On 26 January 2021, the Union’s Management Committee formally approved our first Sustainability Policy. This policy relates to all our work at the SU, including our management of Rubix.

About the Policy

Executed by: Incumbent Vice President Community and Community Manager

Overseen by: Management Committee and Union Executive Committee

Effective from: February 2021

Due for review: February 2022


1.1 Purpose

Sustainability; the quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time. (Cambridge Dictionary)

In the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years, Surrey students voted for sustainability to be the Union’s priority campaign, through the ‘Make Your Change’ vote.

The University of Surrey Students Union recognises that all our activities, services and actions have an impact on our environment. As part of our commitment to sustainability, we believe that managing the environmental and ethical implications of our activities should be an integral part of good management practice and responsible corporate governance. We will actively seek to achieve continual improvement of our measurement and responses to reducing the environmental impacts and actively communicate this to our students, staff and partners alike.

The Union will seek to Monitor, Audit, Review and Report on our environmental performance and seek to improve that performance in the light of experiences, developments in best practice and the evolving environmental agenda. The Union’s environmental impacts will be reviewed annually and published.

1.2 Our Commitments

  • 1.2.1: Measure and transparently report our consumption of resources. Set SMART targets to reduce our consumption of resources.
  • 1.2.2: Re-use equipment where possible, increasing recycling and promoting the use of recycled materials.
  • 1.2.3: Provide support, information and training to Union staff on sustainable development and environmental issues.
  • 1.2.4: Ensure sustainable development and environmental issues are considered in the design and introduction of new Union activities, products, services or facilities.
  • 1.2.5: Work with the University Sustainability Team to support and shape strategies, policies and initiatives, ensuring that the Student perspective is represented. VP Community to represent student views on the University Executive Sustainability Steering Group and any other necessary working groups that may be relevant.
  • 1.2.6: Assist the University in supporting any bids, applications or environmental projects that we feel would be of benefit to the students of the University.

2 Sustainability Principles 

2.1 Action: Reduce Single Use Plastic

2.1.1 Rubix

All drinks supplied are in cans. VK bottles are currently in plastic instead of glass for safety reasons and there is no can option available. The SU are working with Global Brands (who supply VK) to be more sustainable. This includes potentially switching to rPET and the possibility of trialling VK cans in the future. 

Plastic straws are banned from all Student Union venues.

Instead of cutting down and buying a real Christmas tree, we built a sustainable VK Christmas tree with used VK bottles from our club nights. This can be re-used each year.

2.1.2 Eco friendly wristbands for freshers’ weeks

For Freshers’ Week 2019 we moved towards more eco-friendly wristbands by using fabric made from the recycled polyester material rPET. Continue to purchase eco-friendly wristbands and lanyards for each large-scale event where possible.

2.1.3 Free water bottles and coffee cups

The SU has given out free reusable water bottles and coffee cups to decrease the usage of non-reusable cups. Continue with this initiative when and where possible.

2.1.4 Youngs Kitchen / Thursday market / Pizzaman (Partners/Rentals)

Youngs, Pizzaman and Vendors at the Thursday Market are in the process of switching to more eco-friendly packaging and utensils for their takeaways. No single use plastic. The aim will be to continue to incentivise our partners to buy and supply eco-friendly packaging. This is referenced within their contracts.

2.1.5 Water Stations

The SU lobbied the University to provide 11 new water stations on campus, in a bid to encourage the use of reusable water bottles and reducing the amount of shop bought single use water bottles. The stations were installed in March 2020. The Union will continue to ask that these stations are maintained and remain in position.  

2.2 Action: Responsible Consumption

2.2.1 Food Cooperative

In the 2019 Annual Members Meeting; a motion was passed for the SU to create a Food Cooperative. A group of volunteers have come together to launch this initiative, buying wholefoods in bulk quantities and selling them at the Thursday market providing a place for students to shop which is cheap and healthy food with zero waste and minimal impact on the environment. This scheme will continue to be supported where possible.

2.2.2 Online Marketplace  

Promote and encourage students to use an online marketplace to buy, sell, swap, and free-cycle their unwanted items such as textbooks, cookware etc.

2.3 Action: Waste Management

Dispose of materials in an environmentally sensitive manner, including any food waste. Clearly marking recycling points and providing instructions for good recycling practice and providing a food waste bin. Reduce level of printing by using computers and mobile devices where possible. Circulate any minutes, agendas or papers for Union meetings by email rather than printed hard copies wherever possible. Reduce use of paper in elections and printing of physical posters – utilise digital screens. The Union recognises that Staff engagement is key here, therefore the Sustainability Policy will be included in staff enrolment and be communicated to staff on a regular basis. Ensure any tenant using the building is aware of waste disposal procedures and can always abide with them.

