A Student’s Guide to Sustainability 

In 2020, the University of Bath pledged to aim for Net Zero Carbon for all its emissions by 2040. But, that goal won’t be met without the involvement of a very important group of people – students! 

University of Bath Institute for Sustainability launched in 2023

By making changes in how we go about our degrees, we can improve our sustainability and contribute to reducing the damage done to the planet by climate change. While there are many ways in which this can be done, some practices, such as only buying organic food and sustainable clothing, are often way out of a student’s budget. This article therefore details some more realistic ways in which you can be a sustainable student, and even save money while doing so. Whether you want to be at the forefront of a protest, or making changes to your daily routine, every little action to increase your sustainability adds up and makes a positive difference!

1. Get involved with societies pushing for a green university

If you want to become a more sustainable student, where better to start than with university societies! 

Here are three student groups doing valuable work to make the University of Bath a more sustainable place: 

•  People & Planet: Part of a wider network across the UK, People & Planet campaigns for action against world poverty and the environmental crisis. With weekly meetings, the group holds discussions on climate and humanitarian topics including GM crops, COP27, and the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. Alongside these discussions, projects are run each year to help improve sustainability on campus. Past projects have seen Ecosia (a search engine that uses ad-generated revenue to plant trees) installed on university computers and a sustainability podcast launched. This year, the society is running two projects. The first, ’Fossil-Free Careers’, is pushing for the university to ban fossil fuel companies from career events and stop actively promoting careers in such companies. The second project ‘Plant-Based Universities’, is campaigning for a transition to completely plant-based menus at all campus food outlets.

•  Sustainable Fashion Society: For those of you looking for a way to be creative in your sustainability, this society is the one for you! Whether it’s through upcycling workshops, thrift trips, or a sustainable fashion show, the group hopes to excite and inspire students to be more sustainable in their interaction with the fashion industry. 

•  Bath University Green Party (BUGP): If you’re more interested in the politics surrounding the climate crisis, then look no further. The UK won’t go reach its net zero goals by 2050 without some serious shifts in policy from the government, and the Green Party wants to make that happen. Through affiliations with the Young Greens wing of the England and Wales Green Party, the society is a great way to get stuck into local politics. In May of 2023, BUGP members assisted the local Green Party in helping councillors get elected in the Lambridge ward, and you can join them this year as they plan to keep up the good work through campaigns on campus and beyond.

Throughout the academic year, members of these societies can be found protesting, holding collaborative meetings and events, and enjoying each other’s company at socials. Ultimately, they provide the perfect place to learn more about the climate emergency and its wider effects, meet like-minded people, and start your journey towards attaining a more sustainable way of life! To find out more about these societies and how you can join them, visit their pages on the SU website. 

2. Buy second hand

It’s estimated that the fashion industry contributes up to 10% of global emissions, but recent years have seen a surge in second-hand apparel, and it’s one of the easiest ways you can be sustainable in your purchases without breaking the bank or the planet. It’s estimated that if all UK adults bought 50% of their wardrobe second-hand, it would prevent 12.5 billion kilograms of emissions (equivalent to over 17,000 long-haul flights) from entering the atmosphere. Marketplaces such as Vinted, Depop, and eBay provide easy online platforms to expand your wardrobe or find a fancy dress for a night out, while second-hand sales held in the SU provide the perfect excuse for a bit of clothes shopping in between lectures. Not to mention, Bath is home to numerous charity shops and regularly scheduled second-hand events where you can pick up reasonably priced gems from clothes to crockery. Such events include the Walcot Street Antique & Flea market (every Saturday), the Lansdown car boot sale (every Sunday from April to September), and the Green Park Flea and Antiques markets (every first and last Sunday of the month respectively). In addition to buying second-hand, also try to provide second-hand products! Giving away or selling your old items instead of throwing them away helps slow down cycles of consumerism and reduce emissions.  

3. Eating sustainably 

While one obvious change to make in your eating habits is substituting meat and dairy for plant-based alternatives, how you prepare your food can also go a long way when it comes to being more sustainable. Over 9 million tonnes of food goes to waste in the UK each year, with a lot of it ending up in landfill sites and releasing greenhouse gases. By planning your meals for each week, you can both reduce your carbon footprint and save your money by ensuring none of it goes to waste. Furthermore, you can help reduce food waste from your favourite shops and restaurants through the Too Good to Go app, which offers discounted goodie bags containing food that hasn’t been sold. Finally, if you feel like treating yourself to some homemade humus, pastries, juice or other locally produced goods, the farmers market held every Saturday in Green Park station provides the perfect place to do so.  

4. Recycling properly 

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s a mantra many of us will have heard over and over again while growing up, and yet a lot of recyclable waste ends up in incinerators or landfills each year due to contamination. This is why separating your recycling (as annoying as it can be in the moment) is so important if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. More often than we realise, food packaging we throw away can be recycled if taken to a supermarket. Similarly, empty pill packets can often be taken to your local pharmacist and used contact lens packets can be returned to opticians. So remember, always check the packaging before throwing something away!

5. Be efficient in your energy usage 

We’re all aware that we should switch unnecessary lights off to conserve energy, but did you know de-frosting your freezer once or twice a year can also save you energy (and money!) by ensuring the appliance runs efficiently? Similarly, putting your heating on a timer so it doesn’t run throughout the night and not filling the kettle up more than necessary will help keep the energy bill down. You can also reduce your water consumption by fitting eco showerheads in your house where possible. 

6. Be sustainable in your lab practices

This one’s for all the students with lab practicals. As a biology undergraduate, I can relate to the chaos and confusion that can come with the first few labs of the degree. You’re unsure of what pipette you should be using and even more confused about whether you should use the pipette tip more than once. Getting familiar with how and when lab equipment should be thrown away is therefore one way you can reduce your plastic use and be more sustainable. If you’re unsure of either of these things, just ask the postgrad student for advice, it’s what they’re there for!

7. Sign petitions to get your voice heard 

Whether it’s trying to get a change in university or government policy, petitions can go a long way by showing the people in power what the masses want. Not only that, it’s one of the easiest ways you as a student can be proactive in the push for a greener university and world! For petitions related to university sustainability, following societies such as People & Planet, Bath University Green Party, and University of Bath Climate Action on Instagram is a great way to keep yourself in the loop with any new petitions being circulated. You can also keep an eye out for groups campaigning on campus that might be looking for student signatures. For petitions relating to nationwide sustainability, the UK Government and ParliamentPeople & Planet, and Good Law Project websites are great places to start. 

This article only scratches the surface of how you can live more sustainably; for a more extensive guide on student sustainability at Bath, check the one produced by Beatrice Clementel, a sustanability master’s student and member of the Climate Action Team.

Trying to mitigate the climate crisis as an individual can often feel daunting and a little hopeless, but if every student were to do some of the things listed in this article, the reduction of emissions would be more than worthwhile due to the good it would do for our future on this planet.

Want to know more? Click on the link below to read all about the University of Bath’s involvement in climate action:

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