Challenging unsustainable systems at the London Student Sustainability Conference

Students across University of London institutions present their ideas for a more sustainable future at the London Student Sustainability Conference.

Marking its second instalment, the conference invited students to present their ideas in posters, performances, videos and speeches. Each presentation focused on one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Student presentations included ideas on alternatives to fast fashion, prevention of clogged waterways through toilet flushing and how climate change has increased the spread of Malaria.


Sustainability-focused City student, Rachel Shamtoob (MSc Management), said: “As I’ve grown up I have realised that my decisions have a big impact on our society and the planet.

“These small choices have long-term effects, so being mindful of what I am putting my money into is crucial in becoming more sustainable.

“An event like this is so important as we can all find our sustainable niche, whether that be fashion, plastic waste or carbon emissions.

"These individual ideas are great, but it is so important that we keep our eyes on a general picture and talk about every way we can be more sustainable as that will create real change.”

Universities have a social sustainable responsibility

A panel discussion chaired by Dr Christopher McDowell, Vice-President International, invited speakers to discuss how students can make a global impact on sustainability.

Panellists included: Mark Charlton, Square Mile Manager at De Montfort University, Grace Corn, Project Manager at Students Organising for Sustainability and Caroline Asante, former BBC Producer and Head of Global Content at WokenUp.

The panel discussed ways in which universities can capture student enthusiasm for sustainability, with all four panellists agreeing that Climate Change should be taught throughout the educational system.

Caroline Asante encouraged universities to work with the corporate sector, external businesses, start-ups and creatives to introduce different ways of thinking about sustainability.

Mark Charlton stressed the importance of student networks in developing more sustainable initiatives, calling for the SDGs to have more visibility on university campuses.

Grace Corn said: “Every university has a civic responsibility to the communities that they inhabit, both in their physical structure but as educators and creators of knowledge.

“With the wealth of knowledge created in these spaces, sustainability must be a key focus so that graduates can become part of the solution rather than the problem.”

Slowing down fast fashion

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As part of the conference, new social network WokenUp teamed with four City students to create a video introducing ‘slow fashion,’ an ethical alternative to fast fashion which produces over 150 billion pieces of clothes per year.

The group titled Obj.12, aimed to encourage others to think more sustainably when buying clothes.

Daisy-Grace Cave (BSc International Politics) said: “When you live in London it is so easy to not put any thought into where you buy your clothes from.

“However, by being slower and more conscious about our shopping decisions, like choosing second hand, we can reduce our personal impact to the problem of clothes waste.”

Find more about City's sustainability efforts here.