Life at UCB through the eyes of our student bloggers

Why we should be going round in circles

Why we should be going round in circles

I have recently joined a scheme called GLIDE. It was just another of those email invites and I had clicked the accept button without giving it a lot of thought. (No, that isn’t quite fair. The email was from Maddie Booth, and I thought anything from her was bound to be a good thing.)

Maddie is a former University of Warwick student who is an ECOpreneur, business founder and a sustainability consultant. She is also a programme director at Birmingham Enterprise Community. While a student, she developed the Warwick Cup, a reusable drinking mug to cut down on disposables, and then she went on to start her own business Scrubee, turning used coffee grounds into a cosmetic skin exfoliator. It would be great if University College Birmingham could recycle its used coffee grounds in the same way, especially as we have our own beauty school on site. And a UCB cup is a good way to cut waste too. Anyway, suffice to say, when you get an invite from Maddie, you take notice.

As I am now finding out, GLIDE is a free sustainability and circular economy course, held online over four weeks. We meet twice a week to hear guest speakers and then exchange ideas and experiences. I can’t really decide which is more inspiring. There are some really great people doing great things on a local basis and it does make you realise that we can all do our bit to combat climate change and that together we can make a difference.

I know not everyone would agree. Many feel powerless believing the task is so huge it can only be tackled by politicians and world leaders. But I believe in the butterfly effect, the idea that small changes can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variations. After all, if you don’t change things, nothing changes!

There are others who can’t be bothered because they feel it won’t affect them in their lifetime. Well, if this is you, you are in denial, living in cloud cuckoo land! Climate change is already causing extreme weather patterns, putting lives at risk and changing what we can grow and where we can grow it. Heatwaves, droughts, floods and wildfires are increasingly common and becoming a fact of life. Moreover, you are also missing a trick. Sustainability is a huge growth area and therefore there are numerous opportunities to explore. A casual search found 17,000 jobs currently being advertised in the sector and experts believe the total employed is set to quadruple from the current base of 500,000+. And as Maddie points out, sustainability advisors are in demand and pay levels are shooting up as more businesses seek to embed sustainable values because either they want to or their supply chains demand that they do. Furthermore, top talent is attracted to businesses that demonstrate sustainable credentials.

So, what is sustainability? Well, the most common definition comes from the 1987 Brundtland Commission report for the United Nations which defines it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

The most efficient way of doing that is creating a circular economy in which all resources are constantly re-used or repurposed. As one speaker said the other day, there is no such thing as throwing away because there is no “away”. Rubbish does not magically disappear and soon we will run out of space to accommodate it. But one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure and we need to value this waste as a resource rather than burying it. The goods of today need to become the resources of tomorrow, says the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Not convinced? Well, here’s a sobering thought and another stat from GLIDE: there is six times more gold in a tonne of mobile phones than in a tonne of gold ore. So, we need to design out waste and pollution and follow the example of firms such as Cradley Heath’s Paint 360 which manufactures and sells 60 per cent recycled paint.

And there is no better place to start than at home – here at University College Birmingham. As universities and colleges are being held to account for their practices, sustainability will be a duty, not a choice, and we should all be part of that conversation.

Photo: Pixabay



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