2 years as your Live Smart Co-ordinator – what I learnt along the way

Hi everyone, welcome to what is my final blog as part of the Sustainability Team. Over the past two years, I have led the student initiative Live Smart along with Nikki. If you’re new to it, it’s a program designed to help you save money, enhance your wellbeing, connect with the local community all while having minimal impact on our beautiful planet.  

In the past two years, we’ve covered a lot; organising the Live Smart community challenge, starring in our very own podcast Live Smart Investigates, leading weekly gardening sessions, hosting a raft of different events and, most importantly, eating a lot of vegan cake (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!).  

Here are 5 things I have taken from this experience as your Live Smart Co-ordinator…

1. My understanding of sustainability has changed

When I joined the Sustainability Team, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of the term sustainability. I knew that it meant we had to live in a way which met our needs, without compromising the needs of future generations to come and that to do this there are many things we can do such as eating less meat, walking or cycling wherever possible, reducing how much we buy, and so much more. 

What I hadn’t completely realised was the many social elements that are linked with sustainability, such as feminism, human rights and social justice.  

So, being honest, when I joined the team was I perfectly equipped with all the sustainability know how? Absolutely not!

What is sustainability then?

The best way to remember sustainability is to think about the triple bottom line with three elements: people, profit and planet. For example, walking is a great form of exercise, it increases mental wellbeing, is a zero-carbon option and is free: all three elements have been considered with equal importance and therefore this is sustainable. Simple, right?! 

2. Drive change with a solution

First of all, it is completely normal to feel emotions such as anger, frustration, upset and annoyance at how slow change can happen. Believe me, I have had my fair share of tears over how slow certain things can change that you just KNOW is for the better.  

Here is my advice:  

  1. Before you do anything, breathe. This may sound weird, but I recommend taking time to really reflect and gather your thoughts before you do anything, be that speaking to someone at the university or if you’re looking more widely and perhaps sending a tightly worded email to your local MP.
  2. Do your research and have a solution prepared before you seek action for change. Now I know this is based on the scale of the issues; I’m not expecting you to buy a bunch of solar panels before you email UK MPs to invest in renewables, but it’s good to have ideas and plans for a good solution in place beforehand. This shows that you’ve carefully considered the factors needed to bring about change and can make it almost impossible for positive change not to be achieved.  

Beyond my role as Live Smart Co-ordinator, I am so passionate about sustainability that I have worked hard on my own to bring about further positive change at UOG. When I wanted more native trees on campuses, I had a meeting with the Estates Team and told them about an amazing free tree giveaway from the Woodland Trust. This is my example of how I drove change with a solution and it resulted in 105 trees planted across campuses.

3. Achieving change requires working together to get solutions

My example of driving change could not have been possible without the support of several parties, thank you to:  

  • Ed Moulding, for helping me plan and execute the tree planting across university campuses 
  • Jon Furley, who helped communicate my ambitions for change to other levels of the university
  • Alice Lowe, for her detailed social media coverage of the event and press release which helped communicate the planting in the wider community 
  • Miriam Webb, Alex Ryan and Nikki Rimell in the Sustainability Team who took part in the tree planting event and attended when I was too ill
  • 30 students and staff who participated and planted 105 native trees across Oxstalls and Park campuses

My aim of wanting to increase the biodiversity and networks of native trees across University campuses involved many other people, this change shows that working together can get you the best results!

4. Sustainability is about doing your best

Sustainability isn’t about being 100% sustainable – I’m not even sure such a thing exists. In daily life, it comes down to being more conscious of what you do, buy and eat, and understanding the impact these choices have on yourself, your community and the planet.  

I’ve learnt that it’s best to focus on the things you can control such as:  

  1. Diet – reducing your meat and dairy intake can massively benefit your health, your wallet and the planet. Read a cool blog I wrote earlier this year with my top tips for trying veganism
  2. Travel – choosing smart transport options is a super easy way to be more sustainable and reduce your usage of polluting vehicles. Check out cheap bikes available to buy in Cheltenham and read this blog about the benefits of travelling more sustainably
  3. Money – Did you know you can be sustainable and save money? Check out this student blog with top tips to save money and boost wellbeing

These are just three quick examples I chose, but there are many more areas of sustainability you can explore. I have found my sustainability journey a fun one, so why not try something new whilst saving money, boosting your wellbeing and having positive impacts on the planet. Give it a go now!

5. “What I do won’t have an impact” – it really does!

We are living in a world that is entering a climatic crisis, suffering biodiversity loss at unprecedented levels as well as seeing declines in human health. But it isn’t too late. We can all live more sustainably and work together to create a better future for all. 

Quite often I hear people say things like ‘why should I care about sustainability?’, ‘realistically, what impact are my own actions going to have?’, and ‘me walking instead of taking the car won’t stop climate change’. If everyone thought these same things, nothing would change. But collectively if we all think the opposite, we could put an end to our destructive impact on people and planet.  

For example, since I turned vegan last May I have saved 1,553,154 litres of water. This is equivalent to 24,850,471 cups of coffee or it could fill 2½ Olympic-sized swimming pools! 

Over and out

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog about what I’ve learnt about sustainability in the two years that I’ve been Live Smart Co-ordinator and I encourage you all to become amazing change makers!


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