate change. The GEOFIT project is just one strategy used by the University of Galway to act against climate change and create a sustainable campus. The GEOFIT project aims to install a geothermal heat pump system in the university. Heat pumps work by moving low-grade heat that is found in the air, water and ground and delivering this heat as a high-grade heat source suitable for consumption. The GEOFIT project uses a closed loop system to collect heat from 18 boreholes drilled into bedrock across campus. One of these boreholes can be seen here, nearby to the Alice Perry Engineering Building. This pilot project not only heats the campus swimming pool, but also provides data on the benefits of GEOFIT technology as a clean energy source.

SDG 14: Life Below Water

Location: Zoology and Marine Biology Museum, Ryan Institute

SDG 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and other marine resources. Our oceans and seas play critical roles in regulating our climate, generating oxygen, supporting marine life and providing sources of food and employment to humans. According to the UN, the deterioration of our ocean quality due to pollution, eutrophication and climate change is having profound effects on the quality of our waters and marine biodiversity.

The University of Galway’s SDG-focused research centre the Ryan Institute contributes significantly to progress on SDG 14 via its Marine and Coastal research theme. Boasting research centres including the Centre for Ocean Research and Exploration and the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine research, the Ryan Institute makes significant contributions to research, education and innovation related to Life Below Water. For interested members of the public, the Ryan Institute’s free Zoology and Marine Biology Museum is a worthwhile visit. Located on the ground floor of the Martin Ryan Institute, the museum boasts a collection of over 500 specimens, including rare glass models of sea creatures, stuff mammals and animal skeletons. 

SDG 15: Life on Land

Location: Biodiversity Trail

SDG 15 aims to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. With a focus on sustainable management of forests, prevention of land degradation, combating desertification and stopping biodiversity loss, this goal aims to maintain the benefits of our land-based ecosystems. According to the UN Environment Programme, terrestrial ecosystems are an important source of raw materials, energy and livelihoods, as well as maintaining soil quality, biodiversity, carbon and water control. Despite this fact, according to the UN nearly 10 million hectares of forest are destroyed every year and 40,000 species stand at risk of extinction. For this reason it is crucial that we protect our terrestrial environments and educate people on their importance.

The University of Galway’s Biodiversity Trail provides an opportunity for people to connect with nature and appreciate the importance of achieving SDG 15. Extending from the College Park to the Menlo Castle and Sports Campus, the biodiversity trail traverses diverse ecosystems including woodlands, reed beds and freshwater rivers. Man-made ecosystems such as the Eglington Cannel and Herb Garden can be explored alongside natural deciduous and alluvia woodlands. These habitats provide important homes to various plants, pollinators, and animals. The recent addition of a new Beehive provides a new habitat for our local pollinators. The University of Galway is a signatory to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021- 2025, which alongside our Biodiversity Action Plan seeks to restore, protect, and provide additional habitats for bees and other pollinating insects. Alongside providing a home to bees via our new Beehive, the university has reduced mowing regimes, created designated flower meadows and reduced pesticide use to support our local pollinators.

SDG 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions

Location: Irish Centre for Human Rights

SDG 16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, with an emphasis on creating institutions that are just, accountable, and inclusive on all levels. With a focus on reducing violence and improving access to institutions of justice, SDG 16 aims to create ‘access to justice for all.’ Significant progress must be made to achieve SDG 16, with 475,000 people dying as a result of homicide and one quarter of humanity living in a conflict-affected area, according to the UN.

Based in the University of Galway, the Irish Centre for Human Rights is Ireland’s premier academic human rights institution. Located in the School of Law, the Irish Centre for Human Rights contributes to research on a myriad of legal and ethical topics, as well as collaborating with other research institutions including the Ryan Institute on sustainable development and climate change, the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, and the Centre for Housing Law and Policy. The centre hosts a number of summer schools for and programmes, including the annual International Criminal Court Summer School and the five-week long New England School of Law Summer Programme.

Researchers working in the department contribute to knowledge on areas of law and justice ranging from humanitarian and migration law, and peace and conflict to gender and human rights and climate justice. The centre is involved in a number of research and advocacy projects including the Human Trafficking, Forced Migration and Gender Equality in Uganda, Providing for Peacekeeping and the UN Peacekeeping and Protection of Civilians projects. Through education and research, the Irish Centre for Human Rights contributes significantly to SDG 16 within our local and global communities.

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Location: Quadrangle

SDG 17 calls for collaboration within and between organizations, countries and governments to achieve the SDGs. Through investing in sustainable development projects and collaboration between economically developed and economically developing countries, the SDGs can work as an effective framework for creating a shared vision of what a global sustainable future can look like.

Found in the middle of our university campus, the Quadrangle represents the heart of our university. Awarded an SDG Champion for the year 2023/24, the University of Galway’s success in progressing the SDGs can be attributed not only to our dedication to sustainability, but also our dedication to utilizing partnerships to achieve the SDGs. As  a National SDG Champion we are an advocate and promoter of the SDGs, we  recognise partnerships support the implementation of every one of the SDGs, as well as the framework itself. We are collaborating across cities, regions, countries and continents as part of a collective international response working towards the achievement of the SDGs. 


Thank-you to Prof Piet Lens from the SFI Research Professorship Programme on Innovative Energy Technologies for Biofuels, Bioenergy and a Sustainable Irish Bioeconomy, for funding to create the University of Galway SDG Campus Trail. 

Thank-you to members of the University of Galway SDG Champion working group that led the development of the trail, including:

  • Ciara Varley, 2023 University of Galway Student SDG Champion Intern
  • Michelle O’Dowd Lohan, Sustainability Officer,  University of Galway
  • Dr John Caulfield, Director of Strategy Implementation, University of Galway

Thank-you to members of the Community and University Sustainability Partnership (CUSP) team for supporting the consultation process on the SDG Trail.