As a first year Geography student, it comes as no surprise that the environment and sustainability are topics of interest to me. I have always loved nature and have made eco-conscious decisions, such as not eating meat. As a student in particular, there is real emphasis on how our generation has been tasked with the responsibility of ‘fixing’ the environmental disaster left by previous generations. With the climate crisis bearing down upon us regardless of our perspectives or views on the environment, it is everyone’s responsibility – not just Geography students – to make small changes in their lives to mitigate against our impact on the planet as humans.
How is Manchester becoming more sustainable?
In 2020, Greater Manchester set itself the target to be a zero carbon city by 2038 – twelve years ahead of the UK Government’s target to be a carbon neutral nation by 2050. This ambitious sustainability goal to make Manchester a cleaner, greener city, has been taken under the wing of several organisations who are actively promoting environmentally conscious initiatives in and around the city.
Manchester University, which prides itself in being ranked global #1 for its collective action based on the United Nations’ 2015 Sustainable Development Goals, has recently announced its ‘50,000 Actions’ scheme (based on its combined 50,000 students and faculty members). The self-proclaimed ‘biggest environmental sustainability initiative in the higher education sector’ challenges students and staff to embark upon small routine actions to live more sustainably, such as eating less meat, shopping locally or cycling to campus. As a fledgling project, the impact of this grandiose initiative is yet to be felt – but it is clear that the goal is not to reform the city into carbon neutral overnight, but to moot ideas and get the ball rolling for those who don’t necessarily consider the environment at the forefront of their minds during their daily activities.
What can I do?
You may have seen new bicycle depots popping up along Oxford Road over the last few weeks. These are great, affordable ways to get to and from campus, particularly late at night when Ubers are expensive and buses aren’t running. The cycle lanes along Oxford Road were built in 2015 and have been instrumental in encouraging students and staff to cycle to campus every day. I do!
There are some amazing eco-shops along Oxford Road. ‘Want Not Waste‘, sandwiched between Manchester Academy and the Student Union building, is a great place to recycle toothpaste tubes, cartons and pill packets, buy recycled paper toilet rolls, fill up shampoo bottles and bulk buy things like pasta. Similarly, The Eighth Day shop and cafe further down Oxford Road is an amazing vegan/vegetarian grocery store on the ground floor, with a delicious plant-based cafe downstairs. Just around the corner in Hatch, ‘Herbivorous’ is a superb place to order vegan food (their Vegan Philly Cheesesteak with Loaded Fries is a strong recommendation from me).
Visit the 50,000 Actions website on the Manchester University page for more ideas on small individual actions, which together can add up and lead to real change for a more sustainable future at Manchester University. Also take a look at some of the blogs by my fellow student-made contributor, Laura has written about eating sustainably, sustainable fashion as well as how to be a sustainable student.
Who else is getting involved?
Common Purpose is another organisation who have taken this zero carbon by 2038 goal to heart. They recently ran a programme for young people interested in sustainability and leadership called GM100, entailing four days of intensive Zoom workshops with a diverse range of individuals across Greater Manchester, brainstorming ideas for new sustainable projects and listening to keynotes and Q&A sessions with some of the city’s leading green thinkers, aptly taking place only a few weeks before COP26. As a participant of the programme myself, I found it to be a highly insightful and productive four days: my team came up with the idea of a sustainable development levy which could be introduced into construction projects around Greater Manchester, creating an incentive for development firms to invest in building more low-carbon houses, thus future-proofing them for the net zero target in 17 years. We were made aware of a similar scheme already in place in Milton Keynes; evidently we were on the right lines!
With these initiatives chipping away at the gargantuan task of eliminating all of Manchester’s emissions by 2038 comes gradual progress in a sustainable snowball effect, gathering momentum and gaining traction city-wide. With a new cohort of GM100 alumni out making positive change in the world, perhaps the seemingly far-fetched targets are somewhat more tangible than they first appear?