Going Green: Universities And Sustainability


Experts say that climate change remains the biggest threat to our way of life. Just 11 years remain until damage caused by climate change becomes irreversible. Knowing this, many universities have taken steps to go green within their establishments.

Green Universities

To tackle climate change, measures are extensive, with universities like Bristol pledging to go carbon neutral by 2030.

Bristol was the first university to declare a ‘climate emergency’ in 2019 following student concerns about their contribution to climate change. The university managed to cut carbon emissions by 27 per cent in a year. Their initiatives include recycling over 95 per cent of waste and reconstructing campus buildings with sustainability in mind. Buildings now feature solar panels, natural ventilation systems and LED lights.

Other universities implemented green measures too and so People and Planet compiled a league table in 2019 of the most sustainable universities. University of Gloucestershire featured at the top of the sustainability table with a rating of 80.6% followed by Manchester Metropolitan University with 79.9% and the University of Nottingham with 75.2%.

Student Fronted Action

However, not every university scores as highly on sustainability. The University of Essex placed 44th on the People and Planet league table for Sustainability in 2019. As a result, some students have taken matters into their own hands.

James Field and a group of graduates from the university have done exactly this, forming their own sustainable business called CUSP (Community Umbrella for Sustainable Practice). CUSP works with small businesses in Essex to provide them with cheaper sustainable packaging. They offer coffee cups and takeaway boxes at decreased prices. 

Mr Field said he attended events at the UN in Canada on his year abroad which inspired him to tackle climate change. Speaking about setting up CUSP, he remarked how “I thought ok let’s build something here in the UK where we can work on climate change because then at least if we all work on climate change we will have benefits here for the other people in the world.”


The start up was launched in September after months of negotiating agreements with packaging suppliers on discounts for small businesses and securing partnerships with places.

CUSP now has 10 small Essex businesses on board and over 30 have expressed interest in being part of the scheme. Businesses including Timbers Restaurant, Café 21, Helen’s Café on the Green and the Eat Inn Diner signed up.

Mr Field is proud that CUSP is able to provide a much cheaper alternative to what is out there, sustainable packaging wise. He said: “We have managed to reduce the price from suppliers. Up to 30% on coffee cups. 10% on hot food packaging.”

Going Global

The success of the start up has seen Mr Field invited to the Peace Summit in Turkey this  month as CEO of CUSP.

Mr Field said: “It brings our members to more of a global stage as well. We are trying to situate local within the global so that they can feel like they are part of the wider world.”

CUSP has spoken to the university about partnering with some of their cafes on campus. Mr Field said the university itself is not taking steps to go green but believes that CUSP and the university can work together and learn from each other.

Mr Field hopes that the business will continue to grow and that over the next few years the team will be able to expand outside of Europe and have a small branch in Myanmar. He would like CUSP to be working with a few hundred businesses and be more of a framework for businesses themselves to take the podium and provide leadership.

Mr Field added that he and his team are part of a generation whom he says are very involved and concerned with climate change, stating that “I mean Greta Thunberg leads Friday’s future movement and that has taken off obviously. You have then got our generation who still know about what is going on and they are trying to find other ways of dealing with it.”

CUSP are offering a free membership to small businesses because of COVID-19 and would love any new small businesses to check out their website and their Instagram.

Words by Olivia Devereux-Evans

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