Be the Change | Helping make sustainable fashion the new norm

The clothing and textiles industry accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined. Rethinking the amount of clothes we buy and refreshing our wardrobes with only second-hand pieces challenges fast-fashion culture, saves money, and encourages creativity.  

Throughout April, our fashion challenge competition invited staff and students to share their favourite secondhand, upcycled or repaired item. Congratulations to Chaeyeon Lim, Vicky Carliell and Caroline Kirk who have each won a £25 Love Bristol gift card for sharing snaps their fabulous fashion-forward pieces. Here are the winning entries, plus a few of our other top picks!



“Here’s a few photos of me in my favourite pre-loved charity shop purchase – my wedding dress! All 5 of my bridesmaid dresses were also second-hand (mainly from the Tenovus charity shop on Gloucester road). It was important to me to make my wedding as sustainable as possible, and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a dress that would only be worn once.” Vicky Carliell




“A pair of handmade leather boots I bought pre-loved on Vinted were in a sorry state, with the sole nearly worn through, the uppers coming away from the soles, and the leather looking very faded and worn. As the boots are handmade, they can be resoled and repaired so I sent the boots off to the maker (Conker). I’ve since given the leather a clean with saddle soap, restored the colour with brown boot polish, and nourished the leather with Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam!” Caroline Kirk





“I’m wearing a necklace I made and a vest I exchanged with my muffler at a swap shop organised by Bristol SU. Selfie taken in front of Forsythia on a priory road. Being sustainable in spring, being sensible and stylish!” Chaeyeon Lim







“I’m wearing a second hand shirt from Depop, which I wore as part of the medal ceremony for my badminton club’s annual tournament. I was giving medals out to winners and the photo is me showing the medals to the audience.” Sam Cook









“Here I am in a dress that I made from an old duvet cover that had a big rip in it.” Rachael Carey

Rachael also shared a picture of the original duvet cover before she dyed it pink!







Josie Maskell

“I bought this dress on Vinted and the denim was too pale for my skin tone. It’s 100% cotton so I decided to dye it using an emerald green Dylon dye pod, I am now much happier with the colour!” Josie Maskell









“I found the dress (French Connection) in a charity shop a few years ago on Gloucester Rd and have worn it so many times in different ways. The leather jacket is also vintage French Connection from the Clothing Xchange in Broadmead and the vintage leather bag is from another charity shop by the Bear Pit.” Claudia Dupe






Imogen Stone

“I got this faux fur coat and leopard print hat from a vintage market in Camden (I’m on the right). They’re really warm and both a great addition to any outfit!” Imogen Stone







“I was in a charity shop looking for work wear and stumbled across this gem of a dress for £5 (I’m in the red). I’ve worn it to multiple weddings because I’m never worried about wearing something twice! Not featured also the two very stylish jumpsuits I bought for work in that trip – long live the Bedminster charity shop scene!” Emily Wride







Find out more and sign up to the ‘Fashion’ challenge here. 

Be the Change | Walking to Rehearsal with A Cappella

Be the Change is a University-wide campaign that encourages everyone at the University to make choices that have a positive impact on the world around us. Throughout March the campaign focused on travel, and how we should all look to take active travel (e.g. walking or cycling) where at all possible. One group of students that joined in with the campaign was the SU’s A Capella Society.

Read on to find out more about their efforts, as written by Izzy Fraser, Vice President of A Cappella Society.

“A Cappella Society has many goals for the 2023-2024 year, one of which being to champion sustainability and eco-consciousness in a way we had never done before. As Vice President of the society, I made it my mission for this goal to become a reality, and with the help of every member our wonderful committee (namely Jess Edwards, our Outreach Officer, Alisha Agarwal, our Marketing Manager and, not least, Aaliyah Butt our President) we managed to coordinate a whole Sustainability Month.

Support from the University and SU

The SU’s Sustainability Coordinator, Lucy Tallis, guided and advised us, directing us towards multiple means of funding to help us actualise the initiatives we had planned. For example, the SU’s Sustainability Grant provided full funding for a sustainable merch scheme, and the Sustainability Team sponsored us with a prize for our ‘Walk 2 Rehearsal’ scheme as it aligned with the Be the Change campaign.

Our application for the Be the Change prize fund included a poll that we distributed to members asking how frequently they take different modes of transport to rehearsals. The investigation revealed that 40% of members who responded had, at least once in the last month, driven/taken an Uber/got a lift in a car to get to rehearsal. As such, we believed that our ‘Walk 2 Rehearsal’ scheme would shift help change behaviour, not just for the week, but for our members going forward.

