What is personal sustainability?

For many people sustainability just relates to being “green”.

However, personal sustainability is key in ensuring overall sustainability. Personal sustainability is underpinned by not just maintaining one’s own health and wellbeing, but also by actively improving it and supporting others to do so too. There are numerous campaigns every year related to eating the right foods in the right proportions, exercising regularly and drinking sensibly to name but just a few. The challenge is to make these impactful and the positive lifestyle changes sustainable.

The University of Worcester’s Fit for Life programme

The University of Worcester, as one of the largest employers in Worcester is looking to support individuals towards personal wellbeing – both staff and students – through its Fit for Life programme. The programme has six elements Eat Well, Drink Well, Exercise Well, Sleep Well, Work Well and Stay Well, which are planned to be inclusive of the whole University Community. With the University having over 1000 staff and 10,000 students drawn from a diverse geographical area, the impact of any wellbeing campaign has the potential to influence not only on wellness in Worcestershire but also much further afield. In addition, the University educates a number of professionals who are employed in roles which can spread that influence still further – for example teachers, nurses, social workers, youth workers and midwives – and touch many people across the whole continuum of life from cradle to grave.

Progressing to smoke free campuses by 2015

One of the key elements related to the Work Well element of Fit for Life is the push towards a healthier work environment through progressing to smoke free campuses by 2015.The Smoke Free: Healthier Campus initiative was launched in September by Dr Richard Harling (Director of Adult Services and Health: Worcestershire County Council) Public Health at the induction of the 2013 cohort of nursing students. He clearly identified that reducing the number of people who smoked was one of the biggest contributions the University could make to the wellbeing of the people of Worcestershire and the UK. I went into a number of subsequent induction sessions and talked of the aspiration for a Healthier Campus to as many freshers as possible. Students come to the University of Worcester because they want an excellent education and by providing a smoke free campus, the University can also offer them an excellent environment in which to do so. The challenge of becoming a smoke free campus cannot be underestimated – smoking is a strong addiction. It is a huge challenge to give up smoking when you have started, which is why a smoking cessation service is now available on campus to support staff and students to quit. In addition, two designated smoking areas have been left – one on St Johns and one at City –so that smokers can, for at least this academic year, continue to have a cigarette – but away from non-smokers . The chosen areas are well away from windows so smoke cannot “waft” in and they are also well away from entrances or exits of buildings for there is nothing worse than having no choice but to walk through a cloud of smoke – either for a non -smoker or someone who is trying to give up. The University is respecting those who wish to smoke, whilst also respecting those who don’t.

Breathe Easier Champions

Smoking is often seen as cool, the thing to do, and University is often the place where many people start to smoke. In addition, smoking is also seen as a way of reducing stress – something leaving home, doing coursework and taking exams seems to generate in abundance! So a number of other activities have been scheduled to offer alternatives to smoking, including exercise classes, massage therapy, meditation etc. Breathe Easier Champions have also been employed through the University’s Earn as You Learn Scheme to advise anyone smoking on campus where the designated areas are, tell them about the smoking cessation service and ask them to respect the Healthier Campus initiative. However, we have discovered that although most smokers are happy to be prompted to move to the designated area, the majority don’t see why they can’t continue to smoke as they walk to it!

We can begin to work towards being smoke free

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will we be able to convince all the smokers at the University to stop smoking straight away; however, we can begin to work towards being smoke free and identify that their personal contribution to a sustainable future is to be healthier – and stop smoking. We have to start somewhere – and that is now – here at the University of Worcester.

  4 comments for “What is personal sustainability?

  1. antonius
    December 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Could not agree more. When you look at research into change in relation to sustainability issues, you will see more and more people coming to the view that the individual has to take responsibility for carving out their own understanding of “sustainability for me” and then to consider deep-seated personal values, assumptions and attitudes. It is not wonder that the metaphor of a journey is so common in the sustainability debate, as it is with something so personal as smoking.

  2. Pam
    February 19, 2014 at 10:55 am

    ‘Sustainability for me’ translates into health and wellbeing for the whole community. If each individual acts responsibly then the impact on us all is reduced. As a nation we can then invest more in our future welfare. With future predictions of melt-down in the NHS and care industry due to the burden of an ageing and obese population, it makes sense for each individual to take up the challenge now to secure their own future wellbeing. ‘Fit for Life’ makes sense.

  3. Susannah Goh
    February 25, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    It’s great that your approach recognises the ‘triple bottom line’ of economic, social and environmental sustainability. Too often societies and economies reduce ‘sustainability solutions’ down to fostering environmental lifestyle choices and inventing low-carbon technologies. (Indeed, many of both are great and highly-effective, but they are not the full solution). I am not sure why this is. Maybe it has something to do with achieving something instantly tangible and, in the latter case, a belief that the more complex the tech, the further our human progress. It may relate, also, to a cultural over-dependence on statistics- planting x amount of trees, generating y number of patents, etc, believing that they reveal ultimate truths and a full-measure of where we are at in making the world a better place.

    Our planet is ultimately more complex than this and we shouldn’t be afraid of accepting that it is a messy place. So, interpreting and capturing progress is going to be messy and imprecise to a substantial extent. Added to this, we must remember two more things. One: we need to keep an eye on impacts rather than just outputs and outcomes (and the measuring tools we use to capture them) otherwise we lose sight of what we are trying to achieve. Two: in achieving our end- goals, we must look at positive and engaging ways to get to them. Pursuing sustainability ought to be meaningful and dare I say it- fun.

    Keep up the good work! I look forward to working with you.

  4. Karl
    November 11, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Very good article

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