Sustainable UCL


Top Tips for a Sustainable Return to Work

1 July 2020

As the lockdown eases, some of us will soon return to UCL for work. Despite COVID, UCL has kept working towards its sustainability ambitions. Here are some tips for how you can ensure that your return to work is not only safe but also sustainable.


Travelling to work

While working remotely many of us discovered the perks of exploring our neighbourhood on foot or by bike. As part of UCL’s green recovery from COVID, 600 new cycle parking and storage facilities will be placed across campus over the summer   to allow staff and students to return to campus without having to travel by public transport. Check out our cycling and walking pages for information on our bike to work scheme, discount maintenance vouchers and a new buddy system to get support cycling into UCL.  


Bring reusable cups, water bottles, and cutlery to work to reduce single-use plastic waste. Scientists ranging from epidemiologists to virologists and doctors recently signed a statement confirming that reusables are safe to use even in times of Corona, if washed properly. This video shows  how to use your reusables when getting coffee.  

To further reduce your waste footprint, try to avoid disposable face masks, gloves, and plastic-based desk wipes and opt for ones that you can wash and reuse instead.  

Transferring your lockdown skills 

Working from home has taught us a lot about using virtual tools and platforms like Microsoft Teams. Think about how you can continue using some of those tools as we return to the office. Participate in conferences via Teams to reduce your travel carbon footprint or share handouts digitally rather than printing them off to save paper.  

Engaging with nature 

As our time outdoors became suddenly restricted, many of us started to appreciate how energising and restorative it can be to spend time in nature. Consider incorporating some of that energising outdoor time into your work schedule as you return to the office. Green your workspace by bringing an office plant once you are regularly going to the office again. You can also take active lunch breaks outside to explore green spots around Bloomsbury. The London Garden Trust has a website with different walks around the neighbourhood.    

Combining orders 

When ordering items see whether you can combine your order with other colleagues or departments and look for bulk buy options. Fewer deliveries do not only produce lower carbon emissions but reduces the risk of COVID spreading.  

Tailored temperatures 

With the gradual return to UCL, some buildings and floors will be busier than others. Check whether the heating and cooling provisions in your building can be limited to areas to which staff has returned to avoid wasting energy. As part of reducing the risk of COVID spreading ventilation to buildings will be via fresh air from outside. This means temperatures may vary quite a lot. Wearing multiple layers of clothes to the office can be a good way of adjusting to these varying temperatures and on top of that you’d be right on trend.  

Bringing home cooked meals 

Have you been trying new recipes during lockdown? Time to show these skills off at the office! By bringing food in your own container you can reduce the packaging waste that often comes with store-bought meals which aren’t recyclable. Try to prepare some vegan or vegetarian meals to lower the carbon footprint of your lunch, thus making it even more sustainable!