veggiepledgeHi, I’m Mattie and I’m the Brasenose student Environment Rep. My role is to get students interested in environmental issues and try to make the college more sustainable in general. Just recently, this has seen Brasenose take part in Veggie Pledge, a competition between all the colleges in Oxford to see who can get the most people to promise to reduce their animal consumption over the month of November. Some pledge to go completely vegan; some just go veggie for a couple of days a week. The great thing about this campaign is that there is no pressure and you can go at your own pace.

Brasenose is known as the friendliest college in Oxford, but we have a competitive edge too! Wadham College (just down the road from Brasenose) had won Veggie Pledge for the last three years in a row, so it was clear who we needed to beat. Everyone got involved, not just in the JCR (for undergraduates) but also in the HCR (graduate students) and SCR (professors).

Not only did we get people pledging to eat less meat, we also took actions at college events to be more veggie. Every fortnight we run meetings to discuss motions proposed by students to improve the college. To rack up a few more points on the Veggie Pledge leaderboard we have committed to all of the free pizza supplied at these events to be veggie or vegan. We also ran a vegan welfare tea, where a ton of free vegan snacks, like fruit, party rings and popcorn, are left in the common room for people to share and have a chat. Perhaps most excitingly, this month has also seen insects being served in the college bar before the college Halloween party. This might not sound in keeping with the vegetarian theme, but insects are a surprisingly low-carbon alternative to meat, and it certainly made a good conversation starter for everyone there!

All of this meant we built an early lead on the Veggie Pledge leaderboard, and despite the constant threat of Wadham, we just about managed to hold on to the end (despite some taunting from Manish, our student Pres). Over 250 members of Brasenose made pledges, which is the most any college has ever managed. This is testament to the amazing community spirit and environmental awareness Brasenose holds. The College makes it really easy for students to reduce the amount of meat they eat; great veggie food is served in hall and the college café at subsidised prices, and there is a dedicated Facebook page for Brasenose students to share vegan and vegetarian recipes.

If you come to Oxford and want to get involved in sustainability, the opportunities extend well beyond Veggie Pledge! There is another competition, called Student Switch Off, which sees which college can do the most to save energy. The prizes are money and ice cream – so it’s definitely worth getting involved in! Then there are all the environmental societies in Oxford, such as the Oxford Climate Society, who have great speakers from all fields come in to talk to students every week. Just last week Christiana Figueres, the architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement, gave an inspiring talk on limiting the impact of climate change at the Sheldonian Theatre (a minute’s walk from Brasenose).

So there you have it – Brasenose isn’t just the friendliest college, it’s also the eco-friendliest!