sustainable living

Over the next few pages we'll share with you our tips and info on how to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life. 

travel

Irrespective of how you travel to and from campus, your Students' Union is always striving to support your choices. In the last Student Travel Survey we found that:

  • 47.3% of students either walk or cycle for part or all of their journey
  • 64.9% of students  use the bus or train for part or all of their journey
  • 13% of students car share as part or all of their journey
  • 23% of students use single occupancy cars for part or all of their journey

Based on what you told us about your travel experiences we are now working with the University and key stakeholders such as Stirling Council and First Bus on a range of actions including improving the number and quality of bike spaces on campus, improving bus service delivery and increasing car parking availability on campus. 

If you have any questions about cycling on campus or around Stirling you can contact our Sustainability Cooridnator Johannes Schamp.

Cycling is a great way of getting round to and from campus and around town - it's often quicker than waiting for the bus, helps you get some exercise (it adds up!) and keeps money in your bank that can be spent on better things! It's also great for the environment, with every 10 miles of cycling saving approximately a litre of petrol or diesel compared to using a car. You can view a short film about cycling at the University and get a great overview about the benefits and how to access bikes.

Own a bike?

Your Students' Union has been working closely with the University to support active travel. Over 2020 the University created 170 new bike spaces across campus. Moving forward we hope to soon have our Bike Dr. sessions back up and running, to help staff and students keep their bikes in good shape. 

No bike? Low cost bike rental is available on and off campus.

The University subscribes to Nextbike, a bike rental scheme that has available bikes for you across campus and town. This means that you can rent a bike for free for the first hour! Simply take out a bike from one of the Nextbike stations on campus, ride into town and lock the bike at another Nextbike station. So catching a train does not mean waiting around and paying extra for a bus! You can even get free access when travelling abroad - heading to Munich's Oktoberfest? You're covered!

To access the scheme you'll need to sign up to Nextbike

For those more interested in E-Bikes, we also partner with the Forth Bike Scheme, which offers E-Bikes around Stirling. Membership is £40 for students and £65 for staff per year, and included free 45 minute rides. 

As a cyclist, you're an active part of traffic. For your own safety and the safety of other road users, these are some things to keep in mind:

1) you operate a carriage - it may sound silly, but that's what you do by law. As such, you are a road user and not allowed to cycle on the pavement.

2) be seen - it can be surprisingly hard for other road users to spot you. Especially since not every driver is used to having cyclists around. 

  • Make sure you're using lights. Not only in the dark, but also when it rains or when it's misty. Make sure your lights are bright enough.  
  • Although not a legal requirement, reflective clothing can vastly improve your visibility. You can get a high viz vest for under £2!

3) protect yourself

  • Buy a helmet. Although it won't prevent an accident, it can protect your head in case you do get into an accident. However, when you get a helmet, make sure it fits properly and you wear it correctly!
  • Make sure your bike is in good working order. Particularly your brakes. Remember to give yourself much more time to break when it's wet.
  • Where possible, cycle a door-length away from parked cars.
  • Cycle in the centre of narrow roads to discourage cars from dangerous overtaking maneuvres 

4) know the code - as a cyclist, you have to adher to UK traffic rules as outlined in the highway code. Have a look at the rules relating to cyclists. Cycling Scotland have a great video series for those wanting a comprehensive introduction on Essential Cycling Skills

And remember, drivers need to adhere to rules too in order to keep cyclists safe! 

food

Everybody loves food. However, the things you eat can have an enormous impact on your carbon footprint, or the amount of carbon emissions you, through your consumption and behavior, are responsible for every year. Additionally, some food production is linked to soil degradation, pollution of water systems, and wildlife destruction.

The simplest way and quickest way you can eat more sustainably is reduce the amount of meat and dairy you consume. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of global carbon emissions, making the industry one of the largest single emissions contributors. A complete switch to a plant-based diet can reduce your carbon footprint by about 800 kg per year, and if everyone became vegetarian the emissions from food would drop by 60% by 2050.  However, even replacing red meat with chicken can save 90% of your meat-based CO2 emissions. Union catering has lots of delicious veggie options, and we have also signed onto the Peas Please pledge, making sure we are doing our best to serve healthy and sustainable food. 

This graphic shows the emissions of various common food, and shows how the production methods for a food can drastically change the final emissions as well. This means for those who don’t want to give up meat, finding locally produced, generally grass-fed options can make it a more sustainable option. That said even the highest emission plant-based protein alternative, tofu. Other alternatives like lentils have even smaller footprints.

For those struggling to imagine recipes without their favorite meats, the Environmental Enterprises Society hosts virtual food huddles every week to share vegetarian/vegan meals and discussing environmental topics. 

There are also knock on effects of a plant-based diet. Since a large proportion (68%) of agricultural land is used to grow grains used in livestock feed, a transition to plant-based diets would allow a significant portion of that land to be rewilded and reallocated for conservation and carbon sequestration. Only 20-30% of this land would be required for food production.

