Univ’s sustainability action plan
Here you’ll find some great ideas on how to be more sustainable at Univ. Whether you’d like to find out what can and can’t be recycled (did you know cling film can be recycled here in Oxford?), how to plan your weekly shopping so it’s kinder to the planet, or how to get involved in eco-projects in the city, this handy resource can point you to a few of the answers! Oxford is already one of the leading cities and universities for sustainability in the UK with a prominent cycling community and cutting-edge research. As students, we can play a big role in supporting this and making it even better. By following the easy and affordable steps in this action plan, we can all be part of the solution here at Univ. Enjoy!
Will and Jacob (JCR and MCR environment reps).
We’ll start with our Top 10 Tips and further down the page you’ll find additional ideas, suggestions and resources under a number of categories.
Top 10 Tips
- Turn off unneeded lights
- Unplug electrical items that aren’t needed
- Turn down the heating (even by 1 degree) and don’t use windows for temperature control
- Buy (and use!) a reusable keep cup for hot drinks
- Buy a sustainable water bottle and make use of free drinking water
- Plant trees by searching with Ecosia
- Only print when essential
- Reuse and recycle
- Make educated shopping choices (and shop local)
- Eat more plant-based foods with sustainable credentials
Turn off your lights when you go out (or when no longer needed).
Report dripping taps, problems with radiator valves or any other problems immediately to College. You can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Turn your heating down or off before choosing to open your window as a means of temperature control. Dress for the weather and add a layer before opting to turn up the heating.
Fully turn off TVs, computers, chargers, and any other electrical item when you go out – most items whilst left plugged in will continue to draw charge (so-called “vampire devices”). “Standby mode” is not the same as off…
Do your laundry at 30 degrees.
Fill your kettle with only enough water for the drink you are making (or ask someone else if they want a drink too!)
Take shorter, cooler showers.
Whenever possible take your own bottles to the recycling points (works yard, south end of Goodhart, Staverton car park)
Make full use of recycling in College and avoid contaminating recycling bins with other waste as can mean all the recycling ends up in a landfill. College members can visit the intranet for full details recycling in Univ.
Food and Drink
A meat-free diet has often been described as the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the planet, consider swapping out at least one meal a week for a meat-free one or replace half the meat in your spag bol with lentils or grated carrot.
Learn more about meat-free substitutes – not all alternatives are as sustainable as assumed (Google it – or better still “Ecosia it”).
Reduce food waste by planning your meals in advance and meal-share with roommates and friends. The OLIO app can be used to share unwanted food with your local area.
Avoid ad hoc food shopping (particularly when you’re hungry!) to help buy only the food you need and cut down on waste.
Use a reusable “KeepCup” – almost all coffee shops offer additional incentives to do so, such as bonus loyalty stamps or discounts.
Drink tap water and not bottled water. In financial terms, it’s a huge saving (if bottled water were beer, that would be a £1,500 pint), in sustainability terms, it’s priceless.
Take a sustainably sourced, good quality (and therefore, long-lifespan) water bottle out with you, free water refills are increasingly common and apps like Refill can help you locate these.
Soft drinks can have particularly large carbon footprints so think carefully before buying.
Say no to plastic straws, unless required for health reasons.
Electrical items that can’t be repurposed, resold or reused by someone else can often be recycled – find out what and how at recycleyourelectricals.org.uk
Did you know, Oxford City Council recycles stretchy plastic – including cling film, bubble wrap, carrier bags and plastic envelopes. For more details, visit their website.
When recycling metal, scrunch foil or aluminium packaging together to form a ball; aim for a tennis ball size or bigger.
Check what can be recycled in your local area, in Oxford or at your home address here.
The College has a food waste collection. This is for food only. Packaging should be put in general waste, or recycling if cleaned. Note that the Vegware packaging used for grab-and-go items in the buttery cannot be recycled and should be put in general waste.
The Council will reject recycling if it is contaminated, for example, with food waste. Remember to empty, rinse and dry your recyclable waste before recycling.
Get Involved and Stay Informed
Read all of the sustainability news from the College here.
