Sustainability at Essex

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Image of someone putting a plastic bottle in the dry mixed recycling bin.

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. 

You can be part of that change at Essex, by living in a way that's both lighter on the planet and lighter on your pocket. 

Essex is in the top 3.5% of universities around the world for making a difference in society and working towards a more sustainable future. (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings)

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.

Essex impact
  • Essex is ranked 56th out of 1,591 institutions across the globe in rankings which show how the global higher education sector is working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 
  • Essex is ranked 17th for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, 18th for Reduced Inequalities, 27th for Responsible Consumption and Production, 28th for Gender Equality, 31st for Life Below Water, and 45th for Climate Action
  • Essex students are at the forefront of the work to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis through transformational research.

10 ways to join our move to a sustainable future...

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.

  • Essex Food outlets all include plant based offerings 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.

Student wheeling wheelbarrow on Colchester Campus allotment 

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.

  • 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 OuthouseAutism 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.

 Two students managing the Clothes Exchange stall, Colchester campus

3. Education


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

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.

  • 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
  • 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

    Dr Bike mechanic servicing a bike on Colchester campus 


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:

  • Donate unwanted items to local charities, donate clothing to our clothes exchange and donate food to food banks in ColchesterSouthend 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.

 Blue reusable coffee cup with Reduce Recycle Save written on it


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.
  • 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

Lakes at Colchester Campus


7. Blogs and podcasts

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

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


8. Events

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

  • 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

Recycling bins for mixed dry items, food and general waste

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.

  • 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!

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

10. Social media

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