The Bartlett


I Green Heart Sustainable UCL

By Suthida Chang

With Earth Hour just past us and Earth Day around the corner, sustainability is in the air! Did you know that UCL works hard all year round towards its net zero carbon by 2030 commitment? Despite COVID-19, 2021 has been rewarding for the university’s sustainability efforts. Powered by a people-centric approach to building a sustainable university, UCL topped the UK University Carbon League table with the highest score out of 519 British institutions. 

Even better, UCL was awarded the prestigious global Green Gown Award that recognises best practices in sustainability initiatives taken by higher education institutions. But these didn’t happen out of the blue. Following UCL’s tradition of disruptive thinking, the university undertook a mission to reframe how the wider UCL Community approaches grand challenges in and of the 21st century — and it’s clearly working. 

UCL’s Sustainability Strategy

Change Possible: UCL Sustainability

Launched in 2019, UCL’s ‘Change Possible' strategy puts people at the heart of sustainability. Guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the university rolled out three concurrent campaigns that combine UCL’s research, teaching and operational strengths.

Positive Climate

Leveraging UCL’s robust research, Positive Climate translates research into actions to address the implications of climate change on humans and society. Under the campaign, UCL aims for net zero carbon buildings by 2024 and to become a net zero carbon institution by 2030. 

In the Loop

Because of the stress unsustainable consumption puts on our planet, In the Loop encourages the UCL Community to rethink our relationships with the material world. By consuming responsibly, we can minimise wastes, especially single-use plastics, and contribute to resource circularity. 

Wild Bloomsbury

Recognising the positive health impacts of green spaces in urban areas, UCL aims to create a vibrant and liveable Bloomsbury community using nature-based solutions. As an open community campus, UCL partners with local people and organisations to make this a reality. 

My green impact 

Having a green heart (but not really a green thumb), I took up the responsibility of one of two Sustainability Ambassadors of the UCL Innovation & Enterprise department. I worked with an awesome and supportive team despite being 9526 kilometres away from London and got to implement my own biodiversity project — NaturCode. By simply taking a picture of nature and uploading it to the gallery, the project aimed to raise people’s awareness of nature, particularly under lockdown. Designed to be an antidote for stress, mindfulness of nature or nature therapy can help to lessen negative feelings during tough times. 

Image of Naturcode webpage

Also, as a Sustainability Ambassador, I was thrilled when the UCL Climate Hub — a comprehensive website showcasing the university’s sustainability initiatives —  was launched in January 2021. This was followed by the ‘28 Days of Sustainability’ programme that offered insights into sustainable futures at and post-UCL. Beyond those programmes, I was also invited as a panellist to the Bartlett Together: 2021 Celebrations along with three other students. Our diverse experiences at the Bartlett touched on the intersectionality of sustainable and equitable futures for all, particularly how the built environment interacts with social and environmental justice. 

28 days of sustainability

Find your calling 

Whether you wish to become a Sustainability Ambassador to bring your ideas to the table or to incorporate sustainability into your studies, you’ll find lots of opportunities at UCL to join the green movement. Outside of the classroom, the Students’ Union has several sustainability-focused societies where I learnt new skills and met like-minded people. I also used the Students’ Union Volunteering Services Unit database to search for volunteer opportunities related to sustainability. On top of that, if you’re keen to organise your own project to address sustainability in the curriculum, UCL ChangeMakers is perfect for student-staff collaborations to bring about positive change!

Approaching the end of my MPA programme at the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, I’m confident that I’ll graduate with a clearer sense of how institutions and the people in them play a critical role in championing sustainability. For me, I didn’t begin my green advocacy at UCL and it certainly doesn’t end here. I’ll continue playing my part to ensure that a sustainable future is possible. What about you?

About the author

With a background in intercultural studies, philosophy and politics, Suthida is an MPA Innovation, Public Policy and Public Value student at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. Growing up across Bangkok, Beijing and Singapore, her passions encompass volunteerism, traveling and Global Citizenship advocacy.

Suthida Chang - student blogger