2.4 Action: Student Engagement

2.4.1 Sustainability Forum

The Student Sustainability Forum gives any students the opportunity to hear about the University’s progress and plans, share their opinion on sustainability at Surrey, provide feedback on sustainability initiatives and have their questions answered by the University’s management team. The Union will seek that any views are presented in the appropriate manner.

2.4.2 Student Union Projects

‘Sustainable Surrey’ as an ongoing campaign led by the Community Zone.  Activities planned are largely online but include clubs and societies sharing their sustainable activities, advertising fundraising and campaigning opportunities and a communications approach which sets out how and where students can be more sustainable, including contributions from student volunteers. 

2.4.3 University Projects

Work with the university Sustainability Team to publish joint messages and actively raise awareness of projects and initiatives.

Students can sign up to become Sustainability Ambassadors to act as a powerful voice for sustainable living at the University. The Ambassadors’ role involves communicating sustainability messages, assist in running projects and engaging fellow students.

Students living in halls of residence and off campus can take part in ”Reduce the Juice”, an engagement campaign aimed to promote sustainable behaviour and educate students regarding waste, water and energy. 

Climate Week is an annual event organised by the University of Surrey’s People and Planet Society in collaboration with various student societies. Events during the week include guest lectures, workshops and film screenings aiming to engage staff and students in sustainability. This event will continue to be supported by the Union on an ongoing basis.

2.4.4 Sustainability Representatives

Promote and incentivize all clubs and societies to appoint a voluntary Sustainability REP to act as a spokesperson on all sustainability matters relevant to their group.  A requirement for the elected REP to attend training and discussions hosted by the Union, as and where relevant. The rep will also coordinate their club / societies involvement with Union sustainability campaigns and activities and be the primary point of contact for this.

Clubs & Societies are a particular area of Students’ Union activity which can have an impact on the local and wider environment. Sports Clubs travel often and buy equipment. Societies book external speakers and rooms and use resources for events.

The Students’ Union will ensure that all Clubs & Societies are aware of opportunities to reduce their environmental impact, and, wherever possible, will assist them in becoming more sustainable.

This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Purchasing Fairtrade/sustainable kits & equipment;
  • Promoting alternatives to travelling by car/minibus where possible;
  • Providing guidance on room booking, including recycling and space heating advice;
  • Using existing structures within Student Activities and Club & Society committees to incorporate sustainability;
  • Providing any relevant training and opportunities to learn more about sustainability.

2.5 Action: Biodiversity On campus

2.5.1 Bird boxes / Bus stops / Hedgehogs

Investigating ways to improve biodiversity on campus.

The Union has been working to improve wildlife levels/habitats on campus, hence they have introduced a series of bird boxes. The Union is in talks to establish green spaces on top of the bus stops on campus. The University is now a bronze accredited Hedgehog Friendly Campus due to the hard work of students and staff of the University. This initiative will continue to be supported.

2.6 Action: Energy Reduction

Energy is wasted from equipment and lights which are unnecessarily left on. Monitor and review utilities used in the Student Union building and minimise energy usage. Engage will all staff and building users to engage in this initiative.

Raising awareness among staff and students of excessive energy consumption, its effects, and how it can be combatted, including with training sessions for new & current staff. Staff members take personal responsibility for the energy usage of their own office equipment and appliances.

Encouraging responsible space heating and campaigning for awareness of out-of-hours space heating.

2.7 Travel and Transport

Work with the University Estates team to move towards electric and hybrid vehicles where possible. Staff continue hybrid working in the future. Where possible staff can have the option to work remotely more often and commute less helping towards cleaner air and reduction on carbon emissions from transport.

3 Governance

3.1   Implementation/ Communication Plan

The updated policy will be uploaded to the USSU Website and communicated to students and staff as and when relevant.

3.2   Exceptions to this Policy

Any exceptions to this policy require Management Committee approval.

3.3   Review and Change Requests

This policy will be reviewed by the Management Committee annually. Any proposed changes can be presented to the Operational Owners (in the first instance) at any stage during the year, which shall then be presented to the Management Committee for their consideration.

3.4   Legislative context

3.5   Supporting Documentation

University of Surrey Sustainable Procurement Policy – to follow

University of Surrey Water Policy


University of Surrey Energy Policy