This feature was originally published in our 2018/19 print edition (March 29).
3.5 Earth’s Needed for Student Lifestyle
By Anna Scott, News Editor
2019 is marching on and so far a singular egg on Instagram has received more attention than the fight against climate change. School children are striking, David Attenborough is speaking at the UN climate summit and plastic straws have become public enemy number one. While these are all fantastic steps in the right direction, it is not enough. In Western societies our ecological footprints are still sky high, as we move ever closer towards a scenario of changing temperatures and rising sea levels.
As students, we are not inconsequential to climate change. It is easy to forget volume of resources needed to maintain our current lifestyles. Using the excellent online footprint calculator, it is easy to see that 3.5 earth’s would be needed to support the world’s population if everyone lived like the average UK student.
To make this calculation, it was assumed that the average student:
- Eats meat 3 times a week
- Consumes diary or eggs almost everyday
- Buys 85% of their food in packaging
- The majority of food shopping is not produced locally
- Does not use a car or moped
- Travels by public transport several times a week
- Lives in a 4-6 person house
- Produces an average amount of waste
- Takes one return flight a year, to a European destination
If this sounds like you, then 15th April 2019 will be your personal Earth Overshoot Day. This is a calculated date, upon which a person’s yearly levels of consumption will overtake the Earth’s ability to regenerate these resources. If this average student lifestyle was consistent around the globe, anything used beyond this point would be beyond the earth’s capacity.
The priority must be to reduce our ecological footprints. Every choice we make counts. So take the first step and calculate your personal ecological footprint online. Found that your footprint is the size of a yetis? Here are 8 actions you can implement in 2019 to push back Earth Overshoot Day and reduce the impact of our lifestyles on the planet.
Eat less animal products
Let’s start with the most obvious. As many of us are increasingly aware, the single biggest change we can make to become more environmentally friendly is to reduce the amount of meat, dairy and eggs that we consume. Whether you have watched Cowspiracy, researched the topic or had a chat with a particularly passionate friend, then the facts are clear. The livestock industry is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. A 2014 report by Chartham House stated that;
“It is unlikely that global temperature rises can be kept below two degrees Celcius in the absence of a radical shift in meat and dairy consumption”
The shift is already beginning. The number of participants in Veganuary hit 168,500 in 2018, compared with a mere 3,300 in 2014. The vegan society state that demand for meat-free products has increased by a staggering 987% in 2017. This could be due in part to the growing ‘reducetarian’ movement, as many people are now choosing to dramatically lower their meat intake without defining themselves as vegetarian or vegan. Plant-based food products are rapidly becoming mainstream so now is your chance to take advantage. Whether you are giving veganism a go, or cutting down your meat intake to only once a week, it is clear there has never been an easier time to do so.
Don’t upgrade until it is unavoidable
Technology develops so fast that today. Even a low-end smartphone has more computing power than was used by NASA to get a man on the moon. These constantly evolving features make it ever more tempting to upgrade your phone to the latest model. Unfortunately smartphones are very resource rich. A group of rapidly dwindling elements, the rare earth metals, are used in all manner of high tech devices. Phones, computers, televisions and cameras all use the rare earth metals in order to display such vivid colours on screen. Reserves are hard to estimate, but it is thought that the rare earth elements could run out within the next 20 years.
As students we can help this situation by wearing out our devices before we replace them. It would be unrealistic to suggest that we stop buying technology entirely but we can ensure that we get the maximum amount of use out of each item. You could negotiate a monthly tariff after you pay off your phone. This will simultaneously save you money and reduce demand for resource rich smartphones.
Become an Ebay expert
It is undeniably easy to be lured into Liverpool One. But the overwhelming truth is that we buy too many clothes at a far too cheap price. The heart-breaking documentary, The True Cost (2015) sheds light on the current clothing crisis (and is incidentally well-worth a watch).
Growing cotton to produce our clothes uses a phenomenal amount of water. In fact a singular, cotton T-shirt requires a staggering 2,700 litres of water. The problem is magnified as we now buy more clothes than ever before. According to The True Cost, globally we acquire 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year.
To reduce of fashion-induced ecological footprint, we could transfer our shopping habits to the delightful world of second-hand clothes. Ebay is brimming with bargains while Depop is full of funky finds just waiting to be snapped up by a fashion-conscious ecowarrior like you!
Travel by coach or train
In 1995 EasyJet declared that their goal was to make flying ‘as affordable as a pair of jeans’. In the short term, this seems great. We can reach sunnier climates with minimal saving up. In the long term the massive increase in flights is terrible for our planet. Simply by removing that one return flight from the average student life, the estimated Earth Overshoot Day is pushed back to June 10th.
Coach companies, such as Flixbus, offer affordable travel between European destinations. For instance you can travel from Berlin to Budapest for the savvy price of £30. While you might have to mentally prepare yourself for a longer journey, at least you get to enjoy the scenery. Plus these coaches have excellent Wi-Fi which you can utilise with your trusty, un-upgraded phone for the whole journey.
Vote with your money
In a world where the influence of big business is becoming ever stronger, conscious spending becomes a political act. As consumers we have the power to choose which companies we support. Don’t like the fact that Starbucks don’t pay tax? Then don’t give them your money! Find the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh abhorrent? Then don’t add to Primark’s profits!
