Plastic use has become one of the biggest issues of this generation with bottles, bags, food packaging and straws littering our beaches and clogging up our oceans.
While we still have a long way to go to rectify this, there are many things that you can do to make sure that you help to preserve the planet. And one of those is holding your university to account and understanding what they are doing to consume materials responsibly.
The Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings are a good place to start if you are looking to see which universities are dedicated to reducing plastic waste, are minimising the use of disposable items, are working to recycle more, and have policies in place on the sourcing of ethical goods.
To put together this ranking we mapped how universities around the world are committing to 11 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality. Among the goals we have included in the ranking are those on good health and well-being, reduced inequalities and climate action.
The SDGs look to tackle some of today’s biggest global issues and SDG 12 covers responsible consumption and production. More on the methodology of this SDG ranking can be found here.
University College Cork in Ireland has collected an impressive set of statistics in regards to waste reduction and sustainability. They have cut their total wasted tonnes by 25 per cent, increased landfill diversion by 98 per cent and significantly reduced the amount of printing by students.
The Green Campus Programme was established due to the lack of recycling facilities on campus and to tackle waste management. The programme has since expanded to cover a seven-step programme that covers energy, waste, water, biodiversity and transport.
Students can also join "green teams" or a number of the sustainable societies to get involved in the schemes and inform new guidelines.
Newcastle University is one of the most sustainable universities in the UK and has made good progress in waste reduction and the increased use of public transport among students.
The Sustainability Team is responsible for a variety of environmental sustainability issues including energy, waste management and travel planning.
They created a sustainability policy in 2017 committing to a number of measures to promote responsible consumption. Some of these measures include a waste minimisation strategy, maintaining a high recycling rate, implementing sustainable construction and minimising water use.
The University of Dundee has a number of policies in place dedicated to specific areas of action in waste management.
The waste policy is committed to the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra and considers the whole life cycle of resources when procuring goods. Figures on recycling have gone up and are continuing to rise.
The university also has a web based portal called Warp-it to enable used furniture to be re-homed to someone new thus reducing waste and landfill charges.
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The student guide to sustainability
The University of Eastern Finland has committed to a number of principles which aim to make the university greener and more sustainable.
They are aiming to be an entirely paperless campus and aim to use only electronic internal communication and avoiding printing where possible. Staff and students are encouraged to reuse as much as possible including ink cartridges and furniture.
The university is also committed to increasing recycling and minimising landfill waste.
The University of Aberdeen has a number of initiatives for staff and students that help to reduce waste and encourage the use of sustainable products.
One such example is encouraging students, staff and the public to donate damaged electrical items for recycling. The university also adheres to Scotland's Zero Waste Plan which sets out the Scottish Government's vision for a zero waste society.
The university has also refitted taps and plumbing systems to minimise waster waste.