Green universities

June 11, 2007 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Sorry for the extreme delay since last posting! I had finals. They were mean. I’ve spent the week or so since they finished sleeping, reading books for fun, going to pubs, eating strawberries, wandering around Oxford looking at pretty buildings etc, etc.

So I suppose I’m not technically a student any more, which means I’ll probably have to change the title of this blog (“Going green on no budget at all??”). But, before I do that, here is an article from The Guardian about how ungreen student life can be.

And here are some thoughts about

  • Recycling. We do recycle in my halls, but we have to be completely responsible for it ourselves, the cleaners won’t have anything to do with it cos apparently it’s too heavy. Which is fair enough and they do work very hard making sure our kitchens are hygienic and we all have enough toilet roll, although I do think it’s a bit bizarre that they would be quite happy to move exact same quantity of rubbish if it were in the general rubbish bin. I’m not complaining about the cleaners and how they do their jobs at all, but I think it give out the wrong message from college. It says that rubbish by default goes in the bin, and recycling is some fancy extra that’s optional.
  • Food. This isn’t really a specifically student issue, though I can get a bit ranty about people who say things like ‘Oh, wow, I can’t believe you shop at the market, I just don’t have the time!’ I always think, ‘Well, it’s about 2 mins further away than Sainsbury’s, I go once a week and sometimes supplement it with milk from M&S and baking ingredients/dried goods from Sainsbury’s, and I have the same amount of spare time as you, so, umm, really not that much more difficult than going to Sainsbury’s twice or three times a week, and a damn sight cheaper.’ There’s one girl in my kitchen who’s lived off ready meals all year – I don’t know where she finds the money!! I admit I don’t really know much about where hall food comes from, but at least a lot of it is prepared on site and not bought in by a catering company and reheated as in many places. So provenance: don’t know, probably not organic/free range/ethical though (oops); freshness: pretty good; seasonality: doesn’t seem to matter what’s in season.
  • Electricity and water. Don’t get me started! Some universities have lights in the corridors and communal bathrooms that work on sensors, so they only come on when someone actually needs them. Here, we have the lights on all day and all night!! Admittedly there are no windows, so we do need them during the day, but I still don’t see why they can’t install a sensor system – it would probably save them a fortune! The radiators in the corridors are also still on! It’s JUNE!! Surely that can’t be necessary… I don’t really know much about water efficiency, so I can’t comment on the showers etc, but I do know that our water is really hot. Must be possible to
  • Paper. I don’t want to think about how much paper I’ve used over the last four years. So many books, so many essays, so many pages of notes… I have tried to make my own notes in libraries rather than photocopying everything I need (more because I’m too stingy to pay for photocopying) and bought as many books second hand as I could. We were supposed to get paper recycling bins for our rooms thanks to last year’s environment rep, but they haven’t appeared yet. Some colleges have this already. We do have one in the computer room and the post room, for all the times you stupidly print a draft of your coursework essays instead of the final thing (ahem… never did that… actually I did, but I made revision notes on the back) or for all the invitations to club nights and socials you don’t want to go to….

I think I might email my thoughts on this to the environment rep. I feel a bit bad for not getting involved and encouraging college to be more green. I’ve tried very hard, particularly this year, to be as conscientious as possible, but it’s hard to be particularly energy efficient. It’s always hard in rented accommodation, as you can’t necessarily choose your electricity supplier, you can’t go around putting up solar hot water panels or wind turbines like you can on your own property, but universities themselves (which are supposed to be progressive, forward-thinking, socially responsible establishments!) could do a lot more to reduce their impact on the environment and to encourage students to do the same.

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Shopping trip Some foodie articles

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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