Editor’s note: According to the UN, the Earth is close to ‘risk  tipping points’ that will severely inhibit its ability to deal with the global climate crisis. With the climate crisis firmly fixated on their minds, members of Bath Time visited the Taking Action at Bath Climate Event in 4 West, involving a gathering of climate organisations within both our university as well as the local Bath area. We spoke to several of them on the way that students can get involved, limit and reduce their carbon footprint, as well as help participate within the campaign to fight climate change. This is what they had to say! 

Institute for Policy Research & The ActNow Film Project:

University of Bath’s very own Institute for Policy Research (IPR), in collaboration with Cambridge Zero, will take young peoples’ voices’ to COP28 in their film project ‘Act Now Film’ in attempt to close the gap between those in power and the concerned youth.

This November will be the project’s third COP running. Previous films have focused on personal connections to climate change and hosted intergenerational conversations to highlight the rapidity of climate change, but this year’s film will crank the volume on our voices’ another notch louder as it opens discussion up between young people and climate experts. The IPR emphasise that the film is “to show that young people are experts in their own right” rather than have experts telling us about climate change, putting young people at the forefront of the discussion and prioritising their voices: “we want to see what people have to say”. “Its really important to us that we’re not scripting the film at all”, says IPR, adding that this focus on open conversation made the project “quite challenging”.

But here at the University of Bath, we never back down from a challenge, do we? Certainly not! Three of our very own – one student and two staff – feature in the film, and the rest of us can show our support by watching the local screening (date TBC @uniofbathipr) and looking out for the film at COP28 (30th Nov-12th Dec). For those who want to do more than share their support, the IPR is keen to raise student involvement in next year’s film – simply get in touch with them via Instagram (@uniofbathipr) or email (ipr@bath.ac.uk).

People & Planet

People & Planet is a network of student campaigning groups across the UK for human rights, world poverty, and the environment. The branch here on campus helps our university to keep its green promises and strive for even higher sustainability goals. In recent years, they have been encouraging our laboratory-based research to join the LEAF programme and have successfully established ‘Ecosia’ as the default search engine on all University of Bath computers. This year, People & Planet are looking to keep polluters out of our careers fairs and bring more plant-based options to our food outlets.

The ‘Fossil-Free’ campaign aims to raise awareness amongst students about big polluters present at our career’s fairs and, ultimately, to oust them out of these events entirely. As students, we are fortunate to have excellent industry connections through our university, but how many of us consider the ethics of our potential employers when our placement years come round, or when graduation promptly plops us into the pool of post-graduate panic? A job that keeps a roof over your head and a rumble out of your stomach is crucial, but ‘Fossil-Free’ reminds us that our personal survival need not fuel the climate change crisis. The long-term goal for the campaign is to ban significant polluters from our university careers fairs, but it is collective student action that will truly apply the pressure on our own institution. People & Planet will be providing information on who these fossil-fuel fiends are, encouraging students to avoid employment opportunities with them. If the student community truly want these corporations out, then the campaign stands a much healthier chance of success.

Whilst one campaign drives to keep the bad nuts out, the other focuses on bringing the good nuts in. The ’Plant-Based Universities’ campaign is very much what it’s name suggests; People & Planet are pushing for all university food outlets to provide more plant-based options, the ideal being a completely plant-based menu. This is perhaps not an entirely new issue for the University, which already has Parade serving a fully vegan menu, but there is always room for improvement, is there not? The first four highest carbon footprint foods are all animal products: beef, cheese, poultry, and farmed fish. By offering fewer of these options and more plant-based options, the University can reduce its carbon emission contribution. This is the main focus, but the beneficial by-product is that the environmentally responsible choice, regardless of where you are munching on campus, will be even easier to make. People & Planet hope that this campaign will be welcomed by existing herbivores as well as encourage more of us to start chowing down on something nutritious, delicious, and not pernicious!

People & Planet are an excellent organisation for bringing the horse to water, meaning that all they have to do is drink, but if you are feeling like a particularly autonomous and good-willed horse with a desire to lead the herd, rather than simply be a part of it, then you can definitely do that. You can sign up to join People & Planet on the SU website for free, or alternatively turn up to one of their weekly meetings in Chancellor’s Building, on Thursday at 6.15pm.

