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This content is taken from the University of Bristol's online course, Unleash Your Potential: Sustainable Futures. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 secondsLast week, we looked at different ways we can find happiness and meaning in our lives, particularly our working lives. We looked at how a fulfilling work life depends, in part, on having a sense of enjoyment in what we do and a sense of fulfillment in the outcomes of our work. We also had a brief overview of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and considered how the way we engage with sustainability challenges can be approached from both a perspective of responsibility and a perspective of purpose.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 secondsNext week, we will look at ways of engaging globally, but firstly we want to consider the local, more particularly our local, Bristol. We will look at three challenges Bristol faces and how people are engaging with them in different ways.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 secondsWe will look at homelessness and hear from people working in charities, academics providing a deeper understanding in new perspectives and politicians working to shape strategies. We will also hear from former homeless people who now work to help others understand more about the root causes behind the problem. We will look at energy. How can we keep Bristol warm and powered up in the future in a way which is affordable, low-carbon and long-lasting? We will hear from innovators who have made use of unusual energy sources to keep Bristol's lights on, people who have radically improved the efficiency of their homes, and the award-winning team at the University of Bristol who work to move the campus towards ambitious low-carbon targets.

Skip to 1 minute and 54 secondsBut firstly, we will look at waste and in particular food waste. We will speak with people using different strategies to tackle it. Students working to raise awareness and change our everyday habits, volunteers working to reroute over stocked food in shops for better uses, and a former employee of a supermarket who, working with others, built a new organisation to feed people in need.

Welcome to Week 2

This week, we are looking at sustainability from a local perspective, and considering the different roles and approaches people take to make a difference.

What to expect this week

During this week, we’ll be introducing you to lots of different case studies, related to three sustainability challenges. Our focus this week is the ‘local’, so we’ll be introducing you to people in our local region of Bristol, to see how they are are approaching these challenges. Why not look into your own local region, and see who is taking action in your area?

You should familiarise yourself with the main topics and case studies in all of these themes, but you also have the chance to tailor your learning this week. Before you start, take a look at the themes, and choose one or two which you would like to focus on. Then, spend more time working with those case studies, and thinking about them in more detail (remember that in total, each week should take you around three hours, so you need to plan your time depending on how many themes you are focusing on). The quiz at the start of this week might help you decide where you want to focus. At the end of the week there will be a chance for you to discuss what you found out about the case studies you focused on, and learn about the other case studies in more detail from other learners.

The week’s themes

In the video above, our lead academics introduce the three key challenges. Some of the key points and questions we’ll take forward into the week’s themes are outlined below.

Food waste

Food waste is produced during manufacture, distribution, sale and home use of food products.

  • How can we reduce this waste, make best use of food which might go to waste, and ensure the inevitable necessary waste is disposed of in the most environmentally friendly way?


The energy system throughout the world is undergoing a transformation, moving away from fossil fuels, particularly coal which also has substantial health issues associated with its use, towards potentially cheaper and greener but more intermittent supplies from renewable energies. In our case studies, we explore three approaches to transform the energy system:

  • New ways of generation: In our case, from waste biomass such as sewage and food waste from the Bristol area.
  • Energy efficiency: How can older UK houses be made far more energy efficient when they are renovated?
  • Smart energy management: How can a city (or, in our case study, the University of Bristol campus) manage its energy supply and demand?


Despite the access to home and shelter being considered a key human right, many people find themselves without homes in even the wealthiest countries in the world. In our case studies, we consider three approaches to alleviating homelessness in the UK:

  • How can academic research help us to understanding the challenges faced by homeless people?
  • What are the challenges faced by a charity providing temporary accommodation and support for people on the streets?
  • What role can politicians and policy play in remedying the situation?

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This video is from the free online course:

Unleash Your Potential: Sustainable Futures

University of Bristol

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