29th August 2019

Sustainability
Step Up

DISCLAIMER - we know that some of the actions we suggest “reducing” below - particularly flying and travelling - have had to stop anyway! But we believe that 2020 is a good time to get into new habits if you can - check out our top tips below and make a pledge for “future self”! And remember that eating less meat or flying less don’t mean the end of the adventure - they’re just the start of a new adventure!

New Officer ‘Student energy switch’ campaign for 2020/21

We’ve been encouraging students to switch to greener energy suppliers through “Sustainability Step Up” since 2019… but this year’s Officer team are planning to go one step further. Led by SU President Beth Eyre, supported other Officers and student Committees, we’re working on a “collective buying scheme” to help pool students’ resources to both save money on bills AND use our collective might to help power the renewable energy revolution! Launching Feb 2021.

Take the next step to live more sustainably

Are you not sure what else you can do to live more sustainably? The Sustainability Step Up project aims to educate everyone using the Students Union about the next steps they can take to lower their personal greenhouse gas emissions and as a result live even more sustainably.

Joining groups and pushing for systemic change are also crucial - but learning what makes the biggest impact as an individual is a great place to start and even for active campaigners it remains an important step to live by our values. On this page we hope to show you how to do that!

The project is split into 4 themes that have the greatest impact on personal greenhouse gas emissions: Energy, Diet, Travel and Personal Divestment. Some of the suggested actions may be more obvious than others such as switching to a renewable energy supplier, but many people may not realise or have thought about the fact that who they bank with can have a negative impact on the environment.

Look out for the posters around the Students Union and keep reading to find out more about why your actions matter!

Chapters
  1. Energy
  2. Diet
  3. Transport
  4. Personal Divestment

Take the next step to live more sustainably

Energy

Already minimise your household heating?

Switch to a renewable energy supplier and you could save enough C02 to power your house for 3 months.

5 simple steps to reduce your household energy…

  1. Use energy saving light bulbs: Using LED bulbs can help to reduce your energy bill and carbon footprint
  2. Wash at 30: Washing at a cooler temperature can be just as effective, but significantly less energy intensive.
  3. Take shorter showers: challenge yourself to the 5-minute shower, to significantly reduce your water consumption.
  4. Layer up instead of turning up: Doing an extra jumper instead of cranking up your household heating will minimise your energy usage and also your monthly heating bill.
  5. Be waste conscious: Don’t overfill your kettle, switch the tap off when brushing teeth, switch off plugs...all simple ways to minimise your energy intake.

Why Switch to a Clean Energy Supplier?

Energy is essential to power our everyday lives. However, a constantly increasing demand for power has been met by a global dependence on fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) at the expense of a healthy and stable environment. Whilst it is necessary to reduce individual energy consumption to limit our environmental impact, it is equally important to ensure the energy we use comes from clean and renewable sources.

Energy supply is the second largest emitting sector in the UK, contributing to almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, technological efficiency in the renewable energy sector is able to harness the power of the ocean, sun, wind and other natural resources to collect clean and unlimited energy. By tackling unsustainable energy and replacing it with a much cleaner alternative, we can reduce a significant amount of the harmful emissions contributing to climate change.

Due to the increasing capability of technologies to capture and store renewables, sustainable energy providers often boast price competitive tariffs alongside leading UK companies and regularly out price the ‘Big Six’ energy providers.

The big ‘dirty’ six currently occupy over 75% of the market share for electricity in the UK. By investing your hard earned money into renewable energy providers you can help to pave the way for a greener national grid system, where renewable energies contribute a greater share to the UK energy supply.

A number of your fellow Sheffield students agree on the personal importance of switching to clean energy and over 75% of survey respondents said they were likely to switch to a renewable energy provider. Change is already happening and you too can join a new generation of energy-conscious consumers.