Oxford Energy Society is a student-run society that primarily acts to organise events relevant to the matters surrounding energy and climate change. Visit them at oxfordenergysoc.com
The Oxford Climate Society is an award-winning University of Oxford society dedicated to connecting and developing informed climate leaders. Find out more at oxfordclimatesociety.com
The Oxford University Nature Conservation Society promotes discussion and action on nature conservation. Details at oxconsocorg.wordpress.com
Oxford Conservation Volunteers is a voluntary organisation that carries out practical work conserving the wildlife and traditional landscape of the Oxford area. You can help out and get your hands dirty at ocv.org.uk
WaterBear is a free streaming platform dedicated to the future of our planet. Think Netflix for conservation; sign up and get watching at waterbear.com
B Lab is a nonprofit network transforming the global economy to “benefit all people, communities, and the planet” with an impressive range of tools and resources – see: bcorporation.net
Internet and Computer Use
Got a Question for Google? Use Ecosia instead. Ecosia is an online search engine that donates 80 percent of their profits to reforestation efforts and is a CO2-negative company.
Avoid printing whenever possible, print double-sided when you can.
Unplug phones, computers and other rechargeable devices once fully charged; this may also prolong the life of the device’s rechargeable battery.
IT services have produced information on the carbon footprint of computers and screens which you can read here.
Dim your screen brightness.
Sending and receiving emails emits carbon. Why not spend half an hour unsubscribing from marketing emails you don’t read and consider sending fewer unnecessary “thank you” emails.
The Oxford Carbon Challenge
The Oxford Carbon Challenge is an online platform where you can calculate your carbon footprint, find suggested steps to reduce it and mark the steps you are already taking.
The challenge is a friendly competition between college teams, where each step you take or pledge to try is translated to points. The more members your college will have on your team, the more positive actions you will take – and the more points you and your team will score.
The challenge is run through the Giki Zero platform and led by the University’s environmental sustainability team, with the support of SOS-UK (Students Organising for Sustainability), part of the National Union of Students.
Join Team Univ as part of the Oxford Carbon Challenge here.
In addition to local charity shops also consider Gloucester Green Market — Wednesdays for general stalls (including local fruit and veg) and Thursdays for vintage.
Educate yourself about a shop or brand’s sustainable and environmental credentials before buying. The Good on You app ranks various clothing brands on environmental, labour and animal rights metrics.
Always aim to buy reusable products or products made of recycled content. For example flannels instead or cosmetic wipes, bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones…
Consider upcycling before recycling. Take a look at upcyclethat.com for inspiration.
Always consider shopping in local, independent stores instead of heading straight for Amazon or other large, online retailers. A great place to start is independentoxford.com
If you do shop on Amazon, consider delivery options carefully (next-day delivery generally has higher emissions than standard delivery) and see if you can share orders with others. If you are returning a product to Amazon consider the choices and opt for the most sustainable.
B Corp Certification (which goes far beyond everyday shopping) demonstrates corporations’ social and environmental impact; get started finding a B Corp here.
Store your belongings with Univ over the short vacations and take public transport to go home and return to Oxford.
Oxford is a city full of bikes, take full advantage of this sustainable option; take a look at the local cycling advocacy group Cyclox.
Get to know the local cycling possibilities with this interactive map.
Combine cycling with your regular commute using the Park and Pedal scheme if you live outside Oxford. Find out more here.
The Oxford E-scooter trial has 650 electric scooters available for hire throughout the city. More details at oxfordshire.gov.uk
Where possible plan longer journeys in advance to take the lowest carbon footprint options without paying premiums.
Bonus suggestion (which may not save the planet, but could save your life): please consider wearing a cycle helmet…
Your Mental Health and Climate Change
News about climate change and the scale of the challenge to reduce our environmental impact may make you feel anxious. It is important to look after your mental health. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider reducing the amount you access the news or talking to someone about how you’re feeling. It can also help to get involved by taking some of the actions on this page, sharing your voice, or engaging with what community groups are doing.
It is important to remember that the onus isn’t only on you to fix the world. For more tips on protecting your mental health see this resource from the Mental Health Foundation.
Univ will continue reporting on sustainability initiatives from across College so please look out for these on our dedicated Sustainability at Univ page, our News Hub and social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In the meantime, please see below to make your suggestions on sustainability at Univ.
Have your say on sustainability
We welcome feedback from across our extended Univ family and all are encouraged to make comments or suggestions for actions, small or large, which could improve sustainability at Univ. Current students and staff are invited to provide feedback using the form on our Intranet here.
Those without access to Univ’s Intranet are most welcome to send their comments or suggestions via email to Justin Bowyer.
All comments and suggestions will be presented to the Sustainability Committee at the next available opportunity.
We look forward to hearing your ideas.