As Imperial College begins the third year of its Sustainability Strategy, its 105th place ranking in the People & Planet University League stands out. Felix speaks to Imperial College Union’s Ethics and Environment officer, Yuxi Liang, about her plans to improve this ranking.
Why does sustainability matter to you?
To me it means that what we have now, we can use for a long time and not have too much waste. I read in the news about an American girl who studied environmental science, and what was the waste in her life? In four years, only enough to ll a glass bottle. I think that set an example for me to reduce waste and recycle more things in my life.
What are Imperial College Union’s three most unsustainable aspects, and what are your plans to improve them?
1) The canteens.
We can use our own coffee cup to buy coffee, but we can’t use our own lunch boxes to buy our lunch. One thing I want to do is encourage students to buy lunch or dinner like how we buy coffee – we can bring our own lunch boxes. We will see if we can reduce the price of food on campus a little, because they then save on packaging costs. Another thing I want to see is if the canteen can give students different portion sizes – because for some, one plate of food is too much.
I want to promote the use of digital screens instead of paper – but this depends on how everyone feels, because I see a lot of students want to print lecture notes. I want to not only promote digitalisation, but let students know how much carbon they will reduce if they reduce printing. We also want to add more paper recycling bins and let everyone know like what kind of paper goes into these bins. I will also promote the use of recyclable bags and bottles.
3) Electricity usage.
I want to reduce unnecessary lighting and power on campus day and night. There are some lights where if people are in the room they turn on, but if not then they turn off . I’m not sure if these lights are in every building – but if this is the situation, that’s good.
I want to not only promote digitalisation, but also let students know how much carbon they will reduce if they reduce printing.
Could you explain more about the “student environmental complaint mechanism” that you wish to implement – how would that work?
If students have any ideas, send this to me. And I will say whether we have enough resources to implement their ideas … I think I plan to do this in a form, because when I ask something verbally then people can’t think about it much. I have [email protected] for everyone to send emails to me to give any suggestions or any changes they want to see. I also want to host events with student groups and cooperate with other groups – maybe Imperial Climate Action. I had a chat with them before – they have lots of ideas, lots of data.
You mention on your Union webpage that you are a big fan of travelling. Do you think the Union should have a sustainable travel policy?
I didn’t think too much about this before last month – but now I think about this a lot. If you can choose train or ship, you should. And have a basic plan to for the future – that way you can have a long trip meaning you only need to travel once. I know there are some conferences in different places that have different dates. I don’t have a very good idea now, but … maybe I can make this more clever. We can save money and save carbon.
Have you planned any College-wide events relating to environmental awareness or action?
I have Sustainability Week next semester, and for this semester I’m still planning to do something around COP28.
And finally, on a light-hearted note, do you have a favourite organism? Animal, plant, or something else?
My favourite animals are cats because my best friend has one cat.