Recent research shows students want more eco-friendly universities, but many are not doing their bit \
Students need a can-do attitude when it comes to recycling. Photograph: Alamy
I have always considered myself a “green” student. I walk everywhere, keep waste to a minimum and only switch the heating on when food left out to defrost refuses to thaw. Not unusual student behaviour – or so I thought.
A recent survey showed that 80% of students want their universities to try and prevent further climate change. But many of us aren’t willing to go that extra mile ourselves.
A report by SITA UK, in association with the National Union of Students (NUS), found that students were less likely to recycle than the general population (54.8% and 75% respectively). And 73.7% of non-recyclers in the UK are students.
People who don’t recycle demonstrated a lack of awareness about recycling and a perception that it wasn’t commonplace behaviour among their peers.
Elizabeth McCulloch, a student at Royal Holloway who is currently on a year abroad, says: “It’s a lot harder to recycle in the UK than here in Bayern, Germany. We hear about what we should do and yet we don’t really do anything, it’s not enough.”
With the environmental student network People and Planet estimating that up to 80% of a university’s carbon footprint is caused by the behavior of its staff and students, it’s time to make an effort to show that we care.
The NUS run a number of environmental projects that could help you make a change. Snap It Off allows students to report lighting energy waste at their university by submitting photos to a gallery on their website. Student Switch Off rewards prizes for saving energy within halls of residence, and Student Eats puts allotments on campuses to provide carbon neutral grub.
There are things we can do personally to reduce waste and save energy. Extra long showers and round-the-clock heating are already a no-no for budget-conscious students. Make sure that all electrical devices are unplugged when not in use. Popping a lid on the pan when boiling water and cooking fewer, larger meals can save money and energy.
If you want to go further, why not try eating less meat or choosing sustainable food options?
“When I buy biscuits, I make sure the palm oil is sustainable because the industry destroys rainforests,” says Alasdair Wood, a student at Exeter University.
“Unfortunately people think in the short-term so don’t always take the threat of climate change seriously.”