When you're researching the best options as to where to carry out a placement, take time to consider a potential employer's environmental credentials. Certain industries are more prone than others to creating waste, producing carbon emissions and adversely affecting the physical environment in which they operate.
Large organisations, defined in the EU as having 250 or more employees, are responsible for a considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions, either through processes of production or employee behaviour. Such organisations hold a significant potential for social influence if they maintain a high public profile, so their capacity to affect sustainable behaviour can be substantial.
Reflect on each organisation's capacity to maintain their operations in a sustainable manner, and if you can, consider the efficiency of a potential employer's environmental policies and initiatives.
Once you've been accepted on your placement, you'll need to sort out how you get to and from your new place of work. Think about the most sustainable methods of transport when considering your options.
The most desirable level of emissions is none at all, so if it's practical and safe for you, walk or cycle to work. You will save money on travel and take a responsible approach to environmental concerns.
Use of public transport contributes to a reduction in the emissions and congestion created by single-occupancy car journeys. Your SHU card entitles you to cheaper bus fares in Sheffield, and elsewhere you can find savings on weekly and monthly tickets or travel passes.
The 16-25 railcard (which mature students who attend university for over 15 hours a week can also buy) currently offers a 1/3 reduction on network rail travel. The railcard can also be applied to an Oyster travel card to provide similar savings on the London Underground should your placement take you there, as well as savings on other routes - do some research into how it might help you on your journey to work.
Road traffic is a significant and growing source of many of pollutants, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, carcinogenic particles, and excess noise. Driving to work may be unavoidable, so to minimise this impact, you can consider car sharing.
If a group of people are making the same journey by car regularly, it makes good environmental sense to share the drive with other employees or people who work on the same route. Either take turns at driving, or chip in for fuel if there's just one person with a car.
Sheffield Hallam itself has a target to achieve a 25% reduction in single occupancy vehicle use for the commute to the University by 2020/21, and it would be great to mirror that commitment when you travel to your chosen workplace as a Hallam student.
Sustainability in the workplace
The best way for people to tackle environmental issues is to work at it together. Once you arrive at your chosen place of work, there are plenty of ways in which you can affect and encourage sustainability. Employees can get involved in conserving resources, working sustainably, taking initiatives and influencing an organisation's practices. Whether or not your employer has introduced programs that address environmental concerns, you can still adopt and initiate behaviours that contribute to a decrease of wasted energy and materials.
Here are some things you can do in your workplace whilst on placement.
- Recycling correctly where possible. Certain items, such as plastic bottle lids, can be separated out and sent to local organisations that have set up initiatives to collect and recycle particular waste items.
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you that can be refilled while you're at work, to cut down on single-use plastic bottles.
- Carry a canvas tote bag, which you can take with you when shopping to remove the need for a single-use carrier bag.
- Keep printing to a minimum, or eliminate it altogether in favour of digital methods, to reduce waste paper and energy use.
- When printing documents, print double-sided to minimise the amount of pages used.
- Shut down computers rather than leaving them on standby, and switch off all the lights in a room when it's finished with. Saving energy will help to lessen your employer's carbon footprint and reduce their costs.
- Make sure that taps aren't left running in kitchen and toilet areas.
- If employees have facilities to make their own hot drinks, coordinate a drinks-round rather than everybody making their own.
- See if you can reduce the heating by a degree or two. It should not affect overall comfort but it will save energy and reduce greenhouse emissions
It may be possible for you to make the introduction of a sustainability programme one of your objectives during your placement, something pro-active that you can evidence to show that you have used your initiative. Discuss this with your tutors at SHU and line managers at your placement.