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What you can do to be more sustainable

Here's some things you can do to live more sustainably.

From giving a little extra consideration to how you dispose of your waste, do your shopping or get around campus, to getting more involved and joining societies or initiatives across campus and the local area, every step you take towards being more sustainable is a positive one.

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1. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Recycling and waste

2. Travel more sustainably

  • Live or work at Uni? Use the cycle pool to borrow bikes
  • Pick up a subsidised staff or student bus pass
  • Save up to 42% on purchasing a bike with our Cycyletowork staff salary exchange scheme
  • Join our car club scheme to access reduced price parking and vehicles for occasional use
  • Receive cycle training and cashback from our Transport Team

Sustainable travel

3. Shop more sustainably

There are many ways you can implement sustainable measures into your shopping routine; from bringing your own bags, to buying local or sustainably labelled products and purchasing items made from recycled materials, or reused goods from second hand stores.

  • Scoop is a student run co-operative providing organic, exploitation-free and local produce at affordable prices
  • Swap Shop is a Facebook page that allows members to post unwanted items that can be swapped/sold to other students.
  • Look out for our new scheme aimed at reducing food waste and saving you money
  • Staff members on Slack can join our recycle-chat group

4. Try a student society

We have a variety of student run societies who are always looking for sustainably minded members to join their meetings and events.

Each college also has their own Environment and Ethics Reps, responsible for creating environmental projects in the college, raising environmental issues with university management, overseeing recycling and other green initiatives.

Green student societies

5. Embrace One Planet Living 

  • One Planet Week runs every year during Week 6 of Spring Term to celebrate sustainability, promote awareness and share knowledge with staff, students and the general public
  • Each year a One Planet Living Principal is chosen to provide the focus for social events, seminars and workshops run for the week
  • Catch up with some of the talks on our YouTube Channel

One Planet Week

6. Take climate action with Student Switch Off

Student Switch Off is an international campaign encouraging student action on climate change. Its focus is an energy saving, recycling and student engagement competition. There are individual competitions throughout the year and Colleges also compete for cash prizes to spend on student-related activity.


Student Switch Off is a sustainability campaign running between the colleges. Our aim is to encourage & empower residents in the college accommodation, as well as those living off-campus, to make more sustainable choices – giving you tips to help with saving energy, saving water and recycling properly.

It’s a practical, fun way to start thinking about how our everyday actions contribute towards taking action on the climate crisis. SSO also provides a foundation of energy literacy that you can use in your private accommodation, so you can save money on energy bills in the future.

Here are some examples of things you can do:

  • Wear warm clothing in winter and turn down your radiator
  • Turn off lights that aren't in use
  • Only boil as much water as you need
  • Put a lid on the saucepan when cooking
  • And any other activity which reduces the amount of energy you use!

The college that saves the most energy and recycles the best over the year will win a cash prize so it encourages friendly competition between the colleges, for a good cause. Everyone can get involved in SSO, right from the first day you start at York – it’s an inclusive and safe activity that adds to the sense of college community and working towards a shared goal.

On top of that, we also run regular online competitions, released on social media and email, with individual prizes for getting involved in our sustainability-themed activities. Our first competition is running until 18th October for students to win £50 or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (enter here:

You can also register (up to 20th October 2020) to become a volunteer for your college.

Find out more by getting in touch:

7. Join the Green Impact Scheme

Green Impact is an environmental accreditation programme that recognises and rewards staff members’ sustainable actions at work. 

  • Students can get involved by working as a Green Impact Auditor and receive IEMA approved training. You'll visit participating departments and review the actions they have implemented.
  • We also have roles available as Green Impact Project Assistants, where can you take part in a day-long training course and then work with a staff Green Impact team over the course of the year.

Green impact

8. Join the GreenSTEMS

GreenSTEMS is a sustainable science group open to students, researchers and staff who are interested in sustainability. It's aimed at scientists, from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to social sciences.

GreenSTEMS organises informative and social events for the University of York and the general public, including themed social seminars/mini-conferences, showcasing research by early career scientists in York and beyond. If you’re interested in helping to organise an event or outreach programme, get in touch at

9. Do some citizen science

Interested in wildlife? Why not do your bit for citizen science and record your campus wildlife sightings? Be it ducks or ladybirds, plants or lichens, we want to know!

Not only will it help with wildlife conservation on campus, but it could also be used in local and national conservation research and policy-making! Submit your records at

10 .Volunteer for a group or charity

  • The University Community Fund offers £500 - £5,000 for students or staff to develop their own volunteering projects


  • You can help with filling bellies not bins by volunteering with Yourcafe and reduce waste by turning food surplus into meals served at their community cafe
  • YUSU's eco volunteers work takes them to a number of beautiful locations dotted around the North Yorkshire countryside
  • Volunteering at St Nicks is a great way to meet new friends, learn new skills and gain experience in a competitive sector
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Trust relies on volunteers to run. Opportunities range from office work to practical conservation

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Sustainability at York
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