Running the competition

Academy and All Sharps members walking back from their rehearsal.
Academy and All Sharps members walking back from their rehearsal

The scheme ran via the University’s Bristol Moves+ platform for one week and was really popular, with eight groups competing against each other in to see who could achieve the most steps per member across the week. Group representatives made a sub-group on Moves+ for their members to join. We achieved strong engagement within these groups; for example, 11 of 14 members of Academy joined their group, and 10 of Pitch Fight’s 14 members took part in theirs.

There was much conversation within the society on what number of steps each group was on, with members organising group walks to and from rehearsal. There was a healthy competition established by members’ motivation to win such a great prize at the end of the week!

Pitch Fight members walking to rehearsal.
Pitch Fight members walking to rehearsal

What the society thought

In reflection, Lydia O’Boyle, Group Representative for The Bristones said that the group “have thoroughly enjoyed participating in Walk 2 Rehearsal this week”. She outlined how they have accumulated an impressive 683,648 steps between them. “This challenge has been lots of fun, not only motivating us to walk to our rehearsals together but also encouraging us to spend more time walking around the city.”

The outcome

A few of The Bristol Suspensions walking home after rehearsal
A few of The Bristol Suspensions walking home after rehearsal

The Bristol Suspensions smashed the scheme with their average member step count for the week being 73,741, therefore 10,534 steps per member per day. As a result, the group won the Love Bristol voucher and plan to have a big group meal out at an independent restaurant after Easter.

The Suspensions Group Rep, Tiggy Cottle, said “The Susps got absolutely stuck into Walk 2 Rehearsal, determined to win the Love Bristol voucher and all go out for a social together! The whole group really enjoyed walking to rehearsal and competing with other groups for the prize; we ended up with a whopping 811,154 steps! Well done everyone.”

The Bristol Suspensions taking part in the Walk 2 Rehearsal Scheme.
The Bristol Suspensions taking part in the Walk 2 Rehearsal Scheme

More importantly, the Walk 2 Rehearsal scheme has had the wider impact of improving our members habits in terms of using sustainable methods of transport. After the initiative finished and the results were out, I conducted a poll on our members WhatsApp group that revealed the success of the scheme through a significant shift in members’ practices – 86% of members who responded stated that across the week, the only method of transport they took to rehearsals was walking. Twenty-four percent said that they walked and used public transport. And what I think is most impressive is that none of our members took a car to rehearsal across the entire week!

Evidently, the Walk 2 Rehearsal scheme was a huge success, in terms of member engagement, enjoyment, and working towards our groups wider goal of championing sustainability. A Cappella Society want to say a massive thank you to Be the Change for sponsoring the initiative, and we would implore other societies to make the most of resources that can be offered by the SU to fund sustainability schemes. It is our responsibility to create sustainable practices in the present to work towards the green future that we want. You, and your society, can Be the Change too!”

Be the Change| Traveling by land or ferry over flying

We all want to enjoy some guaranteed sun, explore new places and experience other cultures. And the good news is, it is possible and even more rewarding to travel abroad in a low impact way. Read on to hear from members of our university community who have done just that!

A year abroad by land, Haydn Davies, Economics student and Sustainability Champion for the School of Economics

“I gave up flying in the summer of 2022 and managed to do my year abroad after that without flying. Considering that 5 billion of the world’s population will never step on plane, sacrificing being able to fly purely for leisure is a sacrifice I’m very willing to make. The happiness that you derive from leisure time is largely based off who you are with. Personally, I can have equally a good time in the Mendips with close friends as in Thailand!

Being fascinated by other cultures and history, the obstacle of land travel doesn’t impact my desire to get there. Sure it takes much longer, but that gives you much more time to experience and appreciate the local cultures on the way.”

Panoramic view of an Alpine glacier from the Bernina Express
Panoramic view of an Alpine glacier from the Bernina Express

A family rail adventure to Italy, James Ryle, Transport Sustainability Manager

“Our family trip to Italy, originally planned for summer 2020, finally came to fruition three years later. With two older teenage boys, we opted for a rail adventure in northern Italy, a region offering a diverse range of attractions, including seaside, lakes, mountain scenery, historic cities, and, of course, pizza and ice cream!

The challenge was to make the journey flight-free without being constantly on the move. The Man In Seat 61 website and the trainline app were invaluable for trip planning, allowing us to book and organize all train tickets easily.

In the end, after breakfast at St Pancras, Eurostar and the high-speed service from Paris to Milan made quick work of the outward journey, leaving time for the all-important first pizza of the holiday.

As we found, travelling around this part of Italy by train could hardly be easier, with a choice of fast inter-city and stopping regional services reaching everywhere on our wish list.

After a few days in Genoa, including a day trip to the famous Cinque Terre coastal villages, we headed for Bologna, a beautiful university town, if a bit of a baking oven at the height of summer.

From there we began a slow journey home via Lake Como and the scenic Bernina Express railway over the Alps towards Zurich, completing the final leg to Bristol via Paris and London in a day.

Top tip? It’s perfectly possible to have an amazing holiday across Europe by train but remember the journey is a big part of the experience!”

Visiting family in Germany, Lucy Westover, Specialist Technician, Bristol Medical School

“My first long-haul train journey was to visit my family who live in Lübeck, northern Germany. There are several routes you can take to get to Germany going through either Amsterdam or Brussels, both of which you can get the Eurostar to. You can then get to Germany without too many train changes so the trains were relatively straight forward to figure out and book and the journey takes around 14 hours.

We really enjoyed the journey and it meant we saw so many German towns that we otherwise would have never been to; it made the whole thing feel like much more of an adventure! I am not planning on flying in the future to any destination I can get to via train. This year I am planning on a couple more train trips: back to Germany to see family, France with friends and I’m also planning an interrailing trip around Europe!”

Be the Change | Faith Terry-Doyle: How I’m taking action

This month, our ‘Be the Change’ campaign theme is ‘action’. We’re encouraging staff and students to challenge themselves to make a positive contribution by volunteering, recycling, growing plants, composting and raising awareness. All action, however big or small, can change the future of the world we live in. Read on to hear from Faith, a Sustainability Team intern and master’s student, as she tells us about her journey into activism. 

“Reading about the findings of an IPCC report in 2018 I remember feeling a real sense of shock and urgency to take action. At a similar time, groups like Extinction Rebellion, Youth Strike 4 Climate and Fridays for Future were making a name for themselves. I soon got involved with Extinction Rebellion Youth, Brighton. It was great to be around people who also cared so deeply about these issues, and I met some of my closest friends and my partner through being involved. When the pandemic hit, I realised how exhausted I was from it all and took a step back. 

Since moving to Bristol three years ago, I’ve slowly started to find my place in the climate movement again and have been figuring out how I can make a difference. There are many lifestyle changes that I have made, such as: 

  • Eating a mostly plant-based diet 
  • Buying seasonal and organic vegetables 
  • Growing what I can in my allotment 
  • Taking trains and buses instead of flying 
  • Using my social media account to raise awareness 
  • Getting comfortable talking with friends and family about climate change 
  • Cycling or using public transport instead of driving 
  • Buying almost all of my clothes second-hand 

I’ve also got involved with Green New Deal Rising, a youth movement campaigning for climate justice.

Green New Deal Team

Being part of Green New Deal Rising has given me a real sense of hope and the ability to connect with other like-minded people in Bristol. I love that Green New Deal Rising takes a stance that social issues and environmental issues are deeply intertwined – recognising this is essential to find effective solutions which ensure that no one is left behind. As well as calling for better environmental policies, we are campaigning for policies which ensure decent housing and secure jobs, with a key focus on uplifting the most vulnerable in society. 

Being part of Green New Deal Rising has been a great way to learn more about issues that I’m passionate about and has given me some much-needed motivation to continue campaigning for climate justice. I truly believe that no one is too small to make a difference, and when we come together in movements and communities, we can have a truly transformational impact.” 

Cultivating community and care through Climate Cafés

Wildfires, species extinction, forced migration, draughts, extreme storms, “code red for humanity” – it’s all a lot to process. According to a 2021 study by the Office for National Statistics, 43% of adults reported having been “very or somewhat anxious about the future of the environment over the past month”. 

We should view these feelings of distress and anxiety as a healthy response to what’s going on in the world, and providing safe and supportive spaces for these feelings to be expressed is a key reason why members of the Sustainability Team and Bristol Su are running Climate Cafés at the University of Bristol. 

Climate Cafés have sprung up all over the world in recent years, and they come in many different forms. They can be held in community centres, living rooms, universities, workplaces, an actual café – you name it. They range from informal discussion groups to more orchestrated events with guest speakers, with the common thread being that it’s an opportunity to come together with like-minded people to discuss our thoughts and feelings about the climate and ecological emergency. 

Climate Conversations and Crafts
Climate Conversations and Crafts

At the University of Bristol, we’ve run two Climate Cafés so far, this academic year; one for World Mental Health Day and one for the first day of COP28, which was part of Force of Nature’s Global Activation Day where young people ran 46 Climate Cafés in 31 countries on the same day! 

The Sustainability Team are still experimenting with formats. We’ve had sessions including journaling and even crafting – always over a cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee! Creating a welcoming space for staff and students to come together and share feelings enables us all to feel less alone. The beauty of these spaces is that once we’re given a chance to express ourselves, we can begin to move through sadness, anger and overwhelm and find a sense of calm, shifting us from a mindset of powerlessness to agency.

Journaling prompt
Journaling prompt

There is never any pressure to ‘take action’ as a result of a Climate Café, but feeling a sense of solidarity and community with other people who share similar worries is often a catalyst to being a little more hopeful and inspired to take action. 

Here are some feedback quotes from a previous Climate Café: 

“The relief I feel from just knowing that other people care so much has made me feel a hundred times lighter compared to when I came in. I have a ‘we can do it’ kind of feeling now.” 

“I feel inspired by how eloquently people expressed themselves and the care that people have for the world and all those who inhabit it.” 

“This has been a bit like a group therapy session, thank you for this lovely space.”  

To find out about our next Climate Café sign up to our newsletter 


Further reading and resources: 

Office for National Statistics 

Three-quarters of adults in Great Britain worry about climate change – Office for National Statistics ( 

Climate Anxiety Resources from Bristol SU:  

“How to cope with eco-anxiety” by Caroline Hickman for Friends of the Earth:  

“Anxiety and biscuits: the climate cafes popping up around the world” The Guardian:  

Be the Change : The plant-based foods we’re enjoying this January

It’s Veganuary, and, by no coincidence, this month the ‘Be the Change’ campaign encourages us to ‘eat a largely plant-based diet, with healthy portions and no waste’ in an effort to reduce the carbon impact of our meals. Read on to find out about some of the plant-based swops, substitutions and specials the Sustainability Team is enjoying.

Sara quinoa winter salad

Sara, Climate Action Officer Intern: “I am challenging myself to a low carbon diet by trying Veganuary this month. This is a winter quinoa salad I made with quinoa, roasted vegetables (roman broccoli, carrots, onions, brussel sprouts), seeds and beetroot dressing. Quinoa is a great versatile food to use in lots of dishes.”


Alice smoked tofu

Alice, Environmental Supervisor for Circular Economy: “I’ve discovered this smoked tofu is incredible in a stir fry – I add turmeric, peanut butter, soy sauce and a bit of honey for a satay vibe!”


James D pie
James D

James D,  Sustainability Manager for Utilities and Carbon: “My favourite low carbon meal is a “beef” and ale pie made with Quorn and mushrooms and vegan puff pastry but adding beef stock to keep the authentic taste!”


Faith Iron Fish

Faith, Communications and Events Intern: “I use a ‘Lucky Iron Fish’ when cooking to make sure I’m getting enough iron. I put the iron fish in a meal for 10 minutes whilst it’s cooking to infuses the dish with a lot more iron in an easy-to-digest form. I got mine online and I love it!”


James R Flat White
James R’s oaty flat white

James R, Sustainability Manager for Transport: “Hardly a new discovery and not much of a challenge because it’s so tasty but I love oat milk in my morning flat white.”


Hannah cheese
Hannah’s vegan cheese and crackers

Hannah, Sustainability Communications Projects Officer: “This looks really sad but I’m still working my way through the stacks of vegan cheese I bought for Christmas. I genuinely can’t tell the Cathedral City Vegan Cheese on Ritz crackers! I also love Violife’s Greek White as a replacement feta – it’s better, IMO!”



Tristan, Green Labs Analysis Officer Intern: “South Asian cuisine is a delicious, low carbon staple for me. Take for example, Rajasthani cuisine and the Jain diet. Did you know the Jain diet excludes all animal products, but also avoids root-vegetables pulled from the ground in an effort to minimise harm to living plants? It’s fascinating to see food overlap with spirituality and ethical values, and something we should strive more towards in the UK!”

Be the Change: Challenge yourself to reduce your waste 

The arrival on campus of Another Wave is Possible, the 90kg litter sculpture by eco-artist Wren Miller is a bold reminder of the harmful effect waste has on our environment. We can all take action and create change by making conscious, sustainable choices, however small they may seem – that’s why this September we’re encouraging you to Be the Change and challenge yourself to reduce the plastic you use to help wave goodbye to waste! 

We spoke to a few of our colleagues who are already challenging themselves to reduce their waste, read on to find out more about their experiences.  

Helen Fullagar, Projects Officer (Inclusion) HRHelen

“We all know that our impact on the environment is causing incredible damage to the world and its balance, and I’ve never felt like humans should treat Earth as something they can use, rather, it is something we should work with and protect. 

I try to choose loose fruit and vegetables where possible. I also grow a lot of my own fruit and veg in my allotment and garden. I’ve switched to a washable make-up remover cloth, instead of wipes, and reduced how much make-up I wear. I use a safety razor, instead of disposable plastic ones. I try to buy products in paper, card or glass rather than plastic. I also use shampoo and conditioner bars, bar soap and a solid deodorant. I’ve had one roll of cling film for about five years… and that came from someone else! I just use containers, or plates on top of things when microwaving, instead.  

By making these changes I feel I’m living more to a lifestyle that matches my values. There’s also a bit more community feel; having an allotment, getting involved in litter picks in the area, and going to smaller, local stores (like my local zero-waste store) regularly.”  


Paddy holding reuseable drinking vessels.Paddy Uglow, Digital Learning Materials Assistant Developer, Digital Education Office 

“I want to reduce my waste to make the world a liveable place for a little longer than it would be otherwise. Also I think I’ve always felt a wrongness with unnecessary waste of all kinds – whether material, effort, energy, time…  

I buy most of my dry goods in my own refillable containers. I reuse bath water to flush the toilet and have reduced toilet roll use. I use a heated blanket rather than heating the room. I grow more and store it in a freezer. I take any unusable plastic bags to the supermarket recycling point. I try to choose products with less single-use plastic and rarely buy any foods that come in single-use tins, cans or jars. Just recently I’ve managed to do nearly zero-waste camping; camping seems to generate so much waste, which really jars with being “in nature”. I have a 1.5L cold “bath” each day and rarely have hot baths or showers. 

The biggest challenge for me is cutting back on ready meals and ingredients that come in single-use packaging, but batch-cooking with my partner is a fun alternative. And I like the staff at our nearest scoop shop, so trips there are enjoyable. 

My tip to others is to be aware of anything single-use you use and see if there’s an alternative. Be suspicious of people suggesting you need to buy some kind of “green” product to be eco-friendly – do you really need a special reusable plastic cup? Just take along a normal cup, or even STOP at a café rather than dashing around with a cup of coffee!” 


Gemma Windle, Systems Manager, Development and Alumni Relations Office Gemma

 “I think really hard about what I buy and whether there is a reasonable less wasteful alternative. The easy wins are refillable cleaning products and toiletries and reusing packaging (such as jars and resealable bags). The introduction of a ‘soft plastic’ recycling bin at my local supermarket also helps me reduce my impact. 

Food is the biggest challenge. There is a zero-waste shop near me, but it’s price matched to Tesco, not Aldi/Lidl, it has very limited choice and limited opening hours. As much as I want to go plastic free, the zero-waste shop isn’t a realistic solution for me, so I end up buying a lot of food in plastic packaging and recycling it. 

One thing I’ve noticed is I hardly ever have to take the bin out. And because my loo roll, cleaning products and toiletries all arrive by post it makes the weekly shop a lot easier to do on foot. 

I wish the companies were made to be more responsible for the waste they produce. It shouldn’t be legal to create something with no thought for where it goes when it’s no longer useful.  

It’s important to remember paper and cardboard has a carbon footprint too, so always opt for reusable where you can. It’s not just about plastic!” 


Sai PriyaDr. Sai Priya Munagala, Research Associate 

“Wherever possible, I have stopped buying things sold in single use plastic in favour of the loose produce – in the amounts that I need. For other purchases, I make sure to check if the plastic packaging is recyclable. I work in a laboratory set up and try to economise the consumables’ usage and actively encourage others to do so. 

Despite the urge to reduce waste, a few things are impossible to get without generating waste. Sometimes, it gets really heavy on the pocket to practice the more sustainable way as shops charge quite a lot to buy packaging-free products.  

It definitely involves extra effort and time, but I feel that maybe my bit would be helpful in making this planet a better place. People comment that ‘one individual’s changes are not going to affect anything’, to which I strongly disagree. If everyone argued against the comment, I’m sure that massive positive changes can be brought.” 


Want to know more about the sustainable choices you can make to produce better outcomes for the environment? Read more on the Be the Change webpage. 


Be the Change | Challenge yourself to save water and energy 

Be the Change is a University-wide campaign to empower staff and students to make more sustainable choices. It centres around six themes: food, fashion, travel, electronics, energy & water, and action. This May we’re looking at how we can challenge ourselves to save water and energy both across campus and at home. Read on to hear from the University’s Energy Analysis Sustainability Manager and Interim Head of Sustainability, Dr John Brenton, on how he’s making savings at home. 

“As you might expect, the topic of energy features quite strongly in the Brenton house. I remember my kids looking through my phone when they were young and saying “It’s always just full of gas meters!” and now I get those ‘memories’ prompts from my phone asking if I’d like a canvas print of a photo of a meter from somewhere around the University. 

Like most other households, we’ve been trying to cut down on what we use. There are four of us (my wife and I plus our two children, aged 20 and 15) sharing our 1970s house. These are some of the things we’ve been trying: 

  • We use the oven less. When the oven goes on, we try and make sure several things are in together. We’ve bought a multi-cooker/air-frier and they are very efficient (as are microwaves) – the downside is we eat more chips, but the upside is… we eat more chips! We try to keep lids on pans when we are simmering things, and boil water for vegetables in a kettle rather than on our induction hob. 
  • We keep thermostats on radiators in our bedrooms low. We tend to keep the living room and kitchen at about 18-19C, but if we feel cold we turn them up for an hour. 
  • We use the four-minute shower timers the Sustainability Team distributed earlier in the year.  
  • We put “hippos” in the cisterns of the toilets too to save water when flushing, and have two water butts to provide water for the garden in summer. Looking at our bills, we’ve managed to to get our water use down to 60m3 a year. 
  • We use our curtains to help control temperature. In the winter, we close curtains as soon as it gets dark to help trap in the heat. In summer, closing curtains can help keep a room cool during the day. 
  • We’ve turned down the flow temperature on our condensing boiler. 

