Matthew Unerman - Founder and Director at Embrace the Waste Official

What institution are you a student or staff member at?

Embrace the Waste (former student at Durham University)

What is your role at the institution?

Founder and Director

What drives you to champion sustainability?
Creating a sustainable world affects every person, every animal, and every part of the planet. Despite this, creating sustainable change isn’t at the top of everyone’s agenda, and so I feel a moral obligation to champion sustainability to try to avert the impending climate disaster. I also love thinking innovatively, and most of my ideas centre around sustainability, so that also gives me the drive to champion sustainability.

What should EAUC members know about Embrace the Waste?

Embrace the Waste exists to create sustainable change in practice, rather than just on paper. By empowering students to create sustainable change on their campus, Embrace the Waste aims to create a new generation of sustainability leaders, each of whom has the potential to go on to change the world. 

Embrace the Waste will also be running larger scale campaigns, such as tackling food waste at universities, as well as other innovative campaigns that will help major retailers and organisations to Embrace the Waste and act more sustainably.

What opportunities and challenges have you experienced in your role in sustainability?

I have experienced the opportunity to engage with all types of people about sustainability, often showing them that living more sustainably is not as hard as they first thought, or instead learning something new about sustainability myself. I have also had the opportunity to work with organisations that are making waves in the sustainability sector, and so I feel very lucky to already have a network of amazing sustainability leaders despite being relatively young.

One of the main challenges I have experienced occurs when interacting with people who do not think that sustainability is an important issue. Trying to explain to people why they should act more sustainably, whilst not insulting their current behaviours, is tricky, but I feel like I have now learned how to make people more aware of the importance of sustainability whilst not making them resent those who are pushing for sustainable change. Another large challenge I have encountered is getting businesses and organisations to operate more sustainably when the short-term financial benefit is not clear. This is a major block to having a large-scale sustainable revolution in business, but I think that more and more business owners are starting to recognise the value of impact and sustainable practices.

What do you think are the most important things everyone in the UK can do to help contribute towards a more sustainable society? 

I think one of the most important and easy things that people can do is to massively reduce their meat and dairy consumption. Following on the theme of food, I also think that reducing food waste would make a significant impact in reducing our country’s carbon footprint. Most importantly, however, I think that everyone in the UK should put pressure on the major retailers to improve their sustainability, by reducing their waste and their packaging levels, as it’s these larger-scale organisations that often add the most of the problem but receive the least blame and repercussions.

What role do you think Universities and Colleges have in contributing towards embedding sustainability successfully in their institutions?

Universities and Colleges have an undoubtedly integral role in embedding sustainability successfully in their institutions. They should do this by writing sustainability into all of the courses that they teach, by divesting from fossil fuels, and by reducing their waste and carbon footprint as much as possible. Educational institutions create the future leaders, and so they have a moral duty to both embed the knowledge of sustainability into their students, as well as actually operating in a sustainable manner.

What do you hope sustainability in the UK looks like in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years’ time I hope that sustainability is embedded into law, acts as a measure for business loans, and is at the forefront of every organisation’s decision making. I also hope that we can switch to a renewable energy infrastructure, as well as massively (or completely) reducing food waste. And obviously I hope that Embrace the Waste will be a leader in sustainable development around the world!

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