Share and Repair

Share and Repair’s booth focused on promoting itself, an organisation devoted to cutting down on household appliance and item waste, through the promotion of repair instead of binning broken items, and through a ‘library of things’, devoted to lending appliances for single use. 

The organisation runs several ‘repair cafes’; regular events where you can bring an item in and watch it get repaired for a small donation. Four of these are run at the university every year, with volunteers able to repair a wide variety of items, from the electrical and mechanical to clothing. Similarly devoted to reducing household waste, the ‘library of things’ Share and Repair runs encourages the borrowing, instead of buying, of rare-use items, ranging from baking supplies and party decorations to power tools, in total making up over 600 available items.

While Share and Repair is currently limited to Bath and the Southwest, the charity described itself as expanding, saying “it grows and grows”, possibly as a result of people “becoming more mindful about waste and what they’re throwing out”. They attribute this as being a result of “the energy crisis and everything making people more mindful of what they’re buying and what they’re spending their money on”. The organisation also singled out students as a target for areas to grow into, seeking “much more presence and relationships with universities”, especially due to the transient nature of university and how “it’s just not sustainable” to bring or take unneeded items home. Share and Repair hopes to further expand its presence on campus in the future by establishing a donation box that can be used to donate items into the ‘library of things’.

To get involved, information is available at @sharerepairbath on social media or at https://shareandrepair.org.uk/.

The Civil Community and Engagement group

Taking environmental action is good for the planet and it’s good for you. The Civic Community and Engagement organisation at University of Bath supports staff and students to engage across our city and our region, and this year you can get involved with projects that are good for your wellbeing as well as the local area.

The West of England Combined Authority aim to raise abundance of wildlife in the region by 30% by 2030, and whilst the Duck Society is doing excellent work in maintaining our current population of campus critters, our efforts towards supporting the all-important pollinators could be refreshed. This is where the ‘Community Pollinator Fund’ scheme comes in. The Civic Community and Engagement organisation will be building a pollinator garden between 4 West and University Hall under the design brief that it must be reproducible in new-build-style housing, so as to encourage people to make their own regardless of unconventional spaces. If you fancy a social, mindful break from work that’s for a good cause, be sure to get involved with this special project.

Have you ever seen an unhappy hippie? I can’t say I have. If there’s one sure fire way to get your hippie on, it’s to get tree-huggin’. However, not everyone is the hippie-type, so here’s some scientific reasoning for you STEMmies: hugging releases oxytocin, which reduces stress and boosts heart health, and if you can hold on for 10 seconds or more you can also treat yourself to eased depression, lessened tiredness, and a stronger immune system. And that’s just the hugging part of the equation – being around or even just looking at trees lowers levels of cortisol and adrenaline in the blood stream, which helps to combat stress and anxiety. Sandwich the benefits of both trees and hugging et voila: the secret to a hippie’s happiness! And as luck would have it, the Civic Community and Engagement group are working with local charity More Trees for Banes to bring more trees to you! Well, they’re bringing them to campus to be more precise, but if you’re on campus then that definitely still counts. The charity is dedicated to growing, planting, and caring for trees across Bath and Northeast Somerset. The university will host a site for saplings to flourish before they are eventually taken to their final destinations in local woodland. Both students and staff are welcome to help nurture this important site (tree-hugging recommended, but not required).

If any of these project’s sound like something you would like to be a part of, you can sign up to their newsletter at https://blogs.bath.ac.uk/civic-engagement/ or email the organisation’s leader, Katrina Kelly, at k.kelly@bath.ac.uk.

Climate Action

We interviewed a staff representative of Climate Action, the university team who organised and ran the event.

On their aims and objectives:

‘‘In 2020, the university declared a climate emergency alongside the Student Union and the Bath and Northeast Somerset Council. As part of that, our climate action framework was formed, so we have eleven guiding principles. Through that, the university is acting across whole institutions, looking at all aspects of university life, to deliver change through what we’re doing. We’re looking at minimising our footprint, but also how we can have positive change through research, education, and the University’s partnerships. The Climate Action team, whilst small, can deliver a broader impact through the larger community of change-makers; staff and students are all part of this change.’’

