YUSU And Environmental Initiatives: Have They Held Up Their Promises?

A year on from YUSU's declaration of a climate emergency, have changes been made?

On 27 September 2019, YUSU released a statement declaring a climate and ecological emergency, announcing that “we must do everything within our power to educate our members and fight this global climate and ecological emergency”. 

Promises were made to escalate current campaigns such as the NUS ‘Green Impact Scheme’, ensure union and society-run events prioritise sustainability, commit to carbon neutrality by 2030, and advocate for the ban of single-use plastics. 

Over a year has passed since these demands were published, but have YUSU made significant changes which highlight their commitment?

25 specialized recycling bins were introduced in a response to the increase of single-use cups due to the pandemic. Disposable cups are notorious for their short usage and over 30-year decomposition time. Although access to the YORCUP scheme has become available again, many students still choose to use a single-use cup and access to these bins could promote recycling. 

The launch of the online YUSU shop does create the impression that there will be an abundance of unnecessary packaging, taking hundreds of years to decompose would be a consequence. However, the packaging has been sourced from The Better Packaging Company. The labels, mailers, and satchels it comes in are all 100% compostable. The act of composting the packaging does involve it being placed in your food waste but the labels and bubble wrap need to be commercially composted. 

The continuation of the student-run co-operative Scoop, which provides organic, local produce with minimal packaging at affordable prices, demonstrates how students do have the opportunity to shop sustainably. The Environmental and Ethic Reps within each college, societies such as Envirosoc, and ‘One Planet Week’ all arguably encourage students to think about the environment and provide the opportunity to learn about ways to live in an environmentally friendly manner.

YUSU’s Environment and Ethics Officer Charlotte Ingrey commented that “Within the last YUSUggestions Forum, three of the 17 proposed ideas related to aspects of climate action and we have designated officers to take these forward as actions. YUSU will continue to work with commercial services to ensure more vegetarian and vegan options are available in Campus bars and has been in talks with the Sustainability department at the University to ensure minimum damage to the environment is caused by repairing the substation.”

It appears YUSU are considering and actively participating in promoting sustainability within York. Although even more emphasis on the environment by YUSU would be beneficial, the small steps they’ve made within the last year are encouraging. As time progresses hopefully we will see YUSU introduce even greater environmental schemes and ideas to create a university that is focused on climatal impact.