It is common knowledge now the impact of single use plastic on our environment with a staggering 8 million tonnes of plastic going to oceans each year and damaging marine life and environment. It is estimated that 7.7 billion single use plastic water bottles are used in the UK every year, a startling statistic when then linked to the fact that it takes over 450 years for the plastic to break down. Statistics such as those are unimaginable! With growing consumer awareness, we need to change and adopt more sustainable ways to ensure hydration of the world’s most basic commodity. Student and consumer demand is driving change, ask yourself are we as an industry responding quickly enough?
Sustainability and ethical credentials are a high priority for students and universities in the UK with universities and colleges ranked annually through the People and Planet Green League. The Green Scorecard Developed by AUDE, in conjunction with the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), is designed to be a comprehensive tool to help universities across the UK measure the aspects sustainability work they do, set targets and benchmark. EAUC play an active role in Higher and Further Education representing and supporting the sector with research, advocacy, case studies and highlighting good practice through the annual ‘Greengown awards’. Students are looking for universities that are progressive environmentally conscious organisations, in turn universities are trying to capitalise by using their ‘green credentials’ in their recruitment and marketing. However, campus sustainability is not just about recycling and energy efficiency hospitality and providers of campus services need to proactively take ownership in the reduction of single use plastic on campus.
Statistics show that 68% of 18-24 year olds own a reusable water bottle, young people are more committed than other generations to mitigate the effects of single use plastics. What does this mean for universities and businesses, how are they responding, what alternatives are in place and what alternative revenue streams are being found for what is a key revenue and margin point for universities and businesses?
Students are demanding solutions and many universities are listening by looking at alternatives to single use plastic, installing purified water points, providing a freshly filtered bottled water solution for hospitality and events and free tap water being readily available. Once purified – no-one can tell the difference! Chilled still or sparkling water is available at the touch of a button – no water miles, single use plastic or challenges over storage…
Many universities also provide free reusable water bottles to incoming fresher’s, and one university includes on their website a map of all water points available on campus. So the tide IS turning on the use of single use plastics on campus for students - our consumers and the future custodians of our planet, but we cannot afford to slow down or ignore the growing tsunami for sustainable water provision.
Julie Barker, Non Executive Director, CUBO
Julie is a two-time Catey winner for her contribution to sustainability policies as former Chair of TUCO and Director of Hospitality at Brighton University.