Five Things Everyone Can Do to Live the Sustainability Part of the UWC Mission

UWC Mission Statement: “UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.”

As a part of UWC-USA’s experimental education (exed) program, the Enviro Group was established at the beginning of this school year to address issues of sustainability and energy consumption on our campus. The student-led group aims to communicate with policy-makers of the school as well as inspire the student body to be conscious about their daily choices on campus. The mission statement of Enviro Group extends the sustainability part of the larger UWC Mission statement: “Enviro Group aims to promote a more sustainable future by raising awareness of environmental challenges, encouraging sustainable actions and reducing our ecological footprint at UWC-USA and beyond.” Below are some ways everyone can help promote sustainability, whether they are a UWC-USA student or not.

1: Transportation
Transportation and especially flying are some of the biggest dilemmas in the lives of UWC-students when it comes to the sustainability part of our mission statement. Going home is an integral part of staying connected to our cultures and families, but we all could do something different at times. Try going outside your comfort zone, and look at the environment you are living in. All the 17 UWC schools are located in vastly different environments, and they offer numerous opportunities for spending a spring break, winter break, or even the summer within the country or the nearby region. Look for alumni who could host you, get to know local people and ask what they love about the place or apply for programmes that include board. Travelling across the region with a train or bus with your classmates can also provide unforgettable memories – with less greenhouse gases produced than flying home.

2: Rethink Your Diet
The issues with dietary habits at UWC-USA can be somewhat more complicated when each of us has a very different view on how food relates to culture and values. However, the cold truth is that eating lots of meat- and dairy-based foods contributes to global warming significantly more than a plant-based diet. The animals need to be fed before they or their products end up on your plate, which is the single biggest reason why a vegan diet is so much less energy-intense than one based on animal products. There are as many different ways to be sustainable through eating as there are eaters: switch regular milk to soy or almond milk in your coffee and cereal, try filling up your plate from the salad bar instead of from the hot food station or double up on fruit to replace the dairy- and sugar-filled desserts. Giving up certain foods for life is not the only way, but be curious and try different things for once. (Check out the healthy and sustainable diet by EAT-Lancet Commission that is designed to feed 10 billion people.

3: Energy Consumption
At least at the border between the great plains and the southern Rocky Mountains, where UWC-USA is located in Montezuma, water can be scarce sometimes. We all love long and hot showers but they require tremendous amounts of water and energy, plus they may annoy your dorm mates who would also like to shower. Make a shower playlist that is only two or three songs long if you tend to enjoy your shower parties a little too much. Or you could even put a timer on your phone. Go to the Hot Springs to warm up! Don’t keep the water running when you soap your hands, brush teeth, and wash dishes. The electricity sources used on campus are also not really under the control of students, but remember to turn off the lights in your room when you’re not there and only open the window when this can actually improve the temperature in the room. Keeping the blinds shut at night helps to keep the room insulated as well, which may prevent the need for an extra heater.

4: Circular Economy
One of the greatest things about living on UWC-USA’s campus in Montezuma, NM is the fact that nearly everything can be borrowed. From a screwdriver to a mixing bowl to a nice skirt to a phone charger – just ask around and you can avoid buying it. This saves you money as you don’t need to buy new things and is also better for the environment: producing new consumer goods may be fundamental to Western capitalism, but we often neglect simple ways to share resources.

5: Know Where to Shop, and What to Shop For
After you have figured the things you can borrow or buy from others (or even make yourself) you probably still need some things that you need to buy from the grocery store. While Wal-Mart is the easiest option, and that is where the school buses take us without further consideration, there are options to Walmart which has been accused of exploiting its workers and is the endless supply of too small and easily breakable plastic bags. Check out smaller grocery stores and those that possibly have local owners: usually they have a larger supply of local products and this way you can also boost the local economy. Support local farmers and check if there is an organic version of your favourite fruit or snack available.

In the end, these are small decisions and habits that we can all work to adopt. Maybe we can’t all do all of these things, but if we can commit to start putting three or four of these ideas into action, we can make a difference!

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