Monday 16-03-2015 - 18:06
On a day associated with excessive drinking, why not take action on a crucial student welfare issue and promote responsible drinking?
Did you know that St. Patrick’s Day became associated with heavy drinking because Lent was lifted for the day according to Catholic tradition? These days, it’s mainly aggressive marketing and free foam hats which push some people towards unsafe drinking and anti-social behaviour around this time of year.
Our programme Alcohol Impact helps institutions and students’ unions to create new social norms around drinking on our campuses. It’s not about stopping students from drinking altogether. It’s about making our campuses as safe and inclusive as possible. Sadly, for some unions, it’s becoming an increasingly important welfare issue.
Here’s five ideas for promoting responsible drinking – not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but all year round.
Put tap water in a jug on the bar
We all know that drinking a glass of water between alcoholic drinks is a good thing to do. But does everyone actually remember to do it? And for some, there might even be a social stigma attached to going to the bar to ask for tap water.
Why not put it right where everyone can see it (and reach it) by putting jugs and glasses out on your bars?
Your bar staff will be pleased to have one less job, and you’d be surprised how many people decide to take a quick glug while they’re waiting to be served.
Hold some non-alcoholic events
There are loads of students who don’t drink, for cultural, personal or religious reasons. For them, student life can be quite socially isolating, if it feels like their only opportunities to meet people are centred on drinking.
Our students’ unions shouldn’t be fuelling that perception.
If you’re planning social activities at your union, make sure you’re scheduling in plenty of non-alcoholic events too. From swing lessons to secret cinemas, there’s loads you can do. Make it fun enough and it cuts down on the number of people drinking in their halls and houses too.
Provide decent non-alcoholic spaces
Of course, we appreciate that it’s pretty difficult to provide non-alcoholic alternatives to flagship events like your freshers’ ball or end of year parties.
But you can provide decent non-alcoholic spaces to make sure it’s as inclusive as possible, and that anyone can come.
Don’t just make it a rubbish area out the back of the building, in the cold. Make sure it’s a fun place non-drinkers can spend the whole evening, and gives the drinkers a reason to take a break from the bar.
Two words: Ferris wheel.
Make it easy to eat
If you look at the posters around most pubs or bars, especially around holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, most of them will be advertising cheap deals on alcoholic drinks.
This means it’s a lot more attractive to buy a couple of pints, than it is to buy the meal or snack you might need to absorb the alcohol.
Rather than promoting 241 drinks or £1 shots, have you thought about offering meal deals – like a drink and a sandwich for a reduced price? It slows down alcohol intake, and encourages people to eat.
Get some good non-alcoholic drinks behind the bar
Fancy a flat lemonade for the price of a pint? Us neither.
Get some drinks in which make it appealing to have a couple of soft drinks, or a bit of time off the booze altogether. And make sure that they’re priced fairly too.
You could even make a night of it by turning your bar into a mocktail making masterclass. Or a milkshake parlour. Or Victorian tea rooms.
Together, we can shape new social norms around responsible drinking, and make a hugely positive impact on student welfare across the UK. Alcohol Impact can help you to achieve this change across your campus and community. Talk to us about bringing it to your institution later this year.