Compared with last year, which was a much warmer winter, we’ve used about 7% less gas and 20% less electricity, totalling 6,150 kWh and 2,000 kWh respectively. An average Bristol house will use something like 10,000 kWh gas and 2,900 kWh electric, so I’m pretty pleased with our savings”.  

To find out your annual consumption check your bill (or energy monitor, if you have one). Could you challenge your household to save water and energy? Sign up to the challenge on the Be the Change website 

Be the Change | Sarah Rogers: ‘Taking action in my local community’

Sarah Rogers

This month, our ‘Be the Change’ campaign theme is ‘action’. We’re encouraging staff and students to challenge themselves to make a positive contribution by volunteering, recycling, growing plants, composting and raising awareness. All action, however big or small, can change the future of the world we live in.  

We caught up with Sarah Rogers, Project Coordinator within the University’s Public Engagement team, to find out about her inspiring journey to setup a community garden in her local community.  

 “My friend Becca and I met at a playgroup, and we kept discussing how there very little free provision of activities in the local area to take our children to. We decided to attend a large local event and asked people what they wanted and where – so we knew a community garden with regular activities for children and old people would be popular. Then we supported each other to take it forwards,” Sarah explained.  

“We started Hillfields Community Garden right in the middle of the pandemic. The focus is improving local nature, connecting people to reduce isolation and supporting people in poverty with free healthy meals. We had some funding from a local organisation that gave us an unconditional grant, which covered raised beds, plants and tools. We set about flyering and put up posters, and attracted other likeminded people. For a long time all we had to organise ourselves was a WhatsApp group!” 

The area of Hillfields, Fishponds, was built around 1920 and was one of first council estates in the UK and the world designed as part of the ‘Homes for Heroes’ initiatives.  

“The whole ethos was around ‘dig for victory’, so every home was designed with a substantial garden so everyone had an allotment,” Sarah described. “Over the course of a century, I think people have forgotten how to grow – we’ve got Monty Don and RHS that replaced the ‘everyday’ style gardening. I reject this  –  I’m an everyday, indiscriminate gardener – all plants get same attention and I see what happens! The thing I like most about gardening is it starts afresh every year, you can learn and try again.”  

In 2021 we held 22 events and groups which were attended by 580 people, last year we expanded to three community events per year, four regular monthly groups, and 25 volunteers, 27 activities which were attended by 1,200 people! We are also now an Award Winning Garden and have been featured in local radio, by Bristol City Council and in a national magazine.  

Sarah enjoys bridging her work at the University with her work in the community, and believes they compliment each other well.  

“Last year I did the Female Leadership Initiative (FLi) with UoB Staff Development and it was one of the best things I’ve done in terms of supporting me within my leadership at work and outside work. The initiative has also benefited from working with the University in other ways, for example last year we linked up with Engaged Learning and three Business students [Emeli, Holly and Maria] who created a Business Plan . They recommended we become a charitable incorporated organisation, which we are now applying for. 

I’d encourage staff to use their volunteering day to work with grassroots projects like ours, not only “getting out there” but using their work-based skills to support local initiatives.”  

There are plenty of ways to find suitable volunteering opportunities. On Wednesday 8 February the SU is hosting a volunteering fair. You could also browse VOSCUR for opportunities. You should then have a conversation with your manager to agree a date.  

“Consider your volunteer day a trial to see if you like something and could continue to volunteer longer term. My top tip would be to look locally – what’s on your doorstep? Where you can invest time a few streets away? Passion but no skill is also ok, you’ll learn on the job.” 

For those looking to start something new, Sarah advises finding like-minded people to work with you and looking into the support available for startups through VOSCUR Voscur | Supporting Voluntary Action 

“Go and find your tribe – no one can do everything by themselves. It might mean putting an ad in a local shop or speaking to people at the school gate. It’s also important to set boundaries and agree the timescales you’ll work on something for as there is so much need. Look after yourself too, don’t burnout!”  

We wrapped up our conversation by discussing how rewarding working voluntarily can be both mentally and physically.  

“The biggest thing for me is the example I’m setting for my daughter, and how she see’s the work I’m doing,” Sarah ended.  

You can find out more about Sarah and her community work on her People Power Bristol video. This video  will be shown with other multimedia stories about social action at an event at Bristol City Hall on Saturday 25 March 2023. 

