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The easiest way to stop worrying about the future? Start shaping it...

21 July 2020

As we face a climate emergency and natural resources become critical, you have the opportunity at UCL to play an important role in shaping the future.

The easiest way to stop worrying about the future? Start shaping it...

UCL is in a unique position, we have some of the leading academics researching topics of sustainability from biodiversity, to urban planning, engineering and the arts – you name it whichever department you are in – you can help solve our global challenges.

And we at Sustainable UCL are here to help. We are a 1st class University in the People and Planet University League – a league table organised by students which ranks universities against their sustainability performance.

UCL still has a long way to go through tackling academic travel, to reducing our use of resources, to working with partners in society to help tackle the climate emergency. This is why UCL has committed to the following by 2024:

  • Every student will have the opportunity to study and be involved in sustainability
  • We will increase our sustainability research, with increased focus on the Sustainable Development Goals
  • We will be carbon neutral, and zero carbon by 2030
  • We will be a single-use-plastic free campus
  • We will reduce waste per person by 20%
  • We will create 10,000m2 of more biodiverse green space on campus (that’s 2 football pitches!)

This is a big task and so we will need the whole community to raise to this challenge.

So what can you do?

Here are some of the opportunities you can get involved in to help UCL lead the way:

Be part of community of change makers

Here are a few stories of UCL Students making stuff happen:

Aliza Ayaz is the Founder and President of UCL’s Climate Action Society (CAS). She secured a partnership with the United Nations causing the society to become the only student-led society in the world to lobby parliament. As President of CAS, she initiated UCL’s first "Sustainability Symposium" which 350 students attended to listen to a panel of diverse speakers and world-renowned professionals. The 40 events CAS held this year have included collaborations with organisations such as BOE, Zara, H&M, KPMG, Julie’s Bicycle, and Action Sustainability.

Barney Iley Williamson initiated "Architecture Education” a campaign to change how environmental and ecological breakdown is taught in architecture schools. With an open letter reaching 700 signatories; directors across building design schools including UCL are now embedding sustainability into the curriculum.

As Sports Officer, Rose Evans-Baker embedded sustainability into Team UCL. Thanks to Rose, sports clubs must have a sustainability strategy in order to qualify for development awards. This was launched during UCL Sustainability Sports Week – also initiated by Rose. Rose was also fundamental to the UCL Students Union passing the ‘Plastic-free’ motion.

As Sustainability Officer for Students’ Union UCL (2018-19), Najmus-Seher Ghufoor led UCL’s first Student-led Sustainability Conference, set up the student sustainability ambassador programme and embedded sustainability into the operations of the Student Union. Since her first year, Seher has led her own volunteering outreach project, the Environmental Justice Project, educating school children on issues of systematic environmental injustices and how to address them.

Mae Faugere will be taking over Najmus-Seher Ghufoor’s role. Mae was heavily involved in the organisation of Najmus-Seher’s student-led Sustainability Conference and has worked hard to formalise and grow the Sustainability Ambassador’s programme ready for the new term. Mae also runs Climate Collage events (a participatory, creative workshop on climate change) and has helped to make the Welcome Period more sustainable.

Small steps to leading a more sustainable life whilst at university

Studying at university – especially in your first year can be pretty full on, here are some simple tips you can do to lead a sustainable life.

Use the app ‘Too Good to Go’ to save money and waste – Cafés at UCL and across London advertise discounted meals towards the end of the day.

Rent a bike for £10 a month and get free cycling lessons!

Get your bike fixed for free at UCL

Swap clothes at our swishing events

Use our showers and lockers if you are cycling or walking to university, see our cycling map here.

Save plastic, refill your bottle with our water fountain map and use the Refill London app.

Use shampoo, conditioner and shaving bars and a bamboo toothbrush to reduce plastic consumption.

Save money and reduce waste by buying sustainable sanitary wear e.g. reusable pads or a moon cup.

Eating less meat can greatly improve the environment. Check out the cheeky little vegan café in Gordon Square – Ginger Jules Café.

Save money and eat healthy by growing your own food at Bentham’s Farm.


Hannah Biggs, Communications Coordinator, UCL Sustainability