As the issue of climate change becomes direr by the day, the huge response to the September 20th March for Climate Change begs the question: How much work towards sustainability is our University doing?
Our planet balances on the verge of global catastrophe and it’s our futures, dreams, and lives which will suffer the repercussions. As easy as it proves to overlook the issue and hold the mindset that as such a small town–a tiny speck on a wider world–we have little effect, this is no longer the case. WE make all the difference. We get to be the people who take control of our planet and our futures.
After speaking with Lauren Davis–a student environmental advocate–it’s clear the University works hard to reach a more sustainable way forward. The University takes ownership of a social responsibility to its students and faculty, insuring that our opinions are heard and respected. The University understands the magnitude of its carbon footprint, and seeks out student input in order to achieve greater results. Our student environmental leaders relentlessly drive St Andrews to align itself with the Scottish Level and to continue as a role model for other UK universities.
St Andrews has decided to invest in a £3.75 million energy conservation overhaul to help reduce our carbon footprint by 950 tonnes, while saving £650,000 a year on operating costs. While this is a huge example of the University investing in our futures, these kinds of changes can’t always happen overnight. The small, everyday adjustments towards investing in our own futures are the ones which we not only have control over but which result in rapid action. The September 27th Climate Emergency Conference resulted from students and university representatives striving together for more solutions.
Members of St Andrews University such as the Sustainability Manager David Stutchfield, the Vice-Principal for Education Professor Clare Peddie, the University Chaplain Donald MacEwan, and the Association President Jamie Rodney all reinforced their commitment to fighting climate change. Student climate activist Léa Wiemann reported that the University is in the process of formulating goals for the Climate Emergency Declaration, following the Climate Action St Andrews petition.
Despite the efforts towards change, there is so much more to be done. The general student body knows too little about the environmental decisions being made on their behalf. Environmental groups work hard to influence and inform on University action and policies, yet so many students are not involved at all. In regard to climate action, the St Andrews Environmental Network is a perfect place to become aware and involved on the decisions effecting you as a student and member of this community.
Lauren also shared her support for the suggestion that the University enforce a policy of just online submissions of deadlines instead of additional, wasteful paper copies. The issue in this is that our student educational platform–Moodle–doesn’t work with Turnitin.com–a resource used by the University to check for plagiarism–and therefore limits the feedback students receive. This means in order for students to have quality feedback on their coursework, paper copies are necessary. From an educational standpoint using paper makes sense. Nevertheless, the hope for the future is that the University will find a solution to give worthwhile feedback without a vast waste of paper.
The debate on making Market Street car free has been ongoing for several years, with differing opinions from the town and the student body. While occasional car free days on Market Street seem promising, many factors must be considered in order to make this permanent. The effects on local businesses along with making disabled access to the street more difficult create barriers to this action. Discussions about a car free Market Street and the benefits to our environment will be continuing in order to create the best solution for everyone. While one street seems insignificant, because St Andrews is such a small town, it would make all the difference.
The University works hard to make essential changes, such as investing millions in energy conservation, but in order make an impactful dent in our current climate crisis we have to explore every possibility and go down every avenue. We must call on all students, not just those already involved, in order to continue to make real changes to the way we approach sustainability. Our future lies in our hands, we hold the cards and it is up to us to make the changes necessary to insuring our future.