Community Garden
Hillfields Community Garden

Be the Change and save water, energy and money

Be the Change is the University’s new campaign to empower staff and students to make more sustainable choices. Be the Change features six challenges relating to food, fashion, travel, electronics, energy & water, and action. Each month highlights a theme and offers events and activities to engage people in related challenges.  

This month, we are asking you to challenge yourself to cut your energy and water consumption, save money and help the planet. Small changes like switching gadgets off at the socket, enjoying 4-minute showers and turning off taps when brushing your teeth can make a big difference.

What are some of the things we can do? 

Take shorter showers. The average time spent in the shower is around 7 minutes. By reducing your time in the shower, you use less energy, helping you to reduce your impact on the environment and saving you money. Take 4-minute showers using a shower timer – get your hands on one at any of the events this month! Each minute less could save you 10 litres of water. 

Use a washing up bowl. By turning off the taps and using a bowl to wash your dishes, you can save up to 9 litres of water a minute! 

Switch off standby. Preserve energy and save up to £65 per year by avoiding standby mode and switching your gadgets off at the socket. 

Use only what you need. Kettles are one of the most used appliances in the kitchen. Avoid overfilling the kettle and save water, energy and around £13 a year on your electricity bill.  

Wash clothes on as low temperature as possible. Washing clothes at 30 degrees rather than higher temperatures will save around 40% of the energy used each year.

Upcoming events

The University is hosting various events and activities relating to each Be the Change challenge and the University’s Sustainability Strategy. This month’s events include: 

  • How Bad Are Bananas? – Wed 9 November, Wed 23 November – ALL DAY, Senate House
    Learn more about the carbon footprint of groceries and everyday items at this pop-up game. We’ll also be giving away vegan, Fairtrade chocolates to every player. No need to sign-up – come along and get involved! 
  • Watt’s Next? – The Journey to Net Zero Energy – Tues 15 November, 4-5pm, Wills Memorial Building: Old Council Chamber
    A talk covering the reduction of carbon across the University of Bristol with Chris Jones (Sustainability Manager – Energy) and Dr John Brenton (Sustainability Manager – Analysis). For more information and to register for free tickets, visit Eventbrite. 
  • Be the Change X Hedgehog Friendly Campus Litter PickWed 30 Nov, 1.30pm, starting at Senate House
    In collaboration with the University of Bristol Estates Team and Hedgehog Friendly Campus, the Sustainability team are hosting our first litter pick of the academic year. Attendees will be provided with litter picking gear and safety equipment. For more information and to register, visit Eventbrite. 
  • Every Drip Every Drop: Preserving Water for Generations to Come – Tues 29 November, 4-5pm, Online
    Bristol Water will discuss the strategy for reducing water wastage across the city and share tips on how you can save water (and money!) at home. For more information and to register visit Eventbrite. 

To find out more and set yourself a challenge visit Be the Change University webpage. You can also join the Be the Change community group on Yammer. 


Challenge yourself to change the future – Be the Change

Could you enjoy a four-minute shower? Could you refresh your wardrobe with only second-hand clothes? Could you move to a plant-based diet? These are some of the challenges the University is encouraging its staff and students to have a go at through its new campaign, ‘Be the Change’. 

The University of Bristol takes sustainability and its response to the climate and ecological crisis extremely seriously, and in 2019 we were the first UK university to declare a climate emergency. To evolve into a zero-carbon campus, we need all staff and students on board, which is why we’re supporting schools, departments and individuals to be more sustainable through our policies, Climate Action Plans and ‘Be the Change’. 

Individual choices can impact change 

Be the Change is based on evidence that the individual choices people make have a significant impact on our chances of limiting climate change to 1.5°C. Staff and students can have a go at a number of challenges relating to food, fashion, electricals, energy and water consumption, travel and action. 

The University will focus on a single challenge each month and promote activities and events that educate and engage people with that theme. Whether someone chooses to have a go at all six challenges for a month or take on one for a year, the key is to try. By making more sustainable choices, both on and off campus, we can make a positive difference to the future of our planet. 

What’s the main aim of the campaign? 

The aim of the campaign is to empower staff and students with tangible things that they can each do to make a difference. We hear from people across campus that they feel strongly about the climate emergency but they feel powerless or don’t know where to start. The campaign is intended to help people better understand the impact of consumerist lifestyles and the opportunity they have to create a more sustainable future for the planet. 

Evidence for change 

Be the Change is based on evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and independent research ‘The Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5°C World‘. 

The ‘Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5°C World’ report defines the necessary emissions reductions needed between now and 2030 and 2050. The analysis then explores key areas and sectors where leaders, businesses and citizens can take rapid action to deliver these emissions reductions. It remains true that governments and businesses must focus on decarbonising electricity and implementing policy to drive down emissions, but individuals and communities also hold the potential to make significant reductions. 

