Earlier this year, we invited all UWE Bristol students to take part in our annual Sustainability Survey and share their awareness, perceptions and recommendations, on how we can make UWE greener. An amazing 927 students took the time to complete the survey and we have been digesting your responses, in order to take on-board your suggestions and make a positive change. Here is a summary of what students said about sustainability at UWE:
1. More students than ever are aware of the sustainability agenda
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a worldwide agreement led by the United Nations, which aims to improve our planet and society by 2030. UN member states agreed to take actions in 17 areas of development and introduce changes collectively with cities, businesses, public sector, schools, universities and charities.
Our survey revealed that nearly half of all students (49%) are aware of the UN SDGs, a significant increase from 36% in 2017-2018. Moreover, a third of students (36%) are aware that UWE Bristol and The Students’ Union at UWE are working within the SDGs, an increase from 24% in 2017/2018. This is amazing news, but we can still do more to reach out to the students who are not yet in the know!
If you have not heard of the SDGs, take a look at the infographic below to get the idea of the major global ambitions, click here to find out more!
2. Climate change, oceans seas and marine resources, and life on land are the most important SDGs to students
When asked to select which of the 17 goals were most important to you, the most frequently reported included, climate change and impacts, oceans seas and marine resources, and life on land, with approximately 7 in 10 students identifying them as important.
“I would really like to see more activity relating to climate issues, as we know how important it is not just to be seen as doing something, but actually changing things whilst enabling a ripple effect with the public.”
The other SDGs received a similar number of votes, with no single goal being reported as important by less than 1 in 2 students, indicating each goal has significant importance.
3. You want wide-ranging impactful action from the Students’ Union at UWE
When asked which SDGs you wanted to see The Students’ Union at UWE take more action on, climate change and impacts was the stand out choice, followed by sustainable and responsible consumption and production, and life on land. At least 1 in 3 students reported they would like to see action from The Students’ Union at UWE to achieve all of the 17 SDGs. This shows that as students you expect wide-ranging, impactful action, from The Students’ Union at UWE and we will roll up our sleeves to further improve upon everything we have achieved to date.
4. You want sustainability to be better integrated into the curriculum
Despite knowing the SDGs and wanting to learn and take action on them, across all goals less than 1 in 4 students reported learning about them in their programme of study. Furthermore, the goals they were more likely to learn about were the ones reported as being least important or wanting to see action taken on. This shows there is a clear mismatch between what is being taught and what students would like to learn. To help us take action on this, you made some useful suggestions on how sustainability could be better integrated into the curriculum:
“I am on the business and events management course, it may be an idea to encourage the events students to put together events raising awareness / raising money for charities, which promote these causes. They could use their experience on their course / in their essays.”
“Work alongside all course backgrounds for encouraging all to get involved with making a difference. Music Technology courses, for instance, are not involved in helping/educating in this area, however, it would be awesome to be such.”
“I think that all courses should have some sort of compulsory sustainable living sessions in some of their modules.”
5. Nearly all of you want to get involved in sustainability, but at the moment you are not sure how to
The majority of you have shown a keen interest to get involved in sustainability.
“How can I get involved? This sounds amazeballs! ”
However, at the moment you are not aware of the fantastic events and activities already in action or the support available to get your own ideas off the ground.
“I didn’t know that UWE participated with this and it is not well advertised. I wasn't aware the university takes part in these issues and think it should be made more widely known.”
“It's great to hear that a student body is involved in taking action about the UN SDGs. As I did not know that The Students’ Union at UWE was working on the SDGs, I would like to ask, what sort of activities/ campaigns that The Students’ Union has done? I'd love to read about your efforts. Where can I look? Also, have you had any events or fundraisers that support the SDGs? I'd love to attend events and participate in activities that relate to solving the issues.”
It is clear that we need to do more to promote all the great sustainability activities and events and communicate these in a more effective way. Here are some of the useful suggestions you have made, on how we could do this.
“Better Communication. Spread the word more! The use of social media will help the most and giving students an incentive will also work. Free or reduce-priced courses on each of SDG goals would be effective for many different ages and help to spread awareness.”
“A day should be created once a year for awareness for UWE students, with regards to these goals. It should be a lecture-free day for all students. I'm not aware if there is such a day. If there is, more publications should be made to create better awareness.”
Although UWE has no shortage of green events and volunteering opportunities, we have the ambition to reach every single student who would like to take part in our activities and always welcome new ideas and inspiration.
Would you like to organise your own project, start-up, fundraising campaign, or volunteer? Find out how you could apply for funding here!
6. Finally, here are your suggestions
We have asked you to write your own recommendations for action. Most common suggestions were in the areas of promotion, possible events and activities, food waste and initiatives to reduce plastic. And, although we already do take action (for example, why don’t you join us in the plastic detox campaign? Or the Plant Based Eating Campaign), we were impressed that you are aiming so high! You have left us so many great suggestions:
“Could do 'Vegan Mondays' at the university and only sell vegan products. There are many alternative meat products you can choose and for those who eat meat, it could be a way to introduce meat alternatives to people who may have negative opinions on them, as they have never tried it.”
“I wish that UWE could provide better packaging for the food they sell in vending machines because that can help the environment.”
“More stations to fill your water bottles and access to free hot water would cut down on disposable cups/bottles.”
“Having more food waste bins around the campus - maybe some outside and not just in the cafe areas to encourage those sitting outside to not just throw their food in the landfill bin.”
“A little unclear on how to correctly use the food waste bin in accommodation and on campus; signs showing how to use it (disposal of waste especially) would be good!”
“The impact of recycling and global warming should be tackled more in UWE, several students don't recycle or don't understand or know how to improve their carbon footprint.”
“Car parking is bad due to the huge time issues involved using public transport.”
“About time for UWE to have its own wind turbine? Or solar tree for charging phones? Cool right? Become a carbon-neutral university, at least.”
“Actively support charities and work with the homeless in Bristol. This includes charity fundraising including an overnight sleep on the street. More support for students from less privileged backgrounds.”
Want to get involved? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or run to be part of the 2019-2020 Sustainability Committee: https://www.thestudentsunion.co.uk/community/green-team/sustainabilitycommittee/
This article connects to the UN Sustainable Development Goals: