Sustainability at University

I entered a survey for a chance to win 500£, I got carried away with the last question:

Do you have any suggestions on what actions you would like to see your university / college take to improve its performance on sustainable development?

Universities should require a mandatory undergraduate level: Outdoor ‘meet and greet course’ over a week-long backpacking expedition, one where young adults get immersed in nature and learn from ecologists about the exciting outdoor world. I firmly believe that our best and most memorable experiences come from time spent outside . Living ‘off the grid’ and/or camping opens one’s eyes to nature’s bounty . Camping makes us appreciate all we have in this developed, westernised world . I can think of many postgraduates like myself that would love to lead a trip to get new undergraduates excited about sustainability. I believe that ecological skills should be the mathematics of the 21st century (as my friend Andy Goldring once said at a Permaculture conference in Cuba ).


Photo Credit: Gordon Middleton

During these trips, the facilitators should organise games around renewable infrastructure, eating foraging foods, efficient stove development… Games where communication and interaction is key .

Additionally, Universities should have serious/credible/legitimate targets to become carbon neutral (including renewable energy, grey-water re-use, LED lighting, replacing leaky windows if possible.. etc)

All single-use plastics should be banned from campus: plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic utensils… If disposable items are needed then the university should provide compostable alternatives and have a large composting facility on site. Campuses should have PAID eco-representatives to make sure that students don’t carelessly put their rubbish in the wrong bin (compost or recycling). Penalties and fines should be imposed on those that litter

All campuses should have a ‘food forest’, where students can pick vegetables and fruits as they walk around campus .


Universities should distribute free ‘sporks’, reusable bottles and reusable bags to all new, incoming students

All campus food should be organic and fair-trade

Vending machines with junk food should be replaced with fruit and healthy alternatives .

All students should be given a free copy of Ella Woodward’s ‘Deliciously Ella’ books.

All new students should be taken on a field-trip to hunt and skin a deer. They can come back to campus and prepare the meat together for a feast .

Universities should prohibit stupid plastic promotional items given by companies coming for recruitment purposes (plastic figurines, useless objects…)

All new infrastructure should be eco-smart (maximum LEED certified )

Students that contribute hugely to local sustainable development should be given the option to have 50% off course fees.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly Universities should offer a FREE , mandatory permaculture course to all students in order for them to understand the art of holistic living, multifunctional systems and systems thinking. This will get students excited about sustainability so they understand that everyone has a role to play in the future of our ‘green planet’ . They will have the toolbox to make a difference.