On the process of the university declaring a climate emergency: 

‘‘There was a long consultative process, that through pressure from staff and students, led to the University declaring a climate emergency. We have quite a unique role as a university to tackle the emergency; we can take responsibility through the research we’re doing, but also by maximising what we’re doing as an internal organisation. We also recognise that our staff and students want to be part of this change more broadly, and be supported in making changes; that’s where as a team we’re coordinating the campaign.’’

On the ways that Climate Action is looking to impact the climate crisis: 

‘‘Yes! There’s a wide range of researchers tackling the climate emergency from different angles such as climate adaptation and mitigation, to looking at things like behaviour change, future fuels. There is a wide variety.’’

On the steps that students can take to address the climate crisis:

‘‘There are many ways students can be part of change. Whether that’s looking at their own behaviours, such as how you’re travelling around Bath and beyond, saving energy and water, mixing up your diet, trying to be a flexitarian, for example. You can also take action; getting vocal about the topics that are of interest to you, in the university or beyond, you can also get involved with more projects such as the carbon literacy course. It’s certified externally, which is great for a CV. There’s lots more information on our website or our blog. You don’t need to wait until you’re a graduate, there are many projects, societies, and opportunities that anyone can take part in. Things like VIP projects, One Young World or becoming a climate ambassador, there are lots of details on the Climate Action webpage.’’

Are there any final messages you’d like to send about Climate Action to readers?

‘‘I think really just communicating to students that they are part of a wider community of change makers. We know from our survey that we run every year here, that students care about climate change. They want to see change, they want to be supported in making their own changes, and they want to be part of a greater whole.’’

Climate Action provides many options for those looking to get involved in the fight against climate change on every level. Every year, they publish a report about the university’s progress on their website. Climate Action could benefit from more advertising of their events, as it’s clear there is no shortage of interest and passion on this topic amongst the student body. However, their work and message is not just important for a modern university, it is essential if the views of students and staff are to be effectively represented. 

University of Bath Green Party

Next, we spoke to the Green Party student representative about the political side of climate action.

On why the Green Party provide the strongest policy on Climate Action out of all UK political parties: 

‘‘Just look at Labour right now. They’re not opposing Rosebank, they want to keep licenses open for oil and gas, particularly in the North Sea, which we don’t. You can’t have net zero whilst still proliferating oil and gas. We also think that our package is far broader when helping people along in the green transition; we want polluters to pay for the transition. For example, a frequent flyer’s tax or a hearth tax would take the burden off working families and place it on people who contribute more to climate change. We have a really holistic package, whereas other parties are basically looking at half the picture.’’

The Greens are more than just a single-issue party:

‘‘We believe that there is no climate justice without social justice. One of the campaigns we’re focussing on is housing; insulating your house decreases emissions, but it also saves a lot of money. We’re looking at building 150,000 council houses every year to combat the housing crisis, whereas other parties aren’t as focussed on social housing. We also believe in Universal Basic Income, a four-day working week, and a £15 minimum wage is one of our policies. There is much more than just climate policy.’’

On ensuring that big corporations play their major part in deterring the climate emergency: 

‘‘A large burden has been put on the individual – of course we can all make a collective impact by recycling, making sustainable consumer choices, but I really think the larger polluters should take responsibility. Big banks that invest in oil companies, very frequent flyers, we really think that the onus should be on government and business to make that transition. Investing in housing too, housing makes up a large proportion of UK emissions, especially when you look at business buildings too. We want to shift the liability from the individual onto the big polluters, because really, they’re doing a lot more than we are. But we can still be making these sustainable choices with fashion, food, and the way that we travel.’’

The Green Party seem well-versed on the issues, and their comprehensive policy platform is one clear reason for the recent growth in support. The Green Party is often overlooked in political discussion, and the question remains – how could they translate this growing support to real authority in Westminster? Young people are more passionate about climate change than ever before. With the long-standing MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, stepping down at the next election, is now the time for the next generation of Green politics? 

