Creating a greener future
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at UWE Bristol. From building the UK’s first low carbon student accommodation, to providing allotment space for our students to grow their own veg, and our researchers getting alternative protein on the menu in schools – we are working together towards a greener future. And our campus developments are putting us on track to be a carbon neutral university by 2030.
Environmental issues with food
We have all seen shocking images of food waste pouring out of rubbish trucks. It feels uncomfortable seeing such large quantities of food being thrown away in a world where famine is still a reality. Food production demands huge resources and has a massive impact on the environment. We asked Associate Professor Verity Jones what we can do to reduce food waste and the impact our food choices have on the environment.
What is happening in food production?
The statistics are alarming. Verity explains "Half of the habitable land on the planet is used for farming and agriculture. We literally don’t have enough cropland to feed a growing population." Though there is significant interest in plant-based diets in the UK; globally the picture is quite different with meat consumption set to increase by 76% by 2050. "We can’t ignore the impact this is having and, unfortunately, meat production is responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and food related deforestation."
So are insects really a viable alternative to more traditional proteins like meat? Verity is proving through her research with the Pembrokeshire based ‘Bug Farm’ that they most definitely are. "Insects are high in protein, vitamins and minerals and they emit fewer greenhouse gases. They also need less space and less water."
She explains "In other parts of the world insects have been a staple source of protein for hundreds of years. However, the continued growth in demand for cows and chickens for food is having a huge impact. More land is cleared to make way for more livestock. Local habitats and their wealth of biodiversity are then threatened."
When it comes to bugs, Verity is doing more than just research in this area. She’s working with the ‘Bug farm’ to get edible insects on the menu in schools. "We’ve been working with Pembrokeshire County Council and are hoping to see insect protein on the menus soon. The feedback from young people has been incredibly positive. They want tasty, healthy and filling food to get them through their day and are keen to choose sustainable options. We’re proving that different types of food and an open approach to what we eat can be incredibly valuable to people and planet. Insects may look gross to many but can be added to foods as powders for a sustainable power boost."
The good news
Verity explains that progress is being made in many areas of food production and we have much to feel optimistic about "New technology and innovation mean that there are great opportunities to reduce food waste during the production cycle. Strawberries are a great example. By shifting growth from the ground to table top, farmers are seeing less damaged fruit and can use land that is closer to storage, packing and distribution facilities – all reducing the estimated 10,000 tonnes of strawberries that are wasted each year."
What we can all do. Verity's top 3 tips on food
It doesn’t have to be anything radical. If we all do a little bit it can make a massive difference.
- just buy what you need and eat it
- be creative with leftovers (and save money)
- try to eat a little less meat.
Better by bike
Hear from student, Laura who explains why cycling is so beneficial and how UWE Bristol is making cycling an easy travel option for students.
"The single biggest thing we can all do to reduce our IT carbon footprint is to use renewable electricity from sources such as wind and solar. UWE Bristol was ahead of the curve on this, installing 2,000 solar panels on site and going fully renewable in 2016."
Ian Brookes Senior lecturer
Ian is a Senior Lecturer in Sustainable IT. After a career working in management consultancy, including several years in the fossil fuels industry, Ian made the switch to research and teaching. The focus of his PhD is designing sustainable IT systems. Guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, he now teaches students across the university about the importance of sustainability and equips them with the knowledge that they need to strive for a greener future.
My work here is varied and rewarding
The first group of students to study the Sustainable Business and Computing module graduated in 2021. "It’s incredibly rewarding to know that I’ve contributed to their journey."
Ian’s own PhD looks at how systems engineers can design more sustainability into the systems that they make. He explains "autonomous vehicles are a good example of this, what can we do to make sure that the software and hardware components built into the design are as sustainable as possible?"
What can we all do to make our IT usage more sustainable?
- Check that our electricity providers are 100% renewable
- Try not to upgrade phones until you really need to. Look at providers who make it easier to maintain and repair devices
- Look at what you buy and where you buy it. Buying short lived products online has a negative impact.