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 have a long way to go to rectify this, there are many things you can do to 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 Impact Rankings are a good place to start if you are looking to see which universities are dedicated to reducing plastic waste, minimising the use of disposable items and working to recycle more and which have policies in place for the sourcing of ethical goods.
To put together this ranking we mapped how universities around the world are committing to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality.
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.
The University of Manchester has produced a report outlining how it is committed to each individual SDG. In terms of SDG 12, the university is carrying out research in relevant areas including chemical production, waste management and household sustainability.
The Bluedot music festival, held by the university, is free of single-use plastic, recycles the majority of waste, initiates car-sharing schemes, provides coaches for festival goers, collects all food waste for composting and provides free water-refill stations. Festival goers also have the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint.
The university is committed to using local suppliers and provides courses for students to learn more about responsible consumption.
Newcastle University has committed to becoming a more sustainable campus with a range of measures in place. The university has committed to its sustainable waste management system and has implemented the “reduce, reuse, recycle” principles.
Students can attend workshops and talks on how to increase the sustainability of daily life and tailored workshops on areas of sustainability.
Students are encouraged to submit their own ideas for sustainable projects, campaigns or events. A range of student societies, such as EcoSoc, Newcastle Food Co-op and the Bee Society, encourage students to discuss and implement sustainability projects across campus.
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The student guide to sustainability
University College Cork has been trialling and implementing a Green Campus programme since 2007. Since then, the university has reduced its carbon emissions by 36 per cent and its waste tonnage by 25 per cent. The student-led committee meets regularly to discuss ideas and campaigns to improve the campus.
In 2018, 8,000 students signed a petition to make the university free of single-use plastic by 2023. The university also launched Ireland’s first plastic-free café on campus. Glass bottles have replaced plastic bottles and it doesn’t serve any plastic-wrapped food items, cutlery or sauces. The café also has an integrated water fountain system.
The College of Global Futures at Arizona State University empowers students to make a long-term impact in sustainability and innovation. The college is separated into three schools, one of which is the School of Sustainability.
Within the School of Sustainability, students study courses in sustainable food systems, sustainable energy and sustainability management.
Students are also encouraged to undertake research focusing on sustainability or to undertake sustainability internships. Student societies include Sustainabilibuddies, Campus Student Sustainability Initiatives and Green Light Solutions.
In April 2021, Manchester Metropolitan University launched the “Give It, Don’t Bin It” campaign, which encourages students to donate unwanted items and leftover food to charity partners including the British Heart Foundation and Manchester Central Food Bank. Donation banks and boxes are situated all over campus.
Students wishing to get involved in sustainability can choose from a range of initiatives across campus, including the Sustainability Ambassador scheme and Climate and Social Action Week.
Students also run a swap shop that enables students to swap clothes with each other and MetMUnch, a student network that focuses on training and pop-ups all around food, nutrition and sustainability.