Finally, something to always consider when buying food is where the food comes from. Transporting food over long distances, especially when using air travel, comes with a carbon cost. Therefore, preferentially choosing foods made locally can keep these emissions to a minimum. For those looking for products made in and around Stirling, Neighborhood Food is a good place to look at what’s available nearby.

energy

Switch to Green Energy Tariffs and LED Bulbs

For those in private accommodation you should look into switching to a renewable energy provider. You can save 1500 kg CO2 annually by switching electricity to renewable energy provider. Providers such as Bulb and Eon have renewable tariffs that are cheaper than conventional energy tariffs so can save you money!

Additionally, you should switch the light bulbs in your house or flat to LED’s. They last way long and often use up to 90% less energy, which will save you money and reduce your emissions.

waste

 
   

Controlling and managing waste is one of the biggest challenges facing us. In particular, addressing plastic pollution is one of our most important environmental trials. The oceans ecosystems are being inundated with plastic waste, with about 8 million tons of plastic per year entering the oceans. This is the equivalent of 5 bin bags full of plastic on every foot of coastline right around the world. Additionally, the production of plastic, as with everything else, comes with an emissions cost, so reducing the amount of waste we produce we also lower the sectors emissions. 

So, what can you do? The first thing to do is try and minimize the amount of waste we use in the first place.

  • Use washable cloth masks over single use plastic ones. They are more comfortable and will help avoid tons of plastic during the pandemic.
  • Use durable reusable carrier bags as opposed to single use ones. To help reduce plastic even more you can get reusable produce bags for your fruit and veg.
  • Buy clothing secondhand through charity shops, online stores, or in future through the Green and Blue Space.
  • Stop buying bottled water and instead keep a refillable one on you.
  • Pick products in cardboard over those in plastic – it tends to recycle more easily and paper products can be made more sustainably.
  • Stop using disposable razors. Use one that let you replace the blades or even consider a switch to a safety razor.
  • Use Tupperware or beeswax wraps instead of climb film or tin foil for your sandwiches and leftovers.
  • Opt for reusable period products over single use items. The Student Union provides free mooncups, and you can also buy reusable pads. You can find the Unions free mooncups at www.stirlingstudentsunion.com/intheunion/shop/freeperiodproducts/ , which can be picked up or delivered for free.
  • Focus on low waste toiletries. You can buy bars of soap, shampoo, face wash, and body wash instead of a bottled alternative. You can get bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste in a tin. A good place to look is https://societyzero.co.uk/shop/ where you can find a range of products.
  • Try and minimize food waste. This can be done by planning your cooking for the week to ensure nothing goes out of date before it can be used, freezing foods to help them last longer, and eating leftovers as opposed to binning the food. A great way to save money as well.

The Union also runs the Green and Blue Space, which prioritizes zero waste products, bulk buy foods, and secondhand clothing. The shop is currently closed but we are hoping to open in January and provide an on-campus resource for students to live more sustainably.

While trying to buy things with minimal packaging is important, it is also important to properly dispose of any waste you have.

  • Recycle your plastic, paper, and cans properly.
  • Minimize contamination – for example pizza boxes cannot be recycled due to the oils and grease from the pizza.
  • If you don’t have access to glass recycling you can go to larger supermarkets which provide bins.
  • Some plastic film packaging can be recycled at larger store – it will indicate this on the packaging. 
  • Donate your old clothing to charity shops, or in the future – the Green and Blue Space to give them a second lease on life.

The Students' Union and University are working hard to reduce the waste we produce, reuse what we can and ensure as much material is recycled when the first two options are not feasible. We have also been working together and the University's waste contractor to ensure that no waste generated on campus is sent to landfill. Instead, in the first 5 months of 2017 the campus has recycled 84.6% of all waste generated, with the other 15.4% being exported and burnt to produce electricty and heat - this helps further reduce our global use of fossil fuels. We are therefore proud to say we are a zero waste to landfill University!

finance

Sustainable banking

Banks have an enormous impact on carbon emissions around the world. Bank investment into fossil fuels, mining, and other unsustainable or unethical industries is crucial to the continued existence of those industries. Getting banks, governments, and large organizations to divest from carbon heavy or unethical industries and companies is crucial to a greener future.

While not having the financial firepower of large corporations, students can help drive change in this industry. There are options available that make sure you aren’t supporting industries that conflict with your values and the change you want to see in the world. It doesn’t take long to make the switch, and if this happens on scale, those bank that continue to fund climate change will realize they need to change or they will lose customers. You can find environmental ranking banks cat the Ethical Consumer, as well as information about the ethics of a range of products.

SOS-UK has a guide to banking and its impacts for those interested in furhur reading. 

Some of the best options include:

Triodos Bank

Triodos Bank is a multinational pioneer bank focussed specifically on sustainable and ethical banking. Their ethos is that, not only as an organisation are they responsible for ethical responsibilities, but that this explicitly translates also to who uses their banking operations. They don’t fund industries like the weapons industry, environmentally hazardous substances (fossil fuels and mining), fur, and dictatorial regimes.

However, Triodos does not offer a student account and their current account has a £3 per month fee, which can certainly add up as a student. More information can be found at their website.

Co-operative Bank

The Co-operative bank was one of the first big banks to adopt a specific set of ethical values. The Co-Operative Bank remains member-led, with service users shaping the Bank’s ethical policies and strategies around pressing issues. The Co-op does have a free student account with an interest free overdraft, giving a really good option for students.