“When you see the facts visibly, it’s obvious. With all the floods we have, and the ice caps melting, and the sea levels rising. The whole way of life is changing. It’s visible – we have to do something.”
Falmouth University’s Jeanette Langley-Brown is a librarian with a mission. Having championed last year’s twelve-month participation in the NUS Green Scheme at the Woodlane campus, resulting in a bronze award, she continues to independently pursue environmental change both on campus and throughout Falmouth.
By the time the Green Scheme ended at the University, Jeanette explains, things in the workplace had changed. She continued to pursue environmentally-friendly practices, and along with Tremough campus’ champion, is now starting a newsletter to keep up the motivation for university staff and students. She’s taken steps to limit waste – repairing, rather than replacing books, creating Christmas decorations from recycled books, magazines and newspapers, and hosting a bring-and-buy sale to raise money for Surfers Against Sewage, who supported the initiative that recently won Falmouth its Plastic-Free Coastline status.
So why now? Jeanette has noticed an enormous shift in students’ attitudes to ethical, environmentally-friendly, sustainable living.
“So many students are becoming vegan, and it is from an ethical point of view – rather than eating meat which has an adverse effect on the planet. This new generation of students we have at the moment seems to be embracing all of this. And I’m just amazed,” she adds. Jeanette feels that she and her generation have a lot to learn from this new, motivated era of students – a huge shift has taken place, she says, in the last few months.
An arts university in the middle of Cornwall, some distance from any big cities, Falmouth has always drawn students with an alternative lifestyle and has a large vegetarian/vegan culture. But things have changed recently. Jeanette cites David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood as examples of how recent film and television has inspired today’s students.
But despite the big ideas, it’s small steps that really make a long-term difference. “We cook from scratch. We bake our own bread. I try not to consume. Even in charity shops, I’m thinking: how much stuff do I need? I’m constantly learning.”
And every one of us can take the time to keep learning. It’s important to keep reading – Jeanette advises to keep up-to-date with national and local news.
At Falmouth University, the concept of wellbeing has become very important, and steps have been taken to improve the wellbeing of staff and students. In May 2017, an empty outdoor space at Woodlane campus was transformed into a garden and greenhouse.
Spending time outdoors is beneficial for physical, mental and emotional health, and the garden is well-used; for growing vegetables and flowers, for teaching the children who attend the university nursery, for students taking a break from studying, and for meditation classes. “It’s trying to live as simply as possible,” Jeanette explains.
So where to start? If you only have five minutes, Jeanette suggests walking through a park or beach and picking up litter. If you’re away from your desk for more than five minutes, turn off whatever you can. Your screen doesn’t need to be on, neither does your light. If your laptop or phone has finished charging, unplug it.
And if you have a day, try to plan ahead. Buy fresh vegetables and prepare your meals in advance. Spend some time outdoors. Research the things being done in your area – if you live near the coast, beach cleans are always coming up. Gardening, too, is an excellent way to spend time outdoors, get some exercise, save yourself some money, and do the planet some good – all in one activity.
Since working with the NUS Green Scheme, things have changed irrevocably for Jeanette. She is always reading, always learning, and there may still be things she won’t move over on, but the shift has been visible and significant. Jeanette is inspired by the students around her, more dedicated than ever to taking care of our planet, actively changing habits to do better for the world we live in. With attitudes turning so thoroughly, the future is looking more hopeful than ever before.
About the Author: Ruth Halliday is a second-year university student at Falmouth University.
Photography: Jeanette Langley-Brown and Matthew Halliday