Bath University Left Union (BULU)

Bath Time spoke to Harini, the Chair of BULU, about the climate crisis. 

On the ways that students can help confront the climate crisis: 

‘‘Students can start at home by using the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This is something really simple, and Bath and Northeast Somerset council on their website have information on how people can do this. And simple changes in behaviour such as sorting rubbish into the right bins can make a massive difference. Other things, such as buying food from more sustainable sources (which can be expensive as a student), can be impactful’’

On what kind of environmental policies they believed the Government should bring in:

‘’I’d really like the Government to bring in more electric buses, seeing as we are already seeing more electric cars and motorbikes. Back home where I’m from in Singapore, we are starting of an electric bus scheme, which is far cleaner for the environment (…) I assume that this policy will start in London, and then we can bring it elsewhere to see some change in a far bigger way. I really hope that we can see some more electric buses around in the future’’. 

On ways that the University can further fight the climate crisis: 

‘’I am quite happy with some of the changes that the University has made, in particular I love the reusable cup scheme (The exchange) presently on campus. I would like to see more stuff happening, such as charging people for taking cardboard takeaway food containers, incentivising people to bring in their own Tupperware from home (…) this is far better for the environment, and you can reuse these multiple times’’. On this matter, I would also like to see some more vegan-friendly, healthier choices, and cheaper food’’. 

How can people get involved with BULU: 

‘’They can join our WhatsApp group, follow all of our socials (social medias), and come down to any events that we have. We have a fortnightly economics seminar, talking about left wing economics and the dangers of free-market capitalism as well. If you join our WhatsApp you will hear of all these things happening, we are quite a lively group with many socials’’. 

Sustainable Fashion Society

On what is the sustainable fashion society:

‘’It is a group in which a lot of like-minded people can come along to social events, field trips, we are thinking of having workshops in which people can upcycle old clothes and create something new. Essentially, we are about promoting sustainable fashion. We are not necessarily against fast fashion, but are more interested in people upcycling rather than replacing their wardrobe with fast fashion purchases. 

On the effect that fast fashion has on the environment: 

‘’It takes up a lot of natural resources to make fast fashion. If you take one company, say Shien, for example,  you can research their clothes the amount of water that goes into it, as well as carbon emissions from the factories (…) sustainable fashion is about being content with your clothes, or if you want to find unique pieces to express yourselves there are a lot of good alternatives such as Depop, Vinted, as well as charity shops in which the money goes to those that need it. We do also love vintage shops, as well as vintage kilo sales as these are actually more affordable for students’’. 

On Sustainable fashion places available within Bath: 

‘’I would recommend having a look at all the charity shops around, but there is a vintage shop called Sobeys Vintage. If you are looking for some really cool pieces that sometimes host student nights in which everything is 20% off, as well as offering us some cookies.’’

You can find the Sustainable Fashion Society on Instagram @uob_sustainable_fashion, as well as join their WhatsApp group chat available to find on their profile. 

Bath Time on the Taking Action at Bath Climate Event 

As student journalists, we are you. We are members of the inescapable mentality that the notion of the climate crisis can bring, we have experienced the notion of powerlessness, as well as the fatalism that one passionate about the climate crisis can feel. As was mentioned by the Green party, corporations are vastly more responsible for the presence of Carbon emissions in the world than we are, to the extent that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissionsAs our banks feed fossil fuel expansion, fighting climate change can sometimes feel like being in a driverless car rolling into incoming traffic, with our lack of ability to fight acting like a jammed seatbelt. It is only events such as these, full of people passionate about fighting for our plant the way that we do, that one can feel a sense of optimism. It was wonderful to meet so many people interesting in doing something about the climate emergency, each with their unique perspective, their own love for the world around us, and their own urgency to sought out ways to protect it.

Whether that might be more direct action, such as attending the recent Extinction Rebellion ‘Unite to Survive’ March in Bath this weekend, or more subtle ones, such as curbing behaviours that enlarge one’s carbon footprint, these are all impactful in deterring an emerging climate crisis. We can only hope that the world might listen. 

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