Doing Our Bit

We all need to do our bit to be more sustainable, and that includes RUSU! Here, you’ll find more information on some of the things RUSU does, and how you can help out too. If you want to know more about anything on this page, please email the President at president@rusu.co.uk.

Food

One way we can all strive towards sustainability is through the food we eat, and how that food is sourced.

Veganism has risen in the UK by an estimated 400% in the last 12 years, with a 2018 survey by the UK’s Vegan Society finding that there are approximately 600,000 vegans in Great Britain. Many people will move towards a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons, including health and animal welfare, but the environmental impact of consuming less meat cannot be understated. A 2016 study reported that the world’s food-related emissions would drop 70% by 2050, if we all went vegan.

However, going completely meat free is not always possible – it is important to remember that animal products can be vital for people with specific dietary requirements, and providing the option is more accessible from the perspective of neurodiversity. In these cases, we can still ensure we are sourcing these animal products as locally as possible, to reduce our carbon footprint.

Food – What is RUSU doing?

  • We now offer a range of vegetarian and vegan food options across our venues.
  • RUSU is committed to ensuring our food is organic and locally sourced, wherever possible.
  • All of RUSU’s meetings and events offer vegetarian and vegan food as the default option – meat options need be specifically requested.

Food – What can you do?

  • Consider reducing your meat consumption by doing ‘meat-free Mondays’ or something similar.
  • Pay close attention to where the food you buy is sourced from.
  • Pay attention to the packaging and waste associated with food items you buy.

Waste

On a similar topic, we must all be conscious of the waste we produce – not only in terms of how it is disposed of, but minimising waste as much as possible in the first instance.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase, ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’. Recycling is fantastic (and should be done wherever possible), but we all need to try and place as much emphasis as possible on reducing our waste in the first place; the energy cost of recycling materials, as well as the initial energy cost of producing those materials, can be negated if we avoid using them wherever we can.

The next logical step is to purchase things that can be used more than once, such as a refillable water bottle or washable make-up pads. Maya’s Refillables is a great local business that supplies these things, and we’ve worked with Maya before!

For items that cannot be reused, we must recycle where possible. There are a number of recycling points across campus, and Reading Borough Council now collects food waste too.

Waste – What is RUSU doing?

  • We have a 5p levy on plastic straws in our venues to cut down on single use plastic (but we still offer free straws to those who need them for accessibility reasons).
  • Oil in our kitchen is recycled in a buy-back scheme; money vouchers are provided to the kitchen in return which is then put back into the kitchen for future purchases.
  • We are committed to supporting UPP in their halls charitable reuse schemes.
  • We provide recycling bins for all common recyclables and can also recycle batteries and printer cartridges for our students.

Waste – What can you do?

  • Consider investing in more reusable products to reduce waste.
  • Compost leftover food or consider a food sharing app like OLIO.
  • Recycle your waste wherever possible.

Energy & Utilities

Our energy consumption can have a big impact on our carbon footprint, and that is something RUSU is fully aware of. Alongside the University, we’ve made substantial steps towards utilising more renewable energy sources, as well as reducing our energy consumption wherever possible.

Changing the way we consume energy has a number of benefits for us as individuals, both in producing positive outcomes for the environment, and often cutting costs in the long run too. Whilst some renewable energy sources can still be quite expensive at a consumer level, there are lots of things you can still do to have an impact.

We can all save water by taking shorter showers, turning the tap off when we’re brushing our teeth, and reporting leaky taps or toilets to get them fixed. As reported by Thames Water, if you and three of your housemates reduce your shower time by one minute each, you could save £45 on metered water bills, up to £52 on energy bills and as much as 11,648 litres of water a year!

In rented accommodation it can be hard to control which appliances you have access to, but one of the ways you can reduce your energy usage is through the choices you make as a consumer. Buying more efficient appliances is not only great for the environment, but often great for your bank account in the long run too!

Energy & Utilities – What is RUSU doing?

  • Staff are empowered to make informed decisions that reduce our energy consumption, such as keeping offices at a sensible temperature, turning lights off when not in use, and turning off equipment when not in use.
  • RUSU has increased the amount of energy it collects from renewable sources, adding substantial solar panel coverage to the building in 2021.
  • We have added a number of energy saving features to the building, such as automatic lights across our offices.
  • Energy & Utilities – What can you do?

    • Be energy aware at home – only fill your kettle with the amount of water you need, turn appliances off standby, and turn electronics off when not in use.
    • Explore energy tariffs that use renewably sourced energy, or switch to a greener energy supplier altogether.
    • Try to reduce your water consumption by fixing leaks, turning unused taps off, and shortening your shower times.

Travel

Travel is an essential part of life – whether it’s a commute to work or your trip to a lecture, we all need some way of getting there. Cars are often frowned upon, and it’s true there are more sustainable modes of transport – but remember they still play a vital role for accessibility.

If you are using a car to get around, carpooling can be a great way to reduce your collective environmental impact. Similarly, if you’re on your way to or from an event and you’ve been drinking alcohol, try and get as many of your friends in to the same taxi as possible, to reduce the number of trips.

Bikes are a great way to get around Reading, and they can be very affordable too. Reading Bicycle Kitchen offer help in bicycle maintenance, and often have second hand bikes to sell for low prices. You can also make use of a range of second-hand selling websites to find a bike at a price that works for you. Remember to get a lock for it as well!

In addition to this, staff and students can get access to free bike maintenance via Dr Bike. Keep an eye on when Dr Bike is next on campus via the University’s website.

Bikes can be locked up safely all over campus, and many halls offer secure storage for bicycles too.

And of course, walk whenever you can! If you like walking, we have a beautiful campus for you to explore. And if you like jogging, why not check out our running routes too?

Travel – What is RUSU doing?

  • We have a number of bicycle racks outside of the building, and staff & students are encouraged to use these.
  • Our staff do not use flights to travel to mainland destinations, and staff will investigate alternative public transport options before personal or hire cars are used for work business travel.
  • We allow our staff to work flexibly, enabling them to avoid congested, lengthy commutes.

Travel – What can you do?

  • Try to carpool or share transport where you can.
  • Try to cycle or walk wherever you can.
  • Avoid domestic flights – try to use other forms of public transport instead.

Policy & Accountability

As individuals, there is only so much we can do. Alongside our efforts as consumers, it is important we hold organisations and corporations to account.

In order to allow our students to scrutinise our work towards sustainability, we are transparent about our environmental impact. Our Sustainability Policy is available for you to view, and you can always contact us to find out more.

We elect students to campaign on environmental issues and hold both RUSU and the University to account. You could consider becoming one of these students – our President leads on sustainability, and is supported by the Environment and Ethics Officer.

We update our main policy annually, and this is directed by RUSU’s Sustainability Committee, which is chaired by the President. The Sustainability Committee is a sub-committee of RUSU’s Trustee Board, which is the highest level of governance.

Sustainability is important to us, and we want you to hold us to our commitments.

Policy & Accountability – What is RUSU doing?

  • We update our Sustainability Policy annually and make it available on our website.
  • We elect and appoint students in to positions to scrutinise RUSU’s progress towards being more sustainable.
  • We offer the opportunity for students to change our policy through our democratic platform, Change It.

Policy & Accountability – What can you do?

  • Consider taking up a representative role!
  • Hold organisations to account, and make use of RUSU’s platforms to inspire change