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This month, all focus is on sustainability as we work together with Sustainable UCL on their 28 Days of Sustainability events and awareness programme. But action on sustainability shouldn’t just be confined to 28 days of the year, which is why we’ve launched a new sustainability strategy and action plan for Students’ Union UCL.

Sustainability is increasingly becoming one of the biggest issues for our members, highlighting the importance of ensuring that the Students’ Union continues to develop in ways that mean we will be able to meet the needs of future generations of UCL students.

Our ambitions are big, we want to be the most sustainable Students’ Union in the UK. We want our organisation to pro-actively minimise its environmental footprint and make a positive contribution to a sustainable environment for future generations of students.

To do this, we will embed sustainability into everything we do. We’ll help educate and empower our members to take positive action, and to develop the skills required to be leaders of wider societal change on issues of sustainability.

There are four areas of the Students’ Union that we’ll focus on changing:

Operations. How the Union operates as an organisation and the way in which we can be more sustainable as a charity.

Student Engagement. Cementing students in our decision-making and empowering students to embed sustainability into every part of their lives.

Governance. Ensuring the Students’ Union embeds sustainability in its decision-making, and that the Union is held accountable for the actions set out in the action plan.

External Advocacy. Ensuring that our members have the knowledge, skills and opportunities to influence sustainability practice across UCL, London and beyond, being community leaders and helping shape the national agenda for sustainability as it affects students.

How this translates to real-life

As with all strategies, they can start to feel a little disconnected from real-life – setting out long term ambitions. So, instead, our Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan detail the practical things we’ll do, change or develop in order to meet our goals. These are the things you will feel and experience every day. We’ve highlighted some of these below:

In the Union, we will:

  • Commission an environmental audit of the Students’ Union and establish a Sustainability Working Group to coordinate all sustainability actions.
  • Ensure Union funds are placed in the most ethically responsible banks.
  • Develop a ‘student kitchen’ in the Union, so that our members can have access to hot water and cleaning facilities.
  • Create a pledge that we ask all students to sign at the beginning of every year, encouraging everyone to be more sustainable in their daily lives.
  • Develop and sustain a community of Sustainability Ambassadors.
  • Strengthen the Student Sustainability Council so that it becomes the forum for student participation sustainability at UCL.

In our cafés and outlets, we will:

  • Reduce the number of beef products we sell
  • Make plant milk the default.
  • Improving the ‘sit-down’ experience so customers can use washable cups and plates.
  • Encourage our members to eat more vegetarian and vegan foods, with better deals on these products.
  • Collaborate with Sustainable UCL to implement carbon footprint labels for food and communicate the environmental impact of eating meat and dairy.
  • Only sell fair-trade cotton products in our shop.
  • Scope the viability of energy-generating gym equipment and of solar panels / wind energy generation at our sports ground.

In clubs and societies, we will:

  • Develop a resource centre for clubs and societies so that they can use reusable crockery, glasses, pitchers etc. for their events.
  • Review the current lifespan of sports kits and incentivise multi-year use.
  • Scope the viability of moving our sports ground so that our teams can use public transport to and from home matches.

In London, we will:

  • Lobby Camden Council to improve air quality and increase cycling provision around Bloomsbury.

You can read the full strategy and action plan here.