Hi! I'm Ryan, a 1st year Physics BSc student. As a member of the Green Mary group for sustainability here at Queen Mary, one of my responsibilities is to promote sustainability awareness on campus. Many believe that to be more eco-friendly and sustainable to the planet you must make massive sacrifices to your life. For instance, riding a bike everywhere, becoming vegan or re-using absolutely everything. As a student, it can be tricky to suddenly jump into doing these things and for many it can be a real challenge no matter how dedicated you want to be. But, if you start small and encourage your friends to do the same you can begin to make a huge difference; so, in this article, I will be giving my tips for becoming a more sustainable student.
Tip #1 – Bring your own cup
In the UK alone, we dispose of more than 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups every year (that equates to 7 million each day or 5000 per minute!) Unfortunately, most of these cups are not recyclable due to the materials used to make them waterproof. Fortunately, there is something you can do to reduce this staggering number: At our Students’ Union outlets, if you bring your own reusable cup you will not only be saving the planet but also you will receive 20% off the price of your drink. You can buy a reusable coffee cup for £6 from the Students’ Union Café’s and get your 1st drink in it for free! After just 10 visits you will have reclaimed the price of the reusable cup through the savings! (based on the price of a regular Latte or Cappuccino brought from the Ground or Learning Café)
Tip #2 – Meat Free Mondays 20% off vegetarian & vegan products
Take advantage of the ‘Meat Free Mondays’ 20% off vegetarian and vegan products offer at the Students’ Union outlets. This offer applies to all the QMSU food outlets across the Mile End, Whitechapel and Charterhouse Square campuses including the Ground Café, Learning Café (located in the Library), Union Shop, Village Shop, Drapers Bar and Kitchen, The Griff Inn as well as The Shield Café. This is a great chance to try something new and explore some tasty non-meat products, whilst helping to reduce the impact on the planet - it is estimated that livestock is accountable for 18% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (including feed production and transport). If everybody was to have just one meat free day per week, that number could be reduced by a significant amount. PS: My favourite is the halloumi and falafel wrap!
Tip #3 – Shop at local farmers markets and buy in-season fruit and veg
How often when you go into the shop do you check where the product originated from? Many of the products you buy in chain supermarkets are transported long distances across the planet and this leaves behind a huge carbon footprint. But fear not! There are several farmers markets across London and nearby to Mile End. For example, the Stepney City Farm (http://stepneycityfarm.org) hold a market every Saturday from 10am until 3pm and is just a 15 minute walk away. These markets are a great way to explore new areas you may have not previously been to and it can be fun to do with your friends and flatmates. You may even encounter animals!
Tip #4 – Donate unwanted clothes and equipment
As a student living in halls, it can be easy to accumulate a lot of equipment and clothes over the year and unfortunately you may not be able to take all of this back home – especially if you are an international student. Instead of throwing away perfectly good cooking equipment or clothing etc., why not donate it so somebody else can re-use it in the future? There are plenty of options to choose from, for instance the Green Mary group run a ‘Re-use’ campaign at the end of the semester during the moving out period. Other options include giving it away to charity – around the campus there are several British Heart Foundation bins you can put your unwanted clothes into. Each year, huge numbers of perfectly good clothing and cooking equipment are thrown away by students moving out and most of it ends up in landfills – never to be used again. By donating, you are helping to reduce this amount and it saves on the resources required for production.
Tip #5 – Get involved in Green Mary projects!
Over the rest of this year, the Green Mary team are planning several new and innovative projects for a fun way to encourage sustainability. So far, we are running the ‘Switch off Challenge’ which aims to save energy in the halls of residences as well as a photo competition. There are prizes to be won! Why not follow us on social media to keep up to date with all the exciting projects we will be running? Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/QMULSustainability/ or Twitter: @QMSustain Or visit our website for more sustainability tips: https://www.qmsu.org/green/getinvolved/