Sustainability has always been at the heart of our operations here in Lampeter and across TSDSU. One of our venues is home to a collection of reclaimed and upcycled materials including glasses, stools and lamps, and we have worked tirelessly to make sure that more than 80% of our waste is recycled and less than 1% is sent to landfill. We have collaborated with our interns and Green Officers to make sure that the majority of our energy comes from renewable sources and we engage students in 'blackout and shutdown' events to highlight how much energy/carbon/money can be saved by simple steps. We’ve also worked closely with Surfers Against Sewage to run beach cleans to help stop the spread of plastic in our oceans.
These approaches have all helped to raise awareness, and those students who are most engaged have helped lay the foundations for our bar to move towards becoming plastic-free - a place that plans for future generations and uses its position to make a real difference.
While we were trying to find ways to appeal to a larger portion of our student body, NUS launched the wonderful 'Last Straw' campaign. This allowed us to start a series of bar-specific campaigns with a broader reach to students that might be apathetic towards some green issues. There were a few teething issues: our first set of paper straws were not that well-received, but at least the discussion was being had and a more young people were trying to come up with approaches to reduce single-use plastics.
As always with student feedback, there were dozens of great ideas. Unfortunately, most of the ideas - such as tin or bamboo cups - weren't financially feasible. We tried a few inventive hacks, however, making cups out of tin cans and old bottles - but we couldn't put this into practice on a large scale.
We pushed on trying to raise awareness, make grassroots change and hope that impacting students would help a ripple effect of change. We ran cocktail nights with an assortment of cups we made - from empty baked bean tins, soft drink cans, beer bottles and and glass milk bottles - and introduced a small selection of re-usable straws to go with certain drinks.
This was the easy part, once we had finished with straws the majority of the plastic in the bar was gone. It was our late-night club operation that we needed to move onto next - the venue's glass ban made things more challenging here. We started of by removing PET plastic products from our ordering system and replacing them with cans - like-for-like where possible but with a slight change on some products.
Our first trial event was an ABC (Anything but a Cup) club night where people were invited to bring their own drinks containers - ranging from kitchen jugs to dog bowls - or buy one of our sports' bottles. We decorated the venue with recycling bags filled from the week before, and showed some documentaries about the damage caused by single-use plastics.
As far as visualising the impact that one night out has, this was a simple and effective way to get the message across to students. Our late night venue is now completely plastic-free. Using tin and bamboo cups, and using cans instead of PET, hasn’t been too expensive and moving forward, we can stop ordering more plastic products until both of our venues have been cleared of plastic and have been designated plastic-free.
We have been very fortunate to have the support of our local area, including many nearby towns (especially those on the coast have gone plastic-free). The Lampeter Council of Trade and town council have made statements about trying to limit plastic and following in the footsteps of our surrounding areas, and student support has snowballed, with a discussion going to campus council to make the bars on all of our campuses free of plastic.
A new set of challenges faces us now, but by experimenting with ideas we should be able to continue driving change for and with our students.