Alumni Sustainability Newsletter, March 2023

Welcome to this first edition of the University of York Alumni Sustainability Network newsletter.

Words from Mark Clough, Sustainability Manager

As a University community we provide a truly positive sustainability impact that extends well beyond the campus itself, delivering local and global benefits for the public good. Whether through the taught knowledge and skills put into practice by our alumni, outputs from our world leading scientific research, or the volunteering and community engagement activities we deliver. 

Our commitment to sustainability is evident in the fact that it is one of the guiding principles of the University Strategy, and through the implementation of our University of York Sustainability Plan 2021-2030 we will continue to maximise our positive impacts and help tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

The aim of this newsletter is to help keep you updated on positive news about sustainability activities and research being done at the University as well as giving you an avenue to input yourself where desired.

We hope you enjoy reading the newsletter and hope you join us in enhancing sustainability however you can. 

Mark Clough
Sustainability Manager

Introducing Environmental Sustainability at York

Founded in October 2021, Environmental Sustainability at York (ESAY) connects our environmental sustainability activities within teaching, research and campus operations to deliver new joined-up benefits and create a wider impact within and beyond the University.

A key example of our work is York Living Labs (YLLs), an initiative that demonstrates the impact of research by adopting its operational recommendations to directly improve our campus. Last year, we ran a YLL biodiversity pilot and five student interns undertook a baseline ecological survey of the campus grounds with a team of consultants. The survey has provided us with valuable baseline data and has helped us to guide future decisions on how and where we can make measurable improvements to biodiversity on campus.

Other ESAY initiatives include:

1. Sustainability Clinic: helping external organisations and businesses achieve their environmental sustainability goals while also providing students with real-life experience

2. Research into teaching: linking research projects into academic courses

3. Translating research into practice: supporting researchers get their works into policy and help make a difference

You can follow ESAY’s LinkedIn page to find out more about its latest projects, news and opportunities to get involved. You can find out more at the ESAY website

One Planet Week 2023

One Planet Week runs every year in the Spring Term to celebrate and share the University's sustainability knowledge and research to staff, students and the wider public. This year’s theme was Land and Nature. You can view a number of One Planet Week events from this year here.

You can also view the fantastic winners of the One Planet Week Art and Media competition here.

Alumni Spotlight

Meet Rachel Soper (BSc Environmental Economics and Environmental Management, 2014), Green Impact Project Manager at Student Organising for Sustainability UK (SOS-UK).

1)   Can you tell us what you do?

I work for SOS-UK, an education charity focused on sustainability. My role is leading our Green Impact programme which provides learning and engagement opportunities around sustainability and supports people to take positive action in their workplace or place of study.

2)   What made you interested in studying or working in the area of environmental sustainability?

I actually started a degree in Chemistry but changed programmes to Environmental Economics and Environmental Management after my first year. I volunteered with a few sustainability initiatives on campus, and soon realised that I wanted to work in a role that encourages more people to get involved in sustainability. I am now the national coordinator for some of those same initiatives that I volunteered with as a student!

3)   Are there any challenges that you are facing at work?

The biggest challenge is how complex sustainability is. It is really difficult to make informed choices and ‘get it right’ when there’s a lot of misinformation, greenwashing and conflicting ideas out there. That complexity and uncertainty can be overwhelming and prevent people from getting involved at all. Through my role I try to break things down into simple and manageable actions for people to improve the sustainability of their workplace, as well as stressing that, even if we can’t do everything perfectly, doing nothing is not the solution.

4)   What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?

The most rewarding thing for me is seeing people develop a greater understanding of sustainability through a training or event that I’ve run, and then seeing how they take action themselves as a result. Everyone, no matter their role or age, should be able to learn more about sustainability and how it relates to their role, and I really enjoy being able to provide some of those learning opportunities.

5) What is the most frequently asked question?

“How do I make time for sustainability?” So many people want to do more in their roles to improve sustainability, but there often isn’t enough time in the day. We need to make sure everyone is given the chance to engage with sustainability.

Rachel giving a 2022 Green Impact awards presentation at York

Rachel giving a 2022 Green Impact awards presentation at York

SOS-UK team

SOS-UK team

Progress on Giki

We know many of our alumni are already committed to reducing their carbon footprint, so we are giving you access to a digital platform and app called Giki Zero so you can calculate your current footprint and discover how you can further reduce your impact. We want to show that when we come together as a community, all the little changes and actions we make can have a real impact.

313 members of the York community from across the world have already joined Giki Zero since its launch in January 2023 and we’ve already committed to nearly 1,800,000 litres of water savings and 30,000 kg of carbon reduction as a community! Thank you for taking an active part in reducing our impact.

Upcoming events

Giki Earth Day events

Giki is hosting two live events on 21st April to celebrate Earth Day 2023. The event theme is “Invest in our planet for Earth Day: Buy Better”.  Sign up to Giki now and you can register for the events.

Our Big Community Challenge

Join the 2023 Big Community Challenge in June. Working with a local charity, York Cares, we’re looking for volunteers among our staff, students and local community to join us in a month-long environmental project in York. Find out more.

Panel Discussion: Sustainability - online

Join us online for the latest in our series of Panel Discussion events, focusing on the theme of Sustainability. We welcome speakers from diverse backgrounds to share their insights and experience of Sustainability. Reserve your place here.

Thank you

We hope you enjoyed the first edition of the sustainability newsletter. Over 300 members of the York community from across the world have joined the Alumni Sustainability Network since its launch in January 2023. 

If you'd like to get involved in shaping the Sustainability Network, please get in touch at