Clean up your act
For the women amongst us, there are two significant alterations we can make to our toiletry habits. The reality is that throughout your life, you use roughly 11,000 sanitary products, most of which end up in the ocean or landfill. This is why it is a great idea to switch to a MoonCup. A MoonCup lasts for years and needs changing far less often than regular sanitary products. This means you can enjoy your night out hassle free while simultaneously cutting down your plastic consumption.
Ever wondered where your cotton pads and make up wipes end up? According to the Independent, most wipes take a shocking 100 years to breakdown in landfill. Instead you could take things old-school and remove your makeup with a flannel and soap.
Develop a hatred of plastic
While it is true that we won’t save the planet with a sustainable coffee cup, we must remember that every piece of plastic we decide not to consume is one less item in landfill. So make 2019 the year you invest in that metal water bottle or bamboo toothbrush you have been putting off buying. While you’re at it, why not fully commit with a whole reusable lunch set and be the envy of all your friends!
If you inwardly sigh whenever you buy food wrapped in plastic, there are some shops around Liverpool that could transform your shopping experience. T.A.K supermarket in Smithdown is a haven for plastic free vegetables. Alternatively there are a couple of shops on Bold Street which are great for those cutting down on packaging. For instance LIV Café has dry ingredients like lentils and pasta which you can buy in your own containers. Sadly this option might be best reserved for when your student loan first arrives!
Spread the word
Finally let’s get talking about pushing back our Earth Overshoot Days. Your mates probably have all sorts of clever ways of being more environmentally aware, so now is the time to pool your knowledge. However small scale our actions may seem, it is important to remember that all our choices matter. Let’s make 2019 our most frugal year to date.
Getting Involved in Climate Action at Uni
By Albert Toth, Editor-in-Chief
There’s loads of really effective ways you can help save the planet starting right here in Liverpool. You’ll often hear of the merits of recycling, reducing water use, driving less, and so on. While small individual changes like these will collectively make a big difference, they will only get us so far. Fact is, climate change, like many of the world’s problems, is resultant of the greed of the rich and powerful, with just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions (Carbon Majors Report 2017). It’s true, we do need to hold ourselves to account too. It is no longer viable to take the Earth’s natural resources for granted the way we have been for the past 100+ years. But first we need to hold to account those with the most power, tackling the problem from the top-down. There are a number of campaigns you can get involved with in the city.
The Guild’s ‘Fossil Free’ campaign calls for the university to divest from fossil fuels. You can sign the petition at www.liverpoolguild.org/fossilfree. For more information or to get involved email Guild Deputy President Hannah Nguyen.
If you’ve got more time to spare this year has also seen the People and Planet society form at the Guild, which you can join here: liverpoolguild.org/groups/people-and-planet-29e5. Back in November they conducted a banner drop from the Guild and have loads more campaigning events planned for next semester.
Another organisation you can get involved with is Extinction Rebellion, who utilise non-violent direct action across the country. At the start of the month they made national headlines by throwing buckets of ‘blood’ outside of Parliament to protest the government’s lack of action on climate change. The same week the Liverpool branch protested outside Town Hall before a council meeting. These actions are taken with the aim of having the government meet their ‘three demands’ to secure the future of our planet. Find out more at rebellion.earth.
Interview with Guild Deputy President Hannah Nguyen
By Anna Scott, News Editor
Deputy President of the Guild, Hannah Nguyen is the driving-force behind the student-led fossil fuel divestment campaign here at Liverpool. Hannah is due to resume the role for the 2019/20 academic year
The operation to make The University of Liverpool fossil free is of utmost importance to Hannah:
“Fossil Free is all about holding powerful fossil fuel companies to account for their decisive, leading role in catastrophic climate change”
Hannah breaks down the fundamental message behind the Fossil Free Campaign:
“This campaign is about delegitimising the fossil fuel industry, calling out their spin, and doing our part to stand up for vulnerable people around the world. We need to use our power as consumers and citizens to show these companies time is up for fossil fuels.”
Unlike many charities, Hannah connects the Fossil Free Campaign to the wider picture:
“For me this is an ethical and political issue, not just an environmental one. Climate change hurts most, those who contribute to it the least, like the 22 million people every year displaced by climate-related disasters, or people in countries like Bangladesh, which has the fastest recorded sea level rises but emits just 0.3% of global climate changing emissions!”
Hannah acknowledges that climate change can seem too great a challenge for us as students to tackle. But she firmly believes that the Fossil Free Campaign gives students the chance to make a tangible difference:
“It’s easy for us to think climate change is this big, abstract problem we can’t do anything about as individuals. But the global divestment movement has shown this isn’t the case.”
The figures paint a promising picture, showing the power of the divestment movement. Hannah states that:
“Grassroots activists all over the world have pressured over 1000+ public institutions to withdraw $7.93 trillion worth of investments!”
Hannah offers her opinion on the school strikes for climate action:
“The climate school strikes are impressive – it’s amazing to see a youth-led movement gain so much momentum in a few short months.”
She feels that the Guild’s Fossil Free campaign and the #FridaysforFuture movement are looking for the same end goal:
“Although the Guild’s campaign doesn’t directly tie into the #FridaysforFuture movement, we are ultimately fighting the same fight whether that’s by calling out world leaders on their inaction in tackling climate change or by challenging the institutions that invest in the fossil fuel industry.”
In her final message, Hannah reiterates the potential of student action as a vehicle for change:
“As students at the University of Liverpool we’re in a really unique and powerful position to get a multimillion-pound fossil fuel investor, our university, to change.”
This is a reminder to us all that we have a voice to challenge the decisions of our University and make a stand for fossil fuel divestment.