Sustainable UCL


Be sustainable while working remotely

17 June 2020

We have faced many challenges as a community at UCL in recent months, including adapting to home working. For many of us it has also heralded some new habits. If you’d like to take some sustainability actions, here are our tips for upping your sustainability game!

Photo of a home office

Tip #1: Sustainable screen time: 

We’re all spending a lot of time at our computers at the moment, but given 10% of the world’s energy is for the internet how can we save energy while we work? 

You can save bandwidth (and energy) by blurring your background in Teams calls.  Also make sure that you are using the optimal energy-saving settings on your computer. Would you like to plant trees while you work?  Some of the sustainable search engines do this for you! If your computer seems to slow down considerably and you think you need a new one, consider upgrading your device with a new hard drive or more memory first.  

Tip #2: Green your energy supply and your bank:  

We all know small changes can add up to make a powerful impact and these are often easy to do, e.g. fitting energy-saving light bulbs, adjusting our thermostat, or unplugging devices that are not in use. There are also other changes that take a little bit of time initially, but once they are done, don’t require any further effort. For example, consider switching to a green energy provider or opening an ethical bank account to have your various resources managed more sustainably.  

Tip #3: Improve your skills online:  

Have you always wanted to know more about sustainability, but never found the time? Maybe now is the right moment to do an online course. Check online learning sites such as FutureLearnOpenLearnCoursera, or LinkedIn Learning to find the right course for you.  

For more hands-on skills, consider signing up for some of the many online DIY, upcycle and crafting events. Join UCL’s own Institute of Making for knitting circles and much more. If you want to look beyond UCL, there are events run by organisations like Think and Do or you could watch some of the recorded workshops from the Sustainable(ish) festival. You might even want to consider creating your own event as a team! 

Tip #4: Get cooking: 

Why not expand your culinary horizon by trying some veggie, vegan or even zero food waste recipes? If you’re not so keen on cooking, you could look at more sustainable ways of sourcing and storing your food. Vegetable delivery boxes contain odd and surplus food that would otherwise go to waste, while sites such as Love Food Hate Waste share storage tips to keep your perishable foods fresher for longer. 

If you want to involve your team, why not organise virtual cookalongs, recipe swaps or a virtual FairTrade engagement activity such as a live viewing of Netflix’s Rotten Season 2, Episode 5, Bitter Chocolate. Finally, when planning your return to the office, think about pledging to be Powered by Plants by providing 100% vegetarian catering for events and meetings.  

Tip #5: Re-connect with nature:  

A walk outside can be restorative after a day spent sat in front of a screen. The decrease in traffic and less commuting time offers the opportunity to explore new walking and cycling routes. You might even want to participate in a virtual walking challenge as a team. Get inspired by PALS’s MoonWalk or OVPA’s Walk the World, or organise a virtual team scavenger hunt during which team members are asked to complete a list of outdoor activities. Last week the Sustainable UCL team headed outside after work to record bird songs, spot squirrels, and greet strangers.  

At home, you can arrange your desk so you can see the world outside or invite nature inside by doing some indoor gardening. Check out online tutorials on making a biodegradable plant pot or a DIY garden bug hotel. Maybe your team members will discover their green-fingers and want to get involved in a green space collaboration upon their return to campus.  

Whichever way you choose to engage with nature, plants have been shown to increase wellbeing and productivity, so surrounding yourself with greenery is a win! 

Tip #6: Let this time go to waste: 

Now is a good time to find out more about your council’s recycling guidance. If you want, share what you’ve learned with your team. You could even host a virtual workshop on the do’s and don’ts of recycling and where our recycling goes.  

Tip #7: Make it a team effort: 

Sometimes activities are more enjoyable as a team. Websites like “Do Nation” offer ideas for sustainable actions that can be done at home. Pledge with others in your teams to adopt a practice and keep each other motivated.  

For a UCL organised programme, join Green Impact or LEAF. These are year-long behaviour change programmes that offer a lot of guidance and support for becoming more sustainable as a team and at the end of the year, everybody’s progress is celebrated at the  Sustainability Awards Ceremony! You could also become a volunteer sustainability champion, acting as a conduit between your department and the Sustainable UCL team.   

If you would like to connect with a new team, consider joining a climate action group online. In the current circumstances, many environmental organisations have taken their activities virtual and can provide tips on how you can engage in climate action from home. For example, check out the Climate Coalition’s first virtual lobby or the “Green New Deal UK” group’s webinar.  

Tip #8: Take Stock and Look Ahead:

Why not start a conversation with your colleagues about which new work practices we can maintain when returning to campus. Organise a workshop for your department to develop a sustainability plan. Think about updating your departmental travel policies or procurement manuals, for example, so that we move on from this period with positive outcomes for our work and the environment. Sustainable UCL can collaborate with you on this. Contact: sustainable@ucl.ac.uk for more information.