What does sustainability mean to you? UCEM staff and students share their thoughts

Posted on: 16 October, 2023

This week, UCEM is hosting Climate and Social Action Week (CASA) – a series of online and hybrid events and activities exploring sustainability and climate action.

Learn more: Join UCEM for Climate and Social Action Week October 16-20

Ahead of CASA, we asked several staff members and students involved with the upcoming events to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences with sustainability.

Our contributors for this article include:

  • Jessica Gordon-Calvert, Sustainability Education & Engagement Officer
  • Charlotte Thackeray, Outreach and Inclusion Lead
  • Fortunate Mukombo, Student Officer for Sustainability
  • Nisha Sarki, Marketing Officer
  • Kate, Project Coordinator

What does sustainability mean to you?

“It might sound cliché, but sustainability for me is a fairer, greener society where people and planet thrive together.”Jessica Gordon-Calvert

“I like to think about sustainability as something I can incorporate every day in everything I do. If I can recycle or thrift instead of buying new or cut down on waste, it’s a win. Just sharing my tips and tricks on sustainable fashion or cooking with the community around me is my version of being sustainable. I work within sustainability in marketing, so I try to hold my team and the rest of UCEM accountable in the decisions we make.

“I know it goes beyond that. I know we need to do more – encourage corporations to make the change and be the change we want to see. But by doing that, we misplace the vast responsibility on individuals rather than the institutions who are the cause of the problems in the first place.”Nisha Sarki

Learn more: Climate change denial: 6 common myths, debunked

“At its best, for me, sustainability looks like actions, today and in the future, contributing to a healthy society, environment, and economy, where both people and the planet are flourishing.” Kate

“Sustainability means fulfilling current requirements without sacrificing future needs and maintaining a balance between economic growth, environmental protection, human and social well-being.”Fortunate Mukombo

What is the relationship between sustainability and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)?

“The UN SDGs don’t just encompass climate action, there are so many other areas, but the right to reduced inequalities and a quality education are particularly important within the sphere of EDI.”Charlotte Thackeray

“EDI is largely responsible for the emergence of an equitable, just, and sustainable world. If we are to have a future that is truly sustainable, every person on the globe must actively engage. For the world to address sustainability challenges brought on by population growth, resource scarcity, and climate change, it is imperative that people from different backgrounds and with varying abilities, knowledge and perspectives be accepted and given equal access to the opportunities, resources, and experiences needed to fulfil their sustainable roles in a fair and equitable manner.”Fortunate Mukombo

Learn more: Equality, diversity, and inclusion in the built environment: a student panel

“You cannot approach sustainability without EDI – people and planet are interlinked, and the only way we can make progress is by ensuring that things like reducing inequalities, ending hunger, good health & wellbeing go hand in hand with things like sustainable infrastructure, affordable clean energy and climate action.” Jessica Gordon-Calvert

Have you had any experiences with climate anxiety?

“Yes, particularly when purchasing things, that pang of guilt you get when you realise it is plastic but you need it. I teach ways to support climate anxiety in schools and that is where I see it most keenly and then see some adults not caring on tv or online and it is really disheartening.”Charlotte Thackeray

“I’ve found that maintaining an optimistic attitude, planning ahead, and converting my worry about the climate into action has helped me feel less anxious and stressed.”Fortunate Mukombo

“Yes, climate anxiety is something I have and will continue to experience. As both a young person and watcher of David Attenborough it is very hard to imagine what the future of this world will look like. The effects of climate change are happening in real time and there is very little being done about it. It impacts upon what I imagine my own future to look like and the way I carry myself in everyday life – eating less meat and fish, buying second hand etc.”Anonymous

Learn more: What is COP28 (and why is it so controversial)?

What is your number one piece of advice for students who want to be more involved with sustainability, but aren’t sure how?

“Contact the Sustainability Officers via Linkedin or the VLE, the Sustainability Whatsapp group is a super place for students to chat and generate ideas!” – Charlotte Thackeray

“See sustainability as something you can introduce into your life one day of the week. Start small. Can you make a vegetarian meal or buy something second hand? Or read an article on sustainability every Tuesday? It might seem insignificant but is a nice way to get involved gradually. Build up from there.”  – Anonymous

“Take one step at a time! Talk casually and frequently about sustainability with others nearby. Engage others to broaden your impact. Acquire the necessary knowledge in a way that is compelling, instructive, and exciting and then put it into practice by beginning with small sustainable activities (such as recycling everything, attempting to eliminate rubbish), then progressing to bigger innovations. Make an effort to make the tasks simple and pleasurable!” – Fortunate Mukombo

“We have lots of opportunities for students to get involved in sustainability at UCEM, from initiatives to Responsible Futures. Have a look at our students and sustainability page and reach out by emailing sustainability@ucem.ac.uk“ – Jessica Gordon-Calvert

Find out more: Join UCEM for Climate and Social Action Week October 16-20