Sustainable student guide

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Sustainable student life at Essex

The world is facing a climate emergency and students around the globe are pioneering ways to minimize their impact on the environment. 

Here at Essex, you have the chance to be that change by living in a way that's both lighter on the planet and lighter on your pocket. 

Getting involved is easy, through your own small choices or by engaging in the range of projects across our campuses.

Whether you want to move to a plant-based diet, use your own re-usable cup, cycle to your lectures, grow your own veg or break the fast fashion habit, you will find a sustainable home at Essex.

You will join an Essex family of 20,000, committed to creating a better world, through bold university initiatives to cut carbon emissions and inspiring student-led schemes to live a lighter life.

Our 10 step guide to living a sustainable student life

1. Food and drink

Reducing meat consumption is one of the biggest individual contributions you can make to saving the planet and saving your pennies. But there are other ways to make a difference, from using a reusable cup, to growing your own veg on our Colchester allotment.

Student wheeling wheelbarrow on Colchester Campus allotment 

Essex Food outlets all include plant based offerings with a large range of options from vegan pastries at Crumbs to a vegetarian menu at Stem and Root.

Our Green Thumbs society offers you the chance to grow your own veg on the Colchester campus allotment. 

You can get a discount on hot drinks across campus by using your own reusable cup.

Read our tips on how to reduce your food waste.

2. Fashion

Fast is most definitely out of fashion and there is a growing trend for all things sustainable in clothing, whether through repairing, recycling, swapping, donating or buying from charity shops or ethical online outlets. There are plenty of ways to take an eco-friendly approach to your wardrobe.

 Two students managing the Clothes Exchange stall, Colchester campus

The clothes exchange in Colchester is run by students for students to raise money for local charities.They take donations of second-hand clothes and accessories and sell them at fortnightly sales around the campus squares. All profits go to good local causes such as The Outhouse, Autism Anglia, and Frenches Care Haven.

Buying second hand clothes is a breeze with a large number of charity shops in ColchesterSouthend, and Loughton, offering high quality pre-loved fashion and accessories.

Love your clothes and extend their lifespan by following some of our top tips.

3. Education


We want you to gain the knowledge and skills to live a more sustainable life and make a significant contribution to the campaign to tackle climate change.

Marine biology students doing an underwater survey in the coral triangle in Indonesia

A sustainability embedded curriculum means that alongside specialist degrees and post graduate opportunities in environmental science, you will find a variety of taught modules with environmentally relevant content across all three faculties: Arts and Humanities, Science and Health, and Social Science.

A Summer School in Sustainable Practice runs every year in June, introducing students to key concepts in the theory and practice of sustainability. It is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students and will count towards the Big Essex Award. Please contact Rachel Weightman for further details about the programme and how to apply.

4. Travel

Our campus offers a range of sustainable transport options, including buses, bikes and e-scooters, and most of our student accommodation is within walking distance of the campus.

Dr Bike fixing a bike at our Colchester campus.

Buses between our campuses and surrounding areas run on a frequent basis and a First UoE bus pass for Colchester or Arriva Bus Pass for Southend provide a year of unlimited travel at a discount

Bicycles are a great way to get around without impacting the environment, and there are plenty of facilities for cyclists including cycle racks, showers and lockers on both our Colchester and Southend campuses.  We also offer a fortnightly Dr Bike service in Colchester which includes free maintenance checks and discounted services and repairs. There are cycle route maps available on Cycle Colchester and Cycle Southend.

E-Scooters are available in three designated bays on Colchester campus, and you can benefit from a 50% discount through the TIER UK Access Scheme

5. Reduce, recycle, save    

Small changes can make a big difference, and there are many ways that you can adjust how you study, live and work to reduce your environmental impact:

Whichever campus you're on, you can start by printing less, cutting your food waste and buying only what you need.

 Blue reusable coffee cup with Reduce Recycle Save written on it

Donate unwanted items to local charities, donate clothing to our clothes exchange and donate food to food banks in Colchester, Southend and Loughton.

Reuse your cup for discounts on hot drinks, and fill your water bottle for free at Essex Food outlets and water fountains.

Recycle all sorts of items from batteries and books to paper and plastics. Visit our A to Z of recycling for more details.

6. Campus grounds and buildings 

The university is committed to reducing our impact on the environment and reaching net zero emissions by 2035.

Our Colchester Campus is a biodiverse habitat for wildlife, with over 200 acres of Grade II listed parkland, three lakes and 2800 trees including some important ancient oaks.

Lakes at Colchester Campus

Essex Business School is the first zero carbon business school building in the UK, using solar panels to cut emissions by 18%. Many buildings across the campus use solar panels, generating 5% of our electricity needs.

Our plan and priorities include embedding sustainability across our operations and estate, and using our resources more efficiently

Our campus is an award winning habitat for hedgehogs, one of Britain's rapidly declining native species

7. Blogs and podcasts

 A close up of a microphone with a blurred crowded room in the background. 

Our sustainability blogs cover a range of topics from fighting food waste to managing our energy in a cost-of-living crisis, and will provide you with ideas and updates about what we are doing to help tackle the climate emergency

Podcasts such as Louder than Words from our Centre for Public and Policy Engagement, discuss the big issues and how individual and collective action can impact the world for the better

8. Events

We have a range of sustainability events throughout the year to get involved with.

Recycling bins for mixed dry items, food and general waste

Climate Action Week is a chance for students and staff to get involved in a series of events and initiatives across our campuses focused on reducing our environmental impact

Recycle Week is an annual national campaign to remind and encourage everyone to recycle what they can

9. Essex Sustainability Society

Get involved in fighting climate change and protecting the environment through collective action. The student-led Sustainability Society is a great place for you to share your passion, meet new friends and make positive change.

 A group of students wearing high visibility jackets standing with some black bin bags of rubbish from a litter pick

Join one of our Litter Picks around the local area, including Essex beaches. These are held in coordination with the student led Marine Conservation Society

Volunteer at a local farm or animal rescue centre through the Animal Protection Society, where you can groom horses, walk goats or have a tea party with guinea pigs!

10. Social media

Join the conversation and keep up to date across our social media channels