Climate change. Right now, you can’t go anywhere without those words coming out of someone’s mouth or being sprawled across newspapers and magazines.
From the protests by activist group Extinction Rebellion bringing parts of London to a standstill last month; to outspoken Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg holding school strikes demanding politicians start to take action against the destruction we are causing to our planet.
With the temperature of the globe continuing to rise, the oceans warming and ice caps melting, it’s vital that we start to do anything we can – big or small – to try to reverse the effects of climate change before its too late.
Leading climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned in their latest report that we only have 12 years for global warming to kept to the maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius; just half a degree higher will result in the significant rise in floods, drought, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
Reducing our CO2 emissions, eradicating production of single-use plastic and encouraging people to use renewable energy seems like a mammoth task.
But everywhere around the globe people, companies and organisations are starting to take notice, realise that there is no Planet B and are now making efforts to combat the irreversible effects of climate change.
One of those organisations in The Student’s Union at Staffordshire University.
Steph Cairncross is the officer responsible for leading union’s Green Team who are committed to transforming the student’s union into a sustainable one.
Steph said : ” Climate Change is literally happening in front of our eyes.
Both the University and Union have a corporate social responsibility to educate and contribute towards resolving the issues around climate change.”
She has come up with a SMART plan; a series of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound goals. So, what are the five main ways Staffordshire University Students’ Union is going green?
1. Reduce single use coffee cups and plastic on campus
By the end of the academic year, they aim to have 25% of ALL Squeezebox coffee sales to be in reusable cups and reduce the use of plastic straws by 1/3
2. Green responsibility
ALL staff have a responsibility to be as sustainable they can and have a
regular Green Working Group to ensure we’re being as sustainable as possible across everything we do – from our Squeezebox cups to ‘day to day’ office printing.
3. Collaborating with student and community groups
Working with the vegan and veggie society, growing concern, mature, parent and carer network and #YouthStrike4Climate to raise awareness for ‘green’ issues and initiatives.
4. Union Sustainability, Environmental & Ethical Policy
The policy outlines key areas that will help reduce the impact of the university’s business operations on the environment
Ensuring every department in the university has its own list of pledges that they are actively working to achieve
5. Green Giant Volunteering Opportunity
Giving students the opportunity to give back to the planet through volunteering on green projects such as litter picking and The Student Switch Off
The Union’s venues, such as Ember Lounge at the Stoke-on-Trent campus, also have a huge variety of vegetarian meals on their menu, and even have a meat-free loyalty card – buy five meat-free meals and get your sixth one free.
The farming of livestock directly contributes to the rise in greenhouse gases. By eating one meat-free meal every week for a year could save 83,000 litres of water 1,500 metres squared of land and half a tonne of CO2.
The popular coffee shop, Squeezebox, has also committed to reducing single use coffee cups on campus by offering discounts if customers bring their own cups and offering out reusable coffee cups at enrollment events.
Steph said: ” To truly create ‘global citizens’, the University needs to fully embed sustainability into the curriculum and ensure that what we’re taught in our degrees will still be relevant to the world around us when we graduate.”
All over the world students at schools, colleges and universities are putting pressure of politicians and governments to make laws that will enforce climate change action.
Greta Thunberg started her ‘School strike for the climate’ campaign gained worldwide recognition.
In March, students from Stoke and Newcastle schools, colleges and universities joined the movement and participated in a march in Hanley to raise awareness about climate change.
The clock is ticking for the people of this planet to make drastic changes to the way they live in order to reverse the effects of climate change. But with every small change one person makes, can amount to making a massive impact.
Organisations like the Student’s Union are proving that change can happen by committing time and effort to implementing green initiatives which will hopefully encourage others to do so too.
What can you do? – Small changes that make big differences
1. Swap one meal a week for a meat-free one
2. Use a canvas bag – even bags for life take 3-6 months to fully decompose
3. Take shorter showers to save water
4. Walk or cycle shorter distances instead of going in the car or on the bus
5. Recycle, recycle, recycle! – find out what you can and can’t recycle here
6. Use energy saving lightbulbs and turn down your thermostat