Sustaining Sustainability

There is no doubt that across the country, there is greater pressure on universities to take the lead on being more environmentally friendly, and this is largely due to the volume of discussions within the student population.

At Royal Holloway Students’ Union, we have a two-fold responsibility on this.

Firstly, there is the aim for lobbying and working with the College to ensure that it is taking the lead on environmental issues. Secondly, we also need to look into our own operations and ensure that we are doing everything that we can do, rather than simply telling others how they should be operating.

What is happening now?

Just over a year ago, we consulted with the student body on what price should be placed on a disposable cup. The options were clear and simple, should the price be 20p or 50p, and you all voted for the charge of 50p. Part of this charge covers the cost of the cup itself, and all the remainder of the charge goes into our Sustainability Fund. This pot of money is then allocated to student groups for events or campaigns that contribute to this work! The process for this fits into the Group Development Fund, with a deadline of November 15th!

Towards the end of the last academic year, a motion was put out to students on declaring a climate emergency, and this was passed. This clearly demonstrates are intent to keep working on this policy area, and one that we will continue to discuss with the College so that Royal Holloway can operate sustainably.

The Ethical Investment campaign was kick-started last academic year with the intention to get the College to review their investments, this is essentially so that the College are investing in companies that are ethical and seeking ways to be environmentally friendly. Work on this continues, with our consistent message that such investments must consider the ESGs (economic, social and corporate governance).

One question that constantly arises regarding environmental initiatives is the issue of plastic cups. After reviewing the use of these last year, I can confirm that our plastic ‘skiffs’ and bottles (all of which are made from polypropylene) are fully recyclable in their pint, half pint and VK bottle formats. The ‘bomb cup’ and shot glasses can then be put through the recycling waste stream at Grundon’s (the College’s waste management contractor) materials recovery facility.

In addition to this, we also seek ways for all of our other waste management to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We do this via donating to local foodbanks wherever possible, and especially during closure periods (such as Christmas). Where we are responsible for the procurement of utilities, The Packhorse, energy is sourced from 100% renewable energy suppliers.

What is still to come?

The pressing matter of environmental sustainability isn’t going to be going away any time soon. This is why it is integral for us to maintain this thought within our efforts and operations. In January 2020, we will be taking a review of our Union Strategy, and inputting focuses on our environmental functions should certainly be considered within these conversations.

The College are also developing their new strategy. We have already had discussions with them about the importance of including a greater focus on environmental sustainability within this strategy, consisting of operations, research and teaching focuses.

Alongside these two major pieces of work, we continue to be seeking new ideas from students on issues that we can tackle. We are incredibly excited by the prospect of student groups utilising the sustainability fund – empowering students to drive forward change and awareness.