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What sustainability actions have Students' Unions been taking?

Zoe Arnold
March 1, 2021

Students’ Unions have been adapting their activities over the last year, and whilst some things are not feasible to continue, many are showing how they have shifted their focus to still create positive outcomes for students, the SU, the environment and local community.

  • Queen Mary Students' Union:

We have been working with the University’s grounds team to enhance biodiversity on our Mile End Campus through the creation of a community orchard. In December, 20 student volunteers helped to plant 60 apple and pear trees and 200 gooseberry and raspberry shrubs in the areas surrounding student accommodation. It is hoped that the plants will be fruit bearing within 2 years, providing support for local wildlife, colourful blossoms and free fruit for those living and working on campus.

As we were unable to run the winter version of our Reuse scheme, students involved in Students’ Union sustainability groups instead launched an appeal to support the work of Bow Foodbank. This involved collecting food & toiletry donations from departing students via campus drop off points, financial donations online and promoting volunteering at the foodbank to students and staff. Overall, £400 and 400 items were collected in November and December. The campaign contributed in a small part to the Foodbank successfully reaching their £240,000 fundraising target to secure their financial future.

  • City Students’ Union:

At City Students’ Union, to support sustainability online this year, we have stepped up the amount of collaboration we have been doing with other Students’ Unions, including taking part in the SU Sustainability Forums every month. It has been really helpful to hear from other SUs, share ideas and just chat about sustainability in general!

We have taken this opportunity to work on our existing sustainability policies, set up a staff working group and to help students with their wellbeing, we hosted a session to show students how they can grow plants in a small space. We are looking forward to doing some campaigning on Sustainable Food and speaking to students more about sustainability throughout the next few weeks.

  • Birmingham Guild of Students:

At the moment we are in the middle of a campaign to lobby the University of Birmingham to declare a climate emergency. The campaign is still ongoing, and has featured a video that has been widely spread on social media, an open letter with 250 signatures and counting and a launch event that featured Baroness Jenny Jones of the Green Party, former Green Party MP and researcher Ellie Chowns, Professor Martin Freer and a representative from the Birmingham UCU branch. In this campaign we are calling on the University to declare a Climate Emergency, announce a route-to-zero and divest from fossil fuels.

  • Undeb Bangor:

At Bangor we have adapted campaigns online and hope to be able to deliver some face to face events (socially distanced after Easter). So far, we have been able to push our ‘Period Poverty campaign’, start ‘Sustainable Sundays’ as well as update Sustainability policies.

  • Keele Students’ Union:

Covid has been the top priority for the SU this year and lockdown restrictions have limited what kinds of activities we can carry out, meaning we haven't had the time or the resources to do as much sustainability work as we would normally do - especially whilst not having access to our beautiful campus! Because of this, we have instead taken the opportunity to make structural changes in the hopes that when things go back to normal, we will be better equipped to embed sustainability in everything we do.

From embarking on an internal campaign to embed the SDGs, writing sustainability into all staff job descriptions and giving our sustainability pages on the website a much-needed revamp, we've arguably been busier than ever! We have also developed an even greater partnership with the Institution than ever before and have been working together to ensure the changes we are making will affect all corners of the university.