Enter your postcode into any one of the following price comparison websites, or directly at the renewable energy website above to check how much you can save (both price and environment-wise). Note that searches on the price comparison sites below will also include fossil-fuelled energy providers, so make sure you only switch to a truly renewable provider. If you believe we're missing any green providers from our list above, get in touch at studentsustainability@sheffield.ac.uk:

Diet

Already do Meat-Free Mondays?

Switch to a plant-based diet and you could reduce your CO2 emissions by up to 70%.

5 simple ways to reduce your food related CO2 emissions without becoming veggie/vegan…

  1. Shop for seasonal and local fruit and veg
  2. Limit your red meat intake by reducing it to a treat only
  3. Participate in Meat-Free Mondays - the more days a week the better!
  4. Reduce your dairy intake such as milk and cheese
  5. Waste less food

Diet Related Information

Although awareness for the high carbon emissions associated with food is rising, not everyone realises just how much your diet can contribute to climate change. Certain foods (particularly meat and dairy) have far higher carbon emissions associated with them than others, and reducing or cutting out your intake can really help save our planet!

Low impact

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable

Medium impact

  • Cheese
  • Pork
  • Prawns
  • Fish
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Milk

High impact

  • Beef
  • Lamb

Of course, there is no realistic diet that will totally eliminate carbon impact. But with 20% of total global direct carbon emissions linked to food and agriculture, adopting a flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diet can help greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

A vegan diet is one that does not consume any animal products, including meat, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese. Neither does it involve foods with traces of animal products such as gelatin or honey. It is entirely plant-based and ensures all nutrition is met from vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses and cereals. A vegan diet is often misjudged as difficult to adopt and nutritionally imbalanced. However, with an open mind and a willingness to try new things, it is much easier than you may think. The number of vegans in the UK has risen by 360% in the last decade  and hence the vegan market has grown too, meaning there is more choice than ever in supermarkets.

The flexitarian diet is becoming increasingly popular with those who want to make a difference but want to keep meat a treat. Whilst a vegan and vegetarian diet emit approximately 1.5 and 1.7 tonnes of carbon a year respectively, an omnivorous diet emits approximately 2.2 tonnes of carbon. However, those who cut out red meat alone emit 1.9 tonnes a year, proving that a drastic change in diet isn’t the only way to save the planet!

A vegetarian diet is one that does not consume meat, including meat traces in products such as sweets (as gelatin) or pesto. This diet is a good transition diet to veganism whilst greatly reducing your carbon emissions. There are plenty of substitutes for meat-based meals, including replacement vegetables (such as chickpeas for chicken in a curry) or meat-substitutes. Those new to the diet question if vegetarians get enough protein, to which the answer is yes! With mindful eating and ensuring enough nuts, pulses and eggs are incorporated into the diet, this is no issue for most.

The flexitarian diet is becoming increasingly popular with those who want to make a difference but want to keep meat a treat. Whilst a vegan and vegetarian diet emit approximately 1.5 and 1.7 tonnes of carbon a year respectively, an omnivorous diet emits approximately 2.2 tonnes of carbon. However, those who cut out red meat alone emit 1.9 tonnes a year, proving that a drastic change in diet isn’t the only way to save the planet!

What's your carbon footprint?

Calculate your carbon emissions and see where you can cut down.

Find out how much carbon does your diet emit?

Transport

Already choose public transport over driving?

Stay grounded for a year and save the equivalent of one person’s annual C02 emissions.

Ideas for reducing your travel emissions

  1. Walk where possible, it’s great for the environment and for your health!
  2. For longer journeys, try to take public transport such as coaches, buses and trains.
  3. If you do need to take a car somewhere, try to car share.
  4. If you have to fly somewhere, try to fly direct and avoid connecting flights.
  5. Offset your travel emissions. Atmosfair allows you to compare the emissions of different airlines and allows you to offset the carbon emissions generated by donating to climate protection projects.

