Flexitarian meals and less plastic cups

| Michaela Nesvarova

Sustain is a newly founded student association aiming to bring together all the sustainability initiatives happening at the UT. Besides raising awareness and organizing its own events, it wants to advise on various activities on how to create a more sustainable university – through often small, simple changes.

A small group of UT students from various faculties is currently in the process of officially founding an association named Sustain under the Student Union. Oscar Bradley, an ATLAS student, is one of them.

Where did the idea to found Sustain come from?

Bradley: ‘We’ve noticed that there have been a lot of initiatives on sustainability happening all over the UT, but they have been very decentralized, all working on individual basis. We want to channel all this energy that is already there to create more concrete projects. We’ve only started about two months ago, but we’ve already collaborated with the Kick-In committee and UT staff working on the new CSR policy. That’s the thing – it’s not just an association, it’s a movement. A movement happening all over, it’s student-driven but also coming from the top level. Sustain should serve as a centralizing point for all these ideas and communicate them to everyone.’

What are your main goals?

‘We have two main goals. Firstly, raising awareness of sustainability issues and solutions. We feel this is really missing at the UT. We want to inform people about simple everyday issues – separating trash, making more sustainable food choices etc. We plan to organize our own projects and events, such as a Sustainable Foods TostiTalk that we held this week.’

‘Our second goal is changing the UT at the policy level. We will have working groups which can assess events, associations and the UT as a whole in order to consult them on improvements that could make UT activities more sustainable. As mentioned, we are collaborating with the Kick-In committee to see how to make the entire Kick-In a bit more sustainable. So far we’ve come up with simple ideas, such as using reusable plastic bottles and in the future possibly offering a “flexitarian” option for meals. Now you are either a vegetarian or a meat eater, but many people just want to reduce the amount of meat on their plate, hence the flexitarian option. Such simple solutions are already being implemented, but somewhat randomly. For instance, some buildings have changed the settings on the coffee machines, so people need to bring their own cup and not use the plastic ones all the time. This is an easy solution we could advise to everyone once we are established. ’

You also mentioned a collaboration with UT staff working on the new CSR policy?

‘Yes, we were invited to a workshop by Marielle Winkler. The UT wanted to find out what students believe a real sustainable university looks like. In essence, we believe we need a sustainability culture in which people autonomously think of sustainability issues. We also suggested that UT research and initiatives should be sustainably responsible, meaning not overly damaging to the environment.’

Sustain would like to consult other associations and committees on how to organize events in a more sustainable manner. What information will you be basing your advice on? You are students after all.

‘Our committee focused on that will consist of real experts, not only enthusiasts. There will be real professionals who have background in sustainable development – we want to include staff, PhD’s and so on. But in the end, we truly believe that students can offer a fresh perspective. Students have an extremely critical mindset. That is really needed at the UT.’

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