Sustainability is a modern-day buzzword, but what is it, really? The original definition is: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". This is incredibly important to consider in the current times. Unfortunately, the development of humankind so far has not been sustainable at all, and the result is that we are living in an environment and climate emergency. We have about 11 years left to overturn a climate change catastrophe.
To make this happen, we need systemic change in how societies operate around the world. Since societies are made up of individuals, your personal actions do matter. SUSU encourages all students to think about sustainability and be more conscious in their life choices.
Are you ready? Below are some top tips from us on how to get started. This is an introduction to two types of opportunities: changing your lifestyle and using your voice and skills.
SUSU top 4 sustainable lifestyle tips
Change your diet
One of the biggest ways to reduce your carbon footprint lies in what goes on your plate. The most important point to note is that most meat and dairy production is, by nature, highly inefficient, and is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. A plant-based diet is significantly better for the planet than a meat-heavy one. So here are some ways to tweak your diet in order to preserve our home.
- Eat more plants
- There are a multitude of resources to help you swap meat and dairy for plants: try Veganuary, Vegan Society or Healthline to get started.
- While we won't stop you from going fully vegan (and, in fact, wholly support it!), you don't have to be one to start making a difference. Even simple swaps can have a lot of impact: for instance, just swapping beef for beans drastically reduces your carbon footprint.
- Dairy-free milk alternatives have a smaller footprint than dairy products - and there are so many types that you can have some fun switching it up.
- Why not try some of the vegan options in SUSU shop, The Cafe or The Stag's?
- You can also try eating seasonally - it can save you a bunch of money and make you more aware of where your food comes from.
- Check out this food carbon footprint calculator to learn more.
Swap your plastic
While it is difficult to fully avoid plastic packaging, there are many things you can do to limit the amount you end up using (and throwing away).
- Pick up a reusable cup and start saving money on your coffee in University and Union outlets, such as KeepCup, sold in SUSU shop.
- Get one reusable metal straw instead of buying disposable plastic ones.
- Reuse plastic bags, or get a sturdy shopping bag such as the cute Eco Chic ones available in SUSU Shop. (Or one of the many tote bags you no doubt have been given at one point or another on campus.)
- For personal hygiene, try a bamboo toothbrush and plastic-free, solid shampoo and soap bars - also available in SUSU Shop.
- Opt for loose veg, and say no thanks to extra plastic bags.
Eat your food
Did you know that 30 to 50% of all food is wasted? This means that all of the resources like land, water, money and labour that went into producing it, as well as the greenhouse gases emitted in the process, were for naught. With increasing food demands due to growing population and climate change, this clearly isn't sustainable. So let's start eating more mindfully.
- Use the Olio app/website to share your unwanted food items and/or help other people share theirs. (Non-food items are allowed too!)
- Plan your meals and shopping trips - this helps to avoid buying too much food that ends up spoiling.
- Practice portion control - don't over-serve yourself or others.
- Save leftovers from your own cooking as well as from going to restaurants.
- Remember that expiration and sell-by dates are only guidelines. Trust your sight, smell and taste more than the numbers.
- Sign up to the student-led BioCycle food waste scheme to have your food waste composted!
Use your voice
While individual actions are all well and good, there is no doubt that systemic change is needed - and in order to achieve that, it is best to act together. Speak up, rise up, volunteer - your actions and your voice matter!
- Vote in any elections you are eligible to vote in - or else someone will make the choice for you.
- Southampton City Council sometimes hold public consultations on important issues, such as air quality and other things. They can also help if you would like to organise a litter pick or similar. Follow them on FB to stay in the loop.
- For internal SUSU matters, use our You Make Change platform to anonymously submit changes you would like to see in the Union.
- Join one of the local sustainability initiatives to make a difference!
- SUSU Societies / University projects
- Southampton University Conservation Volunteers
- Marine Conservation Society
- Campus Collective
- Beekeeping Society
- BioCycle (part of Southampton Hub)
- UoS Public Engagement Hubs: Nature & Biodiversity, Health & Wellbeing, Future Cities. You can join them for outreach/science communication volunteering.
- Southampton BioBlitz
- Meliora student research journal and symposium
- Other opportunities
- Southampton Common Forum - gives an opportunity for anyone who uses Southampton Common to have a voice in how it is managed. They also run fortnightly litter picks!
- Southampton Cycling Campaign
- Transition Southampton
- Southampton Clothes Swaps - sustainable fashion.
- Greenpeace Southampton
- Friends of the Earth Southampton
- Woodcraft Folk
- Extinction Rebellion - the protest movement that convinced the UK government to declare a climate emergency.
- The Art House - a non-profit vegan/vegetarian cafe mostly staffed by volunteers. They support many local environmental initiatives and can always use some help.
- Food Not Bombs - cooking surplus food and giving it out on the street; campaigning for world peace.
- SUSU Societies / University projects
We are working on a more comprehensive sustainability guide with even more resources, so keep an eye out!