Transport Related Information

Planes use a huge amount of fuel and as a result produce a huge amount of emissions. Taking a long haul flight from the UK to the USA for example, produces the same amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a whole year of driving in the UK. Planes also release Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and water vapour which are more potent greenhouse gases than CO2. These gases also have a greater warming effect when released at high altitudes compared to ground level and can disrupt the function of the ozone layer.

Aircraft emissions can also have negative impacts at ground level, with airports having pollution levels as high as city centres. Along with the noise pollution created by airports this can be seriously detrimental to health.

Improvements in aircraft technology and air traffic management will not be enough to offset the predicted growth in aircraft emissions. Therefore it is only by slowing the growth of air travel that we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with flying.

By staying grounded and avoiding a return flight once a year you can save up to 9.6 tonnes of CO2 which is nearly the same amount as the yearly emissions of an average Brit! You needn’t miss out on having a holiday though, try looking into different ways of getting there such as by train, coach or ferry. You could also think about being a tourist in your own country and have a staycation.

How to do it

These sites are a great place to start when looking into overland travel - seat61 is , rome2rio , loco2 is and the other sites are great for coaches.

seat61.com - the "overland bible" for exactly how to get trains and ferries, anywhere!

rome2rio.com - can display all your different route possibilities (scroll down for no-fly options)

loco.com - good for booking UK and/or European trains and coaches

TOP TIP - the furthest in advance you can plan your travel (i.e. 3-4 months in advance when booking normally opens), the more affordable it will be.

In praise of staycations - an opinion piece on why holidaying in the UK often beats flying anyway!

Personal Divestment

Already shop locally?

Switch your bank account to a provider which helps to fund renewable energy initiatives.

Tips to make more sustainable personal actions

  1. Buy from local businesses. Buying from greengrocers is a great way to get fruit and veg without any plastic packaging. You could also visit the SU’s Zero Waste shop for more sustainable products.
  2. Educate yourself. Research where your products come from and how they’re made. It’s suprising how little we know about what actually goes into making something and how businesses operate. Ethical Consumer is a great place to start.
  3. Avoid buying fast fashion. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world. Sheffield has lots of great vintage and charity shops to save buying new. You could also look into sustainable fashion brands such as Lucy and Yak and The People Tree.
  4. If you have to fly somewhere, try to fly direct and avoid connecting flights.
  5. Offset your travel emissions. Atmosfair allows you to compare the emissions of different airlines and allows you to offset the carbon emissions generated by donating to climate protection projects.
  6. Let banks know. If you do change to a more ethical bank account, let your old bank know why you switched.

Personal Divestment Related Information

Consumer actions are powerful. Where we choose to spend our hard earned money can be an important reflection of our own personal values. For example, we might avoid buying clothes from brands that are known to produce them in factories with poor working conditions. The same can be said for what we do with and where we save our money. The money we spend in a shop supports the way that brand does business, which might not always align with your own values.

At the end of the day, banks are businesses. They use the money you save with them to fund loans for various business initiatives with a view to making that money back as well as a profit. However for the majority of high street banks, the businesses they choose to invest in include coal mining, oil extraction from tar sands and fossil fuel power plants. Therefore your money may be helping to finance these unethical, unsustainable and environmentally damaging projects.

Switching banks is an easy way to move your money away from these projects, and support more ethical businesses that align with your personal values. This can be done easily by using the UK government maintained Current Account Switch Service, or you can do it yourself.

Barclays, Santander, HSBC and RBS are some of the biggest financiers of the fossil fuel industry. Banks such as The Co-operative Bank, Triodos Bank and Nationwide do not invest in fossil fuel related activities.

See positiveinvest.org/campaigns/bankswitch/ and ethicalconsumer.org/money-finance/shopping-guide/current-accounts for further information. You can also do your own research to get a better understanding of what banks do with your money.

Divestment does work. Previous divestment campaigns have targeted the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the tobacco industry. Make your actions count!