The latest report by the IPCC states that shifting consumption patterns, for example towards cleaner forms of transport or more plant-based foods, could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 40-70% by 2050. The campaign is inspired by high-profile behaviour change campaigns including grassroots project, The JUMP, and The UN Campaign for Individual Action, ‘Act Now’. It’s been developed with the University’s staff and students, with an awareness of significance to our wider community who may engage through seeing content online. 

Who’s behind the campaign? 

The campaign is led by the University’s Sustainability Department, sponsored by Philip Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and supported by the wider University and the Students’ Union. 

To find out more and set yourself a challenge visit Be the Change University webpage. You can also join the Be the Change community group on Yammer. 

Sustainability achievements in 2021

As a University, we’re committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2030. We’re on a challenging but exciting journey to transform our estate into a beacon of environmental sustainability. 

While we still have a long way to go, it’s important to celebrate the wins along the way and keep everyone up-to-date with the progress being made. Here are just some of our sustainability achievements from the past 12 months: 

1.Upgraded our Energy Management System 

To help us understand and improve energy usage around the campus, we upgraded our Building Energy Management System. These smart control systems help us understand the impact of environmental conditions on different buildings and see where we’re overconsuming, particularly in laboratories and our larger halls of residence.  

2. Helped over 100 staff to buy a new bike  

We launched a new Cycle to Work Scheme in April, offering a wider range of bikes including e-bikes. The increased scheme limit of £2,500 can be used at Halfords, Tredz, and participating independent bike shops, helping even more staff buy a bike to travel to work sustainably.  

3. Secured investment for an electric fleet 

In May, the University allocated a £235,000 investment for new electric vehicles and e-cargo bikes for campus transport operations and electric pool bikes for staff business travel. Once in place, this new electric fleet will improve efficiency and environmental performance in transport operations, helping us align with Bristol’s planned Clean Air Zone, as well as our net-zero target.  

4. Became a Fairtrade University 

The University became a Fairtrade University in June, recognising the work done to embed ethical and sustainable practices in our curriculum, procurement, research and campaigns.    

5. Donated 12.5 tonnes of food to local charities 

In June the University also won a three-star Zero Waste award representing several years of hard work from the University’s catering and sustainability teams. In the last 12 months we donated 12.5 tonnes of food from across the University and Students Union to local charities through the Trussell Trust and FareShare South West, supporting those living in food poverty and reducing methane caused by food waste. 

6. Became the first university in the world to gain 100% Green Lab Certification 

All of the University’s 990 laboratories gained at least a bronze certification in the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF). Hundreds of staff within the STEM community were involved in implementing actions to improve energy efficiency, waste management, sustainable procurement and research quality.   

7. Recycled 14 tonnes of student items through the Bristol Big Give 

Our end-of-term re-use scheme in student accommodation, The Bristol Big Give, reused over 14 tonnes of materials and generated up to £24,000 for local charities, diverting countless unwanted items from landfill and supporting the circular economy.  

8. Installed 80 new recycling facilities 

Over the Summer we partnered with Reworked UK to install over 80 internal recycling facilities for even more single use plastic items including crisp packets, confectionary wrappers, single use non-hazardous PPE such as face masks and Lateral Flow Test kits.  

9. Saved nearly £0.5m through Sustainable Science & Green Labs initiatives 

STEM Laboratories at the University of Bristol account for 40% of our energy and waste budget as well as 32% of our annual water bill, but only occupy 6% of our space. The Sustainable Science & Green Labs initiative in 2020/21 helped make savings of nearly half a million pounds, through energy, water, waste, behaviour change and procurement projects. 

10. Joined IEMA as corporate members  

We’ve taken out corporate membership and gone through a rigorous process to become an Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) approved training centre so we can deliver sustainability skills for managers courses for staff. In addition, 45 students benefitted from free membership for the month of November, giving them access to events, learning resources and networking opportunities.  

11. Reused nearly 8 tonnes of furniture  

We collected and reused furniture from around the campus, with 80% repurposed within the University and the rest going to local schools, and charities such as SOFA Project. This saved the University £43,800 on buying new furniture and 13 tonnes of carbon it would’ve taken to manufacture new items. 

12. Introduced Climate Action Plans 

Each school and Division have been asked to write a plan and to nominate a contact for the University Sustainability team to work with in writing the plans. To date, about 70% of departments have nominated a coordinator, with 50% starting a plan and 25% moving onto implementing actions. We’re currently recruiting a CAP Officer to support with the rollout in the new year.  

On the heels of COP26, engagement and conversation around the topic of sustainability is at an all-time high. Now more than ever we need to work together to build momentum and continue creating change across the University.  

On a smaller scale, you can start to make a positive impact today by joining the 1,800 staff and students taking part in Be the Change. Register here to complete carbon saving activities and start earning points to be in with a chance of winning one of many £10 